Jazzed: The Voice Of Freedom, Part Ii

Continuing A Conversation With Emerson Susan Corley

August March
4 min read
The Voice of Freedom, Part II
Emerson Susan Corley (Roger Baker)
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Continuing my conversation with Entourage Jazz leader Emerson Susan Corley, we chatted about the place of the genre in this town, the future of an often misunderstood, yet totally listenable art form and the amazing jazz community at our doorsteps.

Alibi: What’s a good strategy for popularizing jazz in Burque, a town long known for its affection for metal, country and Spanish music?

I think you have to figure out how to reach people, figure out where their comfort level is with jazz. You have to meet them where they are with it. I was talking to another jazz musician in town about jazz having this persona of being an upper crust activity. People sometimes view jazz, as they also do classical music, as elitist, unreachable or untouchable. When, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Jazz is the ultimate experience in being able to fully express oneself exactly in the present moment. It is ever evolving, just as we are. It stretches us emotionally and musically in ways that we otherwise might not have been able to accomplish on our own. And it is subtle in how it accomplishes this. I go out into all different types of communities with jazz and talk to them about it. We have relationships with people; that’s how we grow as a musical force. We are very approachable. We play music; we want to talk about it too.

What do you tell your audiences about listening to music? What can they expect from Entourage?

I want people to come to me and say, “Wait, you were a classical singer. Why this now?” Well, lets talk about that. You can have love for all types of music; one can perform all sorts of genres. You don’t have to give up one for the other. When you listen to us, when you see me, you’re going to get a blended, postmodern experience, a gender-bending experience too. I am not your typical female jazz singer. I like that. All of that challenges us and starts some great conversations.

What projects are you currently working on with your band or as a solo artist?

The biggest thing we have coming up is the New Mexico Jazz Workshop show at the Albuquerque Museum on Aug. 1. That’s going to carry us forward into 2016, performance-wise. I want our next recording to be a holiday album. I love Christmas music, I love big band holiday music. It won’t be this year, obviously; we’ve got so many performances lined up.

How do you put together such formidable projects, recording with a big band for instance?

We’ve got an awesome arranger, our own Nelson Riddle, if you will, Roger Baker. He’s amazing. He did nine of the arrangements on our current album. I know that guy has a lot of holiday arrangements in his head. There’s no way the album could be as successful as it is without him.

How do you feel about your new recording?

It sure was a lot of fun to make. All those players were so much fun to work with; to stand in front of a band like that was a dream come true. They are the cream of the crop, the best players in Albuquerque. We worked hard, very focused. One thing I wanna add: The turnaround for the band came in 2010. We became a serious jazz band because Arnold Bodmer came into my life. It was a friend of a friend who introduced us. I didn’t know any jazz musicians in town. He said to hang with me, give it a year. He gave me five. The music we made together, wow. Arnold Bodmer put this band on the map.
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