“Music is a Responsibility”

Interview with jazz drummer and composer Devin Gray

For jazz musician and composer Devin Gray, music is more than just a passion and career; it’s a responsibility. He would know. Although only 32 years old, Devin finds inspiration from jazz greats of all ages, including David Liebman. We asked Gray about the power of music and his life as a top call drummer in the New York jazz scene.

Q: Where does your musical inspiration come from?

Gray: The short answer is the interaction between nature, cities and the people I work with. New York City has so much to offer, but when I go back to Maine it gives me a different perspective. Another thing I love to do is travel. I love seeing different people’s cultures and learning how they live. Travel definitely impacts the music I create.

Q: How would you describe your musical style?

Gray: Most of it comes out of experimentation. If I only had a few words to describe it, I would say it's alive, interactive, risky, thoughtful and colorful. My music as a composer is somewhere in between pop music, contemporary classical and improvised jazz music. It comes from many different sources, including research and contemplative reflection. For instance, I think about how the music relates to what I am doing in my life and the people I am working with.

Q: What musicians have influenced your music?

Gray: My favorite musicians are the type of people who are extremely talented and good at what they do, but who remain extremely humble. The way they approach everything has this fresh creative lightness to it. When you are working with them you feel like you are doing something very important with your best friends. Some of the first musicians who I experienced this feeling with were saxophonist Tony Malaby, saxophonist Gary Thomas, saxophonist David Liebman and bass player Michael Formanek.

Q: Speaking of David Liebman, how did you two meet?

Gray: I first came across David in graduate school while he was leading the program at Manhattan School of Music. Being his student, I was fortunate to get a much closer look into his mind. He is an amazing thinker as well as performer. He’s a heavy artist who's aware, bold and in control. His advice when we were students was so real and on point. When I finally got the opportunity to play with him it all made even more sense. He is very supportive of the younger generation’s jazz careers.

Q: If you could meet any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?

Gray: Miles Davis — he had this energy and spirit that was almost tangible. What I like most about him was his overall artistry. It was present in the way he did literally everything, including how he performed his music to fellow musicians and how he delivered it to the public.

Q: What projects have you been working on lately?

Gray: There are lot of projects. My band released an album, “RelativE ResonancE,” in the beginning of June 2015. I also just wrote some music for eight musicians. But in this instance, I wasn’t playing drums, I was conducting the music, which was really intense. For me, it’s a super luxury to be able to be a drummer and a composer.

Q: How do you think music impacts our lives?

Gray: It makes you really “feel,” you know? It can change all of life’s energy for good and bad at the drop of a dime. And most importantly, I think it’s deeply rooted in your soul and your body.

Q: How does High-Resolution Audio enhance listening to jazz?

Gray: People (myself included) that literally work with sound for a living know that sound quality becomes very valuable and can really change the listening experience. Listening to bad sound quality can literally wear you down. If you’re going to make music a huge part of your life, it’s important to not be bogged down by the lack of quality.

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