Quentin Moore: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
AAJ: The University of North Texas (UNT) music program is internationally renowned and boasts a heavyweight list of musical alumni. Would you share some of your curricular and extracurricular experiences there?
QM: I did take a jazz theory class, a voice class, and also a guitar class. These and other things brought about several moments of epiphany for me. I went to UNT primarily thinking that I was going to be a football star and music would be my side deal. I knew that UNT was a big music school and I wasn't that deep into jazz, but then I met a couple of musicians there. Tony Spiro, who owns several websites devoted to the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) music scene, was a drummer in several ensembles at UNT when we met. He said that he enjoyed my style, we traded some things, and when he began to share about jazz, it was a moment of epiphany for me: "Wow, this jazz stuff's pretty cool!" I would take those things back and try to play them. Tony also gave me some CDs that introduced me to such artists as Herbie Hancock and Jaco Pastorius.
Then I figured out that a lot of artists like Herbie and Jaco and Bob James and Jeff Lorber were all sampled by R&B and rap and hip-hop artists: "So, this is where they got that from! This was the original stuff!" So I realized that this was what I needed to be listening to and working on. So I got deep into Jaco Pastorius, such a talented bassist. Deep into Marcus Miller, another great bassist, and Pino Palladino, and others, keyboardists like Herbie and Brian Culbertson, smooth guitarist Norman Brown, and started really studying this stuff.
As for more personal instruction, I credit Jermaine Stegall for giving me serious theory lessons. I played at a church in Denton, and had grown up listening to a gospel group called God's Property. What impressed me about God's Property was how they infused jazz and funk into their music. I had never heard gospel done that way, with jazz fusion to straight ahead jazz to funk. I just sort of took it in but didn't really know where it was coming from. I got to Denton to play at this church and most of the musicians who were in that band were at this church: Jermaine and R.C. Williams, who's currently the musical director for Erykah Badu, and others. I came in at a good time. Jermaine helped me with the keyboard and organ and showed me some theory and scales, and gave me tips and pointers. Jermaine also took me under his wing, introduced me to a lot of artists, and showed me all the tricks when it came to theory. That genuinely changed my life, revolutionized my musical career, and got me thinking about taking my music more seriously.
Jermaine once he asked me if I looked at the songwriter, musician, engineer, and producer credits on these records, and suggested that I study them as well. I had never thought about that but once I did, I began to see that certain sounds were associated with certain musicians. On this D'Angelo album, for example, Pino Palladino was the bassist and Questlove , from The Roots, was the drummer, and they had their own sound. Certain peoples' writing had their own unique sound, and I began to study these people. He got me doing my homework: jazz theory; studying CD credits; even just hanging out and trading licks. Jermaine was a Masters composition student at UNT at that time; he's now in LA doing film scores as well as serving as a saxophonist, keyboardist, and arranger. We became friends and not only shared music but life together. He took me in like a little brother.
AAJ: Your website biography says: "As a student and athlete at the University of North Texas, he was inspired by jazz by artists such as Jimmy Smith, Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, and Roy Hargrove." How did these jazz musicians influence Vintage Love?
QM: There's a lot of jazz on it right from the title track, which is kind of jazz-soul. You catch a lot of jazz-soul from tunes like "My Old School" and "'Smooth 4 U" and several others, a lot of jazz voicings on the chords, a lot of live instrumentation and horn solos. UNT greatly influenced it; I wrote most of these songs while I was still at UNT listening to artists like Herbie Hancock, like Isaac Hayes, like Pino Palladino and John Maher and Jaco Pastorius. I arranged all my own horns based on what I learned from being around various UNT ensembles. UNT got me into that type of stuff.
AAJ: One of its bonus tracks is called "Whoop Your Jazz." Could you walk us through this tune's inspiration and construction?
QM: Originally, the main part of the tune was just the "Whoop Your Jazz" part, which comes in after the Digable Planets' "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" part. But what I started doing in my live shows, to try to get people my age more into it, was to use Digable Planets in front of my own song to get them to pay attention to what I was doing; if we could get them to listen, then we could move on with what we were trying to do in the jazz tune. I call that beginning Digable Planets part "Cool like a Tutu" because it fuses this Digable Planets songthe opening bass linewith chords and licks that are very similar to "Tutu," a tune that Marcus Miller wrote for Miles Davis. I decided to arrange them together like that. Most of the "Whoop Your Jazz" part of it is original, but the hook part of it is very similar to "Autumn Leaves." We just kind of took the chord progression and filtered it in.
The story behind the actual writing of this song is very UNT-influenced. We were very, very competitive when it came to musicianship. Not in a bitter sense, but there were a lot of talented musicians and it was a friendly rivalry among different cliques. Michael League from Snarky Puppy came out of UNT. He was there when I was there, and used to sit in on some of our rehearsals. Kevin Pittman had the Voices of Praise, a gospel group on campus. A lot of guys were deep into funk in the jazz program. There were the lab bands and other bands and just a whole lot of different things going on.
We had this soul and R&B band called Soulbol. I wanted to write a tune to kind of show that although we primarily do soul and R&B, we can get with you. We can whoop your jazz. Don't get mixed up by us singing these popular R&B songs, we can actually play. We wanted to prove that Soulbol could hang, even though we weren't all enrolled in the music program and we primarily did R&B and soul.