ARTIST IN THE SPOTLIGHT | GIVETON GELIN
As the premier DMC in The Bahamas, we are always on the look-out for prodigious talent, be it the visual, culinary or musical arts. In this episode of Artist In The Spotlight, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing Giveton Gelin, an 18 year-old, self-taught Bahamian trumpet prodigy currently making waves in the New York City jazz community.
Says Giveton "pursuing jazz is difficult when you lack an environment in which to develop," but from the age of 10 the young devotee taught himself how to play the trumpet by emulating the greats on his favorite records. It wasn't until he saw Bahamian double bass player Adrian D'Aguilar playing live that Giveton realised "there was a place for jazz in the Bahamas!" This encounter led to Giveton taking part in music programs abroad such as The Manhattan School of Music Summer Camp Jazz Band, Manhattan School of Music Summer Camp Latin Jazz Band and The Spike Wilner Trio. Giveton has won top position at both the YoungArts Foundation and the Betty Carter Jazz ahead program. Giveton has received mentoring from some of the world's greatest jazz musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Eddie Henderson, Barry Harris, Jason Moran, Ralph Peterson, Roy Hargrove and much more. Giveton continues to follow his life's calling and is now in his first year of a full scholarship at the famed Juilliard School in New York City.
Cacique. You spent years teaching yourself to play the trumpet by listening to your favourite jazz records. Who is your biggest musical influence? What captivates you most through his or her sound?
Giveton. It's hard to pinpoint my biggest influence because Jazz music is so broad; every trumpet great that fits into the musical tree is essentially what influenced me early on. I have spent a lot of time going up the musical lineage of Jazz trumpet and that is what has influenced me the most. Roy Hargrove is one of the trumpet masters that I have been listening to ever since my jazz musical beginnings. We both have similar musical backgrounds, which is why I gravitated towards his playing early on in my musical growth. Roy grew up in church and this is where he formulated his musical concept. His playing has soul, sophistication, style and beauty, traits in his playing that I like.
C. You’ve been mentored over the last few years by some of the most influential jazz artists in the world. What are the most important things that they’ve taught you about jazz, music, and life?
G. I have learnt so much over the years from being a student to my musical heroes. Before personally knowing greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove, I assumed that we would talk all about the great albums they released etc, but after spending time with them I quickly realized that this whole thing is deeper than just music. When speaking with Wynton Marsalis its never really about trumpet, it's usually conceptual. I remember playing for him a Jazz standard entitled "All things you are" and after playing it, he asked me "What were you thinking about during your solo?" I said, "the chord progressions"(meaning the harmony of the song). He quickly interrupted me and said "That's exactly what you sounded like, you were just playing the chord progressions. When playing you shouldn't be thinking of the harmony of the song, You should be trying to tell a story". Wynton was not disregarding the harmony, but it's just like speaking, you do not think about the words, you just say it, its the same concept here.
C. A lot of people think the Jazz community in the Bahamas is basically non-existent, what do you have to say about that?
G. I used to think that the jazz community was non-existent in the Bahamas as well, but it was the jazz community in the Bahamas that introduced me to playing jazz and playing it at a high level. Adrian D'Aguilar is the man responsible for starting the jazz scene in the Bahamas; after meeting Adrian my musical growth shot up in the sky like a rocket ship. I'm forever grateful for meeting him. Through the Jazz Cats -a jazz group led by Adrian consisting of young musicians ranging through the ages of 9-16 - jazz can definitely push to the forefront in the Bahamas music scene.
c. If any, who are the movers and shakers in the Bahamian Jazz community?
G. Adrian D'Aguilar, Daniel D'Aguilar, Giveton Gelin, Eric Boxerman, Lamont Gibson, Tino Richardson, Anuschka Wright, Ralph Munnings, Neil Symonette.
c. What are your hopes for the future of musical education, specifically jazz education, in the Bahamas?
G. I hope for musical education in the Bahamas to put its values on quality. In the Bahamas, we lack art in the music discipline. An art-form such as jazz can play a role in impacting young instrumentalist lives. Having young people embark upon a process is whats needed. Implementing jazz education in this aspect can enrich not just the young people, but can subsequently enhance Bahamian culture itself.
c. New York CITY is a melting pot of culture, music, cuisine, and fashion. coming from the bahamas, What is it like living in the middle of all that?
G. It's true, New York City is definitely a melting pot. There are people here coming from all walks of life and I am one of those people. I bring my culture, music and fashion to New York as well. This is what makes New York so great; We all are learning from each other. This is why I always feel inspired when in the big city.
c. What are you working on right now?
G. Right now, I am working on formulating my concept. As a young musician on a fierce New York jazz scene, to set myself apart, I am now thinking of what my intentions are, what do I want to say. This is an ongoing process because it can change at any point, but I think it is important for me to think about it.
C. Talk us through your creative process.
G. My musical creative process happens all around the piano. It is where I write the harmony, melody, rhythm and the bass lines. This way works best for me because it gives me a good visualization of what I'm doing. After the piano, I would then export these musical ideas into the musical instruments that best fit. So trumpet would usually have the melody, the bass has the bass lines etc.
c. Are there any other instruments you would like to learn?
G. I would like to get more into the Tenor Saxophone. It was actually what I initially wanted to play, but then you know... the trumpet took over.
C. You dedicated one of your original songs to the victims of Hurricane Matthew. How important is it for you to address social and current issues through your music? What kinds of causes are most important to you?
G. It is our responsibility as the artist to, first of all, reflect the current times. If there are current social issues that I think I can address through my music then I will.
c. You’ve played for audiences in many different cities at many events. Which of your performances has been the most memorable?
G. Playing for the Young Arts Foundation, I think has been truly memorable. It was one of the more larger audiences I have played for, but the legendary jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath was in the audience and that was moving for me to play for such a giant in jazz music.
c. New York slice or Conch Salad?
G. Conch salad all the way!
At Cacique, we love to showcase our colourful art scene and the characters that create its distinct flavour. For more information on our featured artists, to arrange a Bahamian art / music experience or to find out about curating a unique sound for your event, feel free to contact us.
Looking forward to the next chat! SS:)