It’s always great to start a new year with momentum and Jim Samuel is hitting the ground running. The keyboardist has just released his sophomore album “NOW” and all the buzz is showing signs of an even bigger success than his “Smooth Covers, Smooth Dance.” We sat down with Samuel to catch up.
John Beaudin of Smooth Jazz Now – How was the approach to “Now” different from the first album?
Jim Samuel – The approach to “NOW” differed from my first album. “NOW” concentrated on original songs versus cover songs. It had been a long time since I wrote originals and, quite candidly, there were doubts in my mind. However once I got into it I found I enjoyed the process and was pleased with the results. The move toward originals led to the 2nd difference between albums. I found the songs I was writing were better suited for instruments other than my digital keyboard. This led to me having guest performers like Gerald Albright, Rob Tardik and Tony Neenan (pictured above and below with Jim) play on the album. Talents like these performers added a great deal to the songs and to the album. Also, I learned a lot about the recording process on this album. Being out of a studio for more than 30 years, I had a huge learning curve to tackle. I still have a way to go but feel I am learning pretty quickly. I wish I knew what I know now for “SMOOTH COVERS” which would have been a much better album. I do not like looking back however. I am excited that at my age I am still learning and having fun. Who could ask for more other than seeing their songs at the top of the charts.
John – Gerald Albright brought something special to “Mr Magic.” Tell us about working with him?
Jim – I was certainly excited to work with Gerald Albright on this album. Gerald is not only a great sax player but also a gentleman who was generous with his time in helping me get this album put together. He had great ideas and helped shape some of the songs not only with his sax play but also with his bass playing. I would give him an idea on my vision for a song and he would take it in the right direction. His stamp is all over the album. All the while he seemed to be having fun working on the project. That was great. My only embarrassing moment was asking him to redo a performance which, although it was excellent, did not fit the feel I was looking for. I apologized for asking him to do it again, to take it in another direction and he just laughed it off, re-played the track and, of course, killed it. That’s Gerald! A year ago I would never have dreamed of working with a talent of this caliber.
John – You have much potential on this album. What’s the next single?
Jim – I think there are a number of tracks with “single” potential. I am leaning toward Serena which features Rob Tardik. It is the most “Smooth Jazz” sounding track on the album in my opinion.
John – With the early success of “Now” are you ready to continue as a recording artist. Can you call it part 2 of your career and not a comeback anymore?
Jim – I still think this is Part 2. I still have so much to learn. I am already working on a new original which I would like to record differently from what I have done to date. More of a live recording with a full band. I think “comeback” will be appropriate if I ever decide to play in public again. I have been approached to play in the States, in Europe and even received a feeler on a live internet broadcast. I have always been more comfortable writing, arranging and recording than performing live. If the time ever comes when you see me out there playing, you will know I am back.
John – You had early success with Bob Brady and the Concords, so you know how fame can affect a young brain. What is your take on Justin Bieber’s headlines?
Jim – Having had some success and a hit record when I was still a teenager, your question on Justin is interesting. While not having even remotely the success he had, I can say that when you do have success in the music industry you have available to you numerous temptations and are overseen by people more interested in keeping you happy than in doing what is best for you. I think Justin has an infinite number of temptations while having surrounded himself with people who are not looking out for him. For someone as young as Justin with his great success someone should have done a better job of surrounding him with the right people. It is sad to see this talented young man falling off a cliff.
John – Rob Tardik is one of our favorite artists here on Smooth Jazz Now. Share some stories with us on working with him?
Jim – I had the honor of working with Rob on this album thanks largely to an introduction from you and SmoothJazzNow. Rob was great. Like Gerald he is a gentleman who worked hard to make the song on which he performed, SERENA, the best it could be. He nailed the performance on this song. In fact I think I was lucky enough to get Rob on top of his game of this one. He brought elements to the song I had not imagined. Best of all, he is just a great guy. I would love to work with Rob again.
John – What are you listening to these days?
Jim – I listen to SmoothJazzNow of course! I listen to Gerald and Rob, have a special interest in the Brian’s – Culbertson and Simpson- on the keyboards, love Michael Lington on sax and find myself jumping around the Smooth Jazz stations listening to what is being played. I think in terms of talent, you can’t beat Smooth Jazz musicians. I do lean toward the dance/soul side of Smooth Jazz more than some of the “Jazz” being played.