Interview: Natalie Cressman Band at The Blue Note Jazz Club April 18

On Saturday April 18, Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman will grace the stage at the iconic Blue Note Jazz Club with her full band and blend of jazz, funk, and just the right touch of indie rock. With her own band she showcases her songwriting and composing talents highlighted by beautiful vocals and stellar trombone play. Natalie has taken cues from band leaders such as Trey Anastasio and Peter Apfelbaum to assemble an amazing line-up of musicians behind her. Calling on some of her most trusted friends and colleagues certainly makes it easier for this band of young up and coming musicians to click and fire on all cylinders.

You can purchase tickets for Natalie Cressman Band April 18 at the Blue Note Jazz Club here.

Cressman took some time out of her busy schedule, which includes multiple bands, duets, side projects, sit-ins, and baking to answer some questions about her current project, her influences and her upcoming show at The Blue Note:

Graig Adler: How would you describe your current project? Who are the members of the Natalie Cressman Band?

Natalie Cressman: The music is definitely an eclectic mix of styles, both old and very new. Anyone who knows me knows I have a love for a crazy range of music, from Brazilian choro to Kendrick Lamar. As a result, my music pulls from elements of established traditions including jazz and world music, but fused with more modern soundscapes it becomes something entirely new and somewhat uncategorizable. My bandmates are some of my best friends, and also some of the most brilliant musical minds I have ever encountered. The band usually consists of Ivan Jackson (trumpet, vocals), James Casey (tenor sax, vocals) though unfortunately he won’t be with us on Saturday, Samora Pinderhughes (keys) who I’ve been playing music with since we were 10 years old, Mike Bono (guitar), Jonathan Stein (bass), and Mark Whitfield Jr. (drums).

GA: Where do you draw your influences from for this project?

NC: Everywhere from rhythmic traditions of the african diaspora, jazz, soul, funk, and indie rock. There’s a density and layering of elements so on one hand it’s really accessible but layered with harmonic and rhythmic depth that I think makes us really unique.

GA: Are you writing most of the music yourself?

NC: I write all the songs and arrange them myself, but each band member infuses the music with their own personality and tastes, so they definitely have a huge creative impact on the sound too.

GA: There was an obvious evolution from Unfolding to Turn The Sea , especially in your vocals, how have you evolved since? Do you have a new album in the works, how will it be different from the first two.

NC: I think I’ve developed a lot as a songwriter even since Turn the Sea, because I’ve been cultivating my original voice without relying quite so much on certain elements that come naturally to me because of my jazz background, such as having a lot of moving chord changes. I’m trying to be really deliberate with my musical choices and I think that awareness is changing the way I write. The other big thing that’s changed is that I’m getting more into the production side of things. I’m working on a new EP that will be wildly different because it’ll be a combination of live instruments and electronic-based productions, that in my opinion heighten emotional impact of my songs. But it’s still music from my very eclectic point of view, with my horn writing, so it’s not departing from what I’ve done previously, merely developing it further.Turn the Sea sort of hinted at this direction but now I’m embracing it whole-heartedly.

GA: Of all the different groups and projects you are currently involved in, besides your own, which are you most excited about?

NC: I’m excited about so many different projects, but at the moment I’m most excited about playing in Peter Apfelbaum’s S P A R K L E R!! He is one of my favorite composers and I love the wildly creative nature of this band, plus I get to rap and play bass on some of our tunes! I also love playing with Jesus on the Mainline, such a fun band with some of my favorite people. We have a show this month at Brooklyn Bowl and we’re pumped.

GA: What festivals will you be performing at this summer? Is there one that you are most excited about?

NC: I’m excited to return to Burlington’s Jazz Fest with my band in June, we love playing up there. Besides that, I’ll be in Europe for a bunch of the summer so actually am missing a lot of the big festivals. But I am probably most excited to be playing Catskill Chill w/ my band for the first time, as we haven’t done many jam-centric festivals at this point. I think people will dig what we bring to the table. Not exactly a festival, but I’m really stoked about the super jam in Chicago post-GD50 that also happens to be on my birthday. The line-up is bananas, it’s gonna be so dope.

GA: We know you have been playing the trombone since a very young age, can you play any other instruments?

NC: I play some piano and electric bass, and am just picking up guitar. I can also play trumpet and tuba pretty terribly.

GA: It is becoming well-known you bake recreationally, will there be “Chainsaw Cookies” for sale at the Blue Note?

NC: Unfortunately, I have a feeling that my bake sale won’t fly at The Blue Note merch booth, so no “Chainsaw Cookies” this time around. But I am considering opening an Etsy page for my “bakery,” as an outlet for my baking obsession….

GA: One of your most popular performances from last year was when TAB covered Ana Tijoux’s “1977”, how did that come about? Do you speak Spanish or any other languages?

NC: I think Trey got the idea when one of his daughters played the song while they were driving around in his car. He just got this crazy idea for us to cover it and called me up. And I never like saying no to his crazy ideas because most of them turn out to be awesome. So I got to work learning the song at half-speed, line by line, until I could do it. I speak French fluently and a bit of Portuguese, and I’ve sung in Spanish and Portuguese a bunch growing up, so I think Trey thought rapping wouldn’t be any different. But it took me a loooonnnng time to get that rap down.

GA: Being such a young band leader what have you learned from working with Trey Anastasio in TAB?

NC: I’ve learned about a million things from Trey about being a bandleader but some of his most impressive qualities are his boundless creative energy, positivity, and work ethic. He wakes up at the crack of dawn almost everyday and gets straight to work on various ideas and projects. One quote he’s passed on to me that I’ve really taken to heart was from his old music teacher, who used to say “It’s so good it should be even better.” That concept of forever revising and improving on one’s craft made a huge impact on me, and that’s really reflective of Trey’s super-human work ethic.