For jazz saxophonist Russell Kirk, composing music goes something like this:
“Let’s say I’m in New York; I’ve been in school all day,” says Kirk, who grew up in Baltimore and now lives in Towson, back from attending school in New York City. “I would have some classes with amazing mentors—in class, he would play this riff. I would leave school and head up to Rockefeller Center on a train.”
“Let’s say this riff is in my head,” he continues. “I get to work, get into work mode, and the riff disappears. But let’s say at work I hear something else that inspires me.”
“After work, I go to a jam session—imagine a day filled with music! I get on the train going home. I have this riff Wayne Krantz played in class, the riff I heard at work, and I have music from the jam session in my head.”
Kirk says that a “metamorphosis” occurs on the train as he looks around and takes in his surroundings: “You’re in a mood, and then that riff you heard will change into more of the mood you’re feeling at that moment. As soon as I get home, I would say, ‘That was really cool; let me write that down.’ That’s how snippets of this music get composed.”
“To Journal Square,” Kirk’s newest album, recounts the emotions, decisions and events that led him to New York City several years ago. His band, fittingly, adopted the name The Path on the album.
“It’s weird how you end up in a place,” says Kirk. “Your path can be intricate and tricky, and you wonder how you ended up where you are.”
Now Kirk is more-or-less back in Baltimore, happily.
“I really like it down here,” he says. “I do miss some aspects of New York, but the daily grind is so much up there,” he says
Kirk is looking forward to a Saturday, Feb. 16 gig at An Die Musik, one set at 8 p.m., the next at 9:30 p.m. A former student of Johns Hopkins’ Peabody Institute, Kirk has fond memories of the venue.
“It’s kind of like a homecoming for me,” he says. “Before I moved to New York, An Die was just transitioning from a music store to a venue.”
“To Journal Square” tracks Kirk’s inquisitive alto sax with the work of The Path, including Grammy-winning drummer Terri Lynne Carrington and fusion guitarist Wayne Krantz, Kirk’s mentor from New York. Local Eze Jackson melds some spoken word with Kirk’s musings on a couple tracks. Kirk admits that his music is more or less jazz, though he doesn’t like labels.
“I think it’s probably jazz, because all of the musicians on it are jazz musicians,” he jokes. “It’s tough to label it, though. I think the only way I can describe it is as ‘artistic music.’”
At An Die Musik, Kirk will play music from “To Journal Square” with a working band, mostly from Baltimore.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the working band take on its own sound, different from The Path,” he says.
For more information on Kirk’s An Die Musik show, visit www.andiemusiklive.com. “To Journal Square” is available for digital download on iTunes and Amazon; hard copy at CD Baby.
by Erik Zygmont