Visiting Rider professor celebrates jazz with new album release

Marianna Buseman

When considering different genres of music, your mind might go to pop, rock, or maybe even country or rap. These are great types of music, all quite varied in their rhythms and styles. They deserve all of the attention they get. However, there is one genre that tends to be overlooked a lot of the time: jazz. It’s the root of many types of music we know and love today. It has a rich history, dating back over 100 years to New Orleans. Rider University celebrates the art of jazz this year with the release of On the Sunny Side, a new album from visiting professor Dr. Tim Brent, who conducts Rider's new vocal jazz ensembles: Vox Blue and Vox Blue Too.

Brent, a jazz artist, interprets the styles of an array of the genre’s artists on his new album, such as Mel Tormé and Nat King Cole. He also cites crooners like Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr. as influences and includes some Latin musical influences on this album, since he taught and did his advanced degrees in Miami.

“I wanted this album to be classic jazz music reinterpreted,” he said. “Listeners will definitely be able to hear the Latin jazz element. There’s even a song in Portuguese.”

Reflecting on the recording process for On the Sunny Side, Brent noted that it took about six months to complete. However, it took longer to have it released.

 “There were about 13 different people on the album,” he said. “Many times their schedules didn’t work together. We had to record the fundamental rhythm section parts first (bass, drums and piano) and then brought in other instrumentalists to complete the arrangements.”

 On the Sunny Side also afforded Brent the opportunity to work with Grammy-winning artists Brian Lynch and Ed Calle. Lynch is a jazz trumpeter and also a promoter of young jazz artists being brought to the national stage. He won the Best Latin Jazz Album in 2007. Calle is a musician from Venezuela and winner of the 2015 Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album. Both have impressive musical careers that span many years.

“It was such a special collaboration,” Brent said. “These are experienced musicians who have a lot of experience. Working with them was great. They were so gracious and humble, and were wonderful to work with.” He also talked about the importance of jazz in our modern society.

“It’s unfortunate that jazz clubs struggle to find and retain audiences,” he said. “Historically, the music used to involve dance and simpler harmony and general form, and over the years it’s evolved into an art form with more sophisticated improvisation and complex structure. A lot of people turn away from jazz because they don’t understand it. It’s the job of music educators to teach kids about America’s original music. We need to experience jazz and learn about it so we can appreciate the art that it is.”

There are a multitude of aspiring musicians out there trying to release their work to the world. Hopeful artists, both young and old, spend long nights trying to perfect their latest song and make sure each note sounds just right. Brent has some good advice for anyone tying to become an artist, in any genre of music.

“Educate yourself in ways that build your musical competence and understanding,” he said. “You have to develop your music skills and never stop learning, because there is always going to be something new to learn. Challenge yourself. That’s the key to growth.”

Tim Brent's new recording On the Sunny Side is available on Amazon and other major download and streaming sites.