Young trumpeter Giveton Gelin holds up hope and light in his 2019 debut album “True Design,” an album that has so much heart and an extraordinarily diversified palette of moods and vibes. While the track “The Interlude” presents an aloneness and a solitary state of thought through Gelin’s beautifully spare playing, his “Inner Perception” (which launches with an attention-getting drum roll) crackles with spurts and stops and starbursts of energy from his very nimble horn. Soon as the sax and piano enter in earnest, the song is a rollicking, up-tempo experience. The piano muses prettily on “What Will I Do” and is flavorfully enhanced first by the velveteen trumpet, then by the richness of sax and bass. Such incredible sweetness rises from “Every Time We Say Goodbye (for Roy)” as he pays homage to Roy Hargrove. Maybe the cherry on top of the sundae is the hip, hot “Grand Street” where Gelin’s blazing tone hands off to sonic dreamclouds from an equally scorching sax.
Personnel: Immanuel Wilkins, alto saxophone; Micah Thomas, piano; Philip Norris, bass; Kyle Benford, drums.
Why did you start trumpet and how have you developed as a musician during the years?
I started playing the trumpet because, in elementary school, the marching band was short of trumpets, so I decided to volunteer and that was the beginning of this journey. I remember always wanting to know more. It was that burning curiosity that led me to my mentor Adrian D’Aguilar. He gave me the guidance I needed to progress throughout the years until I left for the U.S after high school.
How did you find out and why were you interested in the LetterOne Rising Stars awards?
I found out about it through my friend, Sasha Berliner. I had played a gig with her a while back, and remembered when she won the award that year. Since then I was on the lookout. It seemed like a great opportunity for younger musicians to push their music.
What preparation was involved?
The preparation occurred even before I had made my mind to apply. I remember in the summer of 2019, I recorded my first studio album. This was ultimately the material that I used to submit to the Letter one Rising Stars Award. My entire debut album “True Design” is now available.
Were you surprised you won?
Yes, I was definitely surprised; that said, I am a firm believer in my work, but understand that I am not entitled to anything. I am deeply honored for anyone that is interested in listening and finds meaning in it.
Was your tour put on hold? What kinds of opportunities have you received since winning the award?
Yes, parts of my tour were postponed, but I have been able to connect with a diverse network of people. I also have been featured in major publications including DownBeat, Forbes, and Jazziz, and many more. I can recall prior to the pandemic flying to London to receive the award, which was a highlight for me.
What do you think is the biggest factor in your success with RisingOne: technical ability, improv, composing, or other?
I think it’s a combination of everything. I try to embody what it means to be an artist. In order for me to push my musical vision, it’s my duty to hone those areas, whether improv, composing, or technical ability. I want to grow in all areas so that my vision is vivid.
What ensembles are you in, and do you prefer smaller or larger bands?
I lead my very own quintet, and spend a lot of time writing for that instrumentation. It has been amazing for me to learn more by playing with these musicians and trying out material. I also love the larger ensembles. It’s one of the things I look forward to doing in the future.
What was your experience like at the Kennedy Center and the Manhattan School summer camp?
Those music programs were integral in helping me build my experiences within the music. Manhattan School Summer Camp was earlier in my development. I was still living in the Bahamas then. For the first time, this helped me interact with younger musicians who loved the music as well.
Betty Carter Jazz Ahead was great with teaching me some of the nuances in the music, and I grasped a lot from Jason Moran in regards to composition.
What will you do when you graduate?
I will continue on the path that I am on, which means having the freedom to push my music and collaborate with more artists. I also would like to stay based in New York. I think there is so much more to learn, so I plan to continue absorbing more of what New York has to offer.
What was the most surprising thing you have learned about the business of being a musician that you were unaware of when you started your education?
There are so many parts about being a musician that you will probably learn from a case-to-case basis. Especially being a jazz musician, the ability to adapt and deliver is what I always try to embody while learning the linguistics of being a musician.
What excites you the most about jazz?
That I get a go at playing a style of music that demands individuality. I am naturally a person who has always loved doing things my way, and jazz has made me feel that connection to myself.
What are your plans for new CDs and other projects?
I plan to have more projects released in the next few years. I have ideas to work with the masters of the music, and also to release my sophomore LP, “Island Dreamer.”
For more information visit www.givetongelin.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist. Top photo (c) Alessandro Sarno. CD artwork (c) Bobby Watson.
(c) 2021 Debbie Burke