Self-produced talent and keyboardist Phil Rogers has something new and hot out, the track “Mai Tai Bay.” Layers of sound that mesh and melt into one another create a rhythmic experience that energizes the listener. He puts out new music pretty regularly; about a month ago his single “Heroes” was released, sporting a light, melodic hook that ultimately breaks out into a full-on horn explosion. Sustained chords and a misty vibe create a more thoughtful journey in “Black Hole.” When the mystery clears away, an ELP-like organ solo takes charge, bringing the colors to a new palette.
When did you get bitten by the bug – for music in general? What first captured your imagination: jazz, Latin, smooth, etc.?
Early in my childhood, my parents always had plenty of music in our household. We would listen to music for the sheer joy of it. As a teen, I listened to rock exclusively and took guitar lessons but I always found myself gravitating toward more complex instrumental arrangements, such as those of Steely Dan.
I eventually discovered my love of modern jazz. Fiery Latin jazz and alternative rhythms by artists like Al DiMeola, Spyro Gyra, The Manhattan Transfer and Pat Metheny soon became the norm for me. I continue to explore a wide range of musical influences because I am a firm believer that you can learn from anyone.
When did you start piano? What was most influential on you as a student?
I started piano a few years back and I am learning something new every day. My influences as a student included Steely Dan, McCoy Tyner, Billy Joel and Sting, to name a few. More recently, Diana Krall, Brian Simpson, Carol Albert, Henry Robinett and countless other jazz musicians inspire me.
What inspires you when you compose: an idea, a feeling, etc.?
I try to let the music speak to me. It seems an obvious issue but when I start composing, what develops usually reminds me of places or events from my past. It is then that I start to develop a theme and eventually name the songs accordingly. The music guides me initially. Then, I add the “musicianship” aspects later on in the process.
Where do you typically start: melody, rhythm or an overall vibe?
I usually develop bass lines first, then add chords and melodies. Then I start to explore interesting chord voicings that match the mood of the song. I add a rhythm section to develop a vibe and finally a solo section and outro/ending. I always try to add an interesting twist at the end for potency.
Do you release songs/EPs or do you have CDs out?
To date, I have released singles on any number of streaming and video platforms including YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and Pandora. I am currently working on releasing my first official CD.
What inspired the recent “Mai Tai Bay”?
Mai Tai Bay was inspired by my love of the sea and all things Caribbean. Many of my singles have an “island” vibe, featuring marimbas and vibraphones with multi-layered rhythm tracks. I visited Barbados and walked on the beach at night listening to live music from various seaside venues. It was an absolute joy! Hopefully, I can evoke those feelings of happiness and contentment in others when they listen to this song.
What are your favorite clubs/venues/events to play?
I am primarily an independent musician. I write music, play and record it from my home studio. Then I release it to the world online. I do not perform live but there are many excellent venues in Upstate New York for jazz enthusiasts and music lovers.
What is the jazz scene like where you live?
Many smaller clubs in my area of Upstate New York feature a lively jazz scene.
A few small and diverse radio stations have great jazz and world music programs on weeknights and weekends. They feature an eclectic mix of local talent with live studio performances and interviews.
I believe music enhances our lives enormously. We are often triggered by songs that bring back memories for us. Music defines our lives. Songs that have meaning and touch your soul never leave you. They are a perpetual gift. I feel blessed that I have the ability to write music and share it with the world. I hope that my music touches people and leaves a lasting impression on each and every listener. If people are smiling and tapping their feet, I’ve done my job.
For more information, visit https://www.saazzon.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
© 2022 Debbie Burke