I've known Jake Baldwin for years. I love the fact that every time I see him, I feel like he's on the verge of something new. Jake and his friends in RaRaRu have a new CD that comes out tomorrow! I asked him to tell me a little more about it and what he's up to these days...
Tell me about Ra Ra Ru.
Ra Ra Ru essentially started as a rebellion against jazz school in 2011. I don't mean jazz school as in that specific school, but more so the way some players go about music and give off a "jazz school" vibe. Some people are just stuck in the 50's. Anyway, while there is a definite time and place for that, bassist Pat Kuehn, drummer Nick Neuburg, and myself were sick of it. One night after a particularly frustrating jam session, we got together ad agreed to just make music that we liked and see where it went.
Initially, everything we did was just improvised, but as we got to know each other's playing better, trends and melodies started to appear. The resulting songs were a product of our three personalities and very different musical backgrounds merging. As time went on, longtime friend of mine and fellow Minnesotan John Cushing began attending the New England Conservatory and was an obvious addition to the band on trombone. Lastly, I ran into and started playing with guitarist Asher Kurtz by chance, but it was one of those meeting where you know you and the other person could do great things together, so Asher joined the band recently and is on the recording.
The ultimate goal of Ra Ra Ru is to make good music that has interesting melodies, enough freedom to be different every time, and most of all to have fun with music. I really think we have accomplished that with this record.
When does the new album come out?
The album "Metallic Ink Co" comes out April 28th
What's it like?
Like I said before, since everyone in the band contributed at least one song to this album, it goes a lot of places. There are some grooves, some really free sections, some unexpected moments, and some downright silly moments.
Where can we buy it?
It will be available for download from Bandcamp, other major download sites, through our label Electricity is magic (http://electricityismagic.com/) and I will also have some physical copies that I will sell at shows and through my website (jakebjazz.com)
Is there a CD Release show?
There is going to be one. It will be a house party type situation in Boston, MA, on May 3. If you're in the area, send me an email for details...
Any other recordings coming out this year?
Under my own name, no. I am however, on a lot of recordings that will be out. Part of my job as a freelance musician is to do studio work, which I love. The main project that I'm looking forward to hearing the final product of, is the Love Experiment. It's this 11 piece neo-soul collective based out of New York that I'm a part of. I've been going back once every three months or so to record more, and so far the record sounds crazy
Do you write a lot of your own music? Where can we hear some of it.
I do a lot of writing yes. For me it kind of comes in waves, where I'll go months without writing a tune and then write three in a day. I try to keep some current recordings up on my website jakebjazz.com and also on my soundcoud page: https://soundcloud.com/jake-baldwin-1
How long have you been playing the trumpet?
I started the trumpet when I was 10, so it's been 13 ears now.
What made you decide to go into music / how did you start out?
That's a tough question. I guess music was always such a part of my life that it seemed like the natural choice. Nobody in my family is a professional musician, but everyone is very musical in some sense of the word. I don't remember ever not having music on when my family was home growing up. Also, because I was aways surrounded by a really wide range of music, practicing ever seemed like a chore to me since most of my "practicing" would be me trying to play along to the various songs my Dad had on.
In terms of getting started out, I've always been lucky enough to have teachers and mentors who have provided tremendous support beyond the call of duty whenever I needed it. The man who fueled my love of music initially was my middle school band director in the little town of Florence, Oregon. His name is Shannon Dickey, and the man is a saint. He got so much talent out of that tiny school, it's bonkers. There was another trumpeter there, Kai Sandoval (who ironically was the only other jazz trumpeter in my year when we later attended the New England Conservatory after not seeing each other for years), and Mr. Dickey would always pit us against each other, but he also always came up with ways to make us work together. It was that competitive spirit with emphasis on teamwork, that got me all the opportunities that I've had to this day.
Is music your full time job? Do you want it to be?
In a sense. All of the jobs that I've had since entering "adult life" or whatever you want to call it, have been music, or more specifically, trumpet related. Performing will always be my passion and hopefully the only thing that I do someday.
Luckily for me, I'm a huge trumpet nerd and love all things involved with trumpet. This has lead me to some really cool opportunities job wise. At one point I was fortunate enough to work at Harrelson Trumpets where I got to watch Jason Harrelson design and build beautiful trumpets all day long. This job actually helped my trumpet playing immensely because Jason taught me so much about how the trumpet, as a machine, works. I honestly feel like acoustical physics should be something they teach music majors. Once you REALLY know how your horn works, a lot of things become a whole lot easier to fix.
I currently work for Torpedo Bags trumpet cases and love that job because I get to talk to people about trumpet on the phone all day. On top of that, I do a fair amount of teaching, but my main gig is performing. A lot of the performance work I do is freelancing, so one night I could be playing polka and the next night I might be playing with a salsa band. It keeps things fresh. Of course, I do a lot of work on my own music, but right now I'm in a phase where I'm building up an idea of what I really want "my" sound to be.
What type of performing are you doing right now around the twin cities?
Every kind of music imaginable. You name it, I've played it since being back. Minneapolis has such a rich arts and music scene, and becoming a part of that has really kept me on toes. It's really nice for me though because it has given me so much to practice that I can then bring to my own music.
What else is in the works for you in the coming year?
Well, if I were to be really ambitious, I would say an album of the music I've been working on lately. This stuff is a lot more minimalist and more folky. I've been trying to focus on just writing melodies and worrying less about improvising. Honestly though, who knows. My passions and tastes seem to change like the weather. I also play to get records out of two new groups I've a member of. One is a group where I'm using a lot of electronics, which is new territory for me. We call ourselves Friends of Noam Chomsky. Let's hope we can get a record together for you soon.
What's your current gig schedule like? Where can we see you play?
April 28th: With No Coast Quintet at the Icehouse in Minneapolis, MN 9:30pm
May 2nd: with Love Experiment at the Harvard Arts Festival in Cambridge, MA at 5pm
May 3rd: Ra Ra Ru CD RELEASE PARTY in Jamaica Plain, MA (E-mail for details)
May 5th: Featured Artist at Jazz Central w/ B3 Organ Trio. Jazz Central, Minneapolis, MN 8:30pm
June 27th: With Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest, St. Paul, MN 7pm
I try to keep this updated on my website as well. Sometimes I'm a little behind on posting stuff because, well, because life. But being too busy is certainly better than being bored.
If your trumpet were an animal which animal would it be?
I'd have to say polar bear. I say this because the trumpet is a beautiful instrument to look at, but some days it just hunts you down and eats you alive.
What do you listen to... when you're not practicing or performing? What's in your CD Player?
Oh man, that's tough. I could talk for hours about all of the albums in my record pile currently, but let's keep it simple and I'll just list what's in m car currently.
Like Clockwork - Queens of the Stoneage
Bowser - Jonwayne
Candy - Lee Morgan
Turn on the Bright Lights - Interpol
Illmatic - Nas
Give the People What They Want - Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
And in the tape deck I currently have:
Les Stances a Sophie - Art Ensemble of Chicago
Where do you hope your music will take you in the next 5 years?
My ultimate goal is to travel around the world making music. It could be my music or someone else's. Either way I'm just grateful for the opportunities I've been given so far and hope to continue moving forward.
And in the spirit of moving forward... if you'd like to see Jake play tonight... he will be performing with No Coast Quintet at ICEHOUSE in Minneapolis. A great venue with cute little cocktails and a balcony perch, the best place to take it all in. I can't wait to get my copy of Metallic Ink Co. (I have a feeling the clever title is just the beginning)
I am the PR, Advertising, Marketing, Web and Social mind at Harrelson Trumpets. When I am not at work- I paint: