Ernest Melton is one of Kansas City top jazz performers. Originally from Goldsboro, North Carolina, Melton has been refining his musical craft ever since moving to KC at age 10. Melton is a widely respected tenor saxophonist and composer whose new album, The Time of the Slave Is Over, was recorded live in one session. We are extremely fortunate to share an interview with this young and rising jazz talent.
Introduce yourself and describe your music for new listeners.
My name is Ernest Melton my music is most easily categorized as jazz. There is always some improvisation involved. The compositions themselves are kinda sporadic in essence. I have a lot of musical influences and in a genre as broad as jazz you can create a lot of different things and express in many different ways.
I’m intrigued by your biography and am wondering if you could delve into when you started to compose your own music. What were those early compositions like? Did you learn to transcribe your music on paper?
Like all things, you start simple and get more complicated later. But I think my earlier compositions were more imaginative. A lot of them were based on pictures or scenes I imagined. I would often make stories, the idea was to let something else guide the song and finally make it all make musical sense like Stravinsky's ballets for example. I still use this technique sometimes. I learned to write music when I was about 17.
Talk about your earliest influences as a tenor saxophonist. Whose work really spoke to you the most as you were growing up and why?
John Coltrane's playing from the late sixties is what really made me want to play. I knew it was wild and liked that about it, but it was also intricate in a way I couldn't understand at the time. I wanted to understand it as well as imitate it.
Give us a glimpse into your creative process. How often do you compose music? What technology (software, apps, etc) do you use, if any?
Usually I get a small idea like a melody, for example, and then I try to figure out the drumbeat and bass line to match. Sometimes I do the same process in reverse. Once this initial pocket is set its all about what sounds good coming next. What will change? What will stay the same? Do I need more instruments?, etc. Some songs (especially my most recent ones) are an attempt to emphasize a particular musical and/or technical concept. I've been using Musescore only to type out sheet music.
What can you tell us about your recent album Alive at Weights and Measures?
Alive at Weights and Measures is pretty introductory. It's my first release under my name. I think I can safely say the music is fairly simple. The goal was to give listeners an idea of who I am as a saxophonist and the feel of my music. I also saw it as an opportunity to showcase some great young musicians in town.
(Blair Bryant - Bass , Christian Swan - Piano, Zach Morroow - drums)
What’s ahead for you in late 2018 and into next year?
I have another album coming out on November 1st. It's called The Time of the Slave Is Over. It's a trio album featuring Deandre Manning on bass and Brad Williams on drums. The winter tends to be a little less hectic for me so other than playing gigs I'll be doing a lot of studying and practicing.
Ernest Melton's recommendations from the Johnson County Library:
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Fire Next Time: Letter From a Region of My Mind (essay) by James Baldwin
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell