Arising out of UMKC's Conservatory Jazz Studies Program, all four members of the Natalie Bates Quartet (Aryana Nemati, Alyssa Murray, Carly Atwood and Natalie Bates) are masters of their craft. Led by drummer, artist and entrepreneur Bates, the group continues to hone their skills at regular gigs at Kansas City's Green Lady Lounge and Tom's Town Distillery, where you can hear them perform original compositions. We're fortunate to share with you an interview with Natalie Bates about the Quartet's origins, how they write and how playing to different audiences challenges them. Enjoy!
Introduce the quartet. How did everyone come together?
Aryana Nemati on Bari Sax, Carly Atwood on Bass and Alyssa Murray on Piano/Keyboard. The four of us met while attending the UMKC Conservatory Jazz Studies Program under Bobby Watson and Dan Thomas. After graduating, John Scott (owner of Green Lady Lounge) called me and asked if I would be interested in putting together an all girl jazz group. He gave us his full support, offering his club as a place to rehearse on Sunday mornings and play weekly on Wednesdays. We began as a trip in June of last year and added Alyssa in January of 2017. We've grown from there as a group, writing original music and expanding on our sound as a quartet.
Describe what a typical NBQ practice session looks like. Who composes and arranges the music?
Each member comprises arrangements of tunes that they think will accentuate our sound and entertain the audience. Aryana and myself write original music and bring it to the group, but we all have input on chord structure and formatting of the tunes. We have a very free and open sound that draws a collective input from each member of the quartet.
Talk about the NBQ in terms of performance. How much does one performance vary from the next?
It always depends on the venue, but we play to our audience - always. At the Green Lady Lounge on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, we play a high energy set and play off the energy of the audience. We also have weekly gigs at Tom's Town Distillery, which is a much different setting. Audience members are engaged, but we add more vocal tunes and lighten the dynamics. I would say we always keep the power of the music on a higher level, but change the style of which we play our tunes.
What’s the most challenging thing about keeping a jazz quartet together these days?
Always always always always communication and linking up the schedules of 4 different people for gigs and rehearsals. We all have other jobs and groups we play with, so finding time for us to all meet together is always a challenge but always worth it. I would say we all currently live on our digital and/or paper calendars.
What inspires you the most about contemporary jazz in Kansas City?
I wouldn't say contemporary jazz inspires me. Opportunities and people are what is most inspiring. There is always a new place to play, new challenges to face and new people to play with and meet who give you a new way to listen and play music. I would say the musical perspective of musicians is what inspires me most.
Natalie's book, music and movie recommendations:
1. Blues for the Orient by Yusef Lateef
2. Restless Adventures by Klaus Layer
3. This is Bossa Nova Netflix Documentary
4. Dialog by Slowy, FloFilz and 12Vince
(I really like German Hip Hop)
5. Taking The Soul For A Walk by Dafnis Prieto
6. Rising Son by Takuya Kuroda's
7. Bo Knows Bo by Bo Jackson
8. Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones by Jo Jones
9. Blues in C Flat Minor by Work Your Magic
10. But Not For Me by Ahmad Jamal