Perhaps you could say Ernest Stuart is a recycling jazz musician. He takes the old and transforms it into something new. From playing with the Roots to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Stuart has experienced working with different genres. This 2008 Temple alumnus released his debut album, “Solitary Walker” today.
Stuart returns home with several upcoming performances in Philadelphia, including one this Saturday, March 19, with Alô Brazil at World Cafe Live.
The Temple News chatted with Stuart about the upcoming album, his time at Temple and how his dad walked for him at the graduation ceremony and how he ended up in Amsterdam.
The Temple News: Your music is described as jazz. How do you personally describe it?
Ernest Stuart: Jazz standards presented in a new way. I don’t like hearing the same old standards. I wanted the album to have personality. Jazz reflects all genres and influences. That’s what I learned at Temple. [The] first song of [the] album, “Oh Snap,” is a standard that I changed. I took the bridge of the second song from a jazz standard.
TTN: What first got you interested in playing music, particularly jazz?
ES: I remember being at elementary school assemblies. I watched the sax players and would go “Wow, look at those things.” I wanted to play sax. For some reason, I ended up with [the] trombone.
TTN: How did your education at Temple influence your music?
ES: I had the pleasure of learning from the head of jazz department, Ed Flanagan. Terell Stafford [the jazz studies director] is the reason why I graduated. I wouldn’t be where I was now. He always opened the door and his heart for me. He took time to guide you through.
TTN: Do you have any memorable Temple moments? What do you miss about Temple?
ES: Where do I begin – definitely memorable moments. Some stuff that can’t be printed. One time stands out. I was over in Amsterdam during graduation. I was playing over a week with the TU jazz band. My dad was a little upset that I wouldn’t be walking at graduation. I made arrangements with the department ahead of time so that my dad could walk across stage for me. It was a good trip. We were playing at the Hague Jazz Festival. There [were] so many groups playing together – it was like a mini tour [and] the band’s chemistry was great.
TTN: Your debut album, “Solitary Walker” comes out today. How has the process of making this CD been? When did you start working on it?
ES: I started working on an album after graduation. I moved to New York and was there eight or nine months. The time opened my eyes. I was out playing every night, and it changed my perspective on what I was doing. I scraped the original idea and changed what I was doing.
It happened all at once within months of writing. The album was recorded all in one day in 12 hours. I wanted it to sound very honest. I kinda wanted it to be a little under-produced. We used just a few mics on drums. We left doors open. The horns all shared one microphone. We just went hard for hours.
TTN: What are you most excited about with the release of your album? Are you going to celebrate the album release in any way?
ES: Usually, planning an album release party is hell [trying to coordinate] with other bands and musicians. I might have an album release party eventually. I might celebrate with a few drinks or buy a nice watch, but the process has been amazing. I was producing without help of a label. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. My songs are playing on [more than] 30 stations and so far there have been favorable reviews.
All the musicians on the album are Philadelphians. They get what I’m doing. All are well-known, locally and internationally. The drummer Justin [Faulkner] is big in the world. Orrin [Evans] is renowned and has produced Grammy-nominated albums. I got to work with friends. Philadelphia plays all kinds of music. It’s fun.
Maura Filoromo can be reached at email@example.com.