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Richard Giddens has played as a sideman in the New York, Boston, and Los Angeles jazz scenes for the past seven years. As the leader of his own trio, Giddens held a weekly residence at Piano's on Manhattan's Lower East Side and is now studying jazz with Charlie Haden. He returns to his native Fresno for a special performance at Arte Americas with his new quartet. Fresno Famous: You have a music MySpace. Are you the first ever jazz musician with a MySpace?
Richard Giddens: Maybe.
FF: Have you ever seen any other jazz guys with a MySpace?
RG: I've seen some people who say that they are Nu Jazz. I remember that was one of the things you could select to describe your music. I scrolled down and there it was, the N - U jazz. If they could have figured out how to put an umlaut in there, I bet they would have. I did the MySpace thing because I had the last recording of my band in New York and I wanted to put it up there for people who wanted check it out and download the songs.
FF: What did you choose as your band description? MySpace let's you choose three styles to describe your music, right?
RG: I put jazz, acoustic, indie.
FF: Why choose those? Why not the Nu Jazz?
RG: Because that is too lame. Nu Jazz? That is like Nu Metal, they're right next to each other alphabetically. I just didn't want to be associated with that at all.
FF: You're from Fresno, right?
RG: Yes, from Fresno. I moved to New York when I was 17 to go to school at the New School for Social Research Jazz and Contemporary Music program.
FF: How was that?
RG: It was a blast. I met so many rad people and made so many great connections and learned a lot. I was there with a lot of amazing musicians at the same time. There was a great core group of people there.
FF: You're playing a show at Arte Americas this Friday, right?
RG: Yeah, with Nathaniel Morgan. Say hi.
RG: I'm playing upright bass. My friend Storm Nelson is playing guitar and my friend Eric McLendon is playing drums.
FF: How did you meet all these guys?
RG: We actually all met at Cal Arts. Where I got to school now. I moved from New York to study with Charlie Haden at Cal Arts and be closer to my family. We all played together one night at a party in Ventura that Nathaniel hooked up. We had such great chemistry and such a great time and the music sounded great. We played off each other well.
FF: Are you guys going to be playing original tunes or standards
RG: At this show, at Arte, they requested us to do some standards. So we're doing some standards, we're doing some of Nathaniel's tunes, some of Storm's tunes, and then a bunch of stuff I wanted to play with our group just to see how they will sound.
FF: About a year ago, I read a big article in the Bee about you and your experiences as a member of the cast of Stomp.
RG: Yeah. I remember I got misquoted. I had hurt my back and the guy made it like this whole "Young injured Richard, battling through pain to make it." I guess it was a good story, but it wasn't what it was about. None of the questions he asked me made it on there. Or there would be fragments of sentences. I thought it was more hilarious than anything.
FF: How far off were they? Were you actually in Stomp?
RG: I made Belgian French fries across the street from Stomp and I got tricked into auditioning by one of their performers. He thought I was cool. I was at an audition that they run like a workshop. So, I thought I was part of a workshop and after it was all done they were like, "I want you". I had no idea I was auditioning at the time.
FF: How long were you doing stomp for?
RG: I was mostly in the New York production, but I traveled for about a year and a half. It was a great time. I got to play some amazing venues.
FF: What do you miss most about doing it?
The family that I met. There was no one lame in that show. Everyone was unique and interesting had their own thing going on. I just met some really awesome people that I still talk to on a daily basis. Playing in front of 5,000 people is great.
FF: Do you think you'll ever go back to Stomp?
RG: I'm going on tour with them this summer. I'm going to Mexico for three weeks. You retire and they ask you to really cool stuff. I don't think I would ever do it full time again. I want to play bass now. I did that. It was fun though.
FF: If you could sculpt you life for the next couple years, what would you want to see yourself do?
RG: I would move back to New York as soon as possible and hopefully get a gig with someone that I admire and actually apprentice. You know, get paid and go on tour all that, but get into a band situation where I can play with someone and get that experience. I'm not pushing to have my own thing right now. I want to learn from other people by playing their music and getting their take on stuff.
The Richard Giddens quartet plays Arte Americas Nights in the Plaza Friday, June 17th. The concert starts at sunset; tickets are $8-$10.