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Jazz Bassist & Composer, Christian de Mesones Dominates the Hybrid Genre World!

All photos are courtesy of Christian de Mesones

Brooklyn born bassist Christian de Mesones, has a wide variety of experience in multiple genres. His multi-genre background allotted him the opportunity to open for many notable artists including the legendary Roberta Flack and Chuck Brown. His latest single, Hispanica reached number 1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart. I had the chance to speak with him about his career journey. Here's what he said.

Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY, and grew up in a household filled with all genres of music, since my mother is Bulgarian, and my father was from Peru. I became familiar with the music of my heritage while simultaneously being introduced to American music by my older siblings, and through radio, movies, and television, etc. I gravitated towards Heavy Metal at an early age and joined lots of bands in my early years in Brooklyn. When I attended Bass Institute of Technology in Hollywood, CA (now Musicians Institute), I was exposed to or able to work with some legendary players, like Abe Laboriel, Louis Johnson, Tim Bogart, Howard Alden, Steve Morse, Pat Metheny, and the late Tommy Tedesco, Ray Brown, and Pat Martino. All these experiences – the absorption of varied genres of music with Latin and European flavors, being introduced to things like the Motown sound, Philly Soul and bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer - and then receiving technical training and being able to explore music theory, coupled with an immersion in the world of jazz, all played significant roles in my development as a musician.

BIT definitely broadened my horizons even further and positively influenced my writing and playing styles. After school, I was blessed enough to get a full-time job as a paid musician, living in Hawaii for a bit, and playing in a Top 40 hard rock cover band. I moved to Richmond in the 90s, during which time I played in a variety of bands, became really immersed in urban music and Smooth Jazz, and had the privilege of opening for greats like Roberta Flack and Chuck Brown. Then, I relocated to the DC area, where I started my first Smooth Jazz project and eventually launched my solo career.

What would you say is positive about being a musician?

Music is a universal language. The melodies themselves convey a message or a feeling and can cross barriers of all kinds. It’s a privilege to share such a gift with the world, and to have a creative outlet that allows me to pay tribute to my ancestors, express love and friendship, convey happiness, or simply get the party started. I can’t imagine a world without music, and it is such a core part of who I am as a person. Music provides me with a fundamental and constant reason to accept new challenges. It can help me focus, it promotes discipline and creates endless opportunities for fellowship and collaboration. It keeps me driven.

What are some of the challenges you face being a musician?

The industry has changed so much over the years, and it can be difficult and extremely costly to achieve your musical goals – especially if you’re seeking radio airplay. The pandemic has made it more difficult to do just about everything but has been tremendously detrimental to the gigging musician. And when I’m able to gig, I also have to be mindful about balancing my musical aspirations with my other responsibilities - a musician’s hours can be hectic. I have a day job that requires me to be well rested and healthy, and regular, quality time with my family is extremely important to me.

What type of music do you play?

Although I currently identify as a smooth jazz bassist and composer, my music is really a hybrid of genres. It’s smooth jazz with world music, Latin, funk, soul and/or rock influences, depending upon the song.

Who are your band members and how did you meet?

Although I do have a core group of musicians I utilize for the bulk of my performances, I don’t have a fixed band. I play with various musicians based in the DMV and the size and composition of the band changes based upon the event. My core musicians usually include Elliot Levine (keyboards), Mike Gamble (guitar), Carl Anderson (drums), Rob Maletick (saxophone), and Curtis McCain (percussion), all of whom I met at events or via various music endeavors when moved to the area from Richmond.

What have people who had heard your music say about your style that sets you apart from other musicians?

People always say, “One thing you will never be at a Big New York show is Bored!”. I’m constantly hearing how edgy and funky my music is for the smooth jazz genre, as well as how complex, exciting and unique the songs are – both from listeners and the musicians I hire to play with me.

Who is your independent favorite artist?

I have many favorites, but right now, I’d have to pick The Jazz Holdouts, who have great songwriting, production and an awesome overall sound, and Brendan Rothwell, who is a phenomenal instrumentalist that creates impressive contemporary jazz compositions with an R&B flavor and beautiful lead bass melodies.

Who are your musical influences?

I’m of course heavily influenced by bass greats like Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, and other music legends like Jeff Berlin and Pat Martino, but artists like Gene Simmons and KISS, Greg Lake, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Barbara Streisand and Burt Bacharach have influenced aspects of my musical makeup from my showmanship to my composition style. I was also influenced by bands like Santana, Weather Report and Return to Forever because of their creativity and improvisational skills.

How do you prepare yourself mentally for public opinion (either positive or negative) when you’re preparing for a show?

I always strive to put on the best possible show I can offer, but I sometimes have parameters to work within that don’t always guarantee a perfect outcome. For example, timing, distance and availability may not allow me to get in a full band rehearsal. I have to accept this reality, trust that my musicians have done their homework and that our inherent skill will create the cohesiveness and magic I’m looking to deliver. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, and I’ve experienced my share of performances that weren’t up to my standards, but I take the lessons that come with those experiences and use them to improve. I’m my harshest critic by far, and have developed a thick skin, which is imperative in this business. I will never satisfy everyone, even when I believe I’ve put on a stellar performance. Even though the vast majority of fans love my performances, the opinions and feedback of every person who has spent hard-earned money to support me matter to me very much, whether those opinions are positive or negative.

What advice would you give to new musicians entering this changing industry?

Seek out a mentor – someone who has been in the industry for a long time and has successfully navigated the changes. This can help avoid costly setbacks and pitfalls. Also, be patient but persistent. For most, success doesn’t happen overnight, and doesn’t happen at all for those who aren’t aggressively seeking it. Lastly, always remember to have fun and don’t ever sacrifice the music.

What is your instrument and how many other instruments do play?

Bass guitar is my only instrument – 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, and 15-string bass, to be precise!

How many singles/albums do you have out presently?

My debut project, Groove Skool Band, has an album available titled Limited Edition, released in 2010, and my solo album, They Call Me Big New York was released in 2020. I also have three singles out now (Sweetnight Instrumental, Sexy Beast, and Hispanica Instrumental), which will be on my next album scheduled for release in late 2022.

Tell me about your latest album/ song and what was your inspiration behind it? Is it out now and where can people buy it? Hispanica (instrumental) is my latest single, and it reached number 1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart. It is a Latin-flavored contemporary jazz gem that prominently features legendary jazz pianist Bob James, and it has given me my greatest chart success to date. The track also landed solidly near or at the top of Mediabase, RadioWave,, Groove Jazz, and Smooth Jazz Network charts, as well as a selection of independent radio airplay charts since its release. This song is an instrumental re-imagining of a track from my debut solo project, “They Call Me Big New York” and showcases Arch Thompson (flute), Bill McGee (trumpet), and Rob Maletick (saxophone), and highlights the talents of Curtis McCain (percussion), Mike Gamble (guitar), and Carl Anderson (drums). I wrote this song many years ago and have spent a lot of time improving and tweaking, getting it to exactly what I wanted it to be – a perfect melding of genres I love. It is available for streaming and purchase on all major music platforms and on my website.

Do you have any upcoming shows?

I do not have any shows scheduled.

How has Covid affected you in a positive way?

The time at home due to the pandemic did afford me an opportunity to push myself to learn new skills – recording at home being the most important of these. I’ve also had the opportunity to study and practice – to strengthen my foundation and inspire me to write new music.

What advice would you like to give to an upcoming artist?

Seek out a mentor – someone who has been in the industry for a long time and has successfully navigated the changes. This can help avoid costly setbacks and pitfalls. Also, be patient but persistent. For most, success doesn’t happen overnight, and doesn’t happen at all for those who aren’t aggressively seeking it. Lastly, always remember to have fun and don’t ever sacrifice the music.

Just for fun - *The Indie Post pointless question of the month*

How do you make your funky P Funk when you want to get funked up?

The true defenders of the funk will argue that the genre can only be one way – with roots going back to artists like James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, Cameo, Dazz Band, etc., but the reality is that the funk genre has grown quite a bit and continues to morph as more players discover and incorporate its elements. I definitely appreciate the new funk pioneers – those creating groove-oriented music that this generation can relate to – artists such as Cory Wong, Snarky Puppy, and Robert Glasper...and dare I say, myself!

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