IMG_5173-2Calming, gentle, tranquil, and relaxing, are a few words that describe the sound of the soon to be released album titled “Moment to Moment” by Nick Phillips and Cava Menzies. The musical creativity that resonates the collaborative union between these two artists can be heard with the ears, and also felt deeply within the soul.

A product of the public schools system, Phillips began playing the trumpet at the age of 10.  It was at that time that he became “electrified” and entranced with music. While in 5th grade, he choose to play the trumpet and has stayed with that instrument ever since. He attended the University of Pacific where he studied music and music business. There, Phillips received his bachelor’s in music and music business. From that point forward, he knew that whatever career he decided upon, music would have to be the central theme.

After receiving his degree in 1987, he landed a position at Concord Jazz. Twenty-six years later, he is still with the company. In addition, he has had the great pleasure of working with amazing living Jazz artists as well as Jazz catalog, which encompass some of the greatest Jazz artists of all time.  That list includes Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans.

Nick Phillips is not only a trumpeter, but he is also a businessman, operating as vice-president of Concord Music Group, an American music company that was founded in 1973. That company is based in Beverly Hills, California. Having a long-time career in the Jazz music industry, which spans more than twenty-five years, Nick Phillips has worn many hats. As a producer, Phillips has worked with Jazz greats such as Nnenna Freelon and has produced a few songs that were nominated for Grammy Awards.

IMG_1212In this day an age, there have been questions raised about the current resurgence of Jazz interest among new independent artists.  Some speculate that Jazz has fallen behind other music genres.  But one thing that Phillips implied is jazz today is alive and well. “There is every bit of interest in Jazz now as in the past several years. The business is changing and the way people acquire music is changing. And although there have been some challenges in terms of the record label side of the business, Jazz as music, is thriving as much as ever,” Phillips said.  He also said there is an abundant supply of talented musicians waiting to make their début, and many of them are focusing their talents on Jazz.

Phillips describes that he sees many prospective artists that walk through his door at Concord Music Group on a daily basis.  However, he has a heavy heart when it comes to picking talent who he thinks will take it to another level. “Sometimes you can hear something special and unique from an artist that moves you on an emotional level and you think that others will also connect with that sound. As an A&R person working at a record label, there are other considerations in terms of how marketable an artist might be, along with some other factors. There are no guarantees and a lot of it is about trusting your instincts and listening to what moves you personally, “Phillips said.

Cava Menzies, a pianist, vocalist, producer, and music educator, is from a family of Jazz artists and has a broad range of musical talent and experiences.  In recent times, Nick Phillips meets Cava Menzies by chance and has had a very special musical bond since July of 2012. Menzies is such a lyrical and sensitive player, knowing how to leave space and how to respond to Phillips spontaneous musical gestures, as did Phillips to Menzies. From the very first gig that they played together, it was a very relaxed and effortless musical conversation that they both enjoyed so much they began calling one another for gigs.

Phillips revealed exclusively to iRock Jazz how he tries to maintain an effective balance when working on projects and trying to weigh down some of the challenges he faces. “One of the biggest challenges is that there are not enough hours in the day. Working with Cava Menzies in terms of being a co-leader and co-producer of this project, all of the arrangements that we have developed together in many ways have been effortless.”

In terms of the other hats that Phillips and Menzies wear, they have full-time jobs in the music industry.  They both feel their work is fulfilling and important. “Like anything in life, you have to find a way to carve out the time and make what you want to do a priority,” Phillips said. The musical duo finds ways to plan, develop musical arrangements, and rehearse together. They share the workload in all areas in order to have the project to be what they envisioned. Fortunately, given that Phillips has produced so many records on Concord over the years, wearing the producer’s hat was pretty easy because it is an area where he has a lot of experience. Given the musical connection that Phillips and Menzies have and the quality of their performances, bassist Jeff Chambers, and drummer Jaz Sawyer, effortlessly melded into the four-way musical conversation. Even though it has been a lot of work, many elements of this recording has been so rewarding creatively and musically, that in many ways Phillips batteries have been recharged.

Both Phillips and Menzies are quite aware that after the album is released, there maybe the possibility that their hard work could lead to a “run-a-way-hit. “I am very proud of this album from every perspective regardless of how commercially successful the project is or isn’t,” Phillips said.

Overall, what helps Phillips stretch the most is knowing full well the amazing talent of trumpeters that preceded him in the history of Jazz.  With this new album, and this notion in mind, he hopes the music touches people and resonates with them musically.

Get your copy of our “Moment to Moment” album here!

Words by Sharlene Bymun

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