Greg London is a jazz trumpeter who runs the website Jazz Trumpet Licks; here is a link to the site:
Q: When did you know you wanted to play jazz?
A: I knew I wanted to play jazz back when I first started playing trumpet. I was a little older than 10 years old when I started. One of my older sisters bought me Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker cassette tapes and I fell in love with the music. I began transcribing the solos mentally so I could play along with Armstrong and Baker. It was a lot of fun!
Q: Who are some of your musical influences?
A: Some of my musical influences include of course a lot of the great jazz musicians out there. I love listening to Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Wynton Marsalis, and Arturo Sandoval to name a few. I love listening to all type of music and I don’t discriminate to only listening to trumpet players.
Q: How did your website come about?
A: How did jazztrumpetlicks.com come about? I first got the idea when I told a fellow Navy Band trumpet player that he should start a blog to help teach trumpet players what he has learned over the years. He wasn’t interested, but that’s when it clicked for me. I got the idea to share the various jazz licks I learned over the years. I guess the idea originally was inspired by a website that has since disappeared off the Internet called trumpetstuff.com. This website used to have all kinds of cool trumpet videos on it. This was before YouTube became the place to go for free entertainment.
I then realized it would be better to invite other musicians to contribute to the website the jazz licks they’ve learned over the years. I currently have over 20 interested jazz musicians, but not too many have taken action yet to contribute videos. I’m even willing to pay them for their time and content. I’m hoping this will change in the future.
Q: What exactly constitutes a jazz lick?
A: A jazz lick is a pattern which fits over a chord change. It can be a single chord, or a pattern like a ii V7 I pattern. There are whole tone type patterns which skip around in 4ths going up or down in whole steps, etc.. Of course there are major and minor licks as well.
Q: How does your work as a web designer fit in with the jazz lifestyle?
A: I am a full-time web programmer so I play trumpet for fun now. I will try and get a paid gig here and there, but I really don’t need the money. It’s just fun to play every once in a while. I mean I spend the last 20+ years of my life improving my skills as a trumpet player, I’m not going to let all those hours of practicing go down the drain. In fact, I used to practice 5-12 hours a day at one point in my life. It was all I wanted to do. I now dedicate my life to programming. I love building various web applications whether they are straight up websites, mobile apps, or software applications you install on your computer.
Q: Is it inspiring or intimidating to play jazz in New Orleans?
A: It is definitely both inspiring and intimidating to play jazz in New Orleans. There are so many talented musicians here most people have never heard of that should have their own albums. I love listening to the play and I’m honored to play along with them when I get the chance.
Q: What is your most memorable performance experience?
A: My most memorable performance experience would be a performance I did in Vladivostok Russia with the Navy Band back around 2003. The reason why it was so interesting is because of what happened after the gig was over. I and a few other younger guys in the band had Russian girls begging us to marry them. I couldn’t believe it. We also had drinks with the locals. I found out Russians are like Americans. They speak their language and expect you to be able to understand what they are saying. This isn’t 100% true though. Most Russians are bilingual as far as I know.
Q: What kind of training have you had?
A: I had a trumpet teacher growing up, but was mostly self taught because I didn’t start taking lessons until a few years of practicing. I was going to get a degree in music performance, but realized that probably wasn’t the best degree for me to get. This is why I joined the Navy Band. I could play music and have more time & money to pay for college and decide what I really want to major in. I did attend the School of Music in Little Creek Virginia back in 2000. It was a great school as I wasn’t really into music theory initially.
Q: What one thing would you change about the jazz scene in New Orleans?
A: I wouldn’t change anything about the jazz scene in NOLA. Music is so random and unique here. I could be walking down Canal Street and hear a brass band playing at any time of the day it seems. I love it here.
Q: If you could travel back in time and play with any famous jazz quartet which one would you pick and why?
A: I would love to go back in time to play with the Max Roach band back when Clifford Brown was in it. There really wouldn’t be a need for me to play since Clifford was a jazz genius. I would just like to have the chance to watch and listen to him perform live.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.