2020 was a tough year across the globe, but despite this, Evan Taylor continued his upward trajectory as a winner of ‘Jazz in Europe 2020’ and a finalist in the ITG’s Jazz Improvisation Competition. So what is next for this talented young man?!
What first drew you to the trumpet?
When I was about 10 years old my dream was to be a drummer. In fact, I had saved up and bought a Pearl drumset that I kept in my room and used to play it every day. My mother made me join the school band in 6th grade, where I assumed I would be a percussion player. However, the program I was joining required that you spend one year on either, Flute, Clarinet, Trombone or Trumpet. My uncle had an old Bach trumpet lying around, which would eliminate any rental costs for my parents, so we decided that was going to be my avenue for the first year. Not long after I developed a natural affinity for the horn and it became my pride and joy!
Can you talk a little about your early influences and inspirations?
My early influence for music was Church! My grandfather was a pastor, and my father and mother had both dabbled in music. I grew up singing in church, playing guitar in church, etc. My influences on the trumpet were Bob Parker and John Taranko. Bob was a choir director at Ludington High School, who had previously studied classical trumpet at Michigan State University. Both were my private instructors in high school and middle school and helped develop my early playing. I think at the time I was listening to mostly Lee Morgan & Blue Mitchell records.
What styles and genres of music were you into as a child?
As a child I loved listening to my mom’s CD’s. Mostly contemporary christian and gospel music, I recall a lot of Michael W. Smith albums. I would pop them into the DVD player and just sit on the carpet listening to them in the living room. I was attracted to a lot of John Mayer’s early albums as well, my mom was a big JM fan. She had all his early albums on disc and would keep them in the car!
And now? Who are your biggest influences?
My influences have a pretty widespread variety now, on purpose, because I’m trying to diversify as much as possible. Kris Johnson and Etienne Charles were two musical mentors that I studied with over the course of the last six years who have had a big impact on the way I treat my journey. As far as the trumpet goes, the last few years I have been really listening to and digging into the style of Marquis Hill and Sean Jones. A lot of my writing techniques are in an attempt to emulate them or pull sounds from the same palette. However, I’ve found myself working much with analog sound production in the last two years. I have a home studio where I record and I’m constantly checking out different styles of beatmaking, house music production, and hip hop artists. This has drastically changed the way I think about ensemble playing and how trumpet / horns fit into recorded or performed music.
When did you realise that you wanted to play the trumpet for a career?
Sometime around the end of highschool I decided if I was going to do it, I needed mentorship. I was really inspired by my time studying at Michigan State University and the music faculty there really shaped my playing abilities. I don’t think I ever realized it, I think I was sort of just pulled in that direction because of things that had occurred in my life. Music had always been my way of connecting to the world, and trumpet became my voice for that.
You have had some fantastic competition success so far. Can you talk a little about preparing for big competitions like the 2020 ITG contest?
Thank you so much! ITG was a really cool experience that pushed me extremely hard. They had a heavy hitting staff list applied to judge the competition. I really had my head down during that time and knew it was a big deal to even have the opportunity to be a finalist. I focused hard on my fundamentals, I developed a pretty distinct practice routine in the months leading up to that competition. We recorded the tapes for it on campus at the University of Utah. I really learned a lot about improvisation while I was getting ready for that, I spent a lot of late nights in my home studio just listening to Greg Gisbert and Clark Terry albums.
Do you have set, regular practice routines that work for you? Do these play a big part when you are teaching too?
Yes, one-hundred percent. I still do Arbans 47 almost every day. It’s like breathing for me. I don’t even really think about it anymore, and I can play it almost any way you can think of, and definitely in all 12 keys. I put all of my students on this exercise and make them learn it. It’s an interval study and if you can get it in all 12 keys major, minor, harmonic minor, altered, it can really really change how you think about music. I also do a longtone flush every day just to keep everything vibrating smoothly. This helps me with range, tone development, and just staying fluid. I practice more fundamentals than I practice anything else at this point, mostly because I don’t always have time to do the things I’d like to work on. I’m too busy recording or out playing gigs, etc. Gotta make sure the lips are working at all times and I’m ready to play whatever is put in front of me.
Can you talk a little about the your relationship with Victory and the process of selecting your horn?
The owner of Victory, Melvin Quinones, is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. He is one of the most humble, genuine cats I have ever come across in the music industry. I connected him via my friend Candido Abeyta who has been a Growling Sax artist for Melvin for the last several years. My first time meeting Melvin in person we stayed in a hotel in Anaheim my first year as an artist for Victory and worked together at the NAMM conference testing horns and comparing Victory trumpets with a few other brands. Melvin has always taken great care of me, and when I found out they were developing a horn that had a Christian stamp on it, I knew I had to try it. The “Trumpet of Jesus” professional model is by far one of the best horns, if not the best horn I have ever tried. It fits me perfectly. I believe in God, and destiny. I believe that this company has created something truly, truly, heaven blessed by designing this horn model. It was a no-brainer to decide to be an artist with this company.
How has the COVID lockdown affected you and your work? Have there been any positives that you can take at all from this?
COVID was one of the most dramatic, hard times I think any of us have ever been through. I lost a lot of friends because of this awful, dreaded virus. I’m confident that this time has revealed a lot about our culture and the things we truly cling to. I’ve changed a lot in the last two years and realized what I value. Life is short. As far as priorities go, I just want to put God first, then family, close friends, and music last on the list. I hope that my trumpet playing and musicianship can inspire people, and honor the people I’ve lost.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
I just moved to Miami, FL this week. I made the 35 hour drive from Salt Lake City, UT to here throughout the course of the week by myself. I’m hoping by moving here I will have made a grand step in the right direction. I will be continuing to do studio recording work for several companies, meanwhile working on pursuing my artistry and broadening my network. I’m humbled to be affiliated with the projects I am currently on, many of them I can’t talk about at the moment, but my team has big things cooking for 2021! I’m very blessed to have plenty of work already lined up in Florida as a trumpet player, producer, and composer. I also teach private lessons via Zoom for a local music program in Detroit, Michigan. My ambitions revolve around building a healthy lifestyle that honors God and my family, and I hope that my music can be a vessel that contributes to that process.
You can find out more about Evan Taylor and his music by visiting his website.
You may also be interested to read this interview with Victory Music Instruments’ founder, Melvin Quinones.
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