From the opening notes of “Southern Accent,” the solo improvisation that kicks off Patrick Langham’s debut album, Grown Up Listening, it’s clear that a distinctive new voice has surfaced on the jazz scene. “Not enough sax players record solo selections today, so I thought that it would help the album stand out a bit to begin and end it with solo performances.” He chose the standard “That’s All,” to conclude the 11-song set.
Langham has spent much of his life studying and teaching jazz both in the US and abroad. It’s only recently that he’s put together a regular group and begun performing frequently in Northern California. Growing up in Tennessee, he found himself increasingly drawn to his musical roots, which include a number of Southern jazz notables. “Looking back, I realized that many of the artists that had the deepest influence on who I am as a musician came like I did, from the South. The work of Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Brown, Phineas Newborn and Les McCann played a key role in my development as an artist.”
To honor these masters, Langham decided to feature some of their compositions, as well as a few of his own on the album. “I was lucky enough to be exposed to these artists in high school by band directors who nurtured my interest in jazz,” Langham continued. “As I progressed, they would feed more more challenging songs and I was hooked. Once you get into an artist, it’s almost like an addiction, you want to learn and play more and more of their tunes.”
Grown Up Listening features a cohesiveness throughout that was intentional from the outset. “I wanted the album to be accessible to listeners who may have only had a little exposure to jazz, so for the most part, I chose tunes that had a singable melody,” stated Langham. “The one exception is ‘Be Bop’ by Dizzy Gillespie, as I really wanted one tune that was more for my students and other musicians.”
The core group featured on the album is the line up that joins Langham for many of his live dates around Northern California. Pianist Joe Gilman also leads his own ensemble, while bassist Chris Amberger and drummer Brian Kendrick are fixtures on the regional jazz scene. With Langham, they form the nucleus of Langham’s ensemble, which was then augmented by a rich group of guest artists including saxophonist Frank Morgan, Essiet Essiet on bass, Marvin Stamm on trumpet, and one of Langham’s students, Brian Chahley also playing trumpet.
“I’ve been fortunate to be invited to be a part of the faculty at the annual Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and got to know Essiet and Marvin from previous Summer Colonies. One of my students, Brian Chahley, is a fine player in his own right, and I felt he could add to the project, so I also asked him to play with us. I hadn’t planned in inviting Frank Morgan to play, as we hadn’t met before, but as he and I were coaching the students attending the Colony, we hit it off beautifully,” continued Langham. “He was like a grandfather figure to the students, dispensing so much wisdom, not only about music, but about life, that it was completely natural to ask him to play on the date.” The original tune, “Life Talking with Frank,” composed by Langham was the result.
The album itself was recorded live at a local auditorium over three days. “We brought in a mobile recording unit and engineer John Schimpf did an amazing job capturing all of the music that went down,” recalls Langham. “What you hear on the record is pretty much exactly the way it went down. Most songs were finished in one or two takes, I remember that when we played the Gillespie tune ‘Be Bop,’ we all knew that we had nailed it on the first take.”
As a saxophonist and director Langham has performed with distinguished jazz artists and at numerous jazz festivals throughout the United States. His concert appearances have included performances with Donald Brown, Bob Hurst, Tom Harrell, Billy Kilson, Lewis Nash, Joe Locke, and Jeff “Tain” Watts. In 2006 & 2007, Patrick was invited to give workshops and master classes in Barcelona, Spain teaching and performing at Taller de Musicas, Escola Superior Music de Catalunya (ESMUC), and Jamboree Jazz Club.
Now at University of the Pacific, he directs the Pacific Jazz Ensemble, the jazz combos, teaches courses in improvisation, jazz history and theory, and works closely with and teaches in the Brubeck Institute Fellows program, the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, the Brubeck Institute Jazz Camp, and the Pacific Music Camps. His 2007 Pacific Jazz Ensemble was singled out by the Next Generation Jazz Festival (sponsored by Monterey Jazz) as one of the top six college jazz ensembles in the world, and invited to appear as featured artists at the March 2007 Monterey “Next Generation” Jazz Festival.