Teach on

Pianist and composer Jerry Tolson, who marks two decades as a professor of music at U of L, has just released his third album, Fresh Squeezed, featuring his quartet plus guests. His quartet, together for 20 years, “works because we have similar musical and life philosophies — we consider ourselves a musical family. For us, musically, it’s all about the emotion and the feeling and the groove,” he says. “We create music that hopefully makes people feel good and pat their feet, and strikes them with some kind of emotional connection to the music. In terms of life philosophy, we all have very strong spiritual beliefs, and I think that comes into play through our music as well.”

Horace Silver’s “Split Kick” opens the record with JTQ saxophonist Dave Clark trading lines with guest Antonio Hart. The rest of the tunes are originals, contrafacts — new melodies over existing chord changes. On writing, Tolson notes, “Sometimes it’s sheer inspiration … and the tune almost writes itself. As I got started on this project, a lot of the tunes were evolving to be contrafacts … It was the inspiration of Horace Silver’s tune that started me on that path — that’s a contrafact of ‘There Will Never Be Another You.’”


Tolson originally planned to have guests, but not as many as he ended up with. Delfeayo Marsalis’ trombone on the second line “Fat Tuesday,” Tolson says, “lent an authenticity to what we wanted to do.”

Tolson integrates his playing and teaching. “My performing informs my teaching — it allows me to better demonstrate the concepts, and it provides legitimacy in the classroom, that I’m able to actually do what I’m talking about. My teaching helps me to bring, when necessary, an analytical approach to what we’re doing on the bandstand. But I try not to let that get too overwhelming, because I try to let the performance aspect just be that … it’s that special kind of feeling and emotional release that you don’t get any other way except through performance.”