A true celebration of music and jazz took place at Jazzkaar on 29th of April. Jean and Marcus Baylor, six-time GRAMMY® Award nominees, brought The Baylor Project to Estonia for the first time. After the concert, they found a time for both the autograph session and the interview, which was filled with emotion and laughter.
Today was your first performance in Estonia. What are your emotions after the concert? Did our public treat you well?
Jean: Everyone is treating us wonderfully. We’re having an amazing time. We just got here this morning and it’s a great town and it makes us very relaxed. It’s a wonderful town with beautiful people.
Did you get a chance to explore the town?
Jean: Not today, but tomorrow. We have a free day tomorrow. I am so excited, as I want to see some of the historic areas and the Old Town.
You are partners in life and music. You must have a different level of trust and connection, as well as many advantages to working together. Can you tell us the main advantage of working together?
Jean: It’s like doing your one thing you really love with your super bestie (laughs).
Marcus: I think if you have a great connection in marriage and relationships, that translates to the bandstand. That’s one of the greatest advantages of being together as husband and wife, and in music. But it can go the other way too (laughs). It’s really a blessing being able to make music with the one that you love and your soulmate. We always produced music together, but it took us about 15–16 years to form The Baylor Project.
What was the starting point of forming The Baylor Project?
Jean: I think, when we did our first two albums, he (Marcus) was producing in the background and I was the front person singing. It is amazing how he came up with The Baylor Project idea.
Jazz wasn’t always what we played before, so we wanted to go back to it. Marcus wanted to focus primarily on the drums, but then also on producing. The Baylor Project seemed like a great idea, where we could make the music we wanted to make. I didn’t think it was a good idea at the time though. It didn’t make any sense to me. I told him it was a dumb idea. (laughs)
Marcus: She said it was a dumb idea.
But six GRAMMY® nominations don’t come from silly ideas, don’t you think?
Jean: That’s the first time I had to say ‘’Okay, fine. You were right and I was wrong’’. (laughs)
During today’s concert, you mentioned that all the musicians on stage are your good friends, having been friends for over 20 years. Does it feel like playing with a family?
Marcus: Yes, that’s what it is. It is a family, as you do more traveling together, eating together and hanging out. You go to the stage for only 75 to 90 minutes. If it’s family off the bandstand, once you go to the bandstand, it’s like you’re playing with your brothers and sisters. It’s amazing. We’ve been friends with Terry (Brewer) and Keith (Loftis) for over 20 years, and with Ameen (Saleem) for over 8 years. It’s like a brotherhood that translates to the bandstand. It’s such a joy.
Your latest album ‘’The Evening – Live at Apparatus’’ had two GRAMMY® nominations, for the Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo. In total, you have 6 GRAMMY® nominations in your pockets. For most of the musicians this is a dream. How is it for you?
Marcus: It’s definitely a dream. I was always watching the GRAMMY® Awards when I was a kid, but I will say this: it’s important as well as being able to play music in places like Estonia, and all the cities you could travel to all around the world. That’s what music is really all about.
For someone who has no idea what jazz is, what song would you pick from your latest album as a starting point?
Jean: Oh, that’s a good question! Let me think about the songs we have on the album. Hm, I’m going to go with We Swing. I think it embodies the spirit of jazz music, in an easy, simple and accessible way. It’s not really complicated, it’s mostly two chord changes, so I think it’s about the spirit of jazz. Swing being a foundational element in jazz music. Sometimes we think jazz is just jazz, but it’s flowing, because it comes from the blues. It’s connected to all these other genres and sounds as well, like R&B, gospel and hip-hop.
Marcus: I think it’s about the experience. I would go with the first track (Our Love Is Here To Stay) on the album. It’s the first track that makes you want to listen to the second track, the third track, and so on. That’s what you want because it’s really a story. Jazz – it’s life. Of course, we have our favorite songs, but our goal has always been to create a body of work that tells the story from the beginning to the end. That’s the ingredient you need to get somebody to listen to jazz.
What’s the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?
Marcus: That’s a great question. Let me think about this one. There’s a lot.
Jean: There is a lot. Just pick one thing.
Marcus: You know, for me it wasn’t really advice. By watching others, I learned a few things: the importance of being in the moment and learning to listen more than talk. The reason we could make The Baylor Project – we were watching other bands, their preparation process. And once a buddy told me: opportunities come. You pray to be prepared when the opportunities come. And I believe opportunities come to everybody.
Any advice you could give to the younger generation of jazz musicians, who are at the very beginning of their music careers?
Marcus: I would tell them: of course, you must practice, but you also must understand the language of the music. It comes from studying generations before you. And once you have studied the music of the generations before you, this may create the opportunity for you to play in one of their bands. It’s always great to play in a band of someone from the generation before you. You can keep moving towards your own music as a bandleader once you’ve gained that kind of mentorship. Having mentors in our lives who told us “you got it, you’re doing it right” was very important to us. That gave us motivation, but also it encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing, and I think this is important.
Jean: I really liked what he (Marcus) said about studying what comes before you, particularly in jazz. Take time to live with that music. When I tell someone in his early 20s to check out Carmen McRae, they respond with ”yes, I checked out a few songs or an album”. No! What I mean is to live with her music. Live with the album!
In our early ages we listened to music very differently. We didn’t have any phones, so if we wanted to listen to something, we had to buy the album or to go to somebody’s house to listen to it. Whoever the singer was, I would always sing along if I loved something. It’s still what I do. Marcus had scores of CDs. We had to put them in storage because there were so many. Let music become a part of you by living with it. That’s not just in jazz, that’s in any music. Live with records, albums, and songs.
Marcus: And go to concerts!
And last question – If you had one message to give to your Jazzkaar audience, what would it be?
Marcus: Thank you. Thank you for your warm spirit, love, and hospitality. Being one of the first to bring The Baylor Project. Estonia is going to be something that we will remember forever. The first tour that we ever did in Europe, and Estonia is going to be right at the top. It’s such an amazing festival.
Jean: Jazzkaar, you are special! Tallinn people, you are special! Stay who you are. It’s a beautiful festival with a wide variety of jazz to choose from. We are just happy that we could come for our first time, and we certainly hope to return.
The Baylor Project
29th of April 2023, 6 pm at Vaba Lava
Jean Baylor – vocals
Marcus Baylor – drums
Terry Brewer – piano
Ameen Saleem – double bass
Keith Loftis – saxophones