Now Playing:
Music | Arts

Notations from… Corcoran Holt Pt. 2


At 33, composer, bassist and djembe drummer Corcoran Holt has imprinted his signature style on the world of jazz. He’s accompanied a cornucopia of known artists – he played with Javon Jackson’s We Four at the PDX Jazz Festival – and is highly regarded for his music acumen. We spoke recently for an hour on the phone. His fresh take on music and life is given to you in two parts.

PART II [Read Part I here.]

What tune would you suggest for a non-jazz listener to hear that would bring them into the fold?

Depending on who it is and the type of music they’ve been exposed to outside of jazz and their generation, I’d say – that’s a hard one! – I’d probably throw out Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue for just sitting and listening. It’s a record that has a lot of elements to it: some medium tempos, up tempos, beautiful ballads. On the modern front, there’s a Kenny Garrett record that came out in 1997. It’s called – I just played that last night with him – Songbook. That was one of the records for me that, outside of Duke Ellington, was a crossing over using different types of rhythms from the African rhythms, swing rhythms, pocket rhythms. That Kenny Garret Songbook record is something I’d definitely let someone hear - especially a young musician - so they can understand that relationship between improvisation and having different types of grooves, rhythms and how it all works. There’s so much music, so I can’t possibly give one song, but I’d definitely tell people Charlie Parker’s cut from the Washington concert. He’s playing Anthropology with the quartet and he’s just burning. He plays everything that can be played on this tune and it’s very exciting.  

The other day I was out and heard _____ and I thought, “Oh, boy, I’d like to add that to my repertoire because ______.”

The other day I heard this tune called Hello written by Milt Jackson. A lot of people haven’t heard it and nobody plays it anymore; it’s one of the most beautiful ballads I’ve ever heard. So I’m going to add that to my repertoire.

Besides the bass and drums, what other instrument do you applaud?

I appreciate all instruments. Being a bass player I appreciate all instruments playing in the band and I have to support all instruments I’m playing with, but my favorite instrument, as far as a voice in jazz music, I’d have to say listening to the trumpet. Playing the language, that sound has a certain way, you know what I mean? I used to live with two trumpet players in college, so what I heard all day was the trumpet.

Are you a different bassist now than when you first expressed music?

Definitely. I’m still me and the experiences that I had. The experiences that I’ve had have allowed me to grow, so, to me, I’m definitely different than when I first started. That only happens the longer you do something. The opportunities I’ve had and the time I put in practicing, being able to put life into the music, that’s something I couldn’t do when I first started playing. I had to learn how to be around the instrument, so I’m a different bassist than when I started to now 2016. I’ll be a different bassist tomorrow. That’s the whole purpose in doing this, too: you can grow and be different in a good way.

Are you a dancer?

I like to dance to groove music, whether it’s hip-hop, R&B, soul music; I like to dance to salsa, but I’m not a great salsa dancer. I like to two-step also, which is kind of weird being in my generation. I’m 33. I like to hand dance a little bit. Being from Washington, DC, there’s a music called go-go music. It’s a Washington, DC-based music, which is like party music. I like to dance to that, also.

 Where do you envision yourself being in a decade?

I would like to be a respected leader in the business. I’d like to have an art institute in my hometown for inner city youth, so that generation can have opportunities like I had coming up. So, I’d like to be a successful leader and be an in-demand bassist - don’t like the term “sideman” - and continue to make my mark on the music. Also, to be healthy, happy and still be able to create and control the projects I want to do. I just want to continue to grow. When I was 14, someone came up to me and asked what did I want to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a musician, to play, record and write. Then he said what do you want to do to make money when you grow up then. I said I wanted to do that. Then my dad looked at me and said tell him what you’re doing now and you need to be more confident in what you’re saying. I told the man I was starting with Duke Ellington and I’ve been drumming since I was four. That I’ve had some opportunities and I want to be ready for all opportunities and my mentors. Then he said, oh, now I understand…and I’ve never been a starving artist and I’m just thankful.

Read More