Back in August We attended the Liberty City Anime Convention. This was were I learned about J-MUSIC Ensemble. The Team and I sat in on a performance and I was utterly blown away. Luckily I was able to catch up with Grammy nominated Saxophonist and Leader of the collective Patrick Bartley Jr.
Here is what he had to say.
1) Can you introduce yourself?
Patrick: My name is Patrick Bartley Jr. I’m the Leader of the J-MUSIC Ensemble. Originally from Fort Lauderdale Florida.
2) How long have you been playing the Saxophone?
Patrick: let’s see 2004 is when I started, I guess about 12 years now.
3) You mentioned you were initially a Jazz musician?
Patrick: Yeah that’s what I mainly do. I’m still a Jazz musician but I try not to use labels because I work in other fields too.
4) What are some of your earliest influences?
Patrick: Growing up in Fort Lauderdale there was a huge Southern Black Community. I grew up listening to Gospel, Hip Hop and R&B music. My Father is Jamaican so I also grew up listening to Reggae. That kind of stuff was always going through the house but my earliest influences also came from video games, I don’t know what it was about it but I remember hearing music from Sonic the Hedgehog whenever my sister let me play her Sega Genesis. The other people around me were also playing video games I was hearing it everywhere else, so that eventually became an influence for me as well. I got into Jazz by way of my middle school education and then from there on everything pretty much fell into place.
5) Can you read music or do you play strictly by ear?
Patrick: Yeah I can totally do both, I have perfect pitch so it makes it easy.
6) Can you tell us a little about the J-MUSIC Ensemble? And what that is exactly?
Patrick: Well our tag line is J-pop meets Jazz and what that means exactly is we’re trying to bring a new perspective to the world of Modern Japanese music. I have other projects in the J-MUSIC Alliance. There’s the Acoustic project which highlights Japanese music from the early 20th Century thru the concept of Jazz.
Within the J-MUSIC Ensemble we focus on songs attached to other mediums such as anime, video games and popular dances performed on stage. We then go into the skeleton of those artists and performances to extract what really makes those songs effective, I was affected very deeply by it and so were many other people whether they know it or not.
7) What would you say is your favorite cover to date?
Patrick: Well prominently I think the band has found it’s sound in Perfume, they’re a J-Pop group lead by Yasutaka Nakata. He’s also behind acts like CAPSULE and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. We found our sound most in Perfume and I really like those songs because we make use of all three girls. I arrange three horns in place of the three different voices and this gives the best sound, the rhythm section can at times be deceivingly simple but those parts are always really fun to play. We can stretch out a lot in those, it ends up being a good pallet for exploration. So I think my favorite to artist cover right now is Perfume.
8) Name your Top 5 anime that have affected you the most?
Patrick: The first anime I saw was Dragon Ball Z. This was before I knew it was anime or Japanese for that matter. I’ve watched it several times over the past 15 years and every time I get a different meaning. This is a deep story and Akira Toriyama is a really great narrator, so I began exploring his work in other fields like Dragon Quest and Sand Land and Dragon Ball as well. Dragon Ball Z is definitely really high on my list.
Naruto is also very high on my list. I took a break 4 or 5 years ago because it was so long, and I finally got around to catching up again over the summer. There’s actually a lot of Japanese Mythology in this thing, those were the two big ones I wanted to get out the way. I also liked Fairy Tail a lot, It’s a really great show. There another show called Aku No Hana, I don’t know if you heard of it? It translates to The Flowers of Evil, it’s an amazing psychological thriller that one also affected me a lot.
And of course I like Sword Art Online that’s why I played the theme at the Liberty City Anime Convention. I was interested in how Sword Art Online kind of took the concept from .hack//Sign in a different direction. .hack//Sign was really the first anime to do that virtual game thing. Then I guess Cowboy Bebop, these are anime that have affected in no specific order.
We talked back and forth a bit and here is what else happened.
Patrick: Now I feel like I need to change my Top 5, I’d have to throw Lupin the Third in there. All three series were ridiculous, Lupin is one of the most ridiculous shows of all time. You also have to take into consideration Yuji Ohno presence as a composer, he had a background as a Jazz pianist also opened the door for Cowboy Bebop to even be a thing. He was the first person to include Jazz in an anime soundtrack and only a few have been able to successfully copy that. Aside from Yoko Kanno and Shinichiro Watanabe being one of the few exceptions, so I definitely had to throw Lupin in there.
9) What message are you trying to converge to the world with your music?
Patrick: With J-MUSIC I want to be a musical diplomat, I wanna show that even with language barriers the constant cliche that music transcends all language is really a thing. But there’s still a layer that people tend to overlook, it’s not just about music transcending the language it’s about how the two cultures have literally influenced each other and I want to be a catalyst behind that idea. I want it to remain open, I want people to constantly be able to see what is happening here, I want people to see the beauty that goes on beneath the hood so to speak.
I went to a Perfume concert on Saturday Sept.3, 2016. This was my second time seeing them live. This time around I noticed something different. I decided to revisit their older music dating back like 13 years ago I realized that Yasutaka Nakata (their producer) was taking a very different approach. Their old model consisted of band and then vocals, their new model consists of their voices blending in with the rest of the band. Now the voices have a synth effect and other times have a chorus or flanger effect on them, their voices now become an instrument. This in turn leaves more room for the dancing to take center stage, so now they just lip sync. But back when they were kids they actually tried to sing. There’s actually something really soulful about it, the lyrics and songs generally tend to be cheesy but try listening to their voices I got really attracted to that aspect of it.
That’s the vibe I want to put back into this new music, let’s interpret this new electronic music through real voices, let’s also interpret it through real instruments as voices. By taking instrument and assigning new vocal roles to each instrument there are no longer lyrics at this point, you’re then forced to listen to the melody and now the melody has a chance to affect you over and over again. With the intention of what the lyrics might be, now you have a totally different interpretation of the song appreciating the power of what real horns do, that’s the overall mission.
I want to preserve the human element in music and even though electronic music is computerized at it’s essence it’s still man made but at the same time, there’s something to be said about a live electronic musician with a live instrumentalist. The J-MUSIC Ensemble is a hybrid acoustic band, we have an acoustic front line and an electric back line that’s the general idea of what we’re trying to do musically.
10) Are you familiar with Vocaloid?
Patrick: Yeah totally we play music from popular composers but we don’t actually use the software.
11) If you could be in any fictional platform. What would it be and why?
Patrick: I really like the Naruto World, it’s messed up but I think it’s really cool. The Dragon Ball Z world is also pretty nice, you can go to space and not die, you can literally pick up and fly off to any planet. This is a hard question I’m leaning towards the Naruto world, there are probably other worlds that I would say yes to. Like Kids on the Slope, which is not a different world it’s just another time period the 1960’s to be exact.
Then again, I just finished Naruto not too long ago and I don’t know if I would want to be in that world. Being familiar with it makes the idea comfortable, so it’s probably the Naruto world. This is a place where I know how it works, then there is always the Lupin world. The Lupin world was crazy, they can get away with the most ridiculous things.
12) Where do you see yourself in five years?
Patrick: Five years from now will be 2021. I’m hoping by then that the band will have released three albums by then hopefully by that point, we will be booking gigs in Japanese opening for prominent artist that we love, that’s for the band.
As for myself I hope to be the artistic diplomat that I’m setting myself up to be. That’s where I would like to be in five years it may not be immediate but at that point I want to have some influence, have a body of work that speaks towards what I’m trying to do.
For more info on the J-MUSIC Ensemble (Links Below)
Official website: http://www.jmusicband.com/