Saxophonist Elan Trotman, quickly becoming one of jazz’s most thrilling and emotive performers, continues to stand out and push boundaries as a composer, performer, teacher and recording artist. Trotman’s playing, though inspired by Grover Washington, Jr. and Kirk Whalum, among others, displays his own fresh ideas and distinctive tone. So much so that the New England Urban Music Awards named him best male jazz performer, and he’s been nominated for Boston Music Awards in the jazz category.
Born and raised in Barbados, the native island of pop star Rihanna, and educated at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Trotman approaches jazz in his own way. Blending Caribbean rhythms from his roots with skillful horn textures, his playing is full of surprises. “I don’t want to limit myself to the usual format,” he explains. “I stretch out, take chances. I enjoy the genre and the concept of smooth jazz, but I also break some of the rules because that’s how I play live, bringing all of my different influences into the music.” Inspiring and eminently listenable, Trotman’s music is never predictable.
Elan Trotman’s music has that unique edge where its vibe is instantly seductive and familiar but also offers explosive playing and compelling compositions. For his latest CD, Love and Sax, Trotman slows things down for a ballads project where he wrote or co-wrote 12 of the 13 tracks (including the bonus “Can I Play 4 U?” featuring the late, great bassist Webster Roach), for a set full of sensual and seductive melodies, full-bodied rhythms and plenty of hooks. In June of 2011, “Love and Sax” debut on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums at #20. The title track and first smooth jazz radio single, “Love and Sax,” is an irresistible ballad with enchanting wah-wah synth effects and a layered sound that translates to a definite mood enhancer.
Trotman’s forte is on the tenor and soprano saxes but he also plays the flute and piano. The multi-instrumentalist has released music with elements of gospel, jazz, R&B, funk and reggae, now steps onto the R & B scene with “Midnight Serenade”, a soulful collaboration with R&B
vocalist Tony Terry, whose hits “With You” and “Everlasting Love” have become Urban AC radio mainstays. The two have remained friends since per- forming together in the Ro- berta Flack band. “Midnight Serenade” is a sexy slow- burner written and produced by Trotman and co-written by Boston-based Neil Lete dre of Sure Fire Music and co-produced by Atlanta-based Herman “P-Nut” Johnson of Big Bully, Inc. The combination of Trotman’s lush horn and Terry’s unforgettable vocals create the perfect atmosphere for romance, released just in time for the most romantic holiday of the year. Also joining Trotman on his new CD are two smooth jazz stars, pianist Brian Simpson on “Heaven in Your Eyes” which reached the Top 15 on Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs, and American Smooth Jazz
award-winning trumpeter Cindy Bradley on “Oasis.”
Love and Sax is Trotman’s fifth CD, following 2009’s This Time Around which gained significant airplay for the funky remake of Bill Withers hit “Lovely Day” that
reached #6 on the radio charts and the self-penned, feel good summer track “100 Degrees”. His debut, Memories, of- fered Caribbean music with steel drums, a song written in tribute to Arturo Tappin, a few funky tunes, and gos- pel music. Let’s Have A Good Old Time was a gospel jazz album that showcased Trotman’s jazz influences and im- provisations on church songs, along with modern har- monies. One standout was a two-tenor track with Kirk Whalum. And for the spontaneous project The Reggae Christmas, Trotman recorded a set of Christmas songs for friends and family but, due to great demand, he makes the music available each holiday season.
Trotman has recorded and performed with a number of world-class musicians, including Roberta Flack, Kirk Whalum, Brian McKnight, Johnny Gill, Tony Terry, Nathan East, Najee, Walter Beasley and Don Grusin. A huge sports fan, Trotman has performed the National Anthem on numerous occasions for such teams as the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. He put together the band that performed for NBA star Ray Allen’s wedding and performs annually for Theo Epstein’s charity event “Hot Stove Cool Music,” jamming with pro pitcher Bronson Arroyo and former ESPN analyst Peter Gammons. Says Trotman: “I hope that everyone, including people of all ages who might listen to straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, rock or gospel, enjoys the music and the performance. It’s for them.”
Why did you choose to become a musician?
I grew up on a little island in the Caribbean - Barbados, and we would get to see all of the jazz stars come to perform at the local festival. My mentor, Arturo, went to Berklee, and brough back a wealth of information to the island and inspired many young musicians including myself.
What is your experience when you feel connected into the music?
There's no better feeling than to connect with your audience. To make then smile, make them clap, and uplift them. That's the most rewarding experience for me as an artist.
What is your experience of when you don't feel connected to your music?
If I'm not going to have fun, I'm not going to do it. I love music too much to go out there and make "bad" music.
What is your experience while improvising? Does it relate to any spirituality you may practice in your life?
To me improv is your personal language that only you speak. Every time you pick up your instrument, you can speak different things. That's the beauty about jazz.
Where does your inspiration while composing come from? What is your experience of that inspiration like?
My compositions are all about melodies. Simple, vocal and catchy singable songs.