Greg Kramer's new single brings together a hip hop beat and horns
Kramer's "93rd Pl W" builds on his experience in the Garfield High School jazz program, recording with hip hop star Macklemore and as a member of the horn-powered funk band the True Loves. The single also brings them all together.
Centered around a tight hip hop drumbeat, the slow pace accentuates the funky aspect of Kramer's catchy trombone melody. A dense layering of saxophones provided by close high school friend Roxy Coss gives the song a unique modern sound.
New Cool host Abe Beeson proffered a few questions to Kramer and finds an artist excited for the future and inspired by his connections with the Pacific Northwest.
Tell us about your new song and your new home for which you wrote it.
My home with my partner Hillary, is in Edmonds. We live on a very green street surrounded by really tall trees. The song isn't so new as my musical process so far has been quite slow. As my song names are mostly literal, naming this song after our street made sense as it was produced almost entirely here. This is the first home in which I've had a dedicated studio space, for which I feel very fortunate. I recently re-did the room and finally hung the sound panels I made myself. The room is all built around the standing desk I made from butcher block during the pandemic.
"93rd Pl W" begins with a synthesizer introduction, then stacks a lot of horns. How did it come together?
This song all started with the Yamaha synth I got at a thrift shop. I was able to get it to work with an old plug which I keep a drawer full of for that exact reason. I really liked the synth sound it had, and I wrote the chord changes to the song on it. The song developed over time, I added the melodies and asked my friend Roxy Coss to play on it when she was visiting from New York. She came up with some very cool harmonies that come in the second verse. I often start songs with drum loops and midi bass, but I learned that it is always better to have the real thing. After my last project I realized it would be great to record drums and bass together to get the groove tight. I was lucky enough to get my friends Bryant Moore (bass) and Teo Shantz (drums) together to record it at Teo's house and we tracked all the drums and bass in his living room. I worked and reworked the song over several years, adding the trombone solo most recently. I had added a solo section when playing it live and I wanted to add that element to the song.
I was excited to see saxophone star Roxy Coss in the song's credits, you've known each other for years.
Roxy is one of my oldest friends! We went to high school together at Garfield and played in the jazz band together which was extremely formative for so many of us. I am a huge fan of hers and have been so inspired by both her musicianship and her leadership in jazz. I've always tried to visit her when I used to be on tour and in New York all the time. I could never keep up with her, but we have had fun doing some recording for my music both in her old NYC apartment and at my places in Seattle. I'm so happy to release a song that she plays on, and I love the sound we have together. There is an especially cool section towards the end of the song where stacked saxes are playing a background that make a really unique sound.
Also exciting, there's your face on the cover of May's Earshot magazine! How'd that feel?
It is surreal! It's been a great honor to be in Earshot magazine, something I grew up reading. I certainly never expected to find myself in its pages. It does feel really good and validating to be given an honor like that and helps to encourage me to continue sharing music. I was also really happy to be included as a focus on AAPI Heritage month. As a young Asian American musician, there weren't very many artists that looked like me growing up and certainly not making music like I am now. If I can inspire any young kids out there to make their music, it would truly make me happy.
The article by Paul Rauch describes your music as where hip hop and big band merges. Yes?
I loved the article that Paul wrote as big band and hip-hop are certainly huge influences in my musical life. They are important influences but live among many others! I've listened to and love so many genres over the years and they all influence the music that I make. Playing in so many different bands over the years, they all leave their mark. Since joining the True Loves, soul and funk music has become a much bigger influence in addition to the other genres I love.
You've produced some compelling videos for your music. Are the two art forms closely connected?
My ideas for music videos have all come after the music so far. Especially writing mostly instrumental music, the meaning behind a song can change as time goes by. My inspiration for the videos come more from the things I am experiencing during the time I am creating the videos. That could change in the future, and I am certainly very inspired by other visual artists and the way music is combined with the video art form.
The True Loves band keeps you busy, what are the prospects for upcoming concerts with your own band?
There have been a few Greg Kramer shows over the last few years. I have performed as a trio and solo and I certainly want to do more! I hope to have a larger band to really bring the music to life, but I also want to do right by my fellow musicians so finding that balance is important to me. This summer is busy for the first time in years with True Loves touring so we shall see if I can find time for solo shows. I also have more music to release so that is the focus for now.
The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.