This is a series in which we interview a student musician and talk about their involvement in music, since music here includes such a wide range of things. Today, we have a profile about Javier Leung and his expansive involvement in Kenyon’s music scene. Know a musician you want to see interviewed? Comment below!
Check out some of Jay’s music here.
What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A couple of music students and I started a gypsy jazz project last year to play music in the 40’s Parisian style of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. We call ourselves the Hot Club de Gambiér (Gam-bi-yay) as a nod to Django’sQuintette du Hot Club de France, and we cover Django’s compositions as well as old jazz standards in a swung gypsy jazz style. I started on the upright bass with the group but moved to trumpet once we got Adam Reed to play bass in the band. It’s been a blast and a real educational experience because although I’ve worked in a lot of rock and jazz settings this is the first time I got to work with an eclectic mix of acoustic instruments – violin, guitars, upright bass, accordion, mandolin, trumpet and voice – with a lot of room for experimenting with textures and harmony in a style that I have always loved to listen to but hadn’t learned to play. And it’s jazz, so there’s a lot of improvisation and soloing involved. I am so grateful to have been able to work with the group and it’s really been an absolute joy.
What’s your favorite thing about music at Kenyon?
I really love the appreciation and support Kenyon students have for local music, from both musicians and listeners. I’ve been playing in the funk bands Trix and the Kids and Motown over the past four years, and almost every one of our shows at the Village Inn has been packed to the door with people coming out to dance and have a good time. People bring great energy to our shows and just let loose and have fun, and I think that’s all performers really want – to share the ecstatic moment of freedom and release with the audience. Regarding other musicians, I love how close-knit and inclusive the Kenyon music scene is. Everyone knows each other and can always hit each other up to jam or do a recording session. It’s a great place to learn music by jumping right in and playing, and in the process making friends and spending time with people who you otherwise might not have gotten to know.
Any songs you can’t live without?
If I could only bring 10 records onto a desert island with me, they’d probably be:
Bad Self Portraits – Lake Street Dive
Photographs & Memories – Jim Croce
Live From New York City – Simon and Garfunkel
Revolver – The Beatles
Ella and Louis – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Mingus Ah Um – Charles Mingus
Clifford Brown & Max Roach – Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet
Le Tombeau de Couperin – Maurice Ravel
Symphony No.5 – Jean Sibelius
Symphony No.2 – Rachmaninoff
What advice do you have to aspiring musicians?
Don’t be afraid to go out there to sing or play with other students. Kenyon’s a great place to discover the joy of music because of the amazing people and inclusive community we have, so don’t let your fears and insecurities hold you back. I have picked up several instruments over the last four years and learned so much just from having opportunities to listen to and play alongside Kenyon’s incredibly talented musicians, whether it’s in the horn section of Motown or on the drum kit in the rock band French Club. We really have a great community here that offers many opportunities to develop your talents, express yourself and have a great time, so make the most of it!
Anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience?
I am currently working on an album of my own songs in which I’m trying to capture the spontaneous jazz ethos by involving other Kenyon musicians on several tracks and having them improvise and record on them with very little prior preparation. I simply provide the chords and form and have them to listen and play, with sections in which they can solo and express whatever they feel. The hope is that my songs will include a bit of each of the musicians’ own voice and take a kind of snapshot of the people I have had the chance to work with over the past few years. I’m still recording and mixing it with our awesome producer Teddy Farkas at the WKCO studio and it will probably be released through WKCO Records, so keep an eye out for it!