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Latin Jive Redux Charts on Billboard &Independent; Smooth Jazz Charts

"Latin Jive Redux" reached #55 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart, and spent 5 weeks at #1 on TheMothFM.  It is currently in the top 10 on 96 The Oasis out of Palm Springs, Florida, and had reached #1 previously.

Man of Textures, From Hard Rock to Smooth Jazz

It’s been an interesting ride so far for the former New York City taxi cab driver who makes his way now as a smooth jazz bassist. Christian DeMesones (given the nickname “Big New York” because people have trouble pronouncing his name) counts himself lucky for all the opportunities he’s enjoyed in heavy metal and now in smooth jazz.

His music is funky and deep with swinging horns and a strong-as-hell heartbeat.

How was the transition from heavy metal…to smooth jazz?

When I left NYC in 1995, I left behind the fast-paced lifestyle of playing in clubs and driving a taxi cab. It was the environment of a new job in the urban record stores and a smaller music community in Virginia that made the transition easy. I was hired to play in a three-piece funk and blues band the very first week in Richmond.

A few weeks later, I sat in on a jam with some local jazz players. It felt good and I persuaded the band leader to use me on gigs.

My last performance in Richmond was opening for Roberta Flack in 2000 in front of 30,000+…what a high!

What did you write and perform at age 18 for your high school graduation ceremony?

The composition was titled “Song for Becky” dedicated to the wife of Patrick Hicks, founder of B.I.T. [Bass Institute of Technology/Hollywood, CA] and G.I.T. [Guitar Institute of Technology]. It was a short, finger-picking composition that included chordal movements and taping and harmonics, a style that is widely popular today but brand new in 1980.

The real highlight of the moment was that visiting faculty member and jazz guitar legend Pat Martino advised the board that I should perform it in front of my classmates.

When did you learn bass?

I was mostly self-taught at the age of 15, but did take a few private lessons. It wasn’t ’til I was 18, fresh out of high school, that I attended B.I.T. and had a year of music studies. 

Growing up, was your family supportive?

Yes, but my father always wished I pursued my love of cartooning and illustration. After many years and finally having my first CD release with Groove Skool band, he told me he was proud of me.

How did you get your first bass?

I remember that I bought a Univox bass from a store on Main Street in Flushing, Queens.

How did you know you wanted to be a bass player?

My first concert was Kiss in 1975, in Long Island. It was Gene Simmons who left a life-changing impression.

Talk about the personnel in Groove Skool and what they play.

Groove Skool band consists of Keith L. Anderson/sax; Kevin Grogan /keys; Lori Williams/vocals; Nick Costa/ drums; Mike Gamble/guitar; Leroy Greer/percussion and yours truly on bass and songwriting duty.

Same question, re: Smooth Jazz All Stars?

The lineup changes due to scheduling but I try to use a core of players such as Elliot Levine/keys; Eddie Baccus Jr./sax; Craig Alston/keys; Curtis McCain/percussion; Mike Gamble/guitar; Tim Steele/drums; Rob Maletick/sax. Guest artist have included Lindsey Webster, Willie Bradley, Swiss Chris, Drew Davidsen, Cedric Givens and Rob Zinn.

How would you compare the jazz scenes throughout the places you’ve lived: Brooklyn, Virginia, Hawaii, etc.?

I couldn’t tell you.  Hawaii in 1981 was a rocking town and I played the military circuit performing to a bunch of rowdy soldiers. Brooklyn, unlike Manhattan, had the legendary L’Amour nightclub, dubbed the Heavy Metal capital of the World, and my band Twice Shy was a staple of the local scene. That was 1987.

When I moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1995, all I played was in R&B/jazz bars and supper clubs.

Washington DC and the area surrounding it has a handful of places and I have played many of them.

When did you first come together as a band?

I always include my very first “working” band back in 1981 in Hawaii as a template for what not to do. I was fortunate because we won over the number one talent buyer for local entertainment on Oahu but our sound was not developed. We had to learn as we played.

Today, it definitely helps to be associated with an agency.

Smooth jazz is another thing entirely.  Once you get on board with the festivals all over the globe you can play original music and create a livelihood. I am still working it.

What is your favorite venue?

I don’t have one yet, just give me a large stage with a great sound system and soundman to run it with a seating capacity of 150 to 300, and I’m a happy camper. SRO, of course!

Where would you most like to play that you have not yet?

Of course, Carnegie Hall or the Beacon Theater in NYC! I have yet to make a presence on the West Coast. I would love to play Spain and the UK. I am scheduled to play Bulgaria this year – my mother’s birthplace!

What techniques do you teach in your clinics?

Thumb and plucking, also called “slap” which is something I do very well, and I like to involve students to create with me. Also, songwriting, harmony and theory.

What do students ask you about most?

How tall are you?  LOL  (I’m 6’ 7”.)

What do you play besides bass guitar?

Blackjack or 7 Card Rummy!

What is the biggest challenge with the bass?

Playing melodies on a 6-string bass without another bass or keyboard bass support. I find that the sound drops out considerably during a live performance.

When I write songs I usually give the sax or keys the melody because personally it reaches a wide audience.

In rock, it’s another animal completely. I don’t mind playing unison riffs with a distorted guitar because the music needs it.

How many basses do you own and do you have a favorite?

I own two 4 strings: a Warwick thumb and Cort Axe bass; a custom fretless 5 and Conklin 7-string.  Plus, a Dean 12-string and 8-string Kramer; and a 6-string Alembic and TWO custom double neck basses!

I have to say that my Alembic has been with me for almost 20 years and so many of my songs have been written on them, but my Warwick thumb is a slap-happy funk machine that is a very close second.

Which musicians inspired you?

Because I have a hard rock history, my earlier bass heroes are Gene Simmons/KISS; Greg Lake/ ELP;  Geddy Lee/Rush; Geezer Butler/Black Sabbath; Phil Lynott/Thin Lizzy; Dennis Dunaway/Alice Cooper; John Entwistle/The Who; and Joey Dimaio/Manowar.

But once I discovered Stanley Clarke/Larry Graham/Louis Johnson /Abraham Laboriel/Anthony Jackson/Alex Blake…things changed!

And the number one biggest musical imprint, the late, great Jaco Pastorius! If I had to pick the one bassist who opened my mind to arranging and composition, it would be him.

Where do you draw your personal inspiration from?

From everything and everyone, either in my personal circle or life. My wife is my hero and I truly believe that we all have a story that’s worth being told.

Talk about the track “Brother to Brother”- are there lyrics to that? What’s the story behind that song?

The original title to that song was actually “Journey to Ixtlan” from the book by Carlos Castaneda. I wrote it during my “experimental” days in Hollywood. It was directly influenced by Jaco Pastorious’ “Portrait of Tracy.”

Eventually I did write some lyrics and changed it to “Brother to Brother.” I’ve shown that song to almost every musician I’ve ever played with and never gave up on it until I finally found the right players to record it.

How long did it take to develop your own personal sound?

I am still not satisfied with my sound…but my style is coming along. I believe that “sound” starts in your fingers first.

I’ve played through Eden Amplification for 20 years and love their products, and I’m also an endorsed artist for Warwick/Framus. I love their basses.

Do you do prefer covers or original music?

Original!

In improv, how do you tell when it’s time to continue to trade solos versus starting to bring the song home?

I look for the buildup…once things start to get redundant I bring it on home. Great question!

How many CDs have you produced?

Only one (“Executive”) but my brother, Christopher Valentine, is the real producer and engineer of all my music. We are getting ready to release the third single titled “Spirit” in September.

Current projects?

The third single “Spirit” as mentioned, and the full-length project “They Call me Big New York ” which is not yet finished.

I am writing every day and have songs being added to another CD. I plan to release a project under Big New York and a follow-up to Groove Skool band. It’s all on God’s time line.

Who would you most like to collaborate with that you have not yet?

Philippe Saisse, Andy Narell, Rob Tardik, Walter Beasley, Uli Jon Roth, Arturo Sandoval, Herb Alpert, Lenny White, Carlos Santana, Hiromi, Punky Meadows, David Lee Roth, Rob Zinn, Gerald Veasley, Al Caldwell, Keith Horne, Simon Phillips, Ginger Baker, Herbie Hancock, Simon Phillips, Jeff Beck …I know I am missing more!

Advice to new bass players?

How bad do you want it?

And what are you prepared to do?

Always have fun. And remember, musicians are the last to get paid!

What would you most like people to know about you that they do not know?

I am an open book…a child of God who loves life and wants to create magic through music.

I have aspirations to finish two projects not related to music. One is a screenplay about my days behind the wheel of a taxi cab and the other a graphic novel, but I can’t share the story. LOL

I was immortalized as a comic book villain in DC comic Firestorm issue 54. A dream come true!

Also, I love Southern gospel music and played with Luther Barnes and the Canton Spirituals at the First Mount Zion Men’s Conference.  That stays with me to this day.

Other comments?

All I ever wanted in life was to know who I am and who I belong to. Love and kindness have been top on my list.

After 30 years of ups and downs with music and love I have found a peace, a purpose and a stability that has to do with knowing God and his love. I have never believed in coincidence. There is a Supernatural, and we each have a responsibility to tap into our potential and share our gifts with others. I am thankful.

For more information, visit http://www.grooveskoolband.com.

Photo courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

© Debbie Burke 2017

Big New York is now a Spectraflex Artist!

Spectraflex Original Braided Cables

 

XM Sirius Urban View Interview

Check out Big New York's fun and informative interview with Maggie Linton from XM Sirius Radio's Urban View (Channel 126).  Maggie discusses the Smooth & Funky Christmas Show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, as well as Big New York's musical career.

2015-12-10_Christian_de_Mesones.mp3

 

The Smooth Jazz Ride

Sept. 16, 2015

Christian “Big New York” De Mesones, leader and bassist for Groove Skool Band, Releases Single

Christian De Mesones (aka “Big New York”), the leader and bassist for the funky band Groove Skool Band that brought you Limited Edition a few years ago, has released a smooth single bound to capture your musical taste buBig NY singleds. The single, “Good Old Days,” has that Sly & the Family Stone bluesy mid-tempo “Hot Fun in the Summetime” edge that surely will be a party-starter. It is available on Amazon and I-tunes.

De Mesones has worked the New York and Washington, DC circuits since his band took a hiatus a while back, and he also offers bass lessons to aspiring bassists. An avid rocker, as well as a smooth jazzer, De Mesones always offers a full-bodied performance. A complete album can’t be far behind this great single.

 

Lake Ridge Magazine

If you enjoy Smooth Jazz, Funk, Latin Rhythms and R & B, you should have been at K2 this past New Year’s Eve. K2 Restaurant and Lounge, located at 14633 Jeff Davis Hwy, hosted “’Big New York’s’” Jazz and Funk Extravaganza.”

Musical guests Mike Gamble on guitar, drummer Jay Jones, percussionists Eddie Montalvo and Curtis McCain, were joined by headliners Christian “Big New York” de Mesones on bass guitar,  Jaared Arosemena on alto and soprano saxophones, and Elliot Levine on keyboards.

This event and musical ensemble was the brainchild of local musician-extraordinaire Christian “Big New York” de Mesones. De Mesones, a Lake Ridge resident since 2003, has created several musical groups and events in the area since his arrival here.

Originally from Brooklyn, de Mesones has been a professional bass guitarist for over 30 years. He graduated from the prestigious Bass Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. Since then, his career has taken him to locales as diverse as New York City, Hollywood, Hawaii and Richmond, VA. He has opened for artists such as Down to the Bone, Marion Meadows, Bob Baldwin and Chuck Brown. He has shared the stage at the legendary heavy metal L’Amours Rock Club in New York City.

In 1995, de Mesones decided to make Richmond his home for several years. While there, he worked at his brother’s record store chain, Willie’s Records. It was while working with his brother that a co-worker gave him the nickname, “Big New York.” Everyone that knows Chris still uses that nickname. 

A show he performed with Roberta Flack took place on Brown’s Island in Richmond before an audience of over 33,000. It was after that show that de Mesones decided to move to Northern Virginia.

Since moving to Lake Ridge, de Mesones has kept himself busy musically by teaching bass guitar to young students at A2G Music in Woodbridge and offering his musical talent at two churches in Dumfries and Manassas. In addition, he remains attuned to the pulse of youth culture by driving for the Prince William County School system .

In 2006, he started a smooth jazz group called Groove Skool Band that within weeks was invited to participate at the Capitol Jazz Fest. The group went on to release its debut CD, Limited Edition, which yielded a top 10 single, Latin Jive, in Europe on the Radio.Radio.es music station. They have sold out venues in the local area, like Blues Alley, whenever they play together.

In  2007 and 2008, de Mesones held two concerts with his bass guitar students. “Bass is not the number one choice students look to when they want to learn to play a musical instrument,” he noted at the time. “It doesn’t come close to the number of people who want to learn piano or guitar.”

The idea of an electric bass guitar concert “may seem like a novelty to attempt, since the bass is not considered a melodic instrument,” Chris said. “The bass guitar is a very unique instrument.  Not everyone understands it. That’s the way it’s going to be unless you get a bass player who creates excitement and reaches a young audience,” he said, “and I have some great students.” He still believes the whole point of the concerts was “about the celebration of youth and how I created something positive for the young Prince William County students.

The collaboration between de Mesones, Jaared and Elliot Levine began earlier last year when Chris reached out through social media to network with the two well-known musicians. Both Jaared and Elliot live in nearby Silver Spring, MD, which made getting together to practice and jam easier than it might otherwise have been.

Saxophonist Jaared Arosemena is an internationally acclaimed artist. In 2002, he was nominated as “Best New Artist of the Year” by the National Smooth Jazz Association. Jaared’s multiple CD releases include Forward, Hangtime, Addiction and Manhattan Nights. His current label is Trippin 'N' Rhythm Records, an affiliate of Sony/BMG.

Keyboardist Elliot Levine has toured with Wilson Pickett and Heatwave and has opened for several top acts.  He has headlined with acts at Blues Alley and the Kennedy Center. He has scored the music to several independent films and documentaries. In 2013, he released his fifth CD titled Live +7.

In October 2013, the three stellar musicians performed live together at K2 for the first time.  A writer for the smooth jazz website thesmoothjazzride.com happened to be in the audience to enjoy, not review, the night’s entertainment. Nevertheless, he was compelled to write a review for his readers and described the performance as “astounding and as moving as an earthquake.”

As you can tell by the name of the evening’s festivities, “Big New York” was responsible  for bringing together the players for the New Year’s Eve show. This writer was there by invitation and enjoyed the ambience of the nightclub and the brilliance of the performances. The sets were a mix of standards and originals by all three of the headliners. During the first set, de Mesones paid tribute to his late father with the rousing original composition, Don Pedro.

Christian “Big New York” de Mesones is starting what he feels is the second phase of his very active life. Having graduated from the head-banging days of Heavy Metal, and from moving around the country to pursue his musical dreams, he feels settled into the lifestyle of Prince William County. He is using his talent and ambition here at home and, at the same time, recruiting new talent to enliven the area’s cultural base.

For the future, Chris hopes to release his solo debut CD this Fall. It will reflect his new life, his second chance. Although there will be cameos by well-known musical friends, the music will be his. All original, all Christian de Mesones.  The title: You Only Live Twice.

The Smooth Jazz Ride

Big NY’s Jazz & Funk Extravaganza
K2 Restaurant & Lounge
Woodbridge, VA
Oct. 11, 2013, 9 pm
 
Let me first start off by saying that this concert was not slated as a concert we would review. We attended solely for the purpose of enjoying some great jazz entertainment just as anyone else who attended. As it turned out, what was touted as a back-by-popular-demand concert by the literally big bassist of our region, accompanied by two stellar comrades and a marvelous band, became a review very much warranted. So, I went from a member of the audience, settling back for an impressive evening, to a familiar role as concert reviewer, pen in hand.
 
Why was this performance so compelling as to prompt this review? Along with the stage presence of the talented, cool, and looming bassist Christian “Big NY” De Mesones, witnessing the extraordinary talents and stage presence of saxman Jaared Arosemena and the effervescent keyboardist extraordinaire Elliot Levine was simply astounding and as moving as an earthquake. I will venture to say that there is most likely not one single member of that evening’s audience who would disagree with me.
 
Joining this power trio were guitarist Mike Gamble, percussionist Eddie Montalvo, and drummer Jay Jones (the last two were making their debut appearance with Big NY). Hearing the result of this union made it quite clear that something much stronger than simply a mojo was at work here.
From the opening notes of Levine’s jammin’ “Fenton Street,” in the first set to the final notes of the second set’s finale, De Mesones’ “Brother to Brother” (the stirringly beautiful nod to another looming personality — the late super-talented and charismatic bassist Wayman Tisdale), K2 was alive with feel-good vibes and happy spirits.
 
It’s truly one thing to master an instrument or instruments and play it/them convincingly in a live setting. It’s quite another to offer so much personality, character, feel, and overall stage presence while doing so that it all overwhelms the audience in pleasure and rapture. Setting aside the wonderful music of De Mesones, Levine, and Jaared, watching the interaction between the audience and Jaared as he strode about, sax in play, mesmerizing the women and eliciting respect from the men was a sight to behold. Add to that the interaction between Levine, his keys, and the very internal mechanism that stirs this man so profoundly that he’s been nicknamed “The Animal,” and you’ve got total artistry personified.
 
Balanced sound, the clearest of notes, a powerful set list thoughtfully divided equally among the trio’s compositions, and that oomph that can only be witnessed in person all undoubtedly led to this band’s encore invitation from K2 and certainly this writer’s compulsion to pen this review.
 
If you’ve never witnessed this ensemble, which includes – among other high points — Jaared’s remarkable vocals, Levine’s mind-blowing Ipad 3 Synth Keytar keyboard solo, and De Mesones’ rousing tribute to his late father on “Don Pedro,” you truly owe the experience to yourself.

What I’m now awaiting is what should really be inevitable in my estimation: A studio album from this trio and its most talented band. At that point, my words here will ring truer than true, and you the jazz/funk aficionado will undoubtedly hear exactly what I’ve heard. This, my friends, is the “shot in the arm” from which so-called smooth jazz should benefit. – Ronald Jackson