November 9th: The Craftsman

9 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: Gus Slayton

Instrument: Saxophone

Student of Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Scott Hall

B.M. 2005. M.M.2007 Portland State University

Putting Music Forward

Gus Slayton can wield a hammer.  He can put  an addition on your house.  He can build you a deck, or a mahogany porch.  He is a finish carpenter, and he knows how to make things.  Gus can also craft an intricate composition for large ensemble.  He can explain the harmonic variations represented by John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.  And he has helped bring together a generation of young jazz composers who are creating music that writer Brett Campbell described in the Oregonian as “pushing boundaries, blurring distinctions, mastering more complexity, and taking ideas to new levels, and it makes you think that almost anything could pop up in the next concert, including something that will take your breath away.”

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Putting Skills to Work

Gus Slayton graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from Portland State.  He understands that it is useful for young musicians to study and play “the old music and the classics.”  However, like many of his peers, he doesn’t subscribe to the school of thought that says musicians should confine themselves exclusively to that study until they have mastered it.

Speaking for his fellow young jazz artists and composers, Gus says “we may not all be virtuosos, but we have studied enough, we have played enough, to not just play standards anymore.  We’re not just young musicians playing jazz in the style of previous groups” He continues, “we’re pushing ourselves not to fall in stride. This is exciting for the writer as well as for the player.”

Gus is co-founder with pianist Andrew Oliver of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE).  Originally formed in 2007 as a workshop for experimenting with new compositional ideas, the group’s first public performance was in January 2008.  To date, the PJCE has performed thirteen concerts, including the Portland Jazz Festival and the Mount Hood Jazz Festival, premiering over 30 new compositions written expressly for the ensemble.  PJCE has grown into one  of Portland’s primary curators of new jazz compositions by local composers, providing a forum for them to try out pieces, and a receptive  audience for new work.

In addition to composing and performing with PJCE, Gus  plays in a sax quartet, a funk band, and freelances playing everything from jazz to funk to rock in Portland.

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Adding Something Unique

Gus writes for and plays in Jujuba, an eleven piece Nigerian afrobeat band featuring Nojeem Lasisi on talking drum. Jujuba plays up and down the west coast and in 2012 was  featured in the Portland Jazz Festival with noted guitarist Charlie Hunter. .___________________________________________________________

What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“Going to college is a lifetime decision not to be taken lightly by the aspiring student.  It is expensive and the investment is realized by seizing every opportunity that you encounter. Though you must work hard during your time in school you must work even harder when you are finished in order to be successful. I am thinking of the fine steel chisel that must be constantly sharpened or it will dull with age just sitting in the toolbox. My time at PSU allowed me to develop and discover my own personal skillset within a community of peers.”

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