Vegan Artists / Vegan People

Kick Start My Jazz Heart: Jason Parker

Artist Profile #3: Jason Parker.

Oh what, you didn’t know that we have our very own working musician (look ma, no day job!), in our vegan community? It’s true. Jason Parker gets paid to play his trumpet and writes a blog about it. And he likes Nick Drake, so triple bonus. I had an opportunity to ask Jason, of the Jason Parker Quartet, a few questions about his music, his upcoming album, and even a little about being vegan. And since I make plugs for most things vegan, let me highly suggest that if you like jazz and/or Nick Drake, you should skip on over to Kickstarter and chip in some dough to support the recording and get a copy of the CD (deadline, Thurs Dec 23, 2010)!

Photos by Darrah Parker

VS: You’ve been making a living in music for 20 years. What are some of the ways you’ve found to get paid?

JP: I’ve been fortunate enough to make my living through music in some fashion for most of my adult life. First in radio as a DJ and program director, and for the last nine years as a working musician. I’ve had a few day jobs off and on but the last 6 years or so I’ve avoided it. The bulk of my income is from playing weddings and private events with my band, The Jason Parker Quartet. That money gives me the freedom to play club gigs that don’t pay as well but allow us to play our own music. It’s a pretty good balance.

VS: You play the trumpet mainly. How did this become your instrument of choice? Do you play others?
JP: I play a little bit of every instrument I can get my hands on. I took 8 years of piano lessons as a kid, hating every minute of it. But I’m glad I did! I also play a little guitar, bass, and I’m teaching myself the drums (slowly).

The story of how I came to the trumpet is a good one. When I was in 2nd grade everyone in my school had to pick an instrument. I really wanted to play the cello (still do!) But about two weeks before we had to make a decision they called us all into the multi-purpose room for a concert. I sat right at the feet of a man playing the trumpet. He seemed a hundred feet tall, was wearing a dashiki, playing the trumpet, and leading the band like I had never seen or heard before. That day I went home and asked my parents to buy me a trumpet. The man: Dizzy Gillespie!

VS: What have been your greatest musical achievements?
JP: I can honestly say that the band I have now is the best musical experience I’ve ever had. We’ve been together for 3 1/2 years now, which is rare for a jazz band. They are some of my closest friends and biggest inspirations and influences musically. It’s a joy every time we play together. The record we are making now, “Five Leaves Left: A Jazz Tribute to Nick Drake,” is a dream come true for me. I’ve been planning this CD for going on 3 years and can’t wait to hit the studio this month to record our arrangements of Drake’s tunes.

VS: You are just days away from your Kickstarter funding for this Nick Drake tribute album. The first time I heard a Nick Drake song (Fly), I was never the same. How did he inspire you?
JP: I don’t remember exactly when I first heard Drake’s music, but I do know it was the song “Time Has Told Me,” the first tune from Five Leaves Left. I was hooked right away and ran out to buy all three of his albums. The songs really spoke to me. I love that he is often dealing with the darker side of life, but always in a hopeful way. You can tell he was a troubled soul, but he always wanted to connect to people on a deeper level (don’t we all?).

I got the idea to do this album after doing an arrangement of the tune “Three Hours” for our last album, “No More, No Less.” We had such a great time playing that song, and it suited the band so well, that I started working on other songs from the CD. One thing led to another and I had done all 10 tunes!

VS: You have a blog that focuses on being an actual working musician. It’s a unique and generous idea. What gives?
JP: I started it mainly because I was getting so many questions from other musicians about how I was able to make a living and avoid a day job. I had done some innovative things with grant-writing, micro-patronage and such, and people were curious about these types of things. Since starting the blog a little over a year ago I have found that it is a great outlet for me and has connected me to SO many wonderful people around the world. Between the blog, One Working Musician, and Twitter I have met awesome folks (you included!) and have gotten opportunities that never would’ve come about without them. I booked my whole tour using Twitter!

VS: Are you vegan for your health, the environment, compassion for animals? Other? What sparked this?
JP: When I became vegetarian it was because of animal rights. I majored in philosophy in college and wrote my thesis on animal rights. Once I started looking into it there was no way I could support the terrible treatment of animals. Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” was what finally did it for me.

Over the years, while my support of animal rights hasn’t wavered, my attention to the health benefits has increased and now I’d say that the health factor is a huge reason to stay away from animal products. (I’m typing this sitting beside my dad in a hospital bed, 6 days after a triple bypass…that gives me some perspective and motivation!)

VS: Peter Singer is one of my heroes. Do you have any vegan role models? Or have you met people that you were surprised to find out were vegan?
JP: My brother is my biggest vegan role model (among other things). He’s been vegan for 21 years and is a big reason I even considered it.

Photos by Darrah Parker

VS: What do you think of veganism being in the mainstream lately? So many actors, musicians, and other celebrity types lean in that direction.
JP: I hope it’s a sign that people are becoming more conscious in all their choices. As a species we need to be more aware of how our choices affect not only ourselves but the entire world and everything in it. Until we truly realize how connected we are to each other and the world we’re going to continue to see massive problems. I’d like to think that slowly but surely we are changing this for the better. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have high-profile people and celebrities out there to be visible role models.

VS: One message for the Seattle vegan community?
JP: I’m available Mon-Sun, breakfast, lunch & dinner! 🙂 Actually, I love to see the community supporting its members. Vegans are everywhere, in all walks of life. We should all support each other, eating at the restaurants, shopping at the shops, buying the music (hint, hint). Anything we can do to help each other is huge.

The Jason Parker Quartet will be playing some Nick Drake tunes, Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at Lucid, the live Jazz club conveniently located right next to Wayward and across the street from Pizza Pi and Sidecar. I take that as a good omen so I’ll be heading up there for sure. See you there and don’t forget to help make this album by kicking in a couple pennies. If you know someone who really loves Jazz – aim for the $250 package and get a home cooked meal by Jason himself!

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