Evidence Jazz Group - Interview for BackStage Pass

Evidence Jazz Group on BackStage Pass debuts Sunday, March 24, at 7 p.m. on WKAR-TV. Here’s an extended excerpt from the BackStage Pass Interview.

Michael S. Doyle of Evidence Jazz Group

Evidence Jazz Group
Interview with Michael S. Doyle
Interviewed by WKAR executive producer Tim Zeko
August 2012

How did you get started in music?

I was exposed to it by my late parents. I basically grew up under two cultural strains. My late father's family immigrated from the Caribbean in the 20th century. He was primarily into the music of the bebop era, but he also had music of the Caribbean, such as Reggae, in the south and also other forms of world music.

My late mother came from the south, so through her, even though she was an avid jazz lover, her background primarily was R&B, gospel, and blues.

So growing up in those two worlds musically, I was exposed to hearing the music. Originally, I wanted to play trumpet because of the love of Miles Davis, but after hearing the saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, I felt that saxophone was the way to go.

What was it about that music that spoke to you? That engaged you?

There was a time that I was growing up during the disco era and what I disliked about disco, was the music was always repetitious, the same thing over and over again.

What I enjoyed about listening to jazz is that it was always something different and something unexpected all the time and that's what made the music very intriguing to me. When I’d listen to Miles Davis play on Green Dolphin Street, it was great to hear how Miles Davis's solo would sound and then hearing how John Coltrane would play his solo and then Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans.

How did you come to Michigan?

I'm not a native of Michigan. I was born and raised in New York City. My older brother went to Ferris State University here in Michigan and then he met his wife and then he eventually settled down here. My late father, he retired from the city of New York and then he came out and settle down here and in some aspects, I followed and at the same time, I was also came up here via the United States military.

When you came to Michigan in terms of the musicians that you found when you got here, tell me a little about that.

I just basically just took some time and eventually, I met one musician and right now he plays saxophone, his name is Dexter Graham. And he was living in the West Michigan area at the time, and through him, I met the Pianist Steve Talaga and then through Steve Talaga I met a whole bunch of West Michigan jazz musicians. And from there, I met these musicians, we all somewhat had an unofficial meeting and we decided to basically, make it collective and basically put this group together.

About Steve Talaga - Piano

He is a graduate of the Jazz Studies program at Western Michigan University and he's also had honorable mention in both Jazz Times and Downbeat Magazine. It's always like that. Me and Steve. He's always been like, the person I've always enjoyed playing alongside as a piano player.

About Fred Knapp - Drums

Fred has been with us for a little bit over 10 years and Fred is a phenomenal musician, not only as a drummer, but he's also a great composer. I remember meeting him originally he was a vocalist, and so once I heard him on drums then we pretty much figured that, hey, we might as well work together with the collective talent.

About Tom Lockwood - Bass

I met Tom Lockwood, through Steve Talaga and once I heard Tom… Tom decided to make a commitment to join our group.

About Jon Ailabouni - Trumpet

John is basically coming in to help us out somewhat at the last minute because our original trumpet player, Mr. Chris Lawrence, could not be with us tonight.

About Michael Doyle - Saxophone

I primarily grew up on the influence of bebop, such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, you know, all the other great bop musicians, such as Thelonious Monk. But then I realized as I got older, my ear developed and my musical taste, somewhat developed and educated. Primarily, I feel that I was more influenced by the hard bop sound of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, that we try to model ourselves by.

About hard bop

Hard bop basically came out of the bebop era, except, the hard bop aspect of jazz is much easier melodies and much more of a driving style of music with more of a gospel and blues influence.

The person that we know of that was primarily important for the hard bop sound is Art Blakey. He was trying to bring a style of music in so people can basically sit back and they can tap their feet and bob their heads.

His musical philosophy was that if we look out into the audience and while we're playing, if no one is bobbing their heads, and they're not tapping their feet, we're doing something wrong. Because when we get our message across, those feet move. So the groove is a very important thing with hard bop.

Keeping it together

It's not an easy thing trying to keep a committed personnel together for an extended period of time. It’s very, very challenging  and especially with other types of opportunities that may come up for some of the other members. But due to the fact of our love for the music, we always want to try to stay together.  

I think that's one of the things that pretty much keeps us together as a band – the love for the music. We all agree that, hey, we love this music, we love the opportunity to be able to perform it.