The five-piece band ‘Nuf Said, based out of New York City, makes music that is deeply rooted in Funk, Jazz, and R&B, but it’s their diverse backgrounds and penchant for collaborative improvisational performance that makes them stand out in the scene.
On their 2014 album “My Kind,” melodic grooves fold smoothly in on themselves, complimenting lead singer Ioana Vintu’s warm, gorgeous vocals for long enough to lay the vibe, then dipping into playful solos that highlight the remarkable talents of individual band members and guest players. It’s no surprise that these guys all met during friendly jam sessions, but the way they’ve managed to carry that same spirit into their recorded work and live shows is remarkable, and no doubt part of what’s drawn audiences all over the world to them.
Their new album “Rise” drops on Feb 19th, 2016, on Ropeadope Records, but you can also catch them live on January 8th at the BAMcafe Live in Brooklyn, New York.
BTR caught up with Vintu and Andrew Gould (flute, alto saxophone) to chat about writing with myriad elements in one piece and their favorite touring memories.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): I know you guys all have super diverse musical backgrounds, what’s the story of how you all came together?
Ioana Vintu (IV): We all live in NYC although some of us are originally from Europe. We met at jam sessions and at other people’s shows. Some of us play in different bands and run our own projects, playing internationally, but now we have been working together in this formation for about two years and it’s been an awesome journey. Matthias (guitar) and Peter (drums) are childhood friends from Austria and I am originally from Romania. I have been living in NYC now for about 10 years. Andrew and DJ are holding down the fort as the two Americans in the band.
BTR: Andrew, congratulations on being one of semi finalists of The International Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition for saxophone in 2013! Tell me about your background with the sax; why did you first pick it up? Do you enjoy competing or is it just sort of something that happened?
Andrew Gould (AG): Thanks very much! I think I started playing when I was nine or ten years old. I was really incredibly lucky because the school I went to on Long Island had an amazing music program. The teachers there (in East Meadow school district) were and still are all super passionate and skilled musicians. In my first saxophone lesson my teacher brought me a double sided cassette tape to give me an idea of what the sax really sounded like. Side one had a David Sanborn record “Upfront” on it and side two was Cannonball Adderley “Somethin Else.” Two amazing albums, and two totally different approaches to saxophone playing. I heard both sides, loved it all, and I wanted to be able to play and sound like those guys. After a few years of working at it, I started playing my first gigs around Long Island in local big bands and small groups playing jazz standards.
With the Monk Competition, I was just super honored to be a part of it. It was an amazing experience, and besides getting to hang with 12 seriously talented saxophone players from around the world who I was “competing” against, we had the opportunity to play for guys like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Branford Marsalis and a host of other legends who were in the audience. I didn’t really do it for the competitive aspect of it as much as for the chance to just grow a musician. Being involved in situations like that forces you to strive to reach a higher level, and coming away from it I left with a clearer idea of what I wanted to be doing with my music.
BTR: Talk to me about your writing process; with so many different elements going on in a piece, how do you guys go about crafting your songs? What’s your collective creative head space like when you all write?
AG: Our writing process is super collaborative. Every song on our upcoming album “Rise” has a little bit of all of us in it. Sometimes someone will bring in a finished song, sometimes it’ll be nothing more than a bass line… but we always work it and add things, change up the groove here, take this note out there, add this chord there, and by the time the song is done it’s vastly different than the original idea it came from.
For instance, our tune “Ring My Bell” started off with Ioana bringing in a melody and lyrics that she wrote and then we built the tune around that. Matthias’s tune “It’s Alright” was already pretty set form wise and Ioana wrote her lyrics and melody afterwards. Regardless of the where the idea comes from, we all add our own two cents and finish the arrangements together as a band. This process plays a gigantic role in our sound, and I think we all feel super attached to this music because we’ve all really put ourselves into every song .
BTR: Do you all have any major musical influences (artist-wise) on your sound?
IV: I think that anything we listen to and any circumstance we find ourselves in musically will influence our sound. Everybody in the band has different preferences and a slightly different aesthetic when it comes to the music. I think the way we sound as a band is really just a combination of all our ideas put together.
I don’t have a particular genre of music I am listening to, but I love artists like: Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots, D’Angelo, Joss Stone, Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, Snarky Puppy, Aretha Franklyn, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato.
AG: I feel like I’ve learned so much about music from everyone else in the band. For instance, I’ve played in so many musical situations with Peter and Matthias before we ever came together in ‘Nuf Said…. and it’s really interesting to hear them adapt their styles to this situation. The music that we’re playing now is pretty different than anything I’ve done before with these guys. Now that we’re all really working together on THIS music, it’s apparent that everyone in the band has a really broad understanding and appreciation for so many styles. We’re all talking music all the time, and whenever we hang someone is always telling me about a new record I need to check out. I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Some of my main influences are John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Maceo Parker, Kenny Garrett, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis. I’ve been addicted to the new D’Angelo record and I’m crazy about this band Mister Barrington, and there’s way way more.
BTR: What is the recording process like for you guys? Do you mix/master everything yourselves?
IV: We like being very involved in the entire recording and production process. Writing, performing and recording is a group effort and we like to follow an idea from beginning to the end. With our new album “Rise” we were very hands on with everything involved. I am so thankful to have been able to work with such an amazing team. Besides the amazing musicians that played super creatively and helped develop an idea from the ground up, we worked with Johannes Felscher, who helped us with post production, editing and recording some additional layers to the music. The final mixing and production for this album was done in Berlin, Germany by Wolfgang Schiefermeir.
I was a little bit nervous about working with an engineer, who would be in a different country, but Wolfgang knew exactly what we wanted this project to sound like, and he added so much to it. We heard the work he had done for Matthias’s group The Ruff Pack, and decided that he would be perfect for the job. I am super happy we decided to work with him.
BTR: You guys have toured all over the world–can you share one of your favorite stories from being on tour?
AG: After the music, I usually can only remember the food. I love to eat as much new food as possible whenever I go to new places. One great memory of our last tour in Europe was how it all got started. We had an overnight flight on our way to Edinburgh, Scotland with a stopover in Ireland. We got to Ireland at eight a.m. after a full night on a plane with no sleep, sat at the bar and ordered ourselves some Irish Coffees (which are most definitely legit in Ireland). Then we proceeded to fly into Scotland, find our way to the hotel, sound check and play three sets on no sleep for a jam-packed audience. It went amazing and it was an awesome kickoff to the best tour we’ve had yet.
BTR: What future plans do you guys have going on?
AG: There’s a lot of things in the works right now that we’re excited about. Our new album “Rise” will be released on Ropeadope Records on Feb 19th, 2016. We just got the final masters, David Darlington absolutely hooked it up with the mastering. Our good buddy Wolfi Schiefermair did an INCREDIBLE job on the mixes and Jose Berrio came up with the most creative and cool looking album artwork for us. Ioana, Matthias, Peter, and DJ absolutely played their behinds off on this music and I feel like this album is really representative of how we’ve evolved musically over the last few years.
We’re also in the process of setting up our album release tour for next summer, we’ll be heading back to places like Austria, Czech Republic, Scotland, England and more spots in Europe, in addition to performing in NYC and at various festivals in the U.S. We have some brand new music that we’re working on writing and we’ll be making some music videos for the tunes from the new album as well.