Four time Grammy-nominated jazz musician Joey DeFrancesco joined Miles Davis and his band for a tour across Europe when he was just 17 years old, and he has recorded with artists including Van Morrison, Grover Washington Jr. and Ray Charles.
Tomorrow, DeFrancesco, known for playing the organ, trumpet, and saxophone, will be performing with his trio at the college for the first time.
DeFrancesco was born and raised in Philadelphia, moving away in 1998. Coming from a family of musicians, he began learning to play the organ from his father when he was four years old and has been playing ever since.
With more than 30 recordings under his belt, DeFrancesco was inducted into the Hammond Organ Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame in 2016 according to his website.
While international tours and large audiences are exciting, DeFrancesco said he likes performing at college campuses because of the younger audience.
“You get a lot of young people that are interested in music, and there’s a lot of pleasure in playing for that type of audience. There’s usually a lot of energy,” DeFrancesco said.
DeFrancesco said he hopes that people will come out of his performances with a desire to understand and hear more jazz, having gained a newfound appreciation not only for jazz, but for the organ in a jazz setting.
“It’s good to be able to educate, introduce, and be able to perform for people my idea of my music, and for them to enjoy it,” DeFrancesco said. “So hopefully they take a piece of something away that they really enjoy and can reflect on and have good feelings about.”
The trio DeFrancesco will be performing with on Saturday is one of his newer projects. He said he has been working with a few different projects, but he said he is especially excited about the instrumentation of this particular trio.
DeFrancesco will be playing the organ, along with some trumpet and saxophone and will be accompanied by a drummer and a musician playing keyboard and guitar.
When it comes to picking material for his performances, DeFrancesco said he is “very much in the moment.”
“I just recently started making out lists, because I thought it was more fair for the musicians, because I would sometimes start playing a song that nobody knew, and expect them to learn it very quickly. And usually they do,” DeFrancesco said.
Creating set lists has only become a habit of DeFrancesco’s since he has started to play more of his own original music, he said. However, these set lists are only preliminary, and can change right before a show depending on his mood.
“I kind of just make the list up before we go on depending on the mood I feel,” DeFrancesco said. “Then, when I get out there it might change or get a different vibe, different energy from the audience, and I might change something.”
DeFrancesco also explained the importance of improvisation within jazz.
“This isn’t pop music where you expect to hear exactly what’s on the records, you know. So people that come out to hear this improvised style of music, I think they deserve to hear the true improvisation,” DeFrancesco said.
“Of course I’m grateful and playing for the audience,” DeFrancesco said, “But I’m giving them an honest interpretation of how I feel, not what I think they might like, because then you could be wrong, and then you’re not giving a true performance from your heart on how you feel, and I think that’s not fair to the audience to try to fake something every time.”
DeFrancesco and his trio will be performing at the Williams Center for the Arts this Saturday, March 7th at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 for the general public, $5 for faculty and staff, and free for Lafayette students. Tickets can be purchased at the Williams Center website.