Drummer Nate Smith is a Chesapeake, VA, native who studied briefly at VCU and now performs with Chris Potter’s Underground. On Wednesday, Underground’s newest album, Ultrahang, was released. Ultrahang is Underground’s third album and is available for purchase on ArtistShare. RVAjazz: Where are you originally from, and what years were you at VCU and in […]
Drummer Nate Smith is a Chesapeake, VA, native who studied briefly at VCU and now performs with Chris Potter’s Underground. On Wednesday, Underground’s newest album, Ultrahang, was released. Ultrahang is Underground’s third album and is available for purchase on ArtistShare.
RVAjazz: Where are you originally from, and what years were you at VCU and in Richmond? What have your experiences been like between the time you left VCU and the present day?
NS: I was born and raised in Chesapeake, VA. I attended VCU from Jan 97- Jan 98 as part of the Carpenter Fellowship Graduate Program. In the fall of 1997, Dave Holland came to VCU for a residency, at which point we met and played together for the first time. I ended up subbing my first gig with the Dave Holland Quintet in the spring of 2000 at The Painted Bride in Philadelphia. I was extremely nervous, but Dave and the guys really made me feel at ease.
While I was in Richmond, I had the privilege of studying with the great Howard Curtis, as well as playing with many of the great Richmond and Charlottesville based musicians, like Skip Gailes, James “Saxsmo” Gates, and John D’Earth. But it was as a member of the R&B/funk/soul supergroup F.R.E.N.S. with Rudy Faulkner, Carl Lester El, Baron Tymas and Lance Dickerson that I had my my heaviest and most consistent playing experiences. We made some amazing music together, and we always had so much fun!
I left Virginia for New York in September of 2001. Shortly after I arrived in New York, I started teaching music at an after school program in Brooklyn. In December, Dave Holland called me for a rehearsal with Chris Potter, during which we read through some more of the quintet’s music and jammed a bit as a trio. A few days later, Dave called me to do a European tour with the quintet in April of 2002. The tour went extremely well, and in August of 2003, Dave called me and offered me the full time gig with the quintet. Needless to say, I was thrilled!
In January of 2004, Chris Potter contacted me about getting together for a rehearsal with pianist Craig Taborn and bassist James Genus to read through some new music, and we played a gig shortly thereafter at the 55 bar. About two months later, he contacted me again about another gig there, only this time it would be with Craig and the fantastic guitarist Wayne Krantz. We played several gigs at the 55 together, before going out on a European tour in the summer of 2004. In January of 2005 Chris, Craig, Wayne and I were in the studio recording the first Underground album, which was released later that year. Wayne left the band in early 2006, and Adam Rogers joined. The configuration has been the same ever since.
Since I’ve been in New York, I’ve also had the pleasure of playing with Stefon Harris, Joshua Redman, Patricia Barber, soul singer-songwriter Emily King.
RVAjazz: That’s great. And you still have time to do your own thing with your Waterbaby Music? What’s happening currently with that project of yours?
NS: Basically I work on my Waterbaby stuff when I’m not on the road. I work out of a small studio in Manhattan. The last project I put out was an 8 song EP called Workday, Waterbaby Music, Vol. 1.0. Its been extremely well received among listeners as well as fellow artists and producers. I put it out mostly as a calling card to let like-minded artists know what I’m doing, and so far its proven to be a very wise move for me. Regularly I meet singers, songwriters or mc’s who want to collaborate based on what they’ve heard. I’m also working on full length projects with two of the artists featured on Workday, singer John Gordon and MC Paul Moses. The Paul Moses project, Coffee&Tea, will be out this summer on all the digital retailers. I’m currently writing for my next Waterbaby Music record, and its shaping up to be quite different from Workday. I’ll be playing a lot more live drums on it.
RVAjazz: I caught Underground a while back at Chris’s in Philadelphia, and although they stuck me in a corner where I couldn’t see you, it was a great show right before the Follow the Red Line album came out. What’s different to you about Ultrahang, compared to the two earlier Underground releases?
NS: You know what’s funny? Last fall, we played at Chris’ Jazz Cafe and R. Kelly was there. He stayed for most of our second set. I think he dug it, too! Who knew? He was recording across the street at a studio in downtown Philly. It was written about in a blog online (very funny).
Musically, I think Ultrahang presents a much more band oriented sound than the previous releases. We’ve been playing together so long now that certain things happen very naturally and organically in this group. We’ve learned a lot about playing together, and that awareness is truly realized in the music that we’ve created on this record. Also, the solos are a bit shorter this time around, because I think Chris wanted to include more tunes on the project, as well as make a record that was more listenable. We really stretch out live.