The great Miles Davis once said, “Sometimes it takes a long time for you to sound like yourself.”
Describing the craft of developing musicianship is trying to describe what the color blue looks like. Words only place it into an earthly frame. It must be experienced to be understood. It’s a journey with no return ticket home. Miles also said he was no accident. Natural talent goes nowhere without the fuel of pursuit.
Like any other ecosystem, the torch must be passed for musical survival. Joshua Crumbly is the next torch bearer. Since his childhood origins in the Antelope Valley, the journey has been nothing short of incredible. After graduating high school and the Juilliard School of Music, he has been a bassist for Kamasi Washington, Terrance Blanchard, Leon Bridges and Ravi Coltrane, among many others. Now, his debut solo album “Rise: is being released today on all streaming platforms.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Crumbly and talk about his past, but more importantly, his future.
Jesse Davidson: In 2009, I still remember in Quartz Hill High School, a map listing where all the students attending university would be going later that year. There was a lone pin on New York City which said “Joshua Crumbly: Juilliard.” It was quite impressive. Describe the leap in going from a humble desert community to, literally, a mecca for musical education.
Joshua Crumbly: Thanks. It’s pretty crazy to look back on it now. I graduated QHHS at 17 years old and moved to NYC by myself and immediately hit the ground running. In the second semester of college, I had gotten a “dream call” at the time and was on tour a lot for the duration of undergrad and was juggling school and traveling. There was so much going on that, I guess I didn’t really have a chance to think about how vastly different coming from AV to the NYC was at that time, until it snowed, of course! It has set in more recently about how different the desert is than the city, but I’m grateful for growing up in the Antelope Valley. I’ve got a lot of love for it and is a big part of who I am as a person/musician.
JD: You’ve had the privilege of being mentored by many great bass players, Victor Bailey being one of them. What effect did their mentorship have on your musicianship and psyche?
JC: I’ve been really fortunate to have been mentored by a lot of amazing musicians that have been so gracious to me along the way. I started piano, first at five, with Dathan Dedman, then got my start on bass with Ric Ilejay at “N Rhythm Music” in Palmdale. From there, Todd Johnson, Reggie Hamilton, Victor Bailey, Al McKibbon and even got to study with Ron Carter while I was at Juilliard.
I’ve taken something from everyone of my former teachers/mentors perspectives that has allowed me to comfortably function in many different musical settings, regardless of genre.
To speak on Victor Bailey in particular, I met him when I was 10 and I sort of learned through him by example.
He would invite my parents and I to sound-checks and all of his shows and parties he threw at his home that would inevitably turn into jam sessions with other legendary musicians he had over — and would also inevitably mean he would hand me the bass and sort of get “ thrown into the fire” in front of legends that I idolized on records that my dad had at home. It was awesome!
JD: Given the tremendous knowledge and experience you’ve had from music and thus, in your life, how do you approach your craft? What was your process of practice and improvement like as a student? What is like today?
JC: Growing up, I would definitely spend a few hours a day on the bass, especially during summer break. I would break it up though. I would go outside and play basketball come back and practice then go ride my bike, etc. Listening to a lot of different kinds of music was also a big part of my development. Now, most of my practice is done on stage. I’m usually on tour for most the year, so when I’m home, I’m recouping on rest and just gearing up to head out again.
Although I don’t get to practice as much these days, I’m always striving to get better and to find ways to stay present so I can feed off the crowd’s energy and play something a little different, based on the energy of the crowd and the energy amongst the band. What fascinates me now is how reading a book or doing push-ups can help me get better at music. Exercise and learning are beneficial to all facets of ones life. I’m learning something we all do naturally as children.
JD: Your debut album “Rise” comes out today on Open Book Records. I’ve heard the singles “Noah” and “For Victor,” so far. Both are amazing and I can’t wait to listen to the entire album. What has the transition to a solo artist been like for you?
JC: Thanks so much. My solo project has been a long time coming. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to tour and record with so many different artists over the past 10 plus years and really feel like this album is a culmination of all of my musical experiences and maybe more importantly, experiences as a person.
I’m finding it takes great courage to release your own music, but I’m up for it and really grateful for all of the encouragement and love for the project I’ve gotten, thus far. I’m excited to share “Rise” with the world!
JD: In closing, musicians such as yourself and Mitchell Cooper are prime local examples of why funding music and arts education is valuable. With the professional position you are in, what would you say to legislators and public officials to make a case for the importance music education in school?
JC: Music is important. Very important. I think it’s one of the few things in the world that can bring people together, regardless of race, social status or political viewpoints. It’s universally uniting.
I think music also naturally teaches how to work together and flexibility in being able to see the other perspective of things even outside of music.
I think it also teaches compassion and empathy so naturally, that a music teacher never needs to even speak on that aspect of it — so it’s a very powerful thing. Regardless if kids end up pursuing a music career after being in band in school, I believe that they will likely be very well-rounded and understanding people in whatever workforce they choose to make a career in. I believe it is imperative that music remains in all schools because the world can always use some more empathy, compassion and understanding .
For more info on Joshua and his musical endeavors, check out www.joshuacrumbly.com.