Ricks: The pro is time. If I’m in the zone, I can finish quickly without having to wait for someone else’s schedule. The con is missing out on the symbiosis. There is a magic that can happen when you’re playing live with other musicians. It’s not only the energy of real instruments versus sampled sounds, but it is also the dynamic of spontaneous invention. Each musician brings their history, influences and passion and when it’s let loose, you can hear your song take-off in directions that never would’ve occurred to you independently. That’s the magic! Alto Saxophonist Walter Beasley played some amazing tracks for my CD “Make it Work.” He’s so smooth on the track “Something More² Say” it’s just ridiculous! We collaborated through the internet in separate cities. If we could’ve done it live, the spontaneity would’ve led him to an even deeper place.
Six String Theories: What is the origin of your pseudonym, “Jenjii”? Why did you release “Listening Room” under the pseudonym?
Ricks: Originally, I’d thought of myself solely as a writer, but as I shopped material around for various artists, industry people whose opinions I respected, insisted that I should do a solo project. As an artist, I thought I should have a separate identity so I used ‘Jenjii,’ but people told me that I was being a wuss and should just be myself. As for the name, I just liked the sound of it. I heard it first as the name from a Jobim tune and it was spelled ‘Dindy,’ but I wanted a spelling that would immediately connect with the sound so I came-up with ‘Jenjii.’
Six String Theories: How have digital media and online music sharing affected your career?
Ricks: There’s now an expectation that music should be free to download. Even as relatively unknown as I am, my CD “Make it Work” was available on torrent sites across the web one week after its release. How’s a sistah’ s’possed to make a dime? How can musicians make enough to support themselves and live much less, have enough extra funds to promote their work? The internet is overcrowded and you have to find ways to stand apart. That takes money. Concert ticket sales are slumping. Live performance fees for musicians suffer. So in a backwards way, the lack of actual music sales has directly hindered the artist’s ability to be more creative. Labels won’t bankroll them and they can’t personally afford anything but limited recording situations.
Ricks: Hanging out in the studio with Miles Davis when my dear friend Bobby Irving was producing one of his albums. Al Foster and another buddy Munch (aka Darryl Jones) were holding down the rhythm section. It was just a great time. I got to hang with Gil Evans a little too. I truly felt like I was on the cusp of the transition to the new jazz movement.
Six String Theories: What advice would you give to a young composer or guitarist?
Ricks: Same advise you give anyone entering a battle – be prepared. I landed my song with George Benson by fluke, but I was prepared. Knowing he was recording a new project, I blanketed known “Benson habitats.” I sent stuff to his label, management, studio, but nothing landed. At home one evening in Chicago, I got a phone call and he caller identified himself as Bob James. I tried to continue to listen while absorbing the shock of talking to one of my idols on the phone. He told me that he was sitting in his office at WEA, where he’d been hired as an A&R guy, next to a box of songs sent to his predecessor. He randomly pulled one out and t was mine. He then asked me if my song was still available. I let him know that not only was the song available, but if he needed to use my programming for the song, that was available too and as it happens I was planning a trip to NY the next week. So, Bob James invited me to be a part of the George Benson project. It was a blast! I got to work with George and sing back-up with Sharon Bryant and Lisa Fischer (fresh off her Grammy win for “How Can I Ease the Pain”). That’s how she ended-up singing background with me on my CD “Listening Room.” Be Prepared!
Six String Theories: How would you like to be remembered as a musician?
Ricks: Oh, please….I’m not dead yet.