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Giveton Gelin: Rising star in the world of jazz

Scott Haas
Giveton Gelin: Rising star in the world of jazz

Giveton Gelin, who turns 22 this month, is turning heads in the world of jazz with his trumpet playing. He will just be graduating from the prestigious Juilliard School this year but has already released his first album, “True Design,” to great acclaim for its maturity, musical precision and originality. Gelin won the 2020 LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award and was awarded “a 10-city North American tour to play before thousands of fans and the crème-de-la-crème of the jazz music industry,” according to the Nassau Guardian. Born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, Gelin now makes his home in New York City, and until the pandemic, he could be heard around town with other major young talents. The Banner caught up with him from Nassau, where Gelin was spending time with his family during this challenging period.

Banner: I read that you taught yourself to play the trumpet at age 10 by listening to your favorite records. What were those records?

Giveton Gelin: In junior high school, the teacher who taught brass introduced me to recordings by Nicholas Payton, like “Payton’s Place,” and I developed curiosity about the jazz and trumpet world, which led me to the music of Roy Hargrove and Wynton Marsalis. I was really amazed!

Is anyone else in your family a musician?

My father is a jack-of-all trades. He’s a pastor and he has favorite songs and hymns he introduced me to. He taught me to play the C major scale on the trumpet. My brother plays drums and attended a summer program at Berklee.

Your album “True Design,” was released on April 19, 2020 — auspicious because that’s your birthday, but inauspicious because it was during the height of the pandemic. What was that like, to have such polar opposite experiences taking place at the same time?

I had worked on the album a year before, and I decided I could not delay its release. I didn’t have second thoughts. Maybe it was what people needed at the time. Because it provides a refreshing feeling, a sense of what it means to be alive. One thing I wanted was for people listening to the album to feel like they were in a live club setting. 

Tell us a little bit about the album’s evolution.

Some of it I wrote while at Juilliard, some I wrote when I was in high school. It’s a combination of my journey so far. To try and catch the duality of my individual background and the understanding that there is a bigger purpose in life. To hear and make harmonic and melodic concepts that create a feeling and human connection. It’s a search for mutual connections through music.

You feature amazing talents on this album: Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Micah Thomas on piano, Kyle Benford on drums and Philip Norris on bass. How did you get together?

We all met at Julliard. We have things in common: Pushing the spiritual essence, appreciating swing elements, sharing knowledge. It all made sense — we felt a connection with something bigger than us.

What are you planning for 2021?

I’m always writing and thinking about new things. It’s time to sit with myself, time to process thoughts. In my current environment, here in the Bahamas, I can be in full creative mode. And after I graduate from school this year, I plan to use that new space as a foundation, to have New York as a base and try and do things on a larger scale.

Coming from Nassau, what bearing does being a Bahamian have on your musical sensibility?

Oh, it’s part of me, who I am, how I approach life, how I express myself. People here can be very expressive as a way of communication. I strive in my playing to be as expressive as possible. To reach a level of beautiful expression.