Born: February 15, 1978 Primary Instrument: Drums
Who is Jesse Capon?
Jesse Capon is a musician based in Toronto, Ontario, in Canada. But that’s not all. Read on…
In the beginning
Born into a very musical household, Jesse had the good fortune to grow up surrounded by some of Canada’s most prominent and talented musicians, many of whom came to his home to play music with his father, notable trombonist and conductor John Capon. While still swinging on his swing set, Jesse got to listen to such legends as Reg Schwager, Laren Lofsky, Dave Field, Gary Williamson and Terry Lewquiski. The swing factor rubbed off: he now finds himself in the enviable position of working alongside many of these outstanding members of the Canadian music scene.
Many of Jesse’s early memories are of his father’s HiFi system and substantial LP record collection. “We had childhood games that were more like blindfold tests, and he’d give us sing-along quizzes and ear-training exams,” says Jesse. “To this day, I will sometimes recall a curtain background vocal on a Stevie Wonder album, or a solo from a Mahler symphony that would have been part of what we listened to in those days.”
Jesse’s father also got his six-year-old son an audition with the St. Simons boys and men’s choir, led at that time by Dr. Derek Holman. “I think I was the youngest member of the choir ever. To this day, that chorus is one of Canada’s finest. That experience had a profound effect on me. The sound of the group and the camaraderie were wonderful! I loved contributing and being around the older boys. I was able to be apart of some fairly serious performances with that group. I was still just learning to read English, let alone music notation, so I became a good little memorizer. That was a fun year.”
Those childhood experiences were both grounding and liberating as a way to approach playing music, with the freshness and thirst for discovery of a child. “I learned in that fearless and natural way kids can. That’s how I connected to the magical world of music my father is a part of, and how I still approach my music as an adult professional.”
Getting serious about music
Jesse’s formal musical education began at the age of seven, after his family relocated to Gabriola Island, on the west coast of Canada. There he began piano lessons with his paternal grandmother. “They were intense lessons. I could sense what my grandmother wanted and really wanted to do well and meet her expectations,” says Jesse.
Jesse later switched teachers to a local pianist named Gail Lund. “She took me through the basics of the keyboard and introduced me to playing Bach and ragtime. Then,” says Jesse, “At the age of eleven, I saw my dad play at a local jazz club, and a switch went off in my brain! I wanted to play the trombone. It sounded so soulful and melodic to me. My father has always had a great sound on trombone, and I have many fond memories of him practicing etudes, either in his third floor studio in Toronto or in the living room on Gabriola.” Jesse’s captivation with the trombone came at the same time kids in his school class had to choose an instrument to play in the school bands. The trombone was his logical choice. “I got good fast! Having a world class trombonist to bounce questions off was beyond ideal. I’d also grown up listening to brass quintets and Count Basie records, so the sound of a trombone section and the feel of the music were already deep inside me.”
Moving upward and onward: drumming
When it came time for university, Jesse was offered a scholarship at Berkelee College of Music in Boston, and headed off for a summer semester. But there everything changed, and a new passion seized him: drumming. He would head to the practice room to work on the trombone, and end up playing drums along to rock, R&B and jazz albums instead. “This was like a pure release. I had no real concept of proper technique then, and had never played in a group as a drummer. But increasingly I was spending hours of my practice time working out parts of recordings and trying to copy the sound and feel of the drummers.”
Jesse’s early drumming influences included Art Blakey and Vernel Fournier. “These gents really spoke to the heart and soul of what I had quickly become addicted to. On the pop and R&B front, I was getting into recordings that featured Steve Gadd and Steve Jordan. They play with so much conviction and musicality. In terms of rock, I still count Jim Keltner as a huge influence. In more recent years my list of drumming influences has broadened considerably. I’ve had the good fortune to study with John Reilly, Steve Coleman and Jim Black as well as attend The Banff Center for the Arts in 2003. Those influences, in combination with listening to and playing with my musician friends, and my ever expanding record collection, have served to take me on any number of musical forays and benders. I try and let it all in and experience it for what it is.”
After that semester at Berkelee, Jesse was certain he wanted drumming to be his main focus. He ordered his first real drum kit while still in Boston, and upon his return home it was waiting for him. That September he enrolled at Malaspina University on Vancouver Island (now Vancouver Island University), where he had already been playing with some of the college ensembles as a senior in high school.
While still maintaining a presence as a trombonist for the first year at Malaspina, Jesse was now performing well enough as a drummer to share the drum seat in the school’s big band as well as trombone, and play in a number of small ensembles. At that point, Jesse also started to play in local bar bands covering R&B and rock, and ran a jam session at a local club with his first trio, comprised of musicians he’d met at Malaspina. “I met Ryan Oliver on the first day of school. He was breathing fire into his black tenor sax and I loved it. We struck up a friendship that led to many interesting experiences and gigs. That really helped me get more art out of music school.”
Jesse was also getting calls from his professors and teachers at Malaspina to work for them. Important engagements included dates with Pat Coleman, Ross Taggart, Myron Makepeace, Brian Stovell and, of course, his father. During this time Jesse also studied privately with Buff Allen and Anita Bonkowski.
After graduating from Malaspina in 1999, like many other aspiring professional musicians Jesse moved to Toronto to study with world renowned drum teacher Jim Blackley and begin working as a drummer on the Toronto scene. “I was with Jim for two years. Lessons with him were very intense. He not only focused on getting a sound, feel and good technique on the instrument, he really had a lot to contribute in terms of maintaining a musical mindset at the drums as well as a lifestyle that you could maintain as a professional player. I loved studying with Jim and it came at exactly the right moment for me.”
Even though he didn’t have any contacts on the music scene when he first moved to Toronto, Jesse’s progression on the local big city music scene has been extremely rewarding. The last ten years have seen him perform and/or record with the likes of Phil Dwyer, Reg Schwager, Joshua Redman, Sam Yale, Johannes Wallman, Dion Taylor, Michael Kaeshammer, Robi Botos, Ted Quinlan, Jeff Young, Artie Roth, George Koller, Gary Williamson, Bob Brough, Loren Lofsky, Brian Dickinson, Hilario Durran, Dave Restivo and Mark Zubek, to name a few.
From jazz to contemporary music
While he was initially known more as a jazz musician, in more recent years Jesse has been working on more pop, rock, hip hop and R&B, which he finds very gratifying. Some notable moments include recording and/or performing with Andy Sheppard, Katey Morley, Adam Faux, Brian Connelly, Big Rude Jake, Paul Linklater, Tyler Yarema, Jake Chisholm, Tori Cassis, Julian Scott, Emily Weedon, Bonspiel, Four Way Flashers, Steve Stanley, Ron Hawkins, Simeon Ross and Marty Kollis.
The recording studio
Jesse has also built a recording studio, where he teaches as well. Equipped with a large number of drums and percussion toys as well as a very sleek mixing and recording suite, Jesse is increasingly being called upon to record bed tracks and percussion for various producers and artists. With around one hundred projects destined for demos, records, TV and video, educational DVD’S and books on tape, Jesse says it is safe to say “the results have been excellent!”
“Not too many producers have full drum and percussion capability in their project studios. With this option, most producers I work with can take a piece of work through to completion. We can do all the overdubs and drum set parts here. The room sounds great and the price is right!”
Jesse’s recording work has broadened to include full production services as well as songwriting. As a multi-instrumentalist proficient on guitar, bass and keyboard as well as drums and programming, Jesse has become a one stop shop for many artists. It’s a part of his professional life that he finding most rewarding right now. “I love this process and find it very fulfilling and challenging!
“I’ve also begun singing a lot more on gigs and recordings, and love that challenge on top of the drumming. I really like the songwriting process and the type of people willing to undertake that kind of adventure… It’s not always easy on the psyche.”
Since 2004, Jesse has built up a very dedicated student roster. Some have moved on to college and university, others are good amateurs and/or school aged drummers. A number of his students are already professionals, and are looking to broaden their range or to improve a particular aspect of their playing. “My younger students are a continual source of inspiration and energy, so that is a real bonus. They are also a wellspring of information on current pop and rock trivia and style!” Jesse loves being included in all of their lives and musical adventures. He usually has around thirty active students at a time.
*Please feel free to contact Jesse regarding any aspect of his experiences or services.
Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
See Website www.jessecapon.ca