Gary James' Interview With
Devin Bing

He's a crooner, composer, piano man and performer. He shared the stage with Lloyd Price, Jon Secada, Kurt Elling and Kevin Mahogany. He even has his own group, The Secret Service. We are speaking about Mr. Devin Bing.

Q - Devin, you're kind of young to be into Swing music, aren't you?

A - Yeah. You might say I'm an old soul, for sure. (laughs)

Q - How did you settle on that style of music? You probably came up listening to Rock music.

A - Yeah. I was like an '80s, '90s kid. I was born in '85. I grew up in an era of Rock and boy bands. When all my friends were listening to Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, I was listening to Harry Connick Jr. and Miles Davis. Those kinds of artists.

Q - And why was that? Was someone in your household into that kind of music? Mother? Father? Brother? Sister?

A - Well, there's a little combination. For the most part I genuinely feel that a lot of times you don't really choose music, it kind of chooses you. People gravitate to different genres more so than others. Obviously I appreciate a wide range of music, but for me personally for whatever reason I became so passionate about Jazz and improvisation. My parents are thespians. My mother is an actress and cabaret singer and my father is a director who started his own 'live' theatre out on Long Island about forty years ago. You're a product of your environment so I listened to a lot Gershwin growing up.

Q - That helps explain it. Your music has sometimes been described as Urban Jazz. What does that mean?

A - Well, I grew up listening to a lot of Swing, but I also gravitated to a lot of kind of Soul and Motown music as well as various styles of Hip-Hop. Basically the kind of arrangements of songs I do is this hybrid of Jazz, Swing and Backbeat. It's kind of like Swing / Backbeat more so than just straight ahead Jazz that I really do. You can hear that on my track, "Angel Eyes" on my website. It's got this Swing kind of feel, but it's not straight ahead Swing. It's more this R&B / Backbeat kind of Swing.

Q - I know you've played Turing Stone Casino, but besides Turning Stone where is there a marketplace for the music you play?

A - Well, I live in New York City so there's a huge marketplace for what I do. I've been the headlining show at one of the most iconic rooms there is, The Metropolitan Room, right off the Broadway district. That's kind of been my New York City home for a little over a year and I play various clubs around the city as well. There's actually a resurgence of what I feel is the music that I do that people are really starting to gravitate to and appreciate and understand. It's very cyclical in fashion and in music where this genre starts to appeal to the popular mass so to speak. I'm kind of a unique artist in that I'm in my 20s and I'm playing this kind of music and I'm also, for lack of a better term, re-creating it in my own style so to speak.

Q - Phil Ramone came out to see you. What did he say to you?

A - Unfortunately since then Phil Ramone has passed away. He's regarded as one of the top producers of all time. If you've ever read his book, it's incredibly insightful on how to make records. He was the one that recorded one of the most iconic Jazz songs of all time, "The Girl From Ipanema". Everything from that to the Frank Sinatra Duets to Billy Joel to you name it, he had his stamp on. At the time, Lloyd Price was very fascinated with what I was doing as well. He brought me on tour with him and his band. I linked up with Phil Ramone 'cause he heard some of my songs and he knew I was playing with Lloyd and he was just very intrigued with what I was doing at the time as well. But since at the time I had a different manager and there was, as a lot of instances go, those relationships that don't work out, but it certainly was a great experience being able to work with him for the period of time I was able to.

Q - When you play say The Metropolitan Room, do you use your band, The Secret Service?

A - I have different layers of what I do; everything from a full eight piece band to a quartet to what I do at the (Turning Stone) casino, which is down to a duo show that I do with my drummer. Think of it like a piano bar on steroids. We rock the house as if we've got the full band. When I have my full band I'm the front man in The Secret Service. I play, depending on the different kind of gigs, being a piano player, a singer, I have the ability to play everything from a solo to a Big Band.

Q - Why was Lloyd Price so taken with the music you're doing? He's from the Rock 'n' Roll era.

A - I went to the University Of Miami for Jazz Performance. I was actually a Jazz pianist and a Jazz vocal major, one of very rare (majors) believe it or not, that people were able to do. It was a very elite program. To be able to do both you really had to have chops. I was able to do that. When I came out I was exploring lots of different avenues in music which a lot of young artists will do 'cause they're inspired by so many different things. I was doing everything from playing Jazz piano in lounges to working with producers in Hip-Hop singing hook songs and R&B type music. When I had the first meeting with Lloyd I had the opportunity to show him everything. He basically told me straight up, "If you really want to be great, this is what you do and this is what sets you apart from everyone that's trying to do what is kind of the norm, which is try to do the Pop thing. You really have a talent in Jazz and you could really, really be great at that." I finally was like, "Okay." I listened to him and he kind of like helped harbor that and helped me build with his incredible thirteen piece band and play with them and I really learned a lot from that experience. He was intrigued, just like many people are, at a young kind like new age crooner so to speak.

Q - I understand the appeal. After listening to Rock, going back in time to listen to someone like Frank Sinatra, it's refreshing. It sounds new! The trick is to get other people to feel the same way.

A - Well, like anything else, it's about execution. It's about being talented enough to really execute that and really do it to the best (of your ability). Music and entertainment is so competitive that unless you can really deliver it as one of the elite, you kind of get washed out and luckily I've kind of carved this little niche in New York City that is getting a lot of appeal, so I feel very blessed and grateful for that.

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