A musician raised on jazz plays with the classics.
Who: 21-year-old musician and producer Jesse Futerman is a modern-day jazz man. Well-versed in jazz classics thanks to his dad’s extensive record collection, Futerman explored a wide range of textures and tempos through sample-based production from the time he hit his teens. By then, he’d already spent years studying piano and playing trumpet.
“I became an annoyance in the [high school] classroom jazz band because I kept playing other notes that would fit in,” recalls Futerman.
That would be a natural instinct for someone whose “obsession” with the likes of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane had led him to turntablism, hip-hop, and production software all by the age of 15.
By 17, Futerman had already received interest and airplay from local community radio DJs—myself included—and had found a fan in one Gilles Peterson, host of BBC radio program Worldwide and renowned tastemaker. Since then, Futerman has continued to grow as both producer and performer.
What: Through sampling, meticulous editing, and an unwavering ear for great melodies and tight percussion, Futerman creates entire ensembles in his songs. He understands how to create mood, reminding me of a young DJ Shadow and other early Mo’ Wax artists with his jazz-infused creations.
Over the years, Futerman has paid musical tribute to many of his jazz inspirations, including through beautiful remixes of works by the likes of Billie Holiday (“Strange Fruit”) and Nina Simone (“Black Is the Color”), and outright tributes to legends including pianist Horace Silver and multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef.
These influences, and a whole host of others, can be heard throughout Futerman’s first two EPs, 2011’s Super Basement, and 2012’s Fuse the Witches, both released through digital label Jus Like Music. Both EPs are impressive not just for their reference points, but because Futerman seamlessly connects past to present to create new worlds of sound. His growth as a producer is evident throughout the crisp, rich sophomore EP, which confidently bumps between jazz, hip-hop, boogie, and house over the course of its seven songs.
“Aki Abe from Cosmos Records and Jason Palma from Play de Record really helped shape my music taste,” credits Futerman; “And jazz has taught me quite a bit, specifically to stay true to yourself and your craft.
“I started out using one-hundred-percent loops on Ableton, just looping drum breaks and records to create crude versions of what I’m sort of doing now. When I made Super Basement, I started to really chop my stuff. I have made a huge turning point recently with my new music, which is mostly all uptempo. It’s all very throwback to boogie, but with some splashes of jazz and library music. I never imagined I would be making the music I’m making now; it’s still very much me, but it could be considered dance music.”
Futerman is as honest about his journey as he is expressive in his productions. I ask him why the recent increase in tempo.
“Well, I felt very left out from a lot of my peers,” he admits. “Good friends, such as Exeter, Deebs, Bwana and Kevin McPhee were all making much faster music then I was. Kevin came over to my house one day, and showed me a house DJ set on my turntables. He blew me away, and I started getting into a lot of house music, specifically [the music of] Trus’me, which is all sample based.
“As I started to dig into house, I found out I disliked 96% of it. As for the ‘funky’ stuff, I couldn’t find much I enjoyed so I made ‘Life Is a Gamble.’ Right now, I love house. I play it in most of my sets, and this is my spin on it. It’s music for listening and music for the dancefloor.”
Why: Futerman is well appreciated by his peers. DJs play him, fellow producers acknowledge his enormous potential, and loads of blogs have leant their support. Multiple mixes by Futerman have appeared on sites including Music Is My Sanctuary, Toronto Standard, and Scion Sessions.
In addition, Futerman was included in an August 2012 article for prominent electronic music website Resident Advisor. Titled Toronto’s New Guard, the piece showcased emerging T.O. talent and placed Futerman among impressive peers including McPhee, Exeter, and Nautiluss.
Gilles Peterson has continued to play the music of Futerman, with fellow BBC DJ Benji B following suit.
“The support of Gilles was immense,” says Futerman; “He is the reason I’m out there doing this, and was the first person to take me seriously. That Benji B has also played me, and is a fan I believe, means the world.”
What’s Next: Futerman recently signed to release a downtempo EP on R&S Records’ sister label Apollo. It’s a supreme nod of confidence from an imprint that has released music by the likes of Aphex Twin, James Blake, and Model 500.
He’s also about to ink a deal to release an EP of original house music on “a pretty awesome house label run by a legendary house producer from Chicago. That’s all I can say for now, but it is definitely happening.”
Futerman also shares that a longterm goal is to “make a jazz record with both samples and live instrumentation. I hope to play piano on my productions; I’m a half-decent soloist.”
In the meantime, one of the young producer’s points of focus is to develop his live performance chops.
“My sets used to revolve around this weird, downtempo 92 BPM ground. I would play alongside dance guys so people would be really confused. Now [my sets] start at about 93 BPM and move up to 125 by the end. I do a half–performance and half–house music set.
“The best thing an electronic performer can do to connect with the audience is move around a lot. Not enough people do that.”
When & Where: Futerman performs tonight (Thursday, January 17) at Parts & Labour (1566 Queen St. W.), as part of Neighbourhood Watch, a showcase of Toronto talent that also features Sean Roman, Bruce Trail, and Dougie Boom.
Futerman is on early, allowing time for both a DJ set and live performance during which he’ll be joined by friend Deebs . The two recently began to collaborate under the name of Grand National Champions.
“Deebs is going to jump in later in my set. We’re going to do two tracks live, with me on my Maschine and him on the APC I believe.”
Tomorrow night (Friday, January 18), Futerman DJs as part of Course of Time at Supermarket (268 Augusta), joining Mr. Charlton, McNair & Clarke, and Andrew Green.
Looking ahead, Futerman will perform live on Friday, February 1 as part Emergents III, a Music Gallery showcase inside The Church Of St. George The Martyr (197 John St.). Maylee Todd also performs, in her solo guise of Mayloo, with 3D projections provided by Daniele Guevara.
“I really vibe with my gear,” enthuses Futerman. “I use an Akai APC20 and [Native Instruments’] Maschine. The Maschine is a fantastic piece of gear. I chop everything I do live on it, even at home. I perform all my piano and vocal stuff on it, and use it to trigger vocals, keys, delayed flutes, and all sorts of things. It’s vital for my house set as well since I love the knobs, and use them to control the equalizers on all my tracks.
“I’m excited about the three sets. It’s going to be a challenge because each one is fairly different.”
Fun fact: “I have an unhealthy relationship with New Sky.”