The Brooklyn native’s ascent into the world of music has been swift. In high school, Gashford was a member of The Edward R. Murrow H.S Jazz band and then later went on to play at different venues around New York City. He has gone on to perform with such Haitian superstars as Emeline Michel and Beethova Obas. Working in the studio for numerous labels and producers as well as regular gigs have taken him on tours and to festivals in places such as Amsterdam, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, St, Lucia, Martinique and many cities around the United States.
Gashford’s musical influence has been felt far and wide. He has played with artists such as; James Germain, Eric Virgal, Orlane, Eddy Brissaux, Chardavoine, Gifrants, Yanick Etien, Felina Backer, Claude Aurelien, Michael Philips, Revelation, Lataye, Tjovi Ginen, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Calyn, Morena, The Altino Brothers, Jephte Guillaume and the Tet Kale Orkestra, Illogical Poetry, Eric Mcdaniels, Dickson Guillaume & the New York State Haitian Interdenominational Mass Choir, Jowee Omicil, Buyu Ambroise & the Blues in Red Band. (To name a few.)
Currently, Gashford is at the epicenter of a rapidly growing Haitian Jazz Movement. As a founding member of ‘Mozayik” in 2000, Gashford and the members of Mozayik have quickly made a name for themselves, doing much towards re-establishing the genre of Haitian Jazz. The band has released two critically acclaimed CDs receiving international airplay, Mozayik was subsequently signed to the Grammy-winning Zoho Music jazz label. Mozayik has also performed in jazz festivals in Cuba, Haiti, New York City and Miami, and the band continues to be at the forefront of the Haitian jazz scene in New York City and beyond. Continuing his passionate commitment to supporting the Haitian jazz genre, in October 2005, Gashford teamed up with John “Papa Jube” Altino (VP of SOB’S in NYC) to present the first annual “Haitian Jazz Music Festival” to a sold-out house at SOBs. Created as a vehicle to bring exposure to the diverse talents of the multi-generational Haitian jazz community, as well as to recognize Haiti’s connection and contribution to the creation and evolution of the jazz genre as a whole, the Haitian Jazz movement continues to grow in scope and popularity.
HB- How old were you when you started to play drums?
GG- I've been around music all my life since my dad and siblings are also musicians. I guess I can say I took drums seriously and knew it was what I wanted to play at around age twelve.
HB- Did you always want to be a drummer?
GG- Deffinetly... I have three older brothers that played drums before me. When I was a kid, my brothers played for my dad at church. I had three drummers ahead of me. I usually had to wait my turn and hope someone showed up late so I could get an opportunity to play! Lol... This kept me motivated and hungry.
HB- What drew you towards drums?
GG- I loved the sounds, the beats that could be created. I loved how using each limb to do something different looked. (Independence). Naturaly, a good rhythm made me move.
HB- Do you play any other instrument?
GG- Yes, my second instrument is bass guitar. I play piano, mainly to write and arrange music. These two instruments are vital tools for my writing. There was a time in my early teens that I also took sax lessons but, I really did not have the patience. I wanted to play like Najee, Grover Washington or Michael Brecker right away! Lol...
HB- You play konpa, you play japazz, gospel, which are you more comfortable with?
GG- Hmm, good question... Well, jazz is more challenging. It comes in so many forms. It can be incorporated in pretty much any genre of music. I may be more comfortable with it but more so because it keeps me interested and challenges me. It allows me to explore the music within and be more creative. It makes me want to learn more and does not allow me to get bored. It boils down to what context I am playing in (Pop, funk, Afro/Caribbean, world music). I consider myself to be a versatile drummer and feel confident I can adapt to most musical situations. You mentioned Kompa music. Although I've been around it most of my life, it's not a style I play consistently. However, put me with great musicians and a "gongist", I can hold my own. That being said, I really can't say what I'm more or least comfortable with. It's a matter of what I have more experience playing.
HB- When you listen to another drummer, what do you listen for?
GG- I first listen to how he fits in the context of a band. How well he plays his role. I like drummers that use dynamic, & exotic sounding. Drummers that are "musical" and not just technical. They make the drums "sing". Diversity always gets my attention.
HB- Who are some of your favorite drummers?
GG- I've always enjoyed listening to William Kennedy, Elvin Jones, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jack Dejohnette, Chris Dave, Omar Hakim (to name a few). My musical taste is pretty eclectic so, the drummers and styles they play will vary.
HB- What type sticks do you use?
GG- I use "Manhattan 7A" by Vator. They are more on the light side as far as weight, however, they are longer than most 7A sizes, which gives them a nice balance that works for me.
HB- Do you have any exercise routines to maintain leg strength and overall playing stamina?
GG- Not really... I maintain stamina by being consistent in my playing. I do like to exercise in general and that does help. However, I don't have to use much leg strength to play drums. Most of the work comes from my ancestors and my legs work as a whole to keep balanced on my seat.
HB- What does being a professional musician mean to you?
GG- To me, being a professional musician means to know and master your craft... To be able to work and collaborate with other musicians and create. To be able to entertain music lovers and allow them to enjoy your playing. One should always look to improve. Finally, to be responsible and productive on the business side of being a musician. Make sure the clients are always happy with your work.
HB- What advice do you have to younger or up and coming musicinas regarding musical performance?
GG- As far as the the younger and up and coming musicians, my advice to them is to first be humble. Humility will open doors that will allow you to grow. Also, surround yourselves with not only your peers and musicians at your level, surround yourselves with musicians that are better and have more experience than you do. That is one of the best ways to improve and become a better musician. The benefits will show in your performance.
HB- You were in Haiti during the election chaos, for someone living here in the States, how do you see the country?
GG- Well, I went to the Haiti for the purpose of performing at the Port Au Prince International Jazz Festival. I really did not see any chaos or feel any tension. We ran into really bad traffic one afternoon but other than that, everything was smooth. We were not in the areas where protests were being held.
HB- Can you share your experience at the International jazz festival of PAP?
GG- My main focus was to go share music, perform and make people happy. To see other musician friends and enjoy the talents. The shows were totally free. Everything from the sound syetem, stage and lighting was top notch. People who attended were well behaved, attentive to the performers3 and in good spirits. It's great to see how far this festival has come. I participated in the very first festival and a couple of others afterwards and I have to say, it sure has grown!
HB- You took a little video while in Haiti of the original Jazz des Jeunes rehearsing, can you share that moment with us? And what went through your mind?
GG- Actually, that was a new version of Jazz Des Jeunes. A mixture of old and new generation musicians. I was in a building next door rehearsing with Emeline Michel... When we took a break, I could hear the band rehearsing. The sound was from a different era. Wonderful horn arrangements, beautiful melodies and I could not resist wanting to move to the groove the rhythm section was playing. I went down and walked into there rehearsal with a huge smile on my face. That is when I pulled out my phone so I can film and share what I saw when I got back to the states. It was great watching them rehearse. The music was before my time.
HB- Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
GG- Not too long ago, I embarked on a journey as a solo artist. Currently preparing for my debut project. I would like to do more in terms of producing and arranging for others. Also, studio engineering... These are great tools. There is more to me than being a drummer and in five years, I look to reach my full potential in a few areas. I'm still growing and hope to have released much more projects by then. I also look to release and do bigger projects with my main band Mozayik.
HB- Any parting words?
GG- I just want to say thank you to Haitian Beatz for the invitation to this sit down. It was an absolute pleasure for me to share and have this dialogue.