creative:impact - An Emerging Jazz Musician’s Trajectory To The Planets

Sep 28, 2021

Eddie Codrington (aka Stratøs)
Credit Stratøs / stratostones.com

Ann Arbor’s Stratøs (AKA Eddie Codrington) is reaching for the stars! A three-time winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award in 2019, 2020, and 2021, his flight plan was shaped by local music education programs, jazz artists, and events. He is releasing his first album "Planets" in October. Hear all about it when he joins co-hosts Deb Polich of Creative Washtenaw and WEMU’s David Fair on this edition of "creative:impact."


Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

ABOUT EDDIE CODRINGTON (AKA STRATOS)

Michigan native Stratøs is a saxophonist, composer, producer, and film photographer whose presence in the modern jazz scene is rapidly growing. His improvisational style is rooted heavily in the subtle melodicism of the cool jazz tradition and extends to the bold, complex nature of the electronic jazz scene. His compositions explore a combination of elements between jazz and other styles such as hip-hop, metal, electronica and classical. Stratøs is the three-time winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award from 2019-2021. Additionally, he was awarded the ASCAP Foundation’s Johnny Mandel Prize as well as being selected as a National Sawdust New Works Commission Contest winner. The latter granted the composer the opportunity to write for the world renowned JACK Quartet.

ASCAP Foundation Eddie Codrington a.k.a. Stratøs, 24, of Kalamazoo, Mich. (via Ann Arbor, Mich.); Gate’s Opening for tenor sax, piano, bass, and string quartet.

RELEVANT EMPLOYMENT/ACCOLADES

  • 2019- appointed director of Western Michigan University’s Jazz Lab Band
  • 2019- attended Banff Center for the Arts for the Jazz & Creative Music seminar directed by Vijay Iyer & Tyshawn Sorey
  • 2019- served as artist in residence in Colombia, South America for the Colombo Americano Jazz Program
  • 2019- won the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award for “Obsidian Galaxy”
  • 2019- released full length album Lushh with the band Lushh
  • 2018- organized multidisciplinary concert with live visual effects of The Archangel Suite (Lushh)
  • 2018- winner of WIDR FM’s Battle of the Bands competition (Lushh)
  • 2018- two-time winner of Downbeat Magazine’s best R&B/Pop/Rock band (Lushh)
  • 2018- Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award honorable mention for “Atlantic Exodus”
  • 2017- was a part of multidisciplinary concert with live visual effects and live painting of Insight Unsought (Lushh)
  • 2017- Harper C. Maybee Scholarship winner (WMU school of music)
  • 2017- Howard Lucky Jazz Scholarship winner (WMU school of music)
  • 2017- contributed a composition for the Birds on a Wire + Advanced Jazz Ensemble collaborative concert
  • 2017- winner of Downbeat Magazine’s best R&B/Pop/Rock band (Lushh)
  • 2017- performed with legendary saxophonist George Garzone
  • 2017- performed with legendary drummer Peter Erskine
  • 2016- performed with legendary vocalist Deborah Brown
  • 2016- featured in the Western Herald as artist of the month of December (Lushh)
  • 2016- recorded an album at Sonic Ranch Studios, Tornillo, TX with MNOE
  • 2016- commissioned for an original composition by the Grammy award winning Pioneer High School, MI
  • 2016- toured with MNOE (Mark Niskanen Orchestral Experiment) Chicago, Kalamazoo, and Detroit
  • 2016- Mark Niskanen Orchestral Experiment group (tenor saxophone, clarinet)
  • 2015- performed with critically acclaimed trumpeter Terrell Stafford
  • 2015- contributed a composition for the Advanced Jazz Ensemble climate change concert
  • 2015- Lushh (founder, tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger)

AWARDS/OTHERS

  • 2014- Rick Burgess Jazz Scholarship, Ann Arbor, MI
  • 2014- Iris Scholarship, Ann Arbor, MI
  • 2017-Harper C. Maybee Scholarship, Kalamazoo, MI
  • 2017- Howard Lucky Jazz Scholarship, Kalamazoo, MI
  • 2018- Western Michigan University Graduate: Magna Cum Laude (3.75 GPA)
  • 2018- Senior Jazz Area Award (Western Michigan University)
  • 2018- Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Honorable Mention (ASCAP)
  • 2019- Downbeat soloist award winner for the blues, rock, pop category (Downbeat Magazine)
  • 2019- Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award winner (ASCAP)

RESOURCES:

Stratøs Official Website

Stratøs on Facebook

Stratøs on Instagram

Stratøs on Soundcloud

Stratøs Google Press Kit

TRANSCRIPTION:

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and welcome to another edition of creative:impact. This is our weekly look at the local creative sector. I'm David Fair, and I'm joined by my content partner and co-host for creative:impact, Deb Polich. Deb serves as president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw. And welcome back.

Deb Polich: Hey, you know, being in the music business as you are at WEMU, you must be familiar with ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, right? 

David Fair: Oh, yeah. They collect the royalties on behalf of songwriters and then charge them a fee to do it. 

Deb Polich: Well, yes, they collect those very important fees as well and distribute them. But they're also a foundation. And that mission is to nurture new music talent through a variety of scholarships, workshops, and awards, such as the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award. 

David Fair: Well, you just said a name very familiar to WEMU listeners. Herb Alpert, of course, is a tremendous jazz artist in and of his own right with the Tijuana Brass. He co-founded A&M Records with Jerry Moss. He is still composing and recording at the age of 86. I think he is. 

Deb Polich: Yeah, pretty awesome. And I expect our guests will have a successful career. He is a three-time winner of the Herb Alpert Young Composer Award. He won in 2019, 2020, and again this year. We can call him a three-peat. So let's welcome Stratos. 

David Fair: Stratos, thank you so much for making time for WEMU and creative:impact. 

Stratos: Thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here. 

Deb Polich: Stratos, you're a jazz saxophonist, a composer, and a producer of note. Let's begin at the beginning. You were raised in Ann Arbor. Some people will remember you as Eddie Codrington. So, tell us about being raised in this area and what turned you on to music and jazz. 

Stratos: Yes. So, growing up in Ann Arbor, there were a lot of opportunities for music and especially jazz music. I grew up. I went to Eberwhite Elementary School, and I started playing saxophone, you know, just in the regular school program. I kind of grew up always wanting to play jazz and kind of knowing that I would be a jazz musician in some sense. That was nurtured by the Community High School jazz program, which I was a part of, as well as Pioneer High School jazz program, which that was my main school, as well as taking frequent trips to Detroit to be a part of the DSO Young jazz ensembles. 

David Fair: I also heard there was a really cool jazz radio station in the area. 

Stratos: Yes, exactly. So there was a lot of opportunities for great music and a lot of mentors to learn from as well. 

David Fair: As Deb pointed out, you have chosen the artist name Stratos. Why did you choose that name? 

Stratos: Yes, I became a producer pretty much last year right as the pandemic started. I always had like some interest in audio production. With the pandemic, you know, I kind of just had time to work on stuff. And I had time to make an EP, and I kind of realized that all the stuff that I was doing, you know, saxophone, composition, production, film, photography, I kind of wanted to have a little bit more creative freedom. So, I decided to make music under a different name than Eddie Codrington, because I already kind of done some stuff, and I kind of wanted to start fresh. So, I just chose the name Stratos. I thought it sounded pretty, pretty cool. 

David Fair: It does indeed. But what about that name, in your mind, best captured who you are as a musician and producer and what you want to convey to your audience?

Stratos: Well, the name is a mononym. It's just one name. I thought it was a little bit mysterious. You know that name. I think it involves a little bit of imagery of outer space. You know, I'm interested in that. My record "Planets' is coming out in about a week or so. And I thought it was kind of like a good, good segue into that. 

David Fair: You are listening to creative:impact on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. And we are talking with Stratos. He is an Ann Arbor native jazz musician, composer, producer and three-time winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Reward. You have a new album coming out, as you just mentioned, in a few weeks. It's called "Planets." What can you tell us about that project? 

Stratos: Yeah. So, "Planets" is sort of the, like, amalgamation of the work that I've been doing for the past five or so years. It combines, you know, I have a lot of different musical influences and interests. I'm really into, you know, where I started with, you know, traditional, you know, jazz from the West Coast in the 60s. Really dynamic electronic music, classical music. And I've mixed a lot of these styles together to create something that I think is uniquely me. And I've been doing that for about five or so years. And so "Planets" is the presentation of that war. 

Deb Polich: Stratos, the recording business used to be dominated by record labels and their system. Not so much anymore. You've already mentioned that you were a producer. You've turned into a producer. Help our listeners know exactly what that job is. What does a producer do? 

Stratos: Producers: the title is kind of wide. You know, sometimes I think, you know, back in the day, a producer would organize a session, would call the musicians, basically be able to do pretty much anything that needs to be done. And kind of what I do is more of like audio production. So, I have a little bit of audio engineering experience, a little bit of, like, experience with sound design, you know, and, obviously, that comes into play with, you know, the saxophone. I can record, I mix all my own music. It comes together as well as kind of like a one man band, but... 

David Fair: Kind of in the vein of a Quincy Jones or a Questlove, right? 

Stratos: Yeah. Yeah, they are definitely like, you know, some of like the great record producers like Quincy Jones or Questlove might, you know, be able to call upon someone like, "Hey, yeah. Like I think these people would sound good on a record.: Whereas with me it's more of like... 

David Fair: I'm going to make myself sound good. 

Stratos: Exactly. Or at least try. 

David Fair: creative:impact once again continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. Deb Polich and I are talking with jazz musician, composer, and producer Stratos. He's from Ann Arbor, and we're looking forward to hearing his new album, Planets. 

Deb Polich: Yeah. So I'm intrigued by your album release strategy, Stratos. You know, I noticed on the website as I was looking around that you're releasing that on vinyl, and you're also offering a limited hand-numbered edition of 100, just like visual artists do with lithographs or prints. Where did some clever idea come from? 

Stratos: Yeah, the company that I decided to have my vinyl press with, they have this really awesome option to have your vinyl be, like, a mystery color. Basically, what they do is they take all the recycled vinyl from whatever day in the plant, and they just use that to make a record. So, at this point, like, I haven't received my vinyl yet, so I have no idea what color it's going to be. It's not going to be black. So I thought, "Oh, that's cool." You know, maybe I'll do that first as sort of like a limited edition thing, and then maybe later I'll do a run of regular black vinyl. 

Deb Polich: That's interesting. I remember my parents having 78's that were colored like red and green and blue. That's so fun. 

David Fair: And with the reemergence of vinyl, that is all coming back into play again. You know, Stratos, so when I used to manage bands back in the 80s and 90s, we were constantly trying to set up showcase performances and get that ever-elusive record deal. In talking with my musician friends now, that is typically not the priority. That money can really only be made through live performance and partnerships with promoters. What is your strategy for being able to make a living in music? 

Deb Polich: Yeah, it's tricky, especially since I started my career right as the pandemic started, and I graduated with my masters in jazz from Western. Yeah. Literally April of 2020. So, I've been asking myself that same question. You know, how do I make a living? And I realized that learning the skills to be able to record and mix were very, very handy, because now I'm able to, you know, sort of make my own record. And, you know, things are starting to open up a little bit in terms of live shows like, for example, the Planets album release shows happening at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City October 20th. You know, things started happening opening up right as I was able to release some more records. I think it's been helping. 

David Fair: So, you're just getting started. And, at the same time, it's been a long journey to this point. What is your best advice to kids interested in a music career and advice you might offer their parents as well? 

Deb Polich: You know, stay curious about everything. I think there's a lot to be said about using your own unique interest to make something different. You know, I'm super into, you know, jazz music. That's where it started. But I'm also interested in, you know, anime and also film photography and these things sort of come together as one. So, I'd say, you know, stay curious, keep your mind open, and try to learn as much as you possibly can. 

Deb Polich: So, Stratos, it sounds like it's clear that your star is on the trajectory to the planets. Congratulations on your three-peat is a Herb Alpert Award winner and the release of the album. And thanks so much for joining us on creative:impact. 

Deb Polich: Oh, thank you. It's such a pleasure. I appreciate it. 

David Fair: That is Stratos. He is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and producer, and, as Deb mentioned, three -ime winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award. You can learn more about Stratos and his Planets album by going to our website at WEMU dot org. Deb Polich is president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and my creative:impact co-host. I'm looking forward to doing it all again next Monday. 

Deb Polich: Yes, absolutely. Next Tuesday, we'll have another creative Washtenaw guest. 

David Fair: Jeez, I can't even keep the days of the week straight. I will look forward to it on Tuesday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station. Eighty-Nine one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu