Seattle native Robert Damper is on his fifth passport. The other four are filled with the hundreds of stops he has made over the past thirty years as Kenny G’s trusted keyboard player, musical director and co-collaborator. He’s played music on all of the biggest stages in the world, the most prestigious jazz festivals and the biggest television shows. Damper’s performed with some of the most important artists in the world, from R&B legends, Stevie Wonder & Patti LaBelle, to jazz greats, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette and Branford Marsalis.
Traveling the world non-stop for close to three decades has made it hard to find the time to focus on releasing his own CD, a dream he’s had for over 20 years. The good news is that during those two decades, whenever there was an opportunity to record music with musicians he loved, he took full advantage of it. During breaks from touring, he has recorded and produced music at his home studio in Seattle, and all over the world at studios in Fayetteville, NC, Baltimore, MD and even Zurich, Switzerland, where he had the chance to work with famed jazz producer/mixer Urs Weisendanger.
The beautiful result is D Tales Project. The first single from the CD, Feels So Good, was released Valentine’s Day 2015 and co-written with Skyler Jett powerhouse R&B vocalist, vocal arranger and producer www.skylerjett.com. Not surprisingly, Kenny G is a featured soloist on this romantic old-school R&B ballad. The full CD will follow this spring.
When asked why he decided to finally release his music now, Damper said, “The music is finally at a place that I feel it is done. It’s time to get it out. “ The collection is mostly Damper originals and co-writes, with a few special interpretations of some of his favorite Jazz, Pop and R&B covers from Antonio Carlos Jobim (Wave) Burt Bachrach (Say A Little Prayer) and Thom Bell ( Betcha by Golly).
D Tales Project is also a tribute to his dear friend and former Kenny G drummer, Bruce Carter, who passed away in 2006. “Bruce played such a vital role on so many of these tracks and he was an incredibly important influence on me and my music,“ Damper says, remembering his friend fondly.
Damper has been playing music since he was in first grade. “The piano was my first instrument, but I also fell in love with the trumpet and played that through high school, before returning full-time to the piano. “The first CD I ever bought was jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan’s, Candy. “I was in the third grade. I got hooked on jazz and began immersing myself in the work of other great jazz trumpeters like Clifford Brown, Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard as well as the inspiring music of the best of the jazz pianists, McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Barron, Chick Corea and Art Tatum”.
After high school, Damper attended the University of Washington and Seattle’s prestigious music school, The Cornish Institute of Allied Arts. During this time, he became an integral part of a legendary local funk/soul band, Cold, Bold & Together, which featured his high school friend, Kenny Gorelick, better known as Kenny G.
Damper moved to the East Coast to attend The New England Conservatory of Music, playing music as a member of the New York Jazz and R&B scene for a decade. An opportunity to move back to Seattle and become a student of Emmy Award winning composer Hummie Mann’s PNW Film Scoring Program and play in Kenny G’s “G-Force” band, turned out to be a smart move.
Being both an accomplished pianist and trumpet player has clearly helped him develop what he calls a “symbiotic groove” with Kenny G., one of the world’s great horn players and performers. “ I understand what it takes to be a good horn player and what it takes physically to make the notes, how space is created. Consequently, when I play piano, I have more of a tendency to think like I am breathing the note. It helps with phrasing and makes me a better piano player. “
‘I’ve been very lucky to have a career like this,’ he says with humility and an appreciation for successfully being able to live a life of music. Now with the release of D Tales Project, a busy global touring schedule and a desire to release more CDs and continue his study of film composing, Damper is focused and energized for whatever musical adventures the future holds.