From pots and pans to smooth jazz
WATERBURY — He may have just released his debut CD, but Vincent Ingala’s musical genesis was decidedly more humble than his current success might suggest.
“My parents bought me a little baby [drum] kit when I was 3 or 4 years old, and I broke it ‘cause I played it so much,” Ingala said last week. “My mother really got tired of me banging on pots and pans.”
Before long, he was exploring the guitar frets, tickling the ivories and plucking the electric bass, but he settled on a primary instrument when it came time to choose for his elementary school’s concert band.
“The sax to me is like the closest to the human voice,” Ingala said, “and you can get really expressive on it, and a lot of people say they like the sax.”
Ingala’s parents spun funk, soul, disco and R&B records on the platter; throughout his childhood, Ingala absorbed each genre as he eventually cultivated a distinct taste for smooth jazz, a form that combines aspects of many genres.
A long way, indeed, he came—from rhythmic exploration with kitchen utensils to the velvety saxophone of smooth jazz.
Ingala, now 17, funneled all his experience, influences and natural talent into a recording effort that spanned the last 18 months, and will celebrate his labors Tuesday evening during a release party at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury.
“North End Soul,” Ingala’s first solo effort, clocks in at just less than 40 minutes, and is almost entirely self-produced—he sent the final mix to California for mastering and had the discs printed in New Jersey. Six of the nine tracks are original compositions, but Ingala said he never technically “wrote” them—rather, he mostly pieced them together on the fly, without the help of traditional compositional aids such as pencils and manuscript paper.
“I never really sat down and wrote. [The songs] just happened by accident,” he said. “I would start creating the tracks and say ‘Boy, this hook sounds like it would be good to go here.’ I kind of built up the tracks as I went along.”
Ingala worked on the CD in a neatly minimalist, digital home studio in the bottom floor of his parents’ Prospect home, where his music came to him in fits and starts.
“[The tracks] sound good, but getting a good sound out of the sax was hard,” he said. “And as far as the notes go, one of the songs I think 30 different nights I spent—I would finish the song one night and say ‘No, again.’ I became obsessed with it. … I am a perfectionist.”
On the other hand, he said one of the songs took him only one afternoon to work through—“I came home after mass on Palm Sunday, I did like 80 percent of the thing,” he said. “Sax parts, tracks, done.”
Ingala programmed much of the background music electronically, using specialized computer software and a compatible keyboard, before he recorded vocals or saxophone parts live.
He said his one-man production technique left his record lacking the nuance of a live ensemble, but that the crisp precision of digital instruments—not to mention the convenience of his method—left little to be desired.
“I’ve learned to trust my own ears,” he said. “It’s been proven, from listening to records over the years, I just kind of know what works and what’s going to sound good. When we go out and play the gigs, we meet a lot of people, a lot of other musicians, and I jam with a lot of people. … I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything.”
Plus, Vincent’s mother Dawn Ingala said, those musicians he met at gigs helped him hone his skills over the years.
“There’ve been a few musicians over time who’ve been very, very helpful with him,” she said, “and have given him the opportunity to play in their bands. Even when he was 14 years old, he kind of got out and played and, you know, one night he played the sax, and the piano and the drums. So there’ve been a few people who’ve been very helpful to him in helping jumpstart him.”
And jumpstarted, he may have been. Ingala has for some time gigged at restaurants and private parties, but now, with the release of “North End Soul,” two media outlets—Blue Plate Radio in New Haven and the online radio station smoothjazz.com—have expressed their intent to enter Ingala’s recordings into their rotations.
Positive indications, all, for a young man whose avowed goal is “to make it in the smooth jazz world. I want to tour and be an artist,” he said. “[The CD] is the first step.”
And the next step? Ingala hopes to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston after wrapping up his senior year at Holy Cross High School next year.
“We’re totally behind him 100 percent,” Dawn Ingala said. “We’ve supported him from day one, and we really believe in him. We think he’s really talented. It’s his passion, so it’s hard to not help someone follow their passion. It really is inside of him. … He wants to go for it. So I guess basically, we’ll start with an education in it, and if anything else along the way comes, we’ll support him in that, too.”
Vincent Ingala hopes the new album will open up doors for him, whether he winds up a solo artist, a go-to ensemble player or a combination of the two.
“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen,” he said. “For right now I just want to let the CD ride and get out there. In the meantime, I’ll just be back here working out stuff—I’m not going to try to write, it’ll just happen by accident like everything did—and playing gigs and pushing the CD. Whatever it brings, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”