WESTPORT — One of Taylor Haskins’s favorite Westport perks is a hike up Coon Mountain with his 2-year-old son, Felix.
“We love Coon Mountain,” said Haskins, a New Hampshire native and Grammy Award-winning trumpeter who makes his home in Westport.
“We can see our house from up there. My son is getting old enough to climb. He’s doing everything.”
It took a while for Haskins himself to realize he could do everything — tour, sideman, compose music for theater, commercials and films — from anywhere.
His ah-ha moment surfaced during a three-year tour with Richard Bona, a jazz bassist and vocalist from Cameroon.
“We went to Siberia, an island off the coast of Madagascar, everywhere there are Bona fans,” Haskins said. “On the tour in Tunisia, I somehow never imagined I could be on a laptop writing music for a commercial some place in the States. It kind of blew me away. I had a guitar player come in my room and play. It felt really high tech.”
From that experience in North Africa, Haskins was able to creatively make the leap to the Adirondacks and relocate in November 2010.
DRAWN TO WHITEFACE
As a skier, Whiteface first drew him here where he made friends. For now, Westport works for himself and his family. There are not too many differences between the “Live Free or Die” and “Excelsior” states.
“I find there are a lot of similarities. The climate is the same. Eco-systems are the same. Seasonal changes are the same. Recreation activities are similar. It’s a lot like where I come from. Also, the people are really friendly.”
The past two decades, Haskins was based in New York City.
His music saga began in his native New Hampshire, where he began formal piano lessons at age 5. Five years later, he picked up the trumpet for school band and has never put it down.
At the University of New Hampshire, he studied classical trumpet with Dr. Robert Stibler. Haskins was mentored by the great Clark Terry, a frequent visitor to the college. He relocated to New York City for master studies with Lew Soloff, a trumpet legend, at the Manhattan School of Music.
Attending school in NYC was a good introduction to the city that never sleeps.
“Being a country boy, it was a slow immersion in the city, like stepping into the shallow end of a pool. Outside of that, I had no awareness of what was going on in the music scene for a few years until I got out of school and started playing around.”
In the late 1990s, there were a lot of clubs, more exclusive clubs.
“It was harder to get a gig, but there were more of them. Now, it’s more of a do-it-yourself kind of venue. It’s kind of a glorified-rehearsal space. A lot of that is going on like the old loft scene in the ‘70s.”
WORKED WITH GREATS
Haskins arrived on the scene just in time to meet, work with and get mentored by some of his heroes, such as Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie and Terry.
“I feel like I was lucky enough to be on the cusp of the real jazz greats being alive. It was a golden time.
“I wish I could have heard people like Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, people like that who would still be alive today. Their lives were cut too short. Booker Little was another one. I would really love to hear what he would sound like today.
“I got to see Miles once. I would have loved to see more of him and Freddie Hubbard. A lot of The greats are passing. There are a lot of people I would like to bring back.”
Dave Holland has had the most profound impact on him. It was as part of Holland’s Big Band that Haskins received his 2005 Grammy Award on the album “Overtime.”
During the award ceremony, he was at home in NYC.
“The Jazz Grammys are very unceremonious,” Haskins said. “They do it in a tiny ceremony in a tiny hotel suite.”
Winning the award was a little surreal.
“It’s a big band. A lot of people contribute to the music. You’re a cog in the wheel of something that happened to be really good.”
His life was not altered by the award.
“On Beyonce’s level, it works to your advantage. It’s more a prestigious thing, just an honor.”
Of late, he’s close to home with recent gigs at with his quartet — Ben Street (bass), Ben Monder (guitar) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums) —at the Ballard Park Concert Series in Westport, FlynnSpace in Burlington, Vt., and a benefit for Lakeside School (Felix’s Essex school) at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
“I’m currently working on a new recording for my quartet and a new recording for my group, Recombination, that comes out the end of next year,” Haskins said.
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