Monday, January 5, 2009

feature and photos: Horizontally Integrated

UW senior unites one person at a time
Veiw a slideshow of the studio session with Jack Newman and Andrew Vait.

From the sidewalk, this particular Brooklyn Avenue two-story doesn't look particularly special. It's indistinguishable in most ways from the houses to its right and left, just another University District home in a youth inhabited area.

But the treasures concealed in its basement set this particular home apart from its neighbors: a collection of turntables, mixing boards and musical instruments lie on tables in the studio of Jack Newman and home of his Unite-One Productions.

Newman spent his early teen years spitting rhymes and sitting in on hip-hop recording sessions with the likes of Hieroglyphics and Living Legends. From those sessions, he took away an important lesson: It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or what type of music you make, as long as your skills are sharp and your movement’s fresh. The young white boy with an interest in hip-hop and a background in jazz would eventually morph his interests into a love affair with reggae. The potential was endless.

Now, Newman plays guitar and trumpet, sings and produces across multiple genres. Last year, he released the Evergreen Organics LP, a first attempt to “test the waters” and learn exactly what it takes to put out an album. And everything on the album carries the message: Unite one.

“This production, in the name itself, embodies a theme of horizontal integration where the next person counts as much as the entire world,” he said. “I’m just uniting one person at a time, pairing conscious thought with method. I want people to feel the opposite of apathy.”

In reality, it’s all a big project in fusion: the blend of his Bay Area upbringing and college experience in Seattle, the meshing of multicultural genres, and the progression of socially relevant ideas across boundaries of race, income and education.

“Music is a great outlet,” Newman said. “It breaks down barriers. Through music you can love me, and yourself, and everything in your life. This is just my attempt to bridge society’s gaps through music.”

The influence of Seattle and a university community played heavily into Newman’s creations; in fact, he credits UW Professor Joel Migdal with inspiring his consciousness. While in Migdal’s International Studies 201 course titled “The Making of the 21st Century” about the shaping of our interdependent, fragmented, and fractious world. The class instigated an awakening within Newman that led to the song “INT. Related” and went on to shape the development of Unite-One.

“I felt the love from this university environment, this instantaneous love,” he said. “That lives on in eternity. We have so many resources — how could you not do anything and everything you could ever want to?” Newman said. “There’s nothing holding you back. There’s just no stopping.”

Newman is all about collaboration and innovation, and in keeping with his mission almost all of his connections come from within the university community. Those connections are widespread and exciting for both Newman and Unite-One, combining to create a diverse portfolio of work. He's teamed up for projects with cinematographer Harrison Shoff, graphic designer Jeremy Juel, vocalist Maddy Shaw, DJ Aerel Rankin and skateboarder Jordan Roper.

One of his most exciting collaborations has come while producing multi-instrumentalist Andrew Vait. Currently, Vait is working on an EP to be touted to successful Northwest record labels like Barsuk and Sub Pop.

Most recently, Newman has continued to experiment, “taking the best part of every sound,” including a stint as lead trumpet and backup vocalist with free-flowing funk outfit Pink Carpet and collaboration with hip-hop artist and poet Jeffon aka The Essence.

Newman’s social consciousness has even expanded outside of music and artistic production. In 2008, he formed the group “Students for Green Development and Sustainable Practices,” combining his awareness with his Construction Management studies to create a forum for UW students who want to be successful in their focus on environmentally friendly development.

Though there’s a lot on his plate, Newman recognizes that he has to achieve his goals as a student first. He might take a break after he graduates to travel — his eyes are set on Norway, Portugal, Brazil and Thailand — but in the artist’s own words, “you can’t just end the music.”