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Edgar Pagán

A Candid Chat with One of Syracuse’s Iconic, Hardest-Working Musicians.

 sos-EdgarBlack   Didja ever see “Spinal Tap?” How it spoofs rockstars, sterotypically, as goofy-dolts in audacious garb. Well… think the exact opposite when you think of Edgar Pagán.

I actually just met him this past Wednesday, by chance, while visiting Rebel Dave Frisina at the station (on some biz). Dave, Todd Hobin, Letizia, Rhys Brigida, Paul Davie, myself….. and Edgar, chilling in the lobby. Everyone’s chatting, catching up. Its times like these when busy musicians get to catch up with one another. Being kind of the new guy, I just kept quiet and let old pals catch up…. something I understand, very well. Anyway, after a bit, Edgar introduced himself. In about 5 minutes of listening to these people chat—especially Edgar, who was generous about his thoughts on the various topics that came up, including music—I came to surmise that Mr. Pagán is quite the astute individual and impressively so. While at the same time remaining humble… again while offering his outwardly positive and generous-of-spirit kind of energy. Its no wonder his “thing” is working.

So asked him right on the spot. Told him, really…” Dude, you’re my next article.” I’m late turning it in and Jess the designer is gonna kill me.

We all he laughed and said, “okay.”

Good. This is the kind of story I want, and—with apologies to Jess—what I hold out for. As many of you know, Edgar plays in a lot of groups around here, but, you all know about that.

So, let’s get to it and meet the man.

CS: Hello Edgar. Thanks for doing the interview.

EP: Hi Chuck. Thank you.

CS: You have quite a musical history here. It seems like you have a gig every twenty minutes – and things are going well for you. How long have you been playing? How’d you get started?

EP: I’ve been out performing for over 30 years. I started like many musicians jamming with buddies in the basement and garages. I’m mostly self-taught. We were all being influenced and inspired by groups and artists of the times. Santana, Elvis, and The Beatles were big ones for me. Also, I recall my mom singing Latin tunes and showing me Latin rhythms on the table with spoons and forks. I remember my early band mates lying about my age and making me wear glasses and more ‘mature’ clothing to satisfy the club owners.

CS: You have a number of projects going. Tell us about them.sos-grupo-pagan

EP: Now that music is more of a career for me I’ve branched out a little and feel blessed to have connected with some talented and serious artists. Along with the full band version of Grupo Pagán I’ve been out performing with what I call Grupo “Lite” that varies in size depending on the venue and pay (smile). It’s a little more Latin Jazz influenced and provides a platform for it’s members to stretch out musically. Much of it is improvised. I’ve also been playing bass for vocalist/songwriter Mary Fahl (former Lead Singer for October Project). Last year we recorded a PBS special that’s been airing Nationally and a LIVE CD that just won Indie Award for Best Album 2014. CNY guitarist extraordinaire Mark Doyle is her Music Director. I’ve had the honor of playing bass for Mark’s Guitar Noir project that performed on  last year’s M&T Jazz Fest Main Stage to a very responsive crowd. Mark just released a LIVE CD of our OCC Jazz Legends Series Concert. In addition I periodically travel to perform with world renowned percussionist Emedin Rivera and his Tropical Turbulence project. Emedin has worked with Sting, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, and Paquito d’rivera to name a few. It’s exciting and intimidating as I never know who may show up as part of his ensemble. It’s provided me the opportunity to connect with some very talented and inspiring artists. All of this has. They inspire not only as musician’s but also as people. Humble, caring, and giving.

sos-EdgarBassCS: Tell us about what influences you as a musician.

EP: Musically I’ve always been drawn to the Latin and World Beat influenced music. Probably due to my culture and up bringing. As a bassist I was influenced early on by some of the funkier players such as Larry Graham and Louis Johnson. Later on I started listening to more Jazz influenced players like Jaco Pastorious, Victor Wooten, and Marcus Miller. Jimmy Haslip of The YellowJackets was a huge influence and continues to be. I am really touched by his musical phrasing and rhythmic grooves. But, I’m always listening and learn something from all musicians. I’m self taught. It helps me to always be open, listening and watching. It’s a life long work in progress. I’ll be out hearing a local or national artist and think okay that was cool, love what they just did. We all have our voice that makes us unique and special.

CS: Tell us about your thoughts on the CNY music scene.

EP: I can’t complain. The scene here has been very good to me and continues to keep me busy and connecting with new people and opportunities. Like any profession there can be drama and frustration. But, it’s up to you as to whether you want to get caught up in it. I believe you need to treat people the way you would like to be treated. Even during difficult times. I appreciate the support and opportunities to do something I love and to meet and work with some caring, humble, appreciative people that are willing to work hard to deliver some good music and vibe to music lovers. The listeners and fans are the focus. Without them music can be lonely. I believe music is a gift that needs to be shared. Sometimes artists can loose sight of that.

CS: Wow. That’s probably the response I’ve ever heard to that question. If you’re a musician reading this, go back and read what Edgar said, again. Edgar I just met you, but hope I can jam withya sometime. Anyway, back to the business at hand: How do you characterize your music?

EP: It’s a melting pot of influences. I love cross-over music. Artists like Sting, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Santana, and many more have incorporated world rhythms into their music. This can bring people and cultures together. A powerful force and voice. Our music is definitely world influenced, focused on a positive message.

CS: You’ve played a lot of shows…please share a few highlights of your music career?

EP: Working with legendary producer and bassist Jimmy Haslip. He produced our CD ‘Save The World’ and has contributed to our new CD that is currently in the works. He has been a very inspiring and encouraging force. Also, sharing the stage with artists like Spyro Gyra, Xtreme, Ismael Miranda, Andy Montanez, Lou Gramm, B.B. King, Dave Valentin, Bernie Williams,… A common thing I noticed is that they all work very hard at their craft and are very humble and approachable. The last few years we had the opportunity to travel and perform in Brazil and Japan. An experience I will never forget. I was so touched by the people. They are just like us trying to make things good for themselves, their families, and communities.sos-Edgar_armsup

CS: Sounds impressively fun. Thats the good stuff, right there. Now for the juicy stuff. My favorite question: Funny war story, please?

EP: There are a  few. I’ll mention two to save time and space. When I was doing a show last May with Bernie Williams; I  had just finished rehearsing some tunes  and was practicing my bass when I hear this really great percussion groove going on in the background. I turn around to look – It WAS Bernie, with a big smile on his face, the legendary Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams. He says  “Yeah man, digging it, let’s do this”. I knew he was a world class guitarist but man he can also hang on percussion.

We were in studio shooting the breeze with legendary producer Jimmy Haslip talking bass when I mentioned that Prince is quite the bass player and asked if he’d ever worked with him. He said no but that he had bowled with him! He proceeded to paint quite a picture of Prince’s entourage and the evening. So cool! It inspired a track on our CD called ‘Bowling with Prince’.

CS: What advice would you have for new musicians?

EP: Hard work pays off. If you are serious about it then you need to do the work. Practice, Practice, Practice. Learn all you can about music. It’s one thing to be ready and not get a call but worse to get the call and not be ready. Stay humble and get along with people. Appreciate them. Networking is a very important part of this profession. Take the good with the bad. They’ll be the great gigs but also appreciate the not so great gigs. They all help make us. Always be professional. You never know who’s watching. I can’t tell you how many times I been approached about an opportunity by someone that had seen the band out. I also hear stories of bands or artists not being hired because of something someone saw. People also listen with their eyes if you know what I mean.

CS: Yeah… what people see… this is why I never sing with shorts on.

What’s in stosos-aedgar-2008re for Edgar’s musical summer?

EP: We have in the books some nice festivals and outdoor performances. Always fun in the summer. I’m focusing on completing CD’s for both Grupo Pagán and Grupo Pagán “Lite” (GPL). The music has been recorded and we are in the process of the final phases. There is a good possibility of some international performances. Exciting that it’s in the works along with enjoying the CNY music opportunities this summer.

CS: Where do we find out more about you and your groups?

EP: Our website is www.grupoPagán.com and Facebook ID is ‘Grupo Pagán’. Thanks so much brother for this opportunity! Looking forward to catching folks out at the shows.

CS: Alright man. That about does it. Thanks for doing this interview.

EP: Thank you, Chuck. Peace.

Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, record producer, editorialist, activist and plays in the SaltCityChill.com. To be considered for this article please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.