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Dungeons & Dragons Jazz

Nate Kimball, ’07 BA Music, premieres his first album at The Smith Center on Nov. 1.

Arts & Culture  |  Oct 29, 2012  |  By Kate Stowell

I remember sitting in Nate Kimball's bedroom after classes at Las Vegas Academy, a magnet high school for the arts. There were a couple of us who would head there after our long days of high school. We'd each be doing something different -- working on homework, watching TV, napping. Nate, though, was always tucked away at his keyboard with his trombone within arm's distance, creating the soundtrack for a future video game or feature film. We all knew Nate had something more than talent. He had a drive that most high school kids just don't exhibit.

After high school, I didn't see Nate much. We both went to UNLV, but I followed my nonmusical interests. He went on to complete a dual bachelor's degree in jazz trombone performance and jazz composition.

Then, after nearly a decade, I saw his name on an upcoming Cabaret Jazz event at The Smith Center. He is premiering his first album, Warrior's Journey, with quintet and jazz orchestra on Nov. 1.

That drive is apparently still strong in my high-school friend. He's working on his master's degree in jazz composition at UNLV, paying the bills as a realtor during the day, spending nights as a trombonist in the Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity at the MGM Grand, and squeezing in rehearsals for his premiere. We caught up between the sound check and the first Zumanity performance of the night.

What is Warrior's Journey?

As far as the title's concerned, it's kind of a hodgepodge of different things. It's kind of my great odyssey through life -- the personal and mental and emotional things that I've been through to this point. This is kind of like a journey into the great unknown for me because I'm trying to do something that I really don't know how it will all wind up.

What's the music like on Warrior's Journey? Is there a specific genre or theme?

Musically, I really like to take my audience to a different place. I've always been a big fan of Anime, video games, and fantasy and Sci-Fi books. My genre, I guess you could call it, is modern jazz or modern-creative-fantasy-dungeons-and-dragons jazz.

My whole philosophy is to create music that's aesthetic, that anyone can listen to and say, "Wow, this is really cool," not just jazz aficionados. It's not just going to be a mental puzzle, as jazz tends to be. I want it to be more accessible. I'm trying to find that line where anyone can listen but musicians will also say, "OK wow! He really knows what he's doing."

Will you perform the entire album during the concert?

The concert is premiering the album, but it's broken into two parts. The first half is my small group - The Nate Kimball Quintet - and we're going to be playing a couple selections from the album "Warrior's Journey." The second half is my 19-piece jazz orchestra, The Nate Kimball Orchestra, and that's going to be my more composed pieces and selections that I've written for an ensemble.

How did your show at The Smith Center come about?

I saw an opportunity with this situation to be one of the first people in town, hopefully, to take advantage of the facility, and perhaps, down the road become a mainstay. So I called The Smith Center, and I told them I'd like to do a concert there. This is like a private party. I'm expecting this first concert to be a financial loss, but the way I look at it is if I give everything I have and I'm constantly keeping my eye on the next goal and the next goal and the next goal then, you know, good things will happen. I have to believe that.

So what is the next goal?

The next goal is a biggie. I actually have a Kickstarter campaign to help with this goal, which is to release an album of original music exclusively for The Nate Kimball Orchestra. This concert is partially a preview of that. My goal is to spend the next 8-12 months writing the remaining material for this next album for the orchestra, and by the fall of 2013, I hope to take my orchestra into the studio and record this album piece by piece.

Learn more about Nate Kimball's career and first album on his website.