Jimmy Merchant: On Broadway and Beyond

By Victoria Ford | Nov 06, 2019
Courtesy of: Jimmy Merchant

Stafford Township — Jimmy Merchant of Tinton Falls, formerly of Mayetta, has made a name for himself in music through his various projects of the last several years. The 25-year-old saxophonist is perhaps best known locally for his work in The Quattro with Ty Mares and other local talents.

“My parents still live here, and I have a strong affinity and loyalty to this area,” he said. “It’s where I grew up – went to Stafford schools and graduated from Southern Regional High School.”

He started playing in the LBI area at age 16 and now finds himself performing on Broadway, subbing in the orchestra with “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.” He is also in the process of recording and releasing his own music, one song at a time.

Performing on Broadway has always been a dream of his. He described the experience as surreal, playing classic Motown, the music his parents raised him on.

“The musicians in this show don’t only play in the pit,” he explained. “We are onstage doing choreography as well. Looking out into the theater from that stage and seeing all those faces smiling and singing along and dancing is a super humbling experience.”

Subbing in a Tony Award-winning Broadway show is extremely demanding, he added. “You have to be on your A-game and ready to go any time, especially since you aren’t playing the book every night.”

The opportunity came to him in January while he was in Los Angeles at the National Association of Music Merchants show, networking and representing some of his endorsing companies. He’ll return in January to the NAMM show, which he described as “an event every musician/artist should try to attend.”

At the same time, he’s been working independently on his own music. The songwriting process has been “very exciting,” he said. “I’ve always worked as a sideman on other artists’ albums. To be able to get into the studio and track my own music is a thrill. You never know when an idea will hit you or when something will trigger an idea. I’ve enjoyed writing for years now; I just never took it past the paper.”

In lieu of a full album, Merchant has decided to release a new single each month for six months, across all streaming platforms. He released his first single in October, a cover of The Chainsmokers’ “Closer.” His second, an original called “Can You Feel It,” is due to release this Friday. Both were produced by Gary Haase, producer for Celine Dion, and one of his saxophone heroes, Grover Washington Jr. Vocalists on the tracks include Chrissie Limos (on “Can You Feel It”) and Keith Anthony Fluitt (on “Closer”).

He said he feels very fortunate as a freelance musician to collaborate with so many other artists. “The list is long, but throughout the years I’ve been lucky to record or perform with Jay and The Americans, The Chiffons, Dennis Tufano of The Buckinghams, Joey Dee, Bob Magnuson, The Rave-Ons (Buddy Holly tribute), Evangelia, Quincy Mumford, Eryn Shewell, Chrissie Limos and The Bryan Hansen Band.”

What Merchant loves most about playing music for a living, he said, is “the new people I get to meet and connect with every night. Music is a universal language. The reward of being able to connect with anybody and everybody is impossible to measure!”

Merchant teaches saxophone, piano, flute and clarinet. He also teaches master classes,  such as the one that had him in Toronto last week for Marca Reeds, one of his sponsors. He currently has 10 private students, ranging in age from 12 to 18, some of whom are Southern Regional students.

Catch him performing as a duo with Ted Hammock on Thursday, Nov. 14, at The Mainland in Manahawkin.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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