By Phil Dailey
It's good that Chase Morrin likes to stay busy, because the upcoming month will be just that for this 16-year-old jazz phenom from Carmel Valley.
Starting with an April 3 concert at Pacific Beach's Tango Del Ray with his trio, there's a lot at going on in the month of April for Chase, who also carries a 4.6 GPA as a junior at Canyon Crest Academy.
It's only been eight years since Chase put his hands on his first electronic keyboard, but in that time, he's gone from "playing around, making up my own kinda things" to earning some of the most prestigious awards for a young, up-and-coming musician.
His latest effort, called "Angular Raga," which is influenced by Indian music, earned him the 2010 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Young Jazz Composer award — the second time he's won that honor.
That composition will be highlighted on April 23 at the Los Angeles Music Center's annual Spotlight Awards, where he is a grand-prize finalist.
And it doesn't stop there.
Between his advance placement classes at CCA and his music career, Chase seems to have boundless determination to take on as much as he can with music and school.
"Really, I'm open to anything," said Chase, whose smile never seems to fade when he's talking about music. "I have such a diverse background, I really want to open myself up."
Chase prides himself on learning all types of music. Whether it's folk styles from Finland or a mix of Turkish, Indonesian and Bulgarian styles, it's all fair game. Chase is also the leader of the five-member group Latin Connection, a sound he says was influenced by a course he took two summers ago while at California State Summer School for the Arts.
"I think it's all really cool, and I kinda incorporate what I do into what I'm playing and what I'm composing," Chase said.
Nothing seems to be off-limits for this pianist, whose on-stage style — complete with a trademark headpiece — is also a bit unique.
"There's no story behind it," Chase said of his black Jaxon derby hat. "I wore it one day and people liked it."
But if you ask his mother, Cindy, she said the look does in fact have a story, which started with a trio Chase played with back in eighth grade.
"My husband went and bought all these black hats and said, 'Here, guys.' And Chase happened to pick a derby (hat)," she said.
The hat may be his trademark (it's even incorporated nicely on his Web site), but hard work seems to be what's been paying off for Chase, who will also play with his trio on April 10 at the Next Generation Monterey Jazz Festival. They are one of six groups who are finalists in the Open Combo Division and the only group that is not made up of university students.
The other members of the Chase Morrin Group are Fernando Gomez and Tyler Eaton, and according to the front man, it is his main focus at the moment.
"It's kinda cool that we get to compete there," Chase said of going to Monterey.
The next month may seem a bit hectic to many, but for Chase, it's just the latest in a long line of busy months that have come before them. Up next is another trip to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he received a scholarship to attend this summer's jazz workshop.
And then there's the decision of where to go to college.
"I am actually interested in dual majoring in math or science and music," said Chase, whose choices include USC, UCLA, Harvard and Julliard, to name a few.
"It's hard to do all this music and then also do the school stuff," he said.
It seems another one of Chase's gifts may be that he makes it all seem so easy.