Luckily for us, the NYC trumpeter-singer Bria Skonberg is back, leading a quartet. Bria is hard to beat for a warm, lively jazz song & music show. While a young musician, Bria has so many awards you’d need a Google search to cover them all. See our other posts I’m Talkin’ Jazz, Interview @ Summer Fest, Preview of Winter Fest and Cafe Stritch Review for more information on this performer. Friday night’s show was just as great.
Bria played as a return guest at one of the evening shows at Oakland’s Piedmont Piano Co. The forum is a must-see for Bay Area jazz fans. The shows are hosted by the friendly, easy-going Jim Callahan, president of the Piedmont. The performance area they set is small, under 100 seats, and has a straight-ahead view to the intimate stage set at the rear wall of their main show room.
You are surrounded on either side by the fields of grand piano displays. The arrangement is compact enough that little amplification is needed, so you don’t end up being “run over” by speaker banks. In this setting the background noise is almost non-existent and you “get to hear it all” from the stage. Piedmont routinely puts on very select performers.
For the Bay Area part of this tour, Bria put together a local (California) quartet, with Beth Goodfellow of LA on drums, Bay Area performers Ken Cook on piano, and Joe Kyle Jr. on bass. Bria was joined on the stage for one number by old friend and guest trumpeter Andrew Stevens.
In contrast to Bria’s recent CD’s which are all self-composed material, the night’s show included a lot of the American Jazz songbook. For instance, she mixed in the classics Undecided and Sweet Georgia Brown with her Let’s Go All In and Hip Check. See the bottom of this article for the set list.
Bria kindly took time to talk to KCSM earlier in the day of the show. (The interview has been edited for brevity.)
KCSM: Thank you for talking with KCSM. What’s new, and was your trip OK ?
Bria: The trip was fine. Just visited this morning with Alisa Clancy of KCSM on her Desert Island Jazz program. I knew Alisa from a station interview a couple of years ago.
KCSM: You have pointed to Louis Armstrong as a central part of your musical foundation, yet you have composed all or most of the songs on your 2 recent releases. What’s your view of performing your work versus others’ ?
Bria: This has been two different periods in my work. When I performed in Canada, especially starting in 2004 I was assembling my playing in the lines of a selected style. After I went to New York in 2010 I started composing my own work, sometimes simplifying, and taking out complications. I looked inside myself, which gave me material I could feel when I performed for the audience. An example is “So is The Day,” that I play regularly.
KCSM: Do you have any messages on this to your students, say in your workshops or clinics ?
Bria: I tell the students that it’s important to start with some basis, like Blues America, or New Orleans, or soul history.
KCSM: Thank you. How’s the next release going ?
Bria: The next release if going really well. It’s recorded. We’re working with a label on a release agreement. The calendar and agreement aren’t done yet, but I would expect it going out within 6 months at most.
KCSM: You do a lot of things: playing, teaching, recording. How is your time split among these three ?
Bria: Playing gets the most time, and can be twice a week. Teaching can be close behind and can be every week. Regularly on a trip we’ll arrange a class at the same stop as the performance.
The teaching is always interesting. I never know what will happen. We’ll get a group and start a conversation. New things start to come out, and I will realize, “Oh, I could do this…”
Recording seems to be the least. It seemed that with 2 months we had the recording done.
KCSM: What’s been your most interesting musical experience since our last talk in August ’15 ?
Bria: The most interesting has been the recording project. We’re working with a new producer and this is always an occasion of developing trust, as well as bringing you to focus on the album.
KCSM: Any messages you have for the audiences; special events coming up ?
Bria: I’m looking forward to the Jazz Camp we’ll hold in New York the week of May 17 – 22. Molly Ryan and I are expecting 50 people. At the end of the week the campers will play at the Iridium, and we faculty will play at Birdland. One other show that promises to be great will be the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, starting late April.
KCSM: What can you tell us about coming Bay Area and California shows ?
Bria: Some Bay Area shows will be June 14 at the SF Summer Festival and I’m expecting, at a summertime date to be announced, at a Los Gatos Wednesday night Jazz On The Plaza event.
KCSM: Thanks for the news and for taking the time Bria, and have a safe trip.
The set list for the Piedmont show was:
trumpeter Charlie Shavers’ “Undecided”,
“Down In The Deep” (Bria ?),
Hoagy Carmichael’s “Barnyard Shuffle” (aka Stardust),
Don’t Be That Way
Bria’s “Hip Check” and “Let’s Go All In”,
Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On”,
Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” (sung in French by Bria !),
Wever, Ager, & Schwartz’ “Trust In Me”,
Bernie, Pinkard, & Casey’s “Sweet Georgia Brown”,
“St. Louis Blues”