Interview: Brandon Wright by WBGO volunteer Cindy Ronson
July 8, 2009. Posted by Simon Rentner.
Jazz 88 Volunteers! We want you to contribute to our WBGO Blog: Jazz and Beyond. Below is our first entry by Cindy Ronson, whose nephew, Brandon Wright, performs tomorrow night at the Kitano Hotel. Ronson interviews Wright about his gig featuring drummer Matt Wilson.
Cindy: Given the economy, it's amazing how much work you have as a young jazz musician. What’s been working for you?
Brandon: Diversification is the key factor to my survival. When I moved to New York, I made sure to stay open-minded to all kinds of music, including learning how to play in Broadway shows and weddings. I took every gig that came my way and my network expanded rapidly. By not staying in just one scene ,work opportunities became more frequent and new doors opened. Now I could play for Chuck Mangione, the Mingus Big Band, a swing dance event, and a wedding all in the same week. Each gig requires different skills, but mixing things up keeps the music fresh and myself employed!
Cindy: Now that you’ve been apart of the NY jazz scene for a few years, do you think your career would have accelerated faster if you attended a school near Manhattan, say for instance, William Paterson or the Manhattan School of Music?
Brandon: I feel that going to the University of Miami was one of the best career decisions I ever made. It gave me the chance to work on my craft and be ready for the challenges of New York later on. Once you’ve made an impression it’s difficult to change someone’s opinion of you. Miami gave me all the tools I needed to come to NYC ready to work I’m very happy with how things have turned out so far.
Cindy: Has playing with Chuck Mangione influenced your own music?
Brandon: Playing with Chuck Mangione has made me realize the importance of melody! For years, I’ve been working on my technique and advanced theory but without a great melody in a song, the other stuff doesn’t matter. People come to hear Chuck Mangione because they want to hear “Feels So Good” and “Chase the Clouds Away” first. The lesson is to edit myself so I’m being as melodic as possible, especially in my solos.
Cindy: You have new musicians playing with you at the Kitano this week. Should we expect to hear a different sound from this band?
Brandon: My performance Thursday night should be consistent with all my shows as a leader. I am still working out the final set list, and I’ll be using the lessons I learned from Chuck to make a great presentation. The musicians playing with me are some of my favorite players in the city, which should make for a great night of musical storytelling.
Cindy: You’ve played a wide range of venues, from Smalls to Dizzy’s Club Coca–Cola to Carnegie Hall and the Apollo theatre? Does the venue affect the way you play?
Brandon: I try to give it my all every night no matter who I’m playing with. I’m not going to use the same musical vocabulary on a funk gig as I would on a jazz gig, but as long as I play with feeling and heart, I’m doing the best I can to serve the music.
Cindy: Sometimes I think WBGO is the only place that understands me. As a jazz musician, what role does that station have in your life?
Brandon: As a fan of jazz for the past 12 years, WBGO has kept me aware of the past and present styles of the music as well as keep me informed of who is performing live in NYC. It’s always the first station I turn to whenever I put on the radio!
Cindy: This was fun. I am looking forward to Thursday night's gig at The Kitano.
Brandon: Thanks for the great interview! Now its time to get ready for Thursday night!
© 2009 WBGO
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