CM – Brian I’ve been a fan of yours since about 1995 and a HUGE fan
since I was lucky enough to catch you at the Capital Jazz Fest in 1999.
BC – Oh nice!
CM – I remember it was a great show. I think you played on the
Sunday – maybe even the first set – and everybody was revved up and raring
to go while you guys were doing the sound check, so we could see how it
was going to go.
BC – All right!
CM – I caught you on Twitter this morning and I’ve noticed while
I’ve been researching that you have a very strong web presence, Brian.
BC – Well I’ve tried to be on there as much as I can. Really we have these
tools now as artists to be able to connect directly with the fans and
we’ve never really had that before so there’s a whole new way of being
connected and self marketing I guess. I love it because you don’t have to
wait on the big record company machine to spin their big wheel and take a
month to do anything.
This way I get to go direct – it’s instant! It’s a lot of instant feedback
which I actually love.
CM – Now, this feedback, am I right in saying that it’s one of the things
that led you to title your upcoming album ‘XII’?
BC – Yes. It’s amazing isn’t it??
CM – It is and it kills me a little bit – your birthday’s January
12th. I can relate to that because so is mine. I understand how these key
dates work and I even asked for this interview on July 12th because it
seemed to fit really nicely
BC – Ah, yes it does.
CM – I won’t talk about the other 12’s Brian, because anyone who
reads the transcript of this interview will undoubtedly have spent some
time on your website so they’ll know a lot about it. So what I hoped I
could get to was to talk about the CD itself, which I think comes out on
GRP Records on July 20th.
BC – Yes. I’m not sure if it’s going to be under GRP or Verve Music
Group. We released a single on iTunes and that said Verve Music Group.
CM – I was going to come to the single some point later on – there
was something very specific I wanted to ask you about that.
BC – OK.
CM –I know you really made a statement two albums ago with
‘Bringing Back the Funk’. I’ve been listening to contemporary jazz, or
smooth jazz or whatever the label is this year, for over 15 years. One of
the things that I’ve always enjoyed about your music is the groove that
BC – Oh sure.
CM – And on the first track of the new CD ‘XII’, the funk just hit
me right between the eyes!
BC – (laughs)
CM – I absolutely love the way this album kicks off.
BC – Oh thanks. We didn’t hold back on that one (laughs).
CM – No, it made me smile a lot to see that you’d teamed up with
BC – Yeah, I mean that’s going back right there isn’t it?
CM - Well it is you know. I looked at the credits and I thought
‘Chuck Brown – Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers – it’s got to be the
BC – Oh yeah.
CM – And the groove is recognisable as much for his style as it is
for yours I guess.
BC – Well that’s why it was a good fit I thought. I got into the
funk thing 2-3 years ago, well I’d been into it forever, but in terms of
CM – Exactly.
BC – The, this last fall, almost a year ago I did the Capital Jazz
Supercruise and Chuck Brown was on the cruise. And me not being from the
D.C. area, I really wasn’t that familiar. He’s like a superstar there.
CM – In the go-go thing yeah.
BC – Yeah. It’s strange because go-go and Chuck is only really
popular in the D.C. area. When you go outside of D.C., it’s not that well
known for whatever reason. So I wasn’t terribly familiar and I got a major
education on the boat when he went on stage. I was just blown away you
know – he did a 2-hour show and I thought ‘oh my God, this is amazing –
I’ve got to do something like this!’
So when I started my record his name was at the top of the list. We got in
touch with him and he was very, very into it and gracious and such a
wonderful person. It was great to meet him and work with him so it was
definitely a huge pleasure.
CM – I’m going to be slightly self-indulgent Brian, and I’d like to
talk a little more about the other songs on the album which I really,
really loved from the first hearing. The second one was ‘Another Love’
which features Kenny Latimore on vocals.
BC – Yes.
CM – I’ve spoken to some artists and I’ve asked them – as the term
‘R&B’ is prevalent everywhere – can we still talk in terms of soul
BC – Yeah.
CM – I think we can, and I think that is one and a really good one.
BC – Oh thanks. The idea behind that one was to have a piano-driven
R&B/soul track with almost kind of a Luther throwback a little bit.
CM – Yes!
BC – A ‘Never too Much’ kind of thing.
CM – It’s beautiful – it really is.
BC – Oh thank you! The idea, like I said, was to keep the piano
always prevalent in these songs and we based some of these vocal tracks
round a piano base, instead of a Rhodes base or a guitar base, you know
what I mean?
CM – Well I love it – and I hear influences through the album. I
mean, I’ve read about the kind of music that you listened to when you were
a teenager – Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, some of the jazz greats.
BC – Of course.
CM – When I listen to ‘Stay Wit It’, I heard people talk about how
good the keyboard solo was. I thought ‘now, I can hear a hint of George
Duke somewhere in there’.
BC – Oh, he’s all over it. I love George Duke. I’m a huge George
Duke fan. He’s probably my favourite contemporary piano player.
CM – I love George Duke – not only for the reason that he has a
birthday on January 12th.
BC – (laughs)
CM – So I love that – and there was a hint of Bootsy Collins in
there, in the vocals.
BC- Yeah, I sampled that off the ‘Funkin’ Like My Father’ record
that he did with me (laughs). Just a little shout out to Bootsy. I think
he’ll get a kick out of it.
CM – Another hero.
BC – Oh yeah. Huge.
CM – You were talking a couple of minutes ago Brian about the
single. I’ve read that two singles are being released at the same time –
is that right?
BC – It is right – but to two different radio formats. This is the
first time I’ve ever done this. We’ve done literally simultaneously to R&B
radio with the song ‘Skies Wide Open’ featuring Avant and then to the
contemporary jazz radio format with ‘That’s Life’, featuring Earl Klugh.
So that’s obviously an instrumental track. The reasoning behind that is
that we’re losing a lot of the ‘jazz’ stations in America.
CM – Yes.
BC – And we wondered how we were going to keep getting airplay if
we don’t have radio stations that play this kind of music. So we went with
a lot of vocal tunes and that’s paid off really well.
Obviously I’m still staying true to my contemporary jazz roots as well –
so I’m not alienating anyone. I’m just kind of moving over here – taking a
little step towards this direction and I think my fans are going with me.
Hopefully, I’m getting some new ones along the way.
CM – Yeah, I figure. The name Avant was a new one for me. I don’t
think that he is that well known in the UK.
BC – He is definitely very well known over here. He’s had a few big
records over here. He did a cover of the Christopher Cross hit ‘Sailing’
which was a huge hit over here in the US. It was all over radio for a
while, so he’s definitely known over here in the R&B circles.
CM – The guy that you don’t have to introduce is Earl Klugh as you
just mentioned. At the Jazz Fest in ’99 that I was talking about before,
he was on the bill there. That was a thrill for me but what he’s done with
you on ‘That’s Life’ represents in a way how his music has changed in the
in-between years. Because that’s a really funky track.
BC – Well that’s an interesting song because you can really hear
the three of us. It’s actually myself, Earl and Ray Parker Jr. The three
of us wrote the song and we’re all featured on there.
The beginning electric guitar that’s obviously Ray. So I think each one of
us has a distinct style and a sound to us. All three are very well
represented on that song. The beginning starts out kind of fun and happy,
kind of funky with Ray – that’s who he is. I come in, then Earl comes in
and all of a sudden it smoothes out a little bit.
It’s really an interesting combo and it was a lot of fun to be in the
studio with those two guys. I actually tell the story that many people
don’t know, but those two actually grew up together in Detroit and met
when they were kids.
CM – I read that just today!
BC – Yeah, they met when Ray was 12 and Earl was 14. They got
together when they were that age – sort of jamming together – but believe
it or not, over the years, they had never collaborated together on record.
CM – How crazy’s that?
BC – So it’s funny, on one of my video blogs (on You Tube) I say
‘these guys grew up together in Detroit’ and then Ray says ‘yeah and it
took this white boy from Chicago to get us together!’ (laughs)
CM – That’s nuts isn’t it?
BC – Yeah it was funny. It was a great experience working with
those two – legends!
CM – Yeah and you’ve got Ray Parker Junior on the song that follows
that on the album – ‘I Wanna Love You’.
BC – Yeah. I’ve known Ray for many years now and we’ve become
pretty good friends. We live by each other too. So he comes over all the
time just to hang out and he says ‘hey man, what’s going on – do you need
some guitar?’ He just loves playing guitar and loves making music so you
know, any chance we get we hang out – we just have a great time working
together and we kind of have a similar approach to music so that’s why we
hit it off well a few years back and definitely done a lot since.
CM – Strangely, people who don’t know his music that well
appreciate his persona in the UK because a commercial has been produced
which uses the music from ‘Ghostbusters’…
BC – Oh yeah, ‘who you gonna call?’ – it’s a cell phone commercial
CM – Yes!
BC – Yes, Ray tells me all the stories. He says ‘I got another cell
phone commercial!’ He gets all excited. I love it!
CM – I was listening to him in 1979 when his band Raydio supported
the Commodores in the UK.
BC – Ah, yeah.
CM – That’s how long I’ve known his music and I’m looking at this
commercial thinking ‘that’s actually him!’
BC – Yes it is (laughs).
CM – When I saw you play live, what I didn’t expect was the
trombone. And can I say - the ‘down and dirty’ trombone? I mean that in
the best possible way.
BC – Well thank you!
CM – It kind of sneaks up on you doesn’t it?
BC – Yeah, trombone was, believe it or not, my main instrument
throughout high school and college. My major was jazz studies. I had a
CM – OK…
BC – And I was just way into trombone and on the side I was playing
piano and writing music. I always knew I wanted to be a songwriter of some
sort but I never set out to be a piano artist, not at all.
I just sort of happened upon that when I started writing songs and I sent
out some tapes to some people. This one label said ‘man I love this – you
got to get a band together and go tour as a pianist’. I thought ‘oh my
God, I’ve never even played live – I’m a trombone player’. I was freaking
out, you know.
CM – Yeah?
BC – Back in ’94 you know. When the first record came out, so
that’s why I still play trombone in all my shows. That was definitely my
CM – I think I read that even before you got into your teens you’d
already been playing drums and bass.
BC – Oh yeah! I actually started on piano when I was 8 –
traditional, classical piano lessons. Then I got into drums, then trombone
in a 5th grade band and then bass. That took off in junior high for the
jazz band there. That’s when I started composing music as well in junior
That’s when I got really excited about the new technologies that were
coming out at that time. Apple computers were starting to take off, and
the drum machines and all that really cool stuff. I got so excited because
I could literally sit in the basement of my parents’ house and literally
make my own band, you know? Before that, you couldn’t do any of that – you
had to get a whole band together. So that really inspired me – all the new
sounds and technologies that were at our fingertips.
I was just 12 or 13 years old – just soaking it all up.
CM – And this was what led to the 'Long Night Out’ album really
being put together that way wasn’t it?
BC – Oh, completely, yeah. I had very few live musicians. I loved
to do my own tracks but I didn’t really have a budget to pay anybody so…
CM – Oh yeah, yeah – the cash.
BC – You know. Brand new artist – they didn’t really give me any
money. ‘OK – here’s a few grand – good luck!’ So I bought a couple of
extra pieces of gear, paid a few people a little bit to play guitar and
sax on a little thing and we went from there. So, a little different story
CM – Fantastic. I’ve been looking ahead a little bit Brian, to the
end of this year or as much as I can find and something leapt off the page
for me – I got very excited – about a trip to Japan that you’re going to
be doing in September.
BC – We’re trying to set that up – it might be in November now.
We’re still working on it. It’s not confirmed, unfortunately, yet. I’ve
been over there twice before. We’re trying to put together a package –
they like multi-artist packages over there.
So I’m in the middle of trying to put one together that they’ll get
excited about. So we’re working on that. Then, believe it or not, we’ll
try to make it to Germany next September, 2011, and tag on some UK dates
as well. Definitely a lot of stuff in the works and hope to get everywhere
CM – Well I’d certainly like to be in the audience for any of the
UK shows. I know from experience that artists who come from the USA tend
to stay in the London area and I guess I understand that.
BC – Where are you based?
CM – In Manchester, in the north-west.
BC – Ah OK. I was actually just there in London in May, but we’re
talking about doing a whole 2-week run next September, all over the place
you know. So definitely making it up to Manchester and a few other places
as well – so I’m excited about that.
CM – I hope so because when contemporary jazz artists make it up
here – I mean, we’ve seen Fourplay here, the Rippingtons, we had the
‘Guitars and Saxes’ tour a few years ago - the places are full.
BC – I was on that!
CM – Yes! I think my wife and I were there.
BC – OK, there was Peter White, Richard Elliot and myself.
CM – Assuming that the Funk All Stars trip to Japan goes ahead in
November, is it still likely to include Larry Graham, Larry Dunn and - did
I read – even your own father?
BC – Ah, yes, well I’m afraid to say that was a one-time special
tour that we did there. We did a few dates in Japan and that was
definitely an amazing, amazing time. Larry Graham is just – he’s a rock
star – what can I say?
CM – He is amazing.
BC – I just definitely learned a lot from playing with him and
watching what he does and how he works the audience. And I equate him to
Jimi Hendrix – but on the bass.
CM – Yeah, ‘cos he’s an innovator.
BC – Oh yes! Just unbelievable what he does. Superstar! So that was
definitely a one-time experience. I was lucky to be able to put that tour
together. It was my band with all those guests and it was an amazing
experience, I must admit.
CM – Fantastic.
BC – Who knows what’s going to happen next Japan trip? We’ll put
something extra-special together, something different but equally as good.
CM – Obviously I’ll be following that on your own site and on
Twitter, because I’m following you on Twitter now, as of yesterday.
BC – I’m all over there.
CM – Boy are you! And then the 4th Annual Jazz Supercruise, that’s
coming up in October I think?
BC – Yeah. I’m excited about that. I’ve been on all three so far.
I’ve become kind of a regular there. This year it’s totally sold out way
in advance, so the excitement is even extra this year.
There are so many incredible artists and R&B singers and soul artists and
all kind of artists on this boat. We just have a wonderful time – you
know, that’s a way for us to really, really hang out with the fans.
CM – I think I’ve spoken to maybe two or three artists who have
been involved in these and they have said they’re everywhere – we’re in
the midst of them – there’s no ‘us and them’. The fans are all around.
BC – It’s just music you know? At that point, everyone is a music
lover and we’re all there having a good time. I think that’s why the fans
love it so much, because it’s not just a typical cruise where it’s just a
bunch of random people thrown together, right.
Everyone has the same interest and a lot of new bonds and friendships are
made through music – which is really, really cool.
CM – And Chuck Brown’s going to be there I believe?
BC – Oh yeah!!
CM – Oh yeah!! (laughs)
BC – We’ve got something special planned for this year so look out!
CM – When I was doing my research, I was reminded of some of the
producing work that you’ve done for other artists in the past Brian.
Thinking of Steve Cole specifically but also thinking of the tracks that
you produced on Bob Mamet’s ‘Day Into Night’ CD…
BC – Oh yeah, from way back.
CM - … Oh yeah, way back.
BC – That was actually my first outside production, and then the
Steve Cole project and obviously it went on from there.
CM – For my money, the first track on that album, ‘Greenstreet’, is
BC – Oh, that’s actually the reason why I got the gig in the first
place. Bob Mamet heard my record ‘Modern Life’. And he loved the song –
which actually still gets a huge amount of airplay over here today –
called ‘Come to Me’ off that record.
He had a similar vibe for ‘Greenstreet’. If you listen to the two back to
back, they definitely have some similarities. So that’s how I got the
production gig on that Bob Mamet record.
CM – Yeah, I’m going to make sure I do that.
BC – Interesting story there…
CM – Yeah. We’ve talked about artists who are featured on your new
album. We’ve talked a little bit about artists who you’ve produced in the
past. A question which I often ask is whether there is someone, either
that you want to perform with or want to produce or want to record with
that you have never had the chance up till now but would love to?
BC – That is a good question. One artist I’ve always wanted to work
with – I’ve had the chance to open for him many times but never worked
with in the studio – is David Sanborn. He’s a huge influence on my music.
I definitely grew up all over his records…
CM – Oh yes!
BC – Hopefully some day I’ll have the chance to work with him at
some point. I’m trying! He’s a hard one (laughs).
CM – Yes, because he’s a busy guy like you.
BC – Yes definitely. I also wanted to add – there’s another
project, a really interesting side project that I’ve had the pleasure to
work on. An opera singer by the name of Micaela Hayley. Have you known
CM – No, not at all.
BC – I co-produced this record with her. It’s on iTunes and
available all over digital sites but check it out. It’s a record called ‘Syren’.
CM – I’ll make sure that’s mentioned.
BC – It’s a combination of electronic music and opera – it is
unbelievable. My producer name on that project – I’m actually getting into
more remixing - is Lord Byron (laughs)
CM – Ha, I love it. I love it.
BC – Yes and I actually just worked with a group by the name of
Blake – you may know them. They’re based in the UK. A vocal group.
CM – Yes, four guys like the act Il Divo in this country.
BC – Yes. I just worked with them doing some remixing. So I’m
getting into the remix ‘thang’ a little bit. As Lord Byron. They actually
have a video online that they did with Mercedes. You can check it out – it
features the song ‘Nessun Dorma’.
CM – Oh yes, that’s a real staple isn’t it?
BC – Oh yeah, we did a whole remix of that. It’s on YouTube and on
their Facebook page. You can listen to that remix that we did (laughs).
CM – I’m going to be sure and do that.
BC – Micaela and I worked on it together.
CM – Fantastic – I’ll make sure that those guys get a shout, Brian.
BC – So, lots of different things cooking. I love having my fingers
in many different things. Why not?
CM – I can see that. We’re pretty much out of time and I know you
have a stack of things to do so for now – because I hope we’ll speak again
sometime – I’ll say goodbye and thank you.
BC – My pleasure!
CM – I wish you every success with the album – that can be taken as
read – and with the touring, including the Christmas tour that I know
you’re doing with Dave Koz.
BC – Oh yes!
CM – I want to wish you all the best with these projects and I will
be listening intently with the rest of your fans Brian.
BC – Oh thank you so much Chris and we will definitely talk soon
and I look forward to meeting you next year.
CM – Fantastic!
BC – You have a good day!!