“ I think the thing about moving to place like New York, if you can make connections ahead of time and meet people there before you move, it helps a lot... ”
“I think the thing about moving to place like New York, if you can make connections ahead of time and meet people there before you move, it helps a lot,” comments Lynch during a recent interview from his New York City home. “I did that – I visited the city a number of times before I made the move – and that gave me an idea of what was involved in subsisting and working there. I also found out that musical diversity was a very good thing in helping you make a living.”
Lynch, who was born in Urbana, Illinois and grew up in the Milwaukee area, was definitely well prepared in terms of making connections and in the area of musical diversity by the time he decided to move to New York at the end of 1981. By the time he was 16, Lynch was working professionally on the Milwaukee scene. And while attending the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Lynch worked at area clubs with the likes of pianist Buddy Montgomery (brother of the legendary guitarist, Wes Montgomery) and organist Melvin Rhyne, who also toured and recorded with Wes. After graduation, Lynch spent a year in San Diego working with alto saxophonist Charles McPherson before making the move to New York.
In addition, Lynch gained a strong grounding in Latin music during his years in Milwaukee. That knowledge not only helped him get gigs quickly in New York City – it pointed him in a musical direction that eventually led to the The Latin Side of Miles recording and tour. “Latin music has always felt like a part of jazz to me,” explains Lynch. “One of my early musical heroes I listened to on recordings was Horace Silver, who had a strong Latin influence in his music. I really started hearing Latin music in its real form in Milwaukee through a local band there. I was exposed to a lot of classic salsa music, and I really dug it. That interest in Latin music really helped me a lot as far as being able to survive in New York.”
Lynch’s extensive preparation for tackling the competitive New York jazz scene paid off almost immediately. In 1982 he joined Horace Silver’s group (“One of my dreams,” he states) and also began working with the Tashiko Akiyoshi Orchestra. He also became close friends with trombonist Conrad Herwig, whom he had met at jam sessions and who was also a member of the Akiyoshi band.
“I actually met Conrad just a couple of months after moving to New York,” recalls Lynch. “It seemed like we always had a good feeling working together, and we developed on parallel paths after working together in Tashiko’s band. When we both started playing with Eddie Palmieri’s band in 1987, that’s when I think I realized there was really a musical synergy between us.”
Palmieri, one of the premiere pianists in Afro-Caribbean styles, was a major influence on Lynch’s growth and development as a musician.
“Eddie was such a powerful influence,” states Lynch. “It’s always great when you can learn from one of the masters. As a member of his band it was especially effective, because you could see the application of what he was trying to teach you in a very direct way.”
Lynch continues to work with Palmieri today, but he’s also continued to explore other avenues of jazz over the past fifteen years since joining Palmieri’s band. He was a member of the last edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz messengers in the late ‘80s, has worked with master saxophonist Phil Woods’ band since 1992 and has released seven recordings as a leader since 1987. He has a new album with pianist Bill Charlap (also a member of Woods’ band) due out in February, is writing arrangements for an upcoming Phil Woods recording session featuring the music of Quincy Jones, fronts an electric quartet as well as a big band, and has also put together two groups based on his most recent recordings as a leader, the Afro-Caribbean flavored Spheres of Influence and Tribute to the Trumpet Masters – an over view of the history of jazz trumpet players.
Lynch also recently completed recording sessions with Herwig as co-leader of a follow-up project to The Latin Side of John Coltrane album the two musicians released in 1996. As Lynch, Herwig, pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Ruben Rodriquez, drummer Robbie Amin and percussionist Pedro Martinez prepared to head out on tour in support of the band’s upcoming The Latin Side of Miles Davis recording, Lynch discussed how he arranged the music of Miles Davis to make it work in a Latin jazz context.
“For me, it was important to be very aware of wanting to blend Afro-Caribbean musical forms – not just rhythms – with the Miles songs I was arranging for the recording,” he explains. “That’s why when I was arranging ‘Solar,’ for instance, I arranged it into the form of a salsa with a mambo section. Then I used some of the original melodic material in the composition in all the different parts of the salsa structure. Different elements will come back in and reoccur within the salsa arrangement – serving as a reminder of some of the original themes in Miles’ "Solar." These themes also fulfill the functions you have in a salsa music arrangement, so hopefully it all works in an interesting way to showcase Miles’ music in a Latin setting.”
For Lynch, The Latin Side of Miles Davis project represents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge lies in bringing the project to life without significant record label backing – and the opportunity is the chance to create vital, memorable music.
“In a way, it’s a little audacious for us to get out and do this without a major record company behind us,” he says. “But we have a brilliant group of musicians and it’s great to be doing this with Conrad as a co-leader. I’m hoping there are some people out there who want to hear what we have to say musically. I’m predicting that when we get this music out on the road for this upcoming tour, we’re going to hear some really interesting musical developments. By the time we get to Columbia, we’re going to be really warm!”
Visit Brian Lynch on the web at www.brianlynchjazz.com .