Take Five With Josh Brown
Josh made the move to New York in the early 2000s. He quickly began establishing his name as an up-and-coming jazz trombonist, studying with jazz greats Slide Hampton, Steve Davis, and Barry Harris by day, while cutting his teeth on the local scene at night. Aside from his work as a leader, notable credits vary far and wide, from small group work with renowned jazzmen Grant Stewart, Frank Basile and Ehud Asherie, to large groups such as Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and the Smalls Big Band. He has also performed alongside living legends, including a recent guest appearance with Freddy Cole on his latest album, This and That (HighNote, 2013).
Josh has also relentlessly toured internationally for close to a decade as a member of Warner artist Michael Buble's band. Numerous TV credits include Saturday Night Live, BET on Jazz, PBS Great Performances, The Late Show with Jay Leno, The Tonight Show with David Letterman, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Live with Kelly and Michael.
Josh is a Conn-Selmer artist, two-time recipient of a Canada Council for the Arts Grant, and was a semi-finalist in the 2003 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trombone competition. Author and All About Jazz contributor Trish Richardson also features him in her book The Soul of Jazz (Grayson James Press, 2011). With his newest record Songbook Trio and his previous album The Feeling of Jazz, Josh has secured his footing as an artist with a singular voice and vision as well as a leader on the trombone in the world of jazz.
Teachers and/or influences?
J.J. Johnson, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, and Duke Ellington.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I was always a musician. The transition from student to professional was only differentiated by a paycheck, but the sense of performing has never changed. The only time I ever had to make a decision was out of high school when I was a little lost like a lot of kids. However, my first day in college was like a train hitting me saying, "This is what you are supposed to do."
Your sound and approach to music:
I try to make clear and concise statements, thinking more in terms of how Hemingway would write. I like to play to what are the potential strengths of the trombone, the sounds I like, its range, and the way I like it articulated.
Your teaching approach:
Music is a language and like any language it's best not bury your head in the books. It is best to get out to hear and speak it in order to really learn the nuances.
Your dream band:
I would have loved to have been the trombonist for The Jazz Messengers (sorry Curtis [Fuller], but it's a moot point anyway), or have played third trombone in Duke Ellington's band around 1960. I also would have loved to have played behind Billie Holiday.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
A flight back home from Australia that started with basically a 10-hour circle that went nowhere. When we got home 38 hours later, I wasn't the happiest.
I always love small intimate spaces for jazz. There's a wonderful spot in Ann Arbor, MI called the Kerrytown Concert House, with great people.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
The Trombone Master by J.J. Johnson. In my opinion, some of JJ's best playing is on this record. Although the album on a whole isn't my favorite, it will always hold a place in my heart. It's just one of those things that comes at the right time in your life and when you are building yourself as a musician. It definitely lives up to its title.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
J.J. Johnson, Volume 1.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I'm striving to contribute a unique musical sound in the tradition that my musical heroes would be proud.
Did you know...
I wanted to move to Hawaii and windsurf as a kid. Fortunately, my parents didn't let that happen.
CDs you are listening to now:
Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage (Blue Note);
Thelonious Monk, At Carnegie (Blue Note);
J.J. Johnson, At the Opera House (Columbia);
Dexter Gordon, A Day in Copenhagen (Prestige);
Hans Zimmer, Man Of Steel Soundtrack (Warner).
Desert Island picks:
J.J. Johnson, Volume 1 (Blue Note);
Duke Ellington, Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia);
Dizzy Gillespie/Sonny Rollins/Sonny Stitt, Sonny Side Up (Verve);
Charlie Parker, Bird With Strings (Verve);
Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, The Essential (RCA).
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Disarray, there are so many versions of what jazz is. You just have to go with what you love and try to make what's in your head come alive. The '90s was a jazz utopia for a young kid, with great players who had new, subtle, and energizing twists on modern jazz. There were record deals and plenty of places to play. My friends and I are doing our best to try to get the music to the people again and catch their interest.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Musicians who care and an audience to play for.
What is in the near future?
Songbook Trio is my new endeavor. I'm trying to create an intimate acoustic trio with a twist on the classic trio lineup.
What's your greatest fear when you perform?
Not being able to play my best.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
"I'll Be Seeing You."
What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
"Stardust" always does the job.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Courtesy of Josh Brown