Cindy Bradley: Ready to Bloom

Jeff Winbush By

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The audiences always embrace me. There's always an initial reaction of surprise at seeing a woman playing the trumpet, but they get over it and enjoy the show.
Cindy BradleyCindy Bradley first picked up the trumpet in the fourth grade and hasn't put it down since. She learned the importance of professionalism early on, playing at the age of 12 in a Buffalo area jazz band. Bradley would go on to earn a bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies from Ithaca College and a Master's degree in jazz trumpet performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with, and was greatly influenced by, jazz greats such as John McNeil, Bob Brookmeyer, Jerry Bergonzi, George Russell and Steve Lacy.

Moving from the classroom to the jazz spots of New York City, Bradley paid her dues working in bands, sitting in on jam sessions, playing as a sideman and facing occasional bouts with sexism as she struggled to be taken seriously as a musician.

Her new album, Bloom (Trippin n Rhythm, 2009), is a smooth jazz showcase featuring Bradley alternating between trumpet and flugelhorn, ably assisted by a gifted group of supporting players including Tim Bowman and Marion Meadows, with production by Grammy award winner Michael Broening. She is putting together her own band as she prepares to hit the road opening for and playing with saxophonist Warren Hill.

All About Jazz: Congratulations on the new album Bloom, Cindy. How did this project come together and how did you find yourself working with producer Michael Broening?

Cindy Bradley: I had been in touch with Trippin n Rhythm records a few times on and off over the years, through a former manager of mine. I was looking for a record label that was willing to break in a new artist. As you can imagine, there's not many labels willing to take the risk of investing in someone that's not already established.

Trippin n Rhythm decided they saw something in me and decided to take the plunge and invest in this project. Jeff Lunt, who is the vice-president of Trippin n Rhythm and also handles A&R, agreed to oversee the project and got a dialogue going with Michael Broening. He put this incredible team together along with Michael, who is a Grammy winning producer (for his work with George Benson).

AAJ: This is actually your second album. What is the difference between your first album Just A Little Bit (self-produced, 2007) and Bloom?

CB: Wow. There's a ton of difference between the first album and this one. My first album was really a project I did by myself over a number of years. I used my friends and musicians that I played with and I wrote it while I was in college. It's a compilation of some of the work I did by myself. This project is with a great producer and label behind me.

I got to write with Michael and have some great musicians on the CD and the difference between the two albums speaks for itself. I am proud of the first album because I did it myself, but this one is the evolution of myself as an artist, which is why we called it Bloom.

AAJ: Was it at all intimidating for you to walk into the studio with a Grammy-winning producer and all these accomplished musicians who didn't know you or what you could do?

Cindy BradleyCB: Yes and no. I can't say it wasn't intimidating because of the resumes these guys have, but I spent a lot of time in the studio in the past and I'm pretty comfortable there. Michael is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people I've ever worked with, so he took the intimidation right away. Once I worked with the guys, everything just flowed. There was a certain degree of intimidation, but also complete excitement to have this opportunity. There was more being anxious and excited than being intimidated and scared.

AAJ: Is there a particular song on Bloom that you particularly enjoy or that stands out for you?

CB: I do genuinely like all of them so it's hard to pick just one, but the album really shows a lot of different sides of my playing. There's the real sultry flugelhorn tracks which is my favorite stuff to play and there's the real funky tunes with the great grooves and energy. It's kind of the best of both worlds. "Uptown Drive" is my favorite funkier song and "Before I Go" is the most beautiful and passionate.

AAJ: Will you be touring to support the album?

CB: We're in the process of putting a band together on the West Coast to do some upcoming festivals and I'm going to be opening for Warren Hill in a few weeks as well as playing with his band.

AAJ: Is it hard putting a road band together?

CB: Not really. I know a lot of musicians here in New York that I love playing with. Plus through Michael Broening and guys playing on the album, everybody has so many connections with people that play this type of music and play it so well. I haven't run into too many guys I have problems playing with. The process is simpler than you would think.

AAJ: You've worked as a sideman for bands such as Pieces of A Dream and you play in New York with The Sly Geralds Band. How did you get started as a sideman?

CB: Through word of mouth and playing in different bands. The more people you meet, the more people tell others, "She's a great trumpet player and you should call her for this and that." You just start freelancing. I worked for companies that book out bands for tours and backing people up. I've also had bands I've put together with friends, playing original material.

When I first came to New York I went to a lot of jam sessions to meet as many players as possible. Your name starts getting around. The more you play and get up there and do it, the more people you meet and eventually you're nice and busy.


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