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Kevin Brandon: Brandino Is In The House

Scott Mitchell By

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AAJ: What was your first big break as an professional musician?

KB: The Tommy Dorsey band in New York City, when I was 19.

AAJ: Was there a specific moment or time in your life when you realized that you had a gift and the skill set and competency to play with the best?

KB: I told my mother, at an early age, that I didn't have to go to school because I was going to be a professional musician, I think I was nine.

AAJ: When did you know that you could hold your own?

KB: When I went through the Cerritos College Summer Camp for kids during high school with my friend the great Poncho Sanchez and graduated high school. I was ready to take on the World [laughs].

AAJ: How would you describe your playing style and approach toward your craft?

KB: I play and perform like it's your last gig, so you must make everything count because you never know what life will bring or cut short. I approach playing bass as a sideman, leader, arranger, orchestrator and composer. I like to see how I can make the musical situation better and move into a memorable experience.

AAJ: What was the nicest and most personal compliment that you received as a musician?

KB: If James Jamerson were alive to hear you play, he would definitely be digging on where you are coming from.

AAJ: Do you recall your introduction to the world of jazz?

KB: Louis Armstrong in 1959, when I was released from the hospital. My father treated me to his concert at the Palladium in Hollywood. Besides my early experiences with my family's record collection, when I started learning acoustic bass as my main instrument, the musical journey went deeper into the roots of the music.

AAJ: What are the most challenging projects that you have worked on and why?

KB: Besides doing an audition for Frank Zappa—I wasn't interested in the gig, but wanted to check out the music—probably performing with my pal Billy Childs, going to Hong Kong with a black ballet company from Los Angeles.

AAJ: What were the most rewarding projects that you worked on and why?

KB: Working with the Queen and King of Soul—Aretha Franklin and James Brown—is something that a person never can forget as a soul experience.

AAJ: Which albums are you most proud of and why?

KB: All the albums I've worked on are special because of the musical experiences. But working on the Outkast CD in 2004 was where I was introduces into the commercial Grammy world of recordings—and all the others that came after that, with my friend Benjamin Wright, gave me commercial recognition.

AAJ: How many Grammys do you have?

KB: Seven.

AAJ: The desert island question....If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 10 albums, which albums would you bring?

KB: I can't answer that because I would have to bring my 20 apple crates of LPs with me.

AAJ: What gives you the most joy out of playing?

KB: Making people feel good and enjoy the music.

AAJ: BTW, what is the brand and model of your bass?

KB: Warwick out of Germany Single Cut

AAJ: Is there a story behind how you chose your bass over others?

KB: When Warwick was looking for US endorsers to play there line of instruments Jimmy Earl told Hans Peters about John B Williams, on the Arsenio Hall Show, and myself, working with Aretha, going to do Bill Clinton's White House Inauguration Celebration. I loved the instrument the first time I played it because it was built like a high quality acoustic bass; Germany has a reputation going back many centuries in history as makers of fine string instruments.

AAJ: Is there anyone out there that you would like to work with but have not had a chance?

KB: John Coltrane and Miles Davis [laughs].

AAJ: Can you describe your typical approach to composing and creating new music?

KB: Looking at a video clip or film usually brings out a story from the scene and a musical idea usually comes into mind. Writing songs usually start with a groove of some sort; then ,you stack some ideas on top of that, like your making gumbo, until all the ingredients or ideas work.

AAJ: When you are playing live, and find yourself in a "creative zone or groove," are you thinking about the notes and changes or are things just flowing naturally?

KB: I'm usually in a zone from the music and letting spirit guide me along the musical path; it's more pure and real.

AAJ: To date, which artists and contacts in the industry have been the most helpful to you and have guided you in the right direction?

KB: I would say my friends Benjamin Wright, HB Barnum, and Ernie Fields, who have enjoy working with me and given me opportunities to let me do me on the bass.

AAJ: What are you favorite venues to play? KB: At this point in time it's the 7th Grand Whiskey Bar in downtown LA.

AAJ: If you could assemble the Brandino Dream Team Jam from any musician past or present, what musicians would be playing with you on stage?

KB: Elvin Jones on drums, Coltrane on sax, Miles Davis on trumpet and Herbie Hancock on piano.

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