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Bria Skonberg, Dave Bennett In Riverwalk Jazz Jam Session This Week


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This week on Riverwalk Jazz, three remarkable “20-something” musicians join The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on stage at The Landing in San Antonio. All share a passion for classic pre-WWII jazz and make an important contribution to the legacy of the music through their playing.

The program is distributed in the US by Public Radio International. You can also drop in on a continuous stream of shows at the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound.

Firmly rooted in the language of classic jazz, clarinetist Dave Bennett, trumpeter Bria Skonberg and drummer Michael Waskiewicz are highly individual and original in their playing styles.

Clarinetist Dave Bennett hails from Michigan. Fascinated with the music of Benny Goodman since he was 10, Dave started touring nationally at the age of 14. Dave stays busy performing at festivals, on jazz cruises and in concert halls around the country. Jim and the Band were knocked out when they first heard Dave play at a jazz festival in California in 2000, when Dave was 16.

When asked about where he sees the music taking him, Bennett said, “When I began to play, I wanted to sound just like Benny Goodman but now that I’ve soaked up so many different types of music and I’ve started writing songs, I want to make a new kind of music. I want to take the clarinet into places it’s never been.”

Trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg is a native of British Columbia. She began her trumpet studies at age 11 and graduated with a degree in Jazz Performance from Capilano College. During the 2007 season, she performed at over 20 traditional jazz festivals in the US and Canada, and won the coveted Kobe Award, presented at the Breda Festival in Holland. She now makes her home in New York City.

Jim and the Band first heard Bria at Dixieland Monterey in 2006 when she sat in with the Band. From that very first encounter, Bria expressed her admiration for Louis Armstrong, “Louis has this joy, this love of life,” she noted. ”As for his sound, his tone is impeccable; it’s like a silver bullet going straight into your heart.” When asked about her musical origins, Bria gives credit to her high school program and jazz camps sponsored by the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society.

San Antonio native Michael Waskiewicz first joined The Jim Cullum Jazz Band as its regular drummer in 2000. He took two years off to work in New Orleans, and then rejoined the Band in 2004. He is the oldest of our New Generation trio featured this week. Mike’s first instruction on the drums came from long-time Cullum Band drummer Ed Torres. Like Bria, Mike says Louis Armstrong is his main musical inspiration, citing “the way he plays, the time and the swing of it.”

Mike describes his first encounter with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band, like this, ”I was fifteen years old and was just kinda hanging out downtown. Walking along the Riverwalk, I saw this place called The Landing. [Pianist] John Sheridan was playing outside, so I decided to get a cup of coffee. I sat there the rest of the afternoon, and from then on, I showed up every night.”

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