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Bria Skonberg: So is the Day

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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It's a rare talent that can straddle—and dare request membership in—the trumpet artist continuum emanating from Louis Armstrong and progressing down through his "Neo Orleans" progeny: Byron Stripling, Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Payton (whose big band trumpet section Skonberg graces). However, with her bravura performance on So is the Day, Bria Skonberg confirms that she is not only indeed a triple threat musician—player, vocalist and composer—but also that that esteemed lineage, consummate entertainers all, would heartily approve her membership.

This stunningly beautiful British Columbia native plays (and writes and sings) at levels of excellence and maturity far beyond her years. Whether it's plunging and growling away, soaring across the horn's range ferociously, or delivering beautifully constructed lyrical solo lines, Skonberg demonstrates solid chops and great command of her instrument. Displaying artistic flexibility and fire, she unabashedly channels Armstrong, Cootie Williams, Warren Vache, and other legendary players.

It's also obvious that Skonberg is an admiring student of the vocal tradition, too. She exhibits stylistic shades of Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington, and Diana Krall. She has a beautiful voice—both soul sultry and innocent sweet—and an instrumentalist's feel for melodic line and rhythm. Her vocal and horn chops intertwine seamlessly. "Have a Little Heart" is a perfect example.

An insightfully versatile composer, Skonberg delivers nine engaging originals, all stylistically unique. She's done her homework; the forms and lyric phrasings are classic. "I Wish I Hadn't Forgotten" frames Skonberg with guest John Pizzarelli, a perfect vocal partner, on an elegant guy/gal swinger. "Penny in Your Pocket" grinds blue with Scott Elias' organ. "Hip Check" (a sidewinder turned inside out to 5/4 time) and "Chilliwack Cheer" deal Cajun spice. "Far Away," the most contemporary of her originals, modulates dreamily.

Three well-known selections are given refreshed presentations performed with verve. Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" shines with a bouncy Caribbean groove and a beauty of a Skonberg flugelhorn solo. "Let Yourself Go" and Erik Satie's over-recorded "Gymnopedie" are done in Latin-esque treatments.

Skonberg's supporting crew is stellar throughout, and seems to relish placing Skonberg in the spotlight. Swinging woodwind artist Victor Goines, trombone stars Wycliffe Gordon and Michael Dease, and a rhythm section of (terrific) pianist Jeff Lashway, the versatile Randy Johnston on guitar, bassist Kelly Friesen, and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. collectively and individually energize.

So is the Day, while tipping a hat to tradition, appropriately pushes Bria Skonberg to the forefront of today's musical talents. She has it all—so does this superb recording.

Track Listing: Keep Me in the Back of Your Mind; So is the Day; Hip Check; I Wish I Hadn't Forgotten; Have a Little Heart; Far Away; Penny in Your Pocket; Let Yourself Go; Chilliwack Cheer; Big Yellow Taxi; Gymnopedie; My Friend.

Personnel: Bria Skonberg: trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; Victor Goines: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Wycliffe Gordon: trombone (1, 9); Michael Dease: trombone (11); Jeff Lashway: piano; Scott Elias: organ (7);Randy Johnston: guitar; Kelly Friesen: bass; Ulysses Owens, Jr.: drums; Roland Guerrero: percussion; John Pizzarelli: guitar, vocals (4).

Title: So is the Day | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Random Act Records

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