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Take Five With Brandon Goodwin of B's Bees

Brandon Goodwin By

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About Brandon Goodwin:
Montreal group B's Bees is a hard swinging jazz outfit known for writing compelling original music and playing high energy interpretations of the music of past masters such as The Jazz Messengers, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Haden. Comprised of five core members, they wowed the audience at their debut concert at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2012. When bandleader Brandon Goodwin won a scholarship to play at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2012, he formed B's Bees with a lineup of some of the young star players in the city and never looked back. Since then the group has been in demand at prominent clubs around Montreal and the surrounding area, playing over 50 concerts and headlining two weekly jazz parties. They are currently on the roster at two locations of Montreal's House of Jazz and have also developed an entire show of Charlie Haden compositions to pay tribute to the deceased master. B's Bees released their first album to much acclaim in 2015. The eponymous album reached the #1 spot on several jazz radio charts, and reached #2 on Earshot, a Canadian national jazz ranking.

Instrument(s):
Drums

Teachers and/or influences?
I was born in Invermere, British Columbia, Canada, which is a very small town in the Rocky Mountains. I moved often as a child, and so I was influenced musically by a lot of different people who I met along the way. When I turned 18 years old I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada to go to music school at the University of Manitoba. Unfortunately their jazz program wasn't quite at the level I thought it was and so I left after one semester. Ironically, only two years later, the great jazz bassist Steve Kirby moved to Winnipeg to turn the U of Manitoba's jazz program around, and now it is one of the strongest in the country. I then transferred to Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. It was the best move I could have made. Due to Concordia's small program size I was able to get a lot of playing experience with the faculty members, which helped me to improve quite rapidly. I also won scholarships that allowed me to work a bit less and to spend more time learning my craft. Teachers: I have studied with many great teachers, but the ones who had the most profound effect on me were Ari Hoenig, Dan Weiss and Wali Muhammad. Ari taught me some great concepts about time playing, and also taught me how to get a nice sound with brushes. He has some unique ways of playing the drums and his concepts have really opened my drumming a lot. Dan showed me ways of approaching odd-time signatures that have allowed me to approach them much more freely. He also showed me some of the concepts that he used when he was composing the drum scores for his two solo records. Wali was instrumental in my development from a student into a professional musician. He taught more drum wisdom than drum technique, but at that point in my life, when I had already done some serious woodshedding but didn't quite understand the purpose of it all, he was exactly what I needed. Influences: The great drummer-bandleaders such as Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Dan Weiss and Ari Hoenig. On other instruments it would definitely be John Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Tom Harrell, Dave Holland, Thelonious Monk, George Shearing and Chet Baker. Also, Montreal musicians such as Fraser Hollins, Dave Turner, and Gary Schwartz are people with whom I have studied and performed, who have made great impressions on me.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I first touched a guitar. I instantly began writing a song that I could hear in my head and have been hooked ever since. A similar thing also happened the first time I played a drum set; I started trying to replicate the beat I was hearing in my head. I made my first recording after I'd only played the drums a couple of times. We recorded a rendition of Purple Haze into a single microphone on my parents' karaoke machine.

Your sound and approach to music:
The group's sound originates from the Hard Bop era, but adds modern influences. We write our compositions separately and then bring them to rehearsal to workshop them as a group. We don't try to sound like anything in particular but strive to make music that we enjoy and that will inspire the audience. In terms of performing, I personally work to create rhythmical palettes that will inspire my bandmates. I like to tune my drums a bit lower, and hit a bit harder than a lot of other jazz drummers. When we recorded our first album the recording engineer told me that I shook the entire studio during my drum solo!

Your teaching approach:
I have my own teaching studio called Studio Drum MTL. I am very passionate about teaching as I feel that I have a responsibility to teach the younger generations about music. I teach my students basic technical exercises, as well as how to read music. I make a big effort not to stifle them with these things though and I give them the space to think for themselves so that one day they won't need me anymore. I also focus a lot on getting them to play musically.

Your dream band:
Well my dream band is the current members of B's Bees! They are such a joy to work with and I am blessed to get to play with such talented individuals on a regular basis. If I had to choose other people then I would choose people who inspire me, and with whom I think would make beautiful music. I would choose them from different artistic pools so that some would have never met or played together, thus making the music exciting and unpredictable. A dream band would look something like this: Tom Harrell: trumpet & flugelhorn; Colin Stetson: alto sax & bass sax; Vijay Iyer: piano; Ben Monder: guitar; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Me!!! -drums

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
The story of Dirty Doug (My best AND worst experience on the road) I was touring Eastern Canada with a funk band and we had a couple of shows in Newfoundland, including two in the city of Cornerbrook. During the sound check, an audience member (called Dirty Doug) liked the group so much that he told our host that he knew us and that we were planning to stay with him. At the end of the night when we were ready to head home with our host, Dirty Doug informed us that our host had already left and then told us what he had done. With no other option we went home with him. When we arrived at his house he told us to wait outside for five minutes so he could clean up a bit. I still to this day am not sure what he had cleaned up because when we finally went into the place it was literally filled to the ceiling with garbage. We were completely disgusted and didn't know what to do. It was 3:00 a.m. and we were all very tired. So with no other viable options, we decided to get really drunk and have a ball. The guy was actually a hoot to party with, and aside from the absolutely horrid state of his apartment, we had a great time. We kept in touch with him for a couple of years and he remained a fan of our group.

Favorite venue:
Divan Orange (Montreal, QC, Canada) This is a nice big room with great staff, food, well-priced drinks, a good sound system and onstage monitors. It also has a vintage look which is always appealing for me. I have performed some of my best concerts in this venue.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Favorite album in my discography is B's Bees' self-titled first album. It was my first album as a bandleader and I am still very proud of what we did. Favorite song I've recorded is my latest composition titled "Syrian Lullaby." I was inspired by Charlie Haden as he was very vocal against the terrible atrocities going on around the world and used his status to speak out and to educate the masses. You can check the song out below.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I am contributing to the continuation of one of the greatest art forms that North America has to offer, which is jazz music. I have so much love and respect for the past and current masters of this art form, and I feel that it is very important to continue playing this music as it is deeply rooted in our culture and is a strong reminder of how our nations were created. I am also contributing compositions to the jazz canon that I hope will be performed by others in the future and inspire future generations of jazz artists.

Did you know...
I am a chess addict! I have many books that I study from and I play online every day. Look me up on chess.com; My username is brandongoodwin

CDs you are listening to now:
Vijay Iyer: Accelerando
Ari Hoenig: Bert's Playground
Dan Weiss: Jhaptal Drum set Solo
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2 & 3
D'Angelo: Black Messiah

Desert Island picks:
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: Free For All
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme
The Mars Volta: Deloused in the Cormatorium
Dan Weiss: Tintal Drum set Solo

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Jazz is still thriving around the world and is as vibrant as ever. There is still exciting new jazz music coming out every day from all corners of the globe.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
We need to find a way to bring a larger audience to jazz so we musicians can afford to put the necessary time into our projects. Jazz is still quite popular around the world, but now with so many different types of music, the audience has been spread out. Although I respect the musical tastes of others, sometimes I feel like people listen to certain types of music because it is what has been pushed into their ears by corporate media, which is a shame. Music can be such an enriching thing and I hope that more and more people will look into new types of music, including jazz! Up here in Canada, the federal government has recently increased the budget for the Canada Council for the Arts. Hopefully some of this money will be funneled into our jazz scene in the form of grants to artists.

What is in the near future?
We continue our monthly residency at the House of Jazz in Montreal. On August 24th we will produce our next Charlie Haden tribute concert. There will be six guest artists performing in this one and I am very excited about it. We will also be recording it, so keep on the lookout! We are also currently in the process of booking our first U.S. tour for the Spring 2017. We will be touring from Montreal to New Orleans, where we will be spending two days working with renowned musician/producer Delfeayo Marsalis in preparation for the recordings. Immediately upon returning from the tour we will be heading into the studio to record our second album.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?
Playing drum solos without accompaniment. Sometimes I get very nervous when I know that it's coming. I combat this fear by meditating and by visualizing myself playing drum solos. I also transcribe other instrumentalist's solos for constant new melodic and harmonic ideas. My favorite three that I have been transcribing a lot of lately are Thelonious Monk, Charlie Rouse and Colin Stetson. I don't translate them in a literal fashion in the way that Ari Hoenig does, but I look at the melodic contours of the solo, as well as their use of different improvisational concepts. I take the melodic contours of the solo and notate them for the drums and then play along to the recording. This helps me to overcome my fear of soloing because if I think melodically then I don't worry about if my inverted flamaflafladiddlediddles were properly executed.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
I want no music played but would like there to be 15 minutes of silence so people can find momentary peace through my passing.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
"Els Segadors" by Charlie Haden

By Day:
Owner and operator of Studio Drum MTL

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Rocket scientist, or homeless
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