Take Five With Mike Brannon

Mike Brannon By

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Meet Mike Brannon:
Having been born in Atlanta and then lived in North Carolina growing up, those Southern roots were likely to blame when I started playing blues/rock guitar. But I soon discovered Wes Montgomery, Hank Garland, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow and finally Pat Martino. After attending Jackie King's Guitar Conservatory of the Southwest, where i got to play with traditionalists like Herb Ellis, I went to Berklee for Guitar performance/composition and then studied with Charlie Banacos for five years. After returning to Texas I formed Synergy which has so far released three CDs: Barcodes with 3-time Grammy winner, Jeff Coffin and Trey Gunn; Later with 2-time Grammy winner Bill Evans, 7-time Grammy winner Paul Wertico, Harvie S, Gerry Gibbs and Andy Langham and Off the Map featuring Don Alias and Barry Brake.


Teachers and/or influences?
I've been fortunate enough to have had some great teachers and influences. Originally inspired by Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Kinks, Jethro Tull, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, later influences were Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Jaco Pastorius, Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Weather Report, MM&W, Earthworks, Steps Ahead, 'Trane and Miles, of course.

As for teachers, the biggest influence was pianist Charlie Banacos. He expected a lot and had a way of inspiring students beyond what they thought they were capable. He was extremely logical, thorough and organized and could play like anyone you could name. Each lesson was matched for whatever your needs were. And though he taught Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Wayne Krantz, Jeff Berlin, Leni Stern, (Brecker and Metheny even took a few lessons) everyone was equally important to him. He had a band with Jerry Bergonzi, Harvie S and Tony Williams right before he went with Miles, though few people have heard of him. His passing was a huge loss to the global music community.

I also had a great teacher in Texas, Jackie King, who is an amazing and underrated guitarist—jazz, classical and studio.

At Berklee I had classes with Gary Burton, Mike Metheny, John LaPorta and Jon Damian.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I first heard things like Jeff Beck with Jan Hammer and Johnny Winter cover "Jumpin' Jack Flash." The energy beyond the the original was obvious. It made me realize you could take music you thiught you knew knew and bring your own thing to it.

Your sound and approach to music:
Originally from a blues/rock background that seems to always be present in everything I do now, to some degree. As improvisation, composition and abstraction became more important to me staying authentic meant that the blues and/or a minor based sonority would usually be present in whatever I did.

Certain key players are worth noting for their influence. Wes Montgomery: listening to Wes always made me smile. There was an inherent warmth to everything he did regardless of the arrangement or setting it was in. The groove and soul was always without question, the blues always present, even in standards and his harmonic sense just so hip. He was a true eternal musical life force. Pat Martino: when I came upon Pat's music it was like being dropped on another planet. It was at once a vast new world and way of perceiving and yet made sense for both its analytical nature and its soulfulness. Pats playing and writing has a beautiful warmth and darkness to it and that direct lineage to Wes and the organ trio culture. Pat Metheny: Pat's music is just joyous. Whether somber ballad or blistering swing or all out angular abstraction, it's full of heart and commitment and an intensely personal take on what improvisation and composition can be. Intensity is present in everything he does, as is a meticulousness. He clearly cares about every note and it's specific attack and release. It all matters as if his life depended on it. A brilliant composer and a true inspiration into the depth of what music can and should be. And Miles. I transcribed a lot of Miles and sensed an Essence in what he did where the silence was as important as what he played or wrote. Of course he had an original voice, from his tone to his writing to how he arranged in real time, but It became about restraint, balance and taking the time neccesary to tell the story. Something he was always a master of.


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