Take Five With Mike Brannon

Mike Brannon By

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Your teaching approach:
I've had some great teachers who were both open minded and yet very specific about ways to approach things. I've never been one to force anything on someone. They have to know what they want. Charlie Banacos was a brilliant musician and teacher and could encapsulate what you could work on for the next five years in five minutes; leaving you at once full of questions and at a near loss for words. From him and Pat Martino I came to realize an inkling of how much there was to music. That no single lifetime would ever allow any of us to do more than begin. So you had to make choices. Decide who you were artistically, be in the moment and find / create your most effective toolset to articulate that most authentically. In teaching I'd try to discover what the students goals were and let them know what might help them bridge the gap most effectively. Very few musicians are prepared for Banacos' approach, as it's so demanding. It changes you and the way you think about everything else to even immerse yourself in that intensity and philosophy or way of being. I'm glad to have had that experience and been made aware of those possibilities.

Your dream band:
I've always thought Metheny and Jarrett would have a great conversation. Though I'm sure it'll never happen it would be amazing.

There are all kinds of great musicians of all stylistic stripes I'd like to have a chance to play or work with. We all would. Josh Redman, Pat Martino, Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Jack DeJohnette, Brian Blade, John Medeski, Joni Mitchell, Anna Maria Jopek, Jeff Beck, Alana, Davis, kd Lang, KT Tunstall; many others.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Synergy was playing a late 4 hr gig at a club in Texas. It was a clear Summer night in south Texas and literally the last song of the gig. The keys player, who works with Tower of Power, was playing the riff from Riders in the Storm in Bm and I just said go with it. So we went into the song. We weren't into it more than 30 seconds when off in the distance we started to hear thunder. We all just looked at each other in astonishment and by the end of the song it was a full out storm. You really can't make this stuff up. No one would believe you anyway. The universe definitely has a sense of humor.

The worst thing, and I try not to dwell on the negative, but I'd had conversations with Bob Berg leading up to his guesting on Later. Everything was set and we were to record tracks with him that very morning in December (5th) when I heard he was killed in a car accident on long island. He was a monumental and underated talent and a great and down to Earth person and were just becoming friends. A similar thing happened while getting to know Don Alias. A lot of people may not know, they were both very generous people. Most great musicians seem to be. But we had plans to do four different projects with Don and during our last call we agreed to talk again the next weekend. Nine days went by and his Ex told me he'd passed away. You really never know. It's hard to believe. All of it.

Favorite venue:
We were playing Ornette Coleman's now defunct, Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth and though we weren't a well known band outside of Texas, at the time, they treated us very well. The staff was all very kind. When people are kind and helpful you don't forget things like that. It was a great night with great players.

Another time we we playing a club called Jazz, in San Antonio. Our group, Synergy was playing inside and there was an outside band, the headliner. For some reason the stars aligned and we were having a great, inspired, high energy gig. Even the players from the other band who's pianist was with Wynton Marsalis, were checking it out. We found out late into the gig that Ottmar Liebert and his band Luna Negra were all in the back checking it out, as well. That was kind of cool.

On a gig at the Driskill hotel in Austin, we're were doing a quartet fusion thing in the bar and noticed one of the guests was there watching with his entourage. It was Stephane Grappelli and his band with an incredible Russian pianist who's name escapes me. We formed a bassless side project called Carbon for awhile, played and recorded a bit. I remember playing the Houston Jazz fest one summer, up there without the expected bass behind things and realized it gave the music a lot of air and freedom.


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