by Ian Mann
July 11, 2020
Black Mountain Jazz have taken the innovative step of e-interviewing artists who were scheduled to appear at the Club during lockdown. The latest in the series features Bristol trumpeter Jonny Bruce.
Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny
THE “SORRY WE MISSED YOU” INTERVIEWS
Like so many others the Abergavenny based promoters Black Mountain Jazz have been forced to postpone scheduled events at their base, the Melville Centre, during the Corona Virus lockdown.
As part of an enterprising initiative they have conducted a series of e-interviews with the artists who were scheduled to appear at their monthly events.
The interviews include profiles of the musicians, their reactions to life during lockdown and a selection of favourite albums from their ‘lockdown playlists’.
There are plenty of links for readers to enjoy further listening and watching along with links to the artists’ own websites.
These interviews are intimate, informative, interesting and consistently entertaining and make for highly recommended reading.
They have already been enjoyed by members of the Black Mountain Jazz mailing list.
My thanks go to Mike Skilton and Debs Hancock of Black Mountain Jazz for granting me permission to share them here.
Black Mountain Jazz
Sorry We Missed You
The Jonny Bruce Trio
Photograph of Jonny Bruce taken at the wall2wall Jazz Festival event ‘1917 And All That Jazz’, promoted by Black Mountain Jazz - 1st September 2017
Hopefully this finds you all well.
This is the fourth of a series of newsletters, each featuring one of the terrific artists we are missing due to Coronavirus.
The Jonny Bruce Trio were due to visit Black Mountain Jazz on Sunday 26th July. We are forced to postpone it and hopefully, that will not be for too long.
In this edition we feature Jonny Bruce with his responses to our e-interview, with an insight to today’s world through his eyes.
We also include plenty of links for listening and watching, as well as one to Jonny’s website. http://jonnybruce.com/
BMJ: Tell us about the trumpeter Jonny Bruce and what you have been up to in the last few months?
Hi, I’m Jonny Bruce and I’m a trumpet player based in Bristol. I would have written “I’m a professional trumpet player” but I guess that’s kind of on hold for now!
Since I finished my studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2006 I’ve had a busy freelance career as a soloist, sideman and session player, which has given me the privilege of playing with some incredible musicians in some incredible places around the world.
My regular projects include Moscow Drug Club, who many of you will know from us performing at Black Mountain Jazz.
Alongside my performance schedule, I run the Bristol Community Big Band, an all inclusive community project I started doing in 2013. We’ve gone from a trio (at our first rehearsal in 2013, leading to me questioning the band’s name) to now up to a 45 piece band, and they sound GREAT! More at www.bcbb.co.uk.
I’ve been a full time musician for so long, and I love what I do! For it all to stop so suddenly has been strange to say the least! Having said that, I’ve tried to use this time positively and be grateful for the period of rest and reflection – something musicians would rarely choose to do (or can afford to do!) voluntarily.
It was great to have some time away from the horn at the beginning of lockdown and let my chops have a proper rest. The trumpet is unforgiving on the lips, especially when playing so regularly and having lots of lead trumpet/heavy jobs, so to take a break is of huge benefit and something I don’t often get to do.
Once I realised I had practically forgotten what a trumpet looked like, I’ve been getting back into practicing! It’s been hard to motivate myself without the requirements of a busy schedule to fulfill, but a great chance to do things differently.
I’ve been learning some tunes I like that I never got around to learning before, addressed some technique issues, and even trying out some new mouthpieces (I’ve never been much into changing equipment etc so it’s been a fun new world!) I’m blessed to have been gifted a beautiful 1956 King trumpet from the H N White Company in the States. They have been very kind to me, and I’m so lucky to be endorsed by them so I don’t have to worry about having a great instrument. So it seems only fair I use this time to find the right mouthpiece to put in it! It’s been fun experimenting.
I miss the gigs so much! The lockdown postponed the Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival in March, and I had some real ‘career moment’ gigs lined up. Right now I’m supposed to be touring Poland with a small orchestra playing the James Bond book (with all those great high notes!). But that’s not how things have turned out, so what have I been doing?
I’m very lucky to have been locked down with one of the UK’s finest musicians and pianist, George Cooper. He’s also like a brother to me, so we’ve got together and performed some great Facebook Live gigs, mainly through The Bristol Fringe (an amazing live jazz venue in Clifton Village, Bristol) where the owner Sylvie has hosted a whole online series of gigs.
You can watch our last gig via this link.
I’ve also been able to record for a few people remotely from my home studio, which has been great, as well as a steep learning curve. But last week something special happened: a distanced jam session in a local park! It was a joy to make music with other people again, and maybe all we have got for quite a while longer now.
You can see a clip of that via this link
These little things have kept me going through this time, and we’ve had so much beautiful feedback. That is, after all, why we do it!
BMJ: Until recently, the glorious weather has been a blessing; tell us about your lockdown location?
I’ve felt very fortunate to be in Bristol and living with close friends and fellow musicians during all of this.
This has been such a tough time for young people, old people, single parents, the homeless, those living alone, in a vulnerable position and so many more. I am so grateful I don’t fall into any of these groups, and reminding ones self of this on the harder days is important for us all.
I’ve appreciated having my garden! It’s been alright!
BMJ: Music has played an important part of lockdown for many people. What has music and being a musician meant to you at this time?
The feedback we’ve had from our live streams has been real evidence that music is helping so many. To shift gigs from live performances to online has been a new thing for musicians and audience, and so many musicians have made a real effort to provide entertainment to people at home.
There’s been some great split screen big band videos where people have recorded their parts remotely and it’s been edited together. They sound great! We have one coming out with my main project, Moscow Drug Club. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for that coming soon. https://www.facebook.com/MOSCOWDRUGCLUB/
Personally, I’ve been enjoying listening to loads of new music. When I’m in my usual busy schedule, I don’t often have time to listen to whole albums in their entirety, and often want to give my ears a rest.
The downside of being a musician during all of this is the uncertainty of when we are able to return to work and how that’s going to look. It’s pretty dismal, and I fear most other sectors will return to work before us.
Venues have been struggling from the financial impact of this, with many closing. The same with festivals. You can’t operate a live music venue that will turn around a profit with limited capacity and social distancing, so everything, for us, is very much still on full lockdown.
But, we’ve all got being patient down by now - right?!
BMJ: What/who have you been listening to during lockdown?
I’ve been revisiting the music that led to me being a musician in the first place which has been a joy. As I said before, it’s not often I would have the time or headspace to do this much listening.
When I was really young, and years before I started playing, my Dad would always have Duke Ellington’s 70th Birthday Concert album on in the car, and I remember laughing at the strange growly sounds of Cootie Williams and squealing high notes of Cat Anderson, not realising they were the trumpet!
When I started learning at about 14/15, my dad asked if I remembered the “funny sounds you laughed at in the car as a kid?” I remembered, and he told me that they were both the instrument I had just started learning. I can’t tell you how cool I thought that was, and both those players have been a huge influence on me. It had been going in my ears my whole childhood and I didn’t know it at the time!
A few weeks after I started playing, my Dad bought me 3 compilation cassettes - The Big Bands, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. I’ve been revisiting these recordings during lockdown, and I can remember the excitement of hearing them for the first time. For anyone that knows my musical tastes and playing style, it kind of adds up that these were my earliest musical influences. Thank you, Dad!!!
BMJ: What would be your recommended lockdown trumpet playlist, to share your heroes and influences with our club members?
Duke Ellington 70th Birthday Concert (Trumpets: Cat Anderson, Cootie Williams, Mercer Ellington, Rolf Ericson)
Louis Armstrong and The Good Book
Dizzy Gillespie on the French Riviera
Oscar Peterson +1 with Clark Terry
Chet Baker: She Was To Good To Me
Maynard Ferguson: A Message from Newport (I don’t think they mean South Wales…)
.....that’ll get you started!
BMJ: Anything that you would like to add?
I was saddened to hear the news that Keith Tippett passed away a couple of weeks ago. Keith was a genius of modern music and he had a wonderful and diverse career. The reason I mention Keith here is that he was one of my mentors whilst at the Royal Welsh, and was a huge part of my musical growth.
It wasn’t until he passed away that I reflected on how much impact he had had on me. He ran one of the college big bands which I played in for 4 years, alongside improvisation workshops and many enchanting chats over a cider or more. He pushed me, featured me, inspired me, and changed the way that I and so many other students there listened to music.
He was funny and kind to us all, whilst ensuring we all took the music seriously, which he did by example. He made us feel important to be making music and to respect what we did. Thank you, Keith.
Here’s a short clip that shows you what a legend Keith was, and he explains his musical concept. Check his music out!
Thanks for having me do this interview, and thanks to those that have read this far!
I wish you all happiness and health, and hope to be performing for your pleasure just as soon as we can! Take good care,
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