Jazz trombonist Jeff Bradshaw first burst onto the music scene with his debut album Bone Deep in 2003. Since then, he has worked with some of the most prominent names in music today. Soul Train sits down to talk with “Mr. Trombone.”
ST: For those who may not be that familiar with you, tell them a little bit about yourself.
JB: I am a Philly born and raised trombone player, writer, arranger, producer, and singer. I’ve been on the road touring with some of the biggest artists in this country. I was a part of the Philly neo-soul and hip- hop movement that spawned such artists as Jill Scott, The Roots, and Jaguar Wright. I’ve toured with Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Musiq Soulchild, Kanye West, Common, and many many others. I’ve pretty much been a part of the whole soul movement that started in the 90s.
ST: Now you’re a apart of the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. What inspired you to become a part of that and to go down to New Orleans and shoot the video for “Got Til Its Gone” with Marsha Ambrosius.
JB: Well you know it’s ironic that you asked that question. It’s very easy to answer. I’ll try to make it short. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, for all of us people who care about people, and especially my brass brothers, to see people suffer the way that the great people of that region did, I felt like I had a responsibility to use this vehicle of music to speak on how I felt about it. Although there are many natural disasters all over the world, my heart is still with the people of the Gulf Coast. When CNN and all other media outlets pulled out of there and the spotlight was gone, after so many years there’s still work to be done down there. I wanted to speak with my music, my song, and that video to shine the light back on that city to show those people are recuperating. Yes, some things have been done, but there’s still so much work to be done to that region.
ST: It definitely brought a great message. Now artists like yourself, Marsha Ambrosius, Raheem DeVaughn, and Kindred the Family Soul–who are all on your album–still give us music with substance and impact the people. Do you think that’s becoming a lost art or do you think it’s making its way back around?
JB: I definitely don’t think it’s a lost art because you still have all of the people you listed, you still have the Jill Scotts, the Erykah Badus, The Mos Defs, The Commons, The Talib Kwelis, and the other great artists that record music with integrity that speaks to us and that heals. So I don’t think it’s a lost art. I don’t think it was like it was in the 70s. I don’t think there are as many artists [doing those records] like it was then. I just think it’s a smaller connection of artists that record music like that.
ST: What do you think it would take for that to be back in the forefront as it once was?
JB: Well, we have to expose our younger generation to those artists, and they will, in turn, become conscious people that understand that music needs to speak to people. Music needs to have a message that builds, helps, and touches people. We have to raise artists in order to do that. We have to reach them young, and expose them to the history of music. That will develop younger fans, because we’re all fans first! You don’t just become an artist first. You a fan and then as you become an artist, you’re influenced by those things that you love.
ST: Exactly! Now who were you a fan of growing up?
JB: Aw man, this interview isn’t long enough for that! [Laughs] As a musician, I was a fan of my father. He was a trombone, player. Fred Wesley, he was a trombone player [most noted for his work] for James Brown. He was the arrangers for the JB’s (Brown’s backing band). I have many [influences] like Greg Boyer, who played with P Funk, Prince, and Chuck Brown. Fred Wesley is probably the most influential in my life, because I was told that I sounded like him at a young age. Then once I heard him I was like, “I don’t sound like that! He is bad!” I think my favorite current artist is D’Angelo.
ST: That’s definitely a great favorite artist to have right now!
JB: And again, an artist that was influenced by so many other artists. D’Angelo is Prince, James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Al Green. He has all of those artists mixed up in there and I like the way it comes out as D’Angelo, but you see the influences.
ST: Now you’ve carved out your own lane, and there are not a lot of instrumentalists that get the accolades that you receive. Do you feel any pressure being one of the more prominent instrumentalists out?
JB: Personally, no. I love what I do. The people that love it and like it, love it and like it. The people that don’t, well I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like it [laughs], but my album came out right in line with what they are classing the “new jazz”: Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, and now Jeff Bradshaw. You know they’re calling it “new jazz”, but it’s just jazz that’s outside the box. We’re just adding in some really cool artists who speak to our audience. So personally, I’m excited just being mentioned in line with these great artists that I’m also a fan of.
Jeff Bradshaw’s new album Bone Appétit is available in stores and online. It features guest appearances such as Marsha Ambrosius, Raheem DeVaughn, Kindred the Family Soul and more. You can learn more about him at www.jeffbradshaw.com.