life’s good!

it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

I’m really looking forward to hitting with Josh Evans’ Big Band at the Blue Note on Friday. The intensity level is going to be high, as is the level of musicianship. You don’t want to miss it.

I’m also really looking forward to hitting with Asaf Yuria. If you don’t know, Asaf is BAD. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifyKwDoAUQE

The hit in Bushnell Park on July 29th - or, as Matt and I have been calling it for months, “THE gig,” lived up to its billing. Matt, Sarah, Josh, Zaccai, Luques and JB were on fire. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t there, we went in on Inner Glimpse, Starmaker, Sirius System, Happy Times, and The Intrepid Fox. We crossed the street to Black Eyed Sally’s and did it again with the music of Charlie Parker. It was a good day. Nothing but love for my Hartford brothers and sisters.

All in all, I’m playing with cats I really, really respect. Life’s good. I didn’t think it would be this good, this fast, but it is, and I’m loving it. Stop by and say hello!

August 16th - Josh Evans Big Band @ Blue Note, 12:30 AM

August 17th - Asaf Yuria @ Fat Cat, 10 PM

even better than before

I’ve been enjoying New York thoroughly. Whether I’m grooving on Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” at Smoke on a Saturday, watching Jon Elbaz rip through barriers like swiss cheese at Smalls, or taking in the Mingus Big Band on a Monday, New York has no shortage of blessings, love, and music. It’s all happening, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

I’ve been making the rounds to as many sessions as I can find, whether it’s Kelly Green’s trio on Tuesdays and Thursdays at The Wilky, Alex Tremblay’s group at Sort of Wine Bar on Wednesdays, or any night at Smalls. I live for this.

I have some news to share - soon, but not just yet. Things are moving fast. The reception I’ve been getting from the musicians I revere is shocking. Are they sure they have the right guy? Do they know I’m small-time? Do they know that this was only a dream for me, one that I was never quite sure would happen? Apparently, those notions are products of a bygone era. It’s a new story of self for me, and I’m loving every minute of it.

I look forward to sharing some announcements in the coming months. For now, I can say that I’ll be with Allen Lowe’s group at Jazz at Lincoln Center (room TBA) on May 2nd at 7:30. As always, that one will be fun and fearless.

The city that never sleeps. I do, usually between the hours of 5 AM and 12 PM. It took me a long time to be here, but I’m here. Life is good. Hope to see you somewhere.

o3

a little housekeeping:

First off, check the Gigs page for my schedule. I know of some dates I can’t share with you just yet. This is shaping up to be an epic year. 

now: 

there’s a new page above: o3. 

You may have seen the video on Facebook by now. It has been viewed 884 times in two days. I don’t know if that’s a lot, but it looks like a lot!

This concept was born out of two defining moments: first, my time at the Hartt School; second, three years off the horn.

The two people I probably played with the most were Matt Dwonszyk and Corey Garcia. Matt was in the class above me; Corey was three classes below me.  

Matt’s ears and heart are always on display. He has played bass with pretty much everyone who has ever come through Hartford since 2009. His harmonic choices are clear, his beat is huge, and he can adapt to any scenario.  In addition, he’s a great composer and educator, and one of the most sincere and sweet people on Earth. I’m honored to know him.

I met Corey on my way out of town. From the minute I heard him, my ears perked up. He was playing the mess out of the drums when he was 18, and we quickly bonded over the music of Roswell Rudd and Anthony Braxton. In addition, we share an overt goofiness. I can safely say Corey is one of my best friends, and another one of my favorite people anywhere on Earth.

During the three years of vocal cord dysfunction, I was writing, but I couldn’t play any of it. I wanted to hear what this new music sounded like, but I couldn’t even play any of the melodies. I was relegated to imagining how the compositions would sound, and who would play them. 

Not too long before that whole saga began, my senior recital had happened. It was, in a word, baller, and more explosive than I dreamed it would be. I had hoped to continue playing with that crew. Unfortunately, with the delay in my life, I couldn’t keep track of them. Understandably, they have all been very busy in the last five years.

I wanted to recreate some of the moments from that gig.  There’s one part of The Bear, during Andrew Renfroe’s solo, where Renfroe, Dwonz and JB are moving simultaneously, but still together in time. That was probably what I wanted for the whole gig. I realized I could synthesize that sound with only three people, and I wanted to focus on that dynamic.

Of course, with that jarring transition to the edges of society just after school, I changed. I probably mellowed out. I realized that music and life are best when shared with your friends. It was only logical that I would share my music with Matt and Corey, once I believed I was ready.

The original rehearsal was fun. I didn’t send them any of the music ahead of time. I wanted to see how they would react with zero preconceived notions, and zero idea of how I wanted the music to be played. We covered a wide range. We continue to develop a means of communication, but the way we play was already developed as a result of our time in Hartford. They know what I’m going to do, and I have some idea of what they’re going to do. Off the bandstand, we’re open, humorous, and emotionally transparent. It makes sense in pretty much every way. 

We have some upcoming performances to announce. There might be some surprising elements within each announcement. I don’t know. I do solemnly swear that I am up to no good. 

Hope you join us on this exploration. 

 

Sincerely, 

Brian Simontacchi

so what's next?

I don’t know.

I have a couple theories:

  • I continue my winning streak.

  • Something unfortunate happens that sets me back, and I am grateful for this winning streak while it lasted.

  • Whatever happens next is very different than what I am accustomed to in my life.

  • All of the above

What’s my best guess?

That depends on how I see myself.

I’m totally prepared for Door #2. I’ve been there before, and I’ll be there again at some point. My brain is telling me to prepare for whatever is behind Door #2.

I already know that I’ll peek behind Door #3 next year. I know some things that are definitely going to happen, and you might not believe me when I tell you what they are. I’m starting to experience some things my emotional makeup isn’t totally prepared to handle. That’s OK. I’m ready to try some new things.

Door #1 is the one I’m least prepared to acknowledge. I’m not accustomed to a two year winning streak. I can’t say I’ve ever felt good for that long. You hear grit in my playing; the reason is there’s grit in my life. I didn’t make things easy for myself, but everyone didn’t always make things easy for me. On top of that, there were some cosmic occurrences with seemingly no preparation or precedent. That’s life for almost everyone, including me.

It is more of a challenge for me to try new things than it is to stick to the things I know best. Eventually, change comes to the things and people you know best, or your needs change to the point where you no longer want the things and people you know best. That is a new realization. To an extent, everything in my life is new. I drove by the house we lived in for 25 years; it is unrecognizable now. New energy is inside and outside. I had so many new experiences this year - like driving up to Hartford last weekend, completely unprepared, and finding out that I was on a gig with Sarah Hanahan ten minutes before the start of the gig, which, by the way, was spiritual, fierce, and way better than anything else I could have done that night - that I can safely say I’m making it up as I go.

Improvisation, more or less, is the art of recombining the ideas you have in new ways. The future is kind of like that, as well; tomorrow, and every day after that, you will probably repurpose aspects of your life in new ways. You know the ingredients, inside and out, but you don’t necessarily know how the stew will taste different tomorrow. If it tastes the same, you might be OK with that for a little while. Eventually, we all need to feel like life is moving forward, like we’re making progress. If we didn’t, we would be perfectly fine doing nothing for the rest of our lives. We need to be social and active, and we are.

The older I get, the more I ask myself to make life feel new. I don’t want a long stretch of time to feel familiar, or I might think I’m not making progress. A certain amount of familiarity is still a must; if life changes too fast, I will wrestle with the meaning of the changes until I know. Many have asked me to “go with the flow.” As of right now, I can’t, and I probably never will.

For this reason, I don’t know whether 2019 will bring significant change and unfamiliarity, or consistency and predictability. I don’t know which of those ideas sounds better right now. I might not be ready to live my dream, but I’m definitely not ready to know that I’m nowhere close. I lost too much time to accept stagnation, but I also accept my limitations as a person and a musician. Whether I can do what you ask me to do depends on whether you ask. If you don’t ask, I’ll know I need to wait. If you do, I’ll summon my courage and jump in head first. I can promise you that much.

I carry the pain of a three year hiatus from music and life around with me. It’s heavy. Sometimes I need to take a little break for fear that I might be acclimating too quickly. I feel the stress that comes with making every opportunity count. There’s no learning curve; for whatever I’m doing, the time to do it is now, or potentially never.

My heart is all in, or all out. If I’m not all in on something, I should save my energy for something else. That’s my life. That’s my pulse. That’s me.

The good news is that I’m establishing a life that works. I’m not going to sacrifice that for any gig. You can’t put a price on how I feel right now.

Give me this day my daily bread, and I’ll be all right. Grant me some artistic license. Allow me to show you my heart and mind. I’m a little bold sometimes, but it’s easier than ever for me to love myself and you. I feel like my existence is correct, not an aberration of a cosmic formula. One of the greatest gifts is knowing that you are good enough, appreciated, and loved. I acknowledged that this year, and it feels good.

As an artist, I hope I can help you find your heart. It can be difficult to give love all the time. If I show you some love, maybe you’ll pass it around. That would be all right with me.

See you somewhere.

Very truly yours,

Brian Simontacchi

things are looking up

starting to really experience New York. got to spend some time with Corey Wilcox early Wednesday morning. For those of you who don’t know, Corey is a ridiculous trombone musician.

last night, I started my night by checking out Sylvia Cuenca at Smalls. Her quartet was ridiculous. Ralph Bowen floored me with his solo on McCoy Tyner’s “For Tomorrow.” 

stopped by Dizzy’s for Andrew Renfroe’s quartet. Those are my dudes. Renfroe always has an interesting arrangement (or five) to share. 

after that, came back to Smalls for Jovan Alexandre and his quartet. What a band. Tim Angulo was making his first appearance with the band on drums. He was.....well, you’ll see.

after that, played some tunes at the jam session. Johnny O’Neal was very complimentary. that’s a big deal.

the next step is to move close to the city, e.g. Jersey City or something like that, or Brooklyn or Queens. looking for an opportunity to do that.

Eternally grateful for my second chance. On to the next one.....which is Allen Lowe’s Fake Music Ensemble in Hamden, CT, on October 13th at Best Video! 

 

the sky is not a limit

the last three days were very rewarding.

New Jersey -> Hartford -> Boston -> Hartford -> Boston -> New Jersey

That was 14 hours of driving in three days, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Music is what I do. Playing great music with great musicians, such as those in the Makanda Project, was always the dream. If I have to drive 14 hours to do that, great. This is what I signed up for.

I am back to doing what I love, but where shall I go from here? I don't know.

It's not up to me. It's up to other people. It always has been, and it always will be. Some people find reasons not to like me. Some people like who I am.

I don't know. I'm just a guy who plays the trombone. If my next gig is in a pasture playing for the cows, great. They need music, too.

Ambition was a part of my DNA at one point, but at this point, being able to play again, I'm just happy to be here. I'm happy to play for you. I hope that never changes.

"Let him be, man. Can't somebody smile?"

-Jackie McLean

you have questions

so do i.

i know, almost beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the voice issues and the penny are unrelated.

beyond that, things have changed. my capabilities are probably beyond what they've ever been. honestly, i'm more confused than excited. 

i can't accurately reflect on this. i didn't do the technical exercises necessary to generate a sound like this. i'm not sure what the explanation is. i've wondered whether the speech therapy was a technical exercise that has expanded my ability to produce sound.

i made a record with Allen Lowe with a penny in my horn. i played Dizzy's and Firehouse 12 with a penny lodged in my trombone. i'm not sure how i didn't know that was possible, but it's wild. i think acquitted myself pretty well in those situations, but this development opens up new doors for me.

i didn't think i was really ready to be who i wanted to be before the penny. after the penny, everything is available. i've been asked to play with the Makanda Project on August 11th at First Chuch in Roxbury, MA (Boston area), playing the music of Makanda Ken McIntyre. the band is heavy. this will be an opportunity to sink or swim with these newfound abilities. 

i have no idea what the future holds, other than the fact that you will see more of me. it has been a long week, and i think i need to recover now. i'll post one more track from the Joe Henderson gig (which was stellar, props to all involved), then contemplate my future and my past. with any fortune, i can have the future i have wanted for a long time.

be well, friends!

https://soundcloud.com/brian-simontacchi/mo-joe

 

all systems go

the instrument doesn’t produce the desired effect without the body being aligned with the mind. that hasn’t been the case lately. I was worrying about the wrong things. everything was upside down for about two weeks, so I took a step back. no Facebook. no trombone. no Smalls. no calls on important topics. totally disconnected. I feel much better already.

I’m still in that process to some extent.  not sure how long this lasts, but I’m enjoying myself. that’s the most important thing.

 https://youtu.be/0FOtyg7lnrE

be well, friends

background music

now that I have your attention....

you may be wondering, “why does he play the trombone like that?” The short answer is that I have to do it this way. The long answer: 

Some people say playing the trombone is hard. I didn’t experience that. It has something to do with my upbringing, I suppose. As a little boy, I used to have to shovel snow until my hands were pretty much frozen. Everything had a purple tint when I came back into the house. We shoveled until dark. When my dad and I would work on a project, it would take all day. Raking leaves: don’t stop until it’s done. B plus: not really good enough. I got used to it, for better or for worse. 

When I got to college, that was my work ethic. In high school, even, I would knock out a four minute transcription, recorded to long term memory, in three or four hours. That’s just me. It’s not better or worse; it just is. 

Four to eight hour practice days were common at the Hartt School. I knew I wasn’t good enough yet, so I practiced until I was.  

Eventually, I started practicing more than just the music of JJ Johnson or Curtis Fuller. McCoy Tyner. Woody Shaw. Freddie, of course. Dexter. Clifford Brown. John Coltrane. Why not? It was there, and I was getting closer and closer to being able to do it. I figured I might as well go for it. 

I didn’t decide to go this route. I just did. I didn’t choose my voice. It didn’t even choose me; it was me. I just put my essence into learning the music I wanted to learn. It figured itself out in my subconscious.

My writing is similarly constructed. Growing up, my brother and I bonded over Led Zeppelin, Victor Wooten, Keller Williams, the Grateful Dead, and Whitney Houston. That all seeped in. At some point, James Brown became a focal point of my concept. He practically invented the hip-hop form all by himself. Funk is hip-hop, as far as I’m concerned. Rhythm precedes harmony, energy precedes rhythm, improvisation is key. That’s what I’m trying to do with instrumental music, in a nutshell. 

You may ask why I’m going in this direction. That’s the wrong question. The question you should be asking is, “how do I realize my life through music?” If you really have no idea how to do that, you might need to put the horn down and live a little. 

This is fun. Onward and upward. 

 -brian

on freddie’s birthday

Freddie Hubbard, of course, is my hero. He is one of my greatest influences.

His time, I believe, was a bit simpler. Step 1: find a band. Step 2: meet the band. Step 3: ingratiate yourself to the band. Step 4: get a chance to play with the band. Step 5: play with the band full-time. Step 6: leave the band and start a solo career. Simple enough - if you can hang.  You’d have food, a roof over your head and a record deal. What more could a person possibly want, I asked with a hint of sarcasm?

Now, the most prolific among us still get record deals, but they are fewer and far between. No longer do we see discoveries in music; instead, you have to be well known already, promoting yourself to the point where your already cultivated image can be sold. I find this counterproductive to the socioeconomic climate for artists, but that’s not my call. 

I harken back to those YouTube clips of Freddie at the Vanguard. He was long established as one of the greatest trumpeters of all time, but it was his musicianship that paved the way for everything afterwards. You wanted Freddie in your club; you needed Freddie in your club. He was so electric that the crowd would go wild after every single tune. It was a no-brainer. He created hype without selling it; he played it into existence. 

Things are harder, now. Press kits (are those still a thing?) Managers. Talent buyers. Pay for your own record. Make your own way so that the industry can invest a little and make a lot of money. Websites (thank God for Squarespace. I got this thing done in a half hour). Spotify. You know what it is. 

If anything keeps me going, it’s the knowledge that if your game is as tight as anyone out there, you will probably go where you want. You will be heard. You will be noticed. You will stand out. I’m no Freddie, but I think I can contribute something different to the scene. I believe I can stand out. That’s up to you. We shall see. 

Happy birthday to Mr. Freddie Hubbard. You live on through us every day. 

 

the website/#therise

I don’t really feel like getting sappy, but this is a great time for me, especially when you consider where I was four years ago. 

Right before I was about to graduate from college, I began to suffer from vocal cord dysfunction. Basically, my vocal cords opened when they were supposed to close and closed when they were supposed to open. I had chest pains, trouble talking and trouble breathing for at least two years. At least 10 doctors had no cure.  of course, if you can’t take a full breath, trombone is incredibly difficult. It was too painful, physically and emotionally. It affected every facet of my life.

I finally found the right speech therapist in early 2017. Her name is Michele Demarest. She’s terrific. Her company is Morris Speech Therapy. She trained me in recovering my voice and ability to play. Almost every day, I performed the exercises, and I began to see results.

Fast forward a year. I am attending jam sessions in New York. I am playing with Allen Lowe and Elijah Shiffer. I played Dizzy’s in February and Firehouse 12 in March, both with Allen. I might be allowed to post a recording from the Firehouse gig, but I can’t make any promises at this point. It was dope, though; I hope I may. I have two jobs in the sports world. I am re-establishing my friendships. I am having the time of my life. the last step of my recovery is to bring the Vibe Tribe back. I have been writing for four years, and I cannot wait to share this music with you. Literally. I have waited long enough.

I want to welcome you to my brand new website. I hope you like it! This is an exciting time for me. I can’t wait to see as many of you as possible! 

stay tuned for the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey returns of the Tribe. Hope to see you around! 

sincerely and humbly yours,

brian simontacchi