Bobby Bradford @ 75 an Appreciation by James Newton

From Point of Departure and James Newton:

How can one begin to assess the numerous contributions of a great cornetist/trumpeter/composer/bandleader/educator? How can one also adequately offer a testament for an artist who is such a high quality human being and who profoundly touches so many lives?

Those of us who have been blessed to know Bobby Bradford for a number of years can attest to a probing, powerful intellect that assimilates the history of Jazz in a highly unique manner, drawing conclusions that are as innovative and provocative as one of his solos. His understanding of the history, coupled with his embracing of Jazz’s mandate for innovation, reveals itself in his teaching, playing and composing. I have profoundly admired his brilliant mind, up-tempo wit and his usual location of being two or three steps ahead of everyone else. Like Lester Bowie, he has achieved an individualistic incorporation of Louis Armstrong’s musical language and has placed that influence within the context of modern Jazz’s avant-garde movements. Like Sonny Rollins, J.S. Bach and Ornette Coleman, Bradford has a strong penchant for using musical sequences in both his compositional and improvisational languages. Also like Sonny Rollins, Bradford has a remarkable gift of musical memory. These gifts along with a boundless imagination have consistently enabled Bradford to deftly organize his improvisations. I am consistently stunned by the exquisite musical architecture instantaneously created in his solos. These improvisational edifices give room for his listening audiences to roam within them – exploring and discovering something new about him and themselves. Bradford’s rhythmical language is extremely diverse and his lyrical leanings give many of his solos an emotional depth that only the best practitioners in the music achieve. Bradford is Bradford – coming out of Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Fats Navarro, Charles Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young – yet still Bradford.

One crucial aspect of Los Angeles’ musical scene, from Bop to Free Jazz, was that one had to find his or her individual sound. It is impossible to confuse one note of Bobby Bradford with that of any other trumpeter or cornetist. His sound uses a smidgen of air, sometimes in a fashion similar to Ben Webster or Paul Gonsalves’ use of air, as an expressive part of the sub-tone sound. Bradford’s timbral specificity within his language (not the one sound fits all ideas approach) adds a vocal quality to his playing that exudes emotional sensitivity not often found within the context of new music.

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Bonus Video:
Paal, Ingebrigt, Sabir, Kevin and Bobby @ SJK, part1/2

See you at the Jazz Standard this weekend!