Update: Brownman’s Gravitation: A Study In Freefall available on iTunes
Euphonic Sound had the pleasure of spending some significant time with Brownman Ali — heralded as “Canada’s preeminent jazz trumpeter” by New York’s Village Voice — during the creation of his most recent recording from the BROWNMAN ELECTRYC TRIO. To give justice to Brownman’s bio is beyond the scope of this post, I encourage you to learn more at Brownman.com. I would however like to throw a few random facts that may help paint a clearer picture for the uninitiated on the depth of this unique artist.
For instance, Brownman is currently the leader of 7 bands. CBC recently called Brownman the most recorded trumpeter in Canadian history (he has over 300 recording credits – and roughly 30 of those recordings won Junos). Brownman has worked with the likes of Guru (of Gangstarr fame), Mos Def, KRS-1, Big Daddy Kane, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews Band, Nelly Furtado and far too many more to mention here, as the horn man most A-list artists seem to call upon when in need of rock-solid trumpet player & creative improvising. Brownman was recently honoured by the Trinidad & Tobago government bascially for being an international trumpet playing badass! (Brown was born in Trinidad, although he is a Canadian citizen). Brownman is the recipient of multiple prestigious national and international jazz awards.
Brownman has been a long time collaborator of mine (he has contributed tons of great trumpet playing to many of the musical productions at Euphonic Sound). This time through the studio Brown was working on the follow up to 2011’s award winning Brownman Electryc Trio full length, Juggernaut. The new Brownman Electryc Trio is called Gravitation: A Study in Freefall.
All of the recording (except for some of the bass contributions that were sent via the web by the players) was done at Euphonic Sound. Famed mastering enigneer Nick Blagona did all of the post production. We recorded Brownman’s trumpet entirely with a custom designed audio chain. The ribbon mic, tube preamplifier, and opto-tube compressor used on Brown are analog, class A, fully discrete products of Freddy Gabrsek’s and my boutique pro audio research & development shop Origin Audio.
Gravitation: A Study in Freefall features a collection of top tier bass players among them the current bassist for the Jaco Pastorious big band US bass monster DAMIAN ERSKINE. Damian is the nephew of legendary drummer Peter Erskine. He will also be appearing with the Brownman Electryc Trio for the two night release event for Gravitation: A Study In Freefall coming up this June 28th and 29th in Toronto. Here are the details:
Fri-Jun-28, 9pm & Sat-Jun-29, 9pm
@ Mây, Toronto, 876 Dundas St. West, Toronto
$20 at the door | $15 advanced list
(email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on adv list
& don’t forget to mention which day you’re interested in)
[ Part of the TORONTO DOWNTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL
--> Last 2-nights of the fest! ]
The other bass geniuses on the album are Tyler Emond (original Electryc Trio bassist), Marc Rogers (Philosopher Kings, Holly Cole), Ben Miller (God Made Me Funky), Ian D’Souza (Sisters Euclid), and the young 23 year old Brad Cheeseman, making his first appearance with the trio, and soon to be taking over the bass chair from Tyler for Canadian road dates. And on drums is the awesome Colin Kingsmore (founding member of the Electryc Trio, also with Juno winner Elizabeth Shepherd & one of the best drummers I’ve seen come through Euphonic Sound in 10 years).
The bed tracks for the album which included bass, drums and trumpet were recorded over a year ago. It was in May of this year that we got the call from Brown that it was time to finish. Once Brown got rolling on his edits (choosing the best takes from the beds etc.) and trumpet overdubs he worked like a mad man in a very condensed period of time to finish before his tight album release deadline.
It really was a life changing experience witnessing (and assisting) Brown in his vision for this new Brownman Electryc Trio album. Myself and the two other engineers that helped Brown (Remi Stevens and Toronto MC Prolific) experienced a similar feeling of having been involved in a project led by a person of extraordinary talent and vision and an unprecedented level of drive and energy – all in such a positive way. Brownman is full of life and positive vibes all the time. He is the hardest working most energetic (sometimes down right explosive) artist I’ve worked with. You must see him live to get a sense of what I’m talking about.
Underneath a fundamentally genuine and truly positive human being — who is always the first to joke around and raise spirits while creating an atmosphere of fun — is an intensely focused musical intellect coupled with an ear only true virtuoso musicians have. Its uncanny. Its inspiring. Its a beautiful thing.
Its also very challenging. Brownman is hard to keep up with. That goes for the musicians he plays with but also for all of the engineers and tech people assisting him. Due to scheduling I wasn’t able to cover very many of Brown’s May sessions. Prolific and Remi were pulling insane hours (more than a few over night sessions) with one session going over 20 hours.
Its challeging to have the endurance to keep up with that, but its also challenigng to engineer for him becuase you really need to be super fast in how you start and stop, cue things up, perform on the fly edits and set up punch ins – the man moves really really fast and this requires an engineer who is fast, focused and on the ball at all times. Trust me this is not an easy thing. Big thanks to Remi and Prolific for coming through on this!
I asked Remi and Prolific to contribute some of their thoughts on working with Canada’s very own Trumpet genius. Here is what they came up with:
“Engineering for Brownman at Euphonic Sound was intense and enlightening. Our longest session went 20 hours; we took one short break and ate nothing but a few bananas. I was delirious by the end – and I hadn’t been blowing into a trumpet all night! The creativity doesn’t seem to let up either. The man is a torrent of improvisational genius. I honestly hated to throw away all the inspirations we didn’t use. While reviewing material and editing, I found Brown could hone in on the most minuscule details with the art of a skilled engineer. He clearly has a deep understanding of music and sound beyond instrumentation. Brownman taught me things about rhythm and jazz I’d never even heard of before!
His sessions are truly a tsunami of musical brilliance in multiple facets. Also, to hear him talk about his relationship with his instrument is inspiring. I couldn’t get enough and would definitely look forward to working with Brownman again.” – Remi Stevens
And here is what Prolific had to say,
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“Brownman is perhaps the first real artist that I’ve ever met. As an artist myself and as a studio engineer I’ve spent countless hours in the presence of talented musicians, but I’ve never been in the company of someone who has mastered their art to the degree Brownman has. He is one of those rare artists who uses the technical mastery of their craft to harness raw creativity and raise it to a sublime level.
In my 3 weeks working with Brownman I noticed my own sensibilities as a musician improving. On trumpet takes that I thought were perfect, Brownman would point out that that they were in fact a millisecond off. The accuracy of his ear was incredible! While we were tracking his trumpets he would pick up on even the slightest discrepancy in tone between takes from previous days, and the present day of recording. I realized quickly that recording Brownman would require a whole other level of professionalism on my part to accommodate the needs of such a high-level musician. Beyond his attention to detail his work ethic is unmatched – grueling 10 hours sessions didn’t phase him in the least. When I would go home after these sessions to crash he would energetically return home to continue working on the record.
Brownman is a tremendous talent and music personality. The energy he emits as a person is reflected in the lively and unapologetic tones of his trumpet. Brownman truly embodies his music and is in the never-ending process of elevating the world of jazz trumpet to another level. Authentic and original, Brownman is unquestionably one of the greatest Canadian Jazz artists of our times.” – Prolific
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