Where: Hermann’s Jazz Club
When: Oct. 3, 8 p.m.
Canadian trumpeter Bria Skonberg is stirring ripples in New York City. Recently, the jazz musician and vocalist recalled an early career break.
It happened in Victoria.
Skonberg, 29, has earned plaudits from the Wall Street Journal (“Poised to be one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation”), the Washington Post (“A young jazz star on the rise”) and even Wynton Marsalis, who deems her “the full package.”
In 2010, Skonberg, a Chilliwack native now based in Brooklyn, performed with her quartet in a downtown hotel as part of the Victoria International Jazz Festival. John Pizzarelli, an admired jazz guitarist also playing the festival, was dining in the hotel.
The New Yorker was invited to sit in — and ended up jamming for more than an hour.
Pizzarelli was impressed by Skonberg’s big, Louis-Armstrong-influenced sound. He kept in touch, later collaborating with Skonberg in New York (he plays on her debut album So is the Day). Skonberg has also gigged with Pizzarelli’s famous dad, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who declares Skonberg to be “unbelievable.”
Her date next week at Hermann’s Jazz Club promises to be one of the season’s hot jazz tickets. Skonberg will be joined by saxophonist/clarinetist Evan Arntzen, bassist Sean Cronin, pianist Dalton Ridenhour and drummer Darrian Douglas.
“We’ll do some pretty unique arrangements of standards and a lot of original material,” she said.
Interviewed this week, the Capilano College graduate recalled bidding her parents a teary farewell at the Seattle airport three years ago, en route to making New York her new home.
Immediately upon her arrival, a musician friend invited her to busk at Washington Square. It was there Skonberg received a good omen.
“Wynton Marsalis just walked on by. And he stopped and listened and kind of gave me a thumbs-up. I was like, ‘OK!’ I didn’t know if I was hallucinating, because I was so short on sleep.”
Things have gone well. Skonberg earned a 2013 Jazz Journalists Association nomination for up-and-coming jazz artist of the year.
This year, Downbeat magazine included her in its rising-star critics’ poll. She gigs regularly at top New York jazz clubs such as Birdland, the Iridium and Dizzy’s.
Her heroes include Armstrong and jazz singer Anita O’Day. Yet, as rooted as she is in New Orleans tradition, Skonberg is keen to be a modern musician and singer. She’s covered tunes by Janis Joplin and Swedish rockers the Cardigans. Sometimes she experiments with fuzz pedals.
“I really like growly, like plunger-type trumpet effects. I’ve started putting my trumpet with a distortion effects pedal,” she said. “I’ll bring it out at the most appropriate times at a concert. I do it very sparingly.”
Skonberg notes jazz pioneers such as Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton were always interested in being innovative.
“They wouldn’t necessarily do the same songs that’ve always been played. They’d do a little bit of that. But they’d choose a new thing they’d been working on — just stretching boundaries. . . . That’s the spirit of jazz, of the music, that it was originally new and fresh at the time.”
While she misses her family and friends in B.C., Skonberg will continue her career in New York. For her, the Big Apple offers unique rewards. These have included playing with director/clarinetist Woody Allen at one of his regular Monday night gigs at the Carlyle Hotel.
Skonberg, who knows most of the musicians in Allen’s band, visited the hotel last May with instrument in hand. She was invited on stage.
“In New York, you always bring your horn, just in case. I sat right next to him. He said, ‘You sound great. Where are you living?’ . . . [But] people really wanted a piece of him. As soon as the band broke, he left.”