Jazz musician Brian Newman’s latest collaboration, Cheek to Cheek with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett is available NOW from Streamline/Columbia/Interscope. Cheek to Cheek features exciting interpretations of jazz and standards including “Bang Bang,” “Black Magic,” and “I get a kick out of you.”
Brian graciously took time to answer questions about collaborating on Cheek to Cheek and New York’s ever changing/evolving jazz music scene.
Brian Newman’s latest album, Live from New York City is Available Now!
Catch Brian Newman performing at the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. Check out Brian’s WEBSITE for performance dates and news!
Describe New York City in 2014, and what the jazz music scene is like now? How has it changed/evolved from when you first started?
When I first moved to New York in early 2003, I was fresh from college and I wasn’t necessarily sure how to go about making my living playing music. I did know that I had to play as much as possible and meet with as many people as I could. I ended up going to a lot of jam sessions at places like Fat Cat, Cleopatra’s Needle, Smoke and Dizzy’s Club. I was taking gigs with anybody who needed a trumpet player. It wasn’t always the style of music that I was into, but I was just working to get my foot in any door. I think that scene is still very much alive for a hungry musician who wants to break into it. From there, I really started to figure out how things work here and started to strike out on my own. Then I pushed to make a career for my band mates and myself, these are the same guys I have known and been playing with since 1999.
Most memorable performance?
One of my most recent and most memorable performances was at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It was in front of a live audience and taped for PBS’ Great Performances’. I was really proud of the band because we got to finally showcase the arranging and recording work we did on the Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga record Cheek to Cheek. We even had two live tracks from the show make the record, “Bang Bang” and “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered. I thoroughly enjoy the recording process but my favorite thing on earth is to perform live, and it’s so gratifying to hear it on an international level. Plus, to be standing next to Mr. Tony Bennett and know he likes what we are doing. Not to mention what talent LG has, she reminds me of Dinah Shore. I listen to her sing and its so old school and coming from the same place Tony is coming from. It’s where the quintet and I come from too. We all live there. I love that these two are heralding the Great American Songbook so proudly.
What albums/ artists would you recommend for people just getting into jazz music?
I recently bought “The Complete Tony Bennett & Bill Evans Recordings.” It is truly a beautiful piece of art. Some of my other top records are Sarah Vaughn “in HI-FI,” Frank Sinatra “Live at the Sands,” with the Count Basie Band, Hank Mobley “Soul Station,” Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers “Live from the Cafe Bohemia” Chet Baker “Sings” & “Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane”
What challenges did you face while working on Cheek to Cheek with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett; two legendary and iconic artists?
To be totally honest with you, it was an all around beautiful experience. The professionalism those two have is real old school showbiz. All we as a band had to do was get in where we fit in. The time frame was really the only challenge. I am very thankful for our pianist Alex Smith and our tenor player Steve Kortyka for arranging the songs we recorded so quickly and efficiently. We all knew what vibe we we’re going for and as a team we created a hip and fresh palette for Tony and Gaga to soar over. I think all in all we did the tracks in less than a week start to finish. They were all recorded in live takes with the whole quintet and LG and Tony singing, man, what a trip!
What did you learn from the collaboration? / What makes for a successful collaboration?
I learned so much from this collaborative experience. Working with such talented people is always inspiring and to see them work together so well and so genuinely while honoring the American songbook was a gift. A good collaboration requires artists who can work together with a shared vision and goal, everyone on this project from the musicians to the producers and engineers has a passion for Jazz and music in general. All the puzzle pieces on this project were a perfect fit. I’m honored to be a part of it.
Contemporary and classic are blended throughout your music; do you ever find it difficult to maintain the initial thread of a song while combining different genres?
I think the idea for us is when we approach an arrangement for a song I want it to be entertaining and I want to do it in a different way than it’s been done before. It doesn’t mean its more contemporary or a different genre. It’s still a classic; we are just trying to put our own spin on it. You can hear these songs a million times, performed my a dozen different artists, but everyone has their own favorite version of a tune like, “Black Magic” or “I Get a Kick Out Of You”, it’s what the artist can bring to these timeless and amazing songs that is really where you can leave your mark when performing from The Great American Songbook.
If you could go back to when you first started performing and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
If I could go back to when I first started performing and give myself some advice I would have reminded myself to “keep on doing what your doing, always be yourself, things will be okay. In the meantime just play the very best you can every time you take the horn out of the case” I think you need to be confident and always be ready for any opportunity that presents itself.
What is the most challenging part of the recording process?
For me, the most challenging part of the recording process is being in isolation booths with headphones on. You can see the whole band through the windows but you’re much more far apart than at a live show. Luckily we had the great, Dae Bennett making us sound good in the booth. Avatar Studios is a really great place with amazing instruments, history and the sound is incredible. All these things together made it a really fun and incredible experience.
Who are some songwriters/musicians that have inspired/influenced you?
Growing up the guy I would emulate most, with my voice and the trumpet, was Chet Baker. He turned me onto Jazz and that’s when I decided that that was the genre for me. I listened to a lot of music though, I still do. Everything I could get my hands on. Dizzy, Miles, Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown. One of my favorite singers of all time was Sarah Vaughn. Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima are all on heavy rotation as well.
Where can my readers find you online?
You can find me online at www.BrianNewman.com and on Instagram and twitter @BrianNewmanNY
Thank you very much for the great questions! I hope you dig my answers!