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All that jazz...

Trumpeter and singer Bria Skonberg blasts across the globe and into NH

By ROB LEVEY
Special to the Union Leader
February 08. 2017 1:08PM
Bria Skonberg was only 16 when she started her professional career both singing and playing trumpet in a big-band group. She now travels around the world as a guest artist and band leader. 
If you go...
WHO: Bria Skonberg

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy, Derry

TICKETS: $20

INFO: stockbridgetheatre.com, 437-5210

Although a native of British Columbia, Canada — Chilliwack to be exact — Bria Skonberg will return home in a sense when she performs at Pinkerton Academy’s Stockbridge Theatre in Derry with its high school band Thursday night.

A world-renowned jazz singer, trumpeter and songwriter, Skonberg said her first foray into music was as a member of her middle and high school big band.

“I have been looking forward to it; it is how I got my start,” she said. “I know how much I appreciated school programs and workshops, so it’s a pleasure to pay it forward and be on the other side of that.”

She’s grateful for the opportunities she’s gotten.

“It’s just been six months with major label support, and I have learned a lot along the way,” she said. “I just want to keep building something and have some meaning behind it … Jazz is about connecting with people. I want to keep making that happen.”

Along with the student musicians, Skonberg will be performing arrangements that focus on fun, classic jazz standards, with at least one of her own tunes.

“We will do a lot of combination stuff with a variety of sounds,” she added.

She also will play a couple of tunes from her latest album, “Bria,” which was released this past fall on Sony’s Okeh label.

“I focus on music rooted in the early styles of jazz — Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald — and this style often has strong melodies, which makes it more approachable,” she said. “These are tunes you can sing along with. I just stretch them into the 21st century in ways people might not expect from jazz.”

For Skonberg, one of her biggest thrills is when people come up to her and confess that while they don’t usually like jazz, they really enjoyed the show.

Jazz, she said, is all about the conversation between members of her group as well as with the audience itself.

“Jazz is a language. That is what makes it so special,” she said. “You can see the interplay between members of the group and how people in the audience are interacting with us.”

She doesn’t have one favorite way of expressing her art, whether it’s singing or playing the trumpet.

“Singing informs my trumpet playing,” she said. “I think of lyrics when I am playing the trumpet. It is interesting and a real welcome challenge understanding where those voices do meet. I think this album carved out a place where those voices can come together.”

The album also features Evan Arntzen on sax and clarinet, drummer Ali Jackson, bassist Reginald Veal, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and pianist Aaron Diehl.

“I collect sounds and ideas, and I surround myself with great people who share my vision,” said Skonberg, who noted she has also explored more musical styles since moving to New York City.

“The culture, the music, energy, rhythm and pulse of this city ... It cannot be beat,” she said. “New York is home now, and I’m very lucky to be here.”

She said her roots in British Columbia, however, still inform her approach to music.

“I come from a very pretty place,” she said. “I think it helps to create a peaceful undertone to my music.


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