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Bria Skonberg: Shaking Up the Jazz World
As one of the most influential artists in jazz, Louis Armstrong helped shape the swing era. Though arguably all musicians within the genre draw influences from his sound and style, trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg is steadily earning the reputation as Armstrong’s modern-day counterpart.
The Canadian-songwriter opens this year’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival with Shaking Up the Jazz World on Friday, September 1st.
From an outsider’s perspective, a female trumpeter might seem unusual, given the fact that it’s such a male-dominated field. But not for Skonberg, who says she was surrounded by female trumpeters since she first picked up the brassy instrument in seventh grade.
“I didn’t honestly think it was that strange,” she says. “I understand that there’s an imbalance for sure, but the ones that are out there are really good.”
Although the modest musician wouldn’t exactly place herself in that category, it seems others are happy to do it for her—and justifiably so. Most recently, Skonberg’s rising-star status was confirmed when she received a 2017 Juno Award for Jazz Vocal Album of the Year for her 2016 crowd-funded album, Bria.
“Basically, it’s a Canadian Grammy,” she explains, adding that she also released an album earlier this year, shortly after signing with Sony Music Masterworks’ OKeh Records. “It’s been a wild ride.”
Skonberg will reflect on that musical journey during her upcoming concert, in which she’ll undoubtedly showcase her notorious “trad fusion” sound. She’ll be joined by what she affectionately calls her “A Team” of musician-friends.
Her specialty, she says, is old jazz—proven by her solid repertoire of 1900s to 1940s tunes—but her songs draw influence from a variety of genres, from blues to Dixieland to pop.
“I like to be influenced by what’s around me,” she says. “That’s jazz. You listen and react.”
A newcomer to the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, Skonberg says she is excited to be involved with such a respected endeavor and was honored when Alexander, whom she refers to as a “giant in jazz,” invited her to participate.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she adds. “Having played at hundreds of festivals, ultimately the vibe comes down to the people that are presenting them and the people that are there. And I get a good feeling about this one.”
The Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is partially underwritten by the Maryland State Arts Council and the Talbot County Arts Council. Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.