Guest Post: 3 Musical Influences by Peter Brewer

When I first met Peter, I was fascinated by his musical talent. Having always been greatly moved by music but never a musician myself, music was mysterious to me, like some sort of witchcraft: divining emotion from an object made of wood or brass or even from thin air. When we first started dating, he was in a Sky Blue phase, Maria Schneider’s 2007 record. He listened to it all the time. It was beautiful. When he wrote his first tune for me, “Bonnie Jo,” I heard reflections of her music. I was happy to know that particular influence.

Now Peter and I are working to make art together, and that’s one of the coolest things I can imagine. (Please back us on Kickstarter here; every bit counts, even if all you can give is $1 or $5. To listen to the first track of the album, click here.)

And here, below, are three of Peter’s musical influences, in his own words:

Three Musical Influences by Peter Brewer

Like everyone, I have so many influences. I tried to think of the three artists whom I have listened to the most and have had the deepest impact on me and my art. I can recall three periods of my life where I listened to just the one artist at a time and these are those artists.

Miles Davis

As a young trumpeter, I listened to many of the greats: Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, but the one who I always felt the strongest connection with was Miles. His tone was what first drew me. So mellow yet forceful when needed. His playing had so much attitude. He always kept up with the times and pushed the limits of what people considered jazz. What I think I took from him the most though was his economy of phrasing. When everyone was playing a million notes, Miles played one or two, yet they said volumes. He played these strong punctuated statements. That’s what I love about Miles.

John Hollenbeck

I first heard John Hollenbeck at the KU Jazz camp. Steve Owen, with whom I later studied at the University of Oregon, was teaching a class on composition and brought him up. Steve talked about John’s approach to writing and how it starts with a rhythm. From there he assigns notes, but the rhythm is the most important part. I liked the idea and had fun trying it out myself. Once I started listening, I realized that he was doing a lot more than just assigning notes to rhythms. Both his small group and large ensemble writing is full of beautiful harmony and orchestration. He employs unique sounds like the accordion, bowed vibes, oboe, whistling and even throat singing. While these sounds aren’t unique to his music, the way he combines them is. He has always reminded me to think outside the constraints of “jazz” and allowed me the freedom to explore new sounds.

Maria Schneider

I don’t remember when I first heard Maria’s music. I must have been very young because her CDs were in my parent’s collection as long as I can recall. I do, however, remember when I first became infatuated with her sound. I was playing the flugelhorn solo in Hang Gliding at the KU Jazz camp the summer before my Junior year of high school. I remember how free it all felt. The piece is about her experience of hang gliding in Brazil, which is beautifully portrayed by the floating feeling of an odd time signature and light, woodwind-heavy orchestration. After a slow build the floor drops away and what you’re left with is just piano, bass, and light woodwind backgrounds. This was such a new and exciting experience for me as a soloist. I’ve been hooked ever since. When her 2007 release, Sky Blue, came out I listened to it on repeat… for about six years. I used to sleep to it, wake to it, walk to class with it playing, anything. I even used it as the basis of my Master’s thesis on jazz composition and orchestration techniques. I have been listening to her latest release, The Thompson Fields, on repeat since it arrived in the mail a few months ago. She continues to amaze me. Such beauty and grace in all that she does. I strive to achieve even a fraction of that grace.

If you haven’t listened to these people, or even if you have but just in passing, I urge you to take a listen. They have so much to say. I enjoy their music more and more every time I hear it.

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