While the trombone has always held a respected spot on the list of instruments revered by jazz aficionados, it has remained behind the saxophone in both commercial popularity and sex appeal. But over the past decade, a new generation of trombone player has transformed the instrument from one merely respected to an unexpected guaranteed ticket-seller for concert promoters.
Just don’t place credit for that surge in popularity at Jeff Bradshaw’s feet.
Bradshaw, an accomplished trombone player who has spent years touring with well-known music acts, released his debut disc, “Bone Deep,” in 2003 to a stunned audience of jazzheads.
He performs Saturday at The Pour House in Raleigh.
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“It’s nothing I started,” Bradshaw says with a laugh. “It goes back to ’70s funk music, with James Brown’s bandleader and one of my mentors, Fred Wesley. ... Current day you’ve got folks like me and Trombone Shorty, who appears on my album ‘Home,’ and is a good friend of mine. All of us are out there leading these bands around the country now.
“It’s just a resurgence in brass instruments, the trombone in particular, and we got next.”
“Next” is exactly what the new soul and jazz series Caramel City is designed to deliver to Triangle music lovers, and those in Raleigh especially. A creative endeavor between Durham-based The Art of Cool Project, local superstar producer 9th Wonder and the Pour House, the monthly music series curates the best new jazz and soul artists and brings them to the area. It was established as not only a way to find and foster a new audience of jazz lovers, but to help establish Art of Cool as an important member of the music community throughout the Triangle.
“Basically, we had centralized so much of our activity in Durham that we realized there was an audience that wants to discover music and hear the latest jazz artists in Raleigh,” says Chelsey Bentley, marketing director for the 2016 Art of Cool Festival.
Finding new audiences is nothing new for Bradshaw. The Philadelphia native has been touring with music greats since shortly after picking up the trombone in high school, and has put together a resume that would rival that of nearly any working musician. Until recently he performed as a member of soul songstress Jill Scott’s backing band, and was a musical director for English R&B duo Floetry. As a solo act, he knows it’s on him to turn music lovers into jazz fans.
“The fun part of performing now is when you go to places where you get to make new fans and bridge the gap between soul and hip-hop and jazz,” Bradshaw says. “To have people listen, and enjoy, a soul music instrumentalist that they normally wouldn’t listen to.”
Bradshaw has bridged that gap admirably. While jazz is the genre most associated with trombone players, it’s a lazy term for what the musician actually plays.
“I don’t really put my music in a box,” Bradshaw says. “I don’t really call it jazz; other people call it jazz because I’m an instrumentalist. I play soul music, R&B and hip-hop. If they want to call it soul jazz, or R&B jazz, or hip-hop jazz, they can call it that.
“I’m a lover of jazz, but I can only fuse my inspirations and experiences to what I play. ... I’m just a product of those that I am influenced by. I’m influenced by soul artists from then and now, and my sound is compiled from all of my influences.”
Who: Caramel City Featuring Jeff Bradshaw
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Pour House, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh