Dig Baton Rouge

Brad Walker: Musically Charged, Artistically Driven

Brad Walker Quintet
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Mud and Water
9:00PM

By Nick Garrison

“I feel like improvisation is always a direct expression of wherever you are in your life at that time,” said Brad Walker, saxophonist, composer, recording artist, freelance musician, and band leader. Walker’s upcoming Quintet performance at Mud and Water, Wednesday, April 2nd, will serve as the River City Jazz Master’s after-party to the Branford Marsalis concert at the Manship Theater.

This rising saxophone star earned a Bachelors Degree in Saxophone Performance and a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies from LSU. Walker currently resides in New Orleans where he collaborates with the wealth of musicians in the city.

“Where you live matters quite a bit,” Walker said. “The major thing [New Orleans] has to offer people is opportunity.”

“It gives you the opportunity to be a professional, to be a side man, to fit your style into someone else’s vision, and to develop you own voice as a leader– if that’s something you’re interested in.”

A prime example of each of these roles, Walker has made a name for himself in the Big Easy. He has performed and/or recorded with ensembles such as Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Remedy Krewe, Eric Lindell, Thomas and the People, Simon Lott, and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to name a few.

“It’s actually really beautiful to buy into someone else’s vision and try and be yourself as fully as possible within that musical realm,” Walker said. “So that’s how I look at it. I really like backing up songwriters. That’s a very personal thing, you know; these are songs that mean a lot to them.”

A renaissance man on stage, Walker’s music spans the gamut from the a-tonal, atmospheric sounds of his recent trio project, redrawblak, to the highly orchestrated jazz of his Quintet. Primarily invested in his original compositions, he is looking forward to releasing the next album under his own name, entitled “Quintet”.

“I’m just obsessed with perfecting the art of this music. If it takes my career to new places in practical terms then that’s awesome. That’s something I’ve thought about, certainly, but that’s not really the point. The point is that we want to shape this music that we care about so deeply to the best possible presentation of it.”

Walker’s idea for the group spawned from one of those opportunities that New Orleans provided him. When a regular performance slot opened up three years ago at The Maison, a Frenchman Street bar, he was asked to fill the time with his own band and his own music.

“I just found myself writing more and more music, and getting more invested in it. It’s still not a major part of my income but it’s a major part of my artistic life,” Walker said. “It’s expanded from where we did the little monthly slot, to where we go on the road to Baton Rouge, Houston and Austin, Lafayette, and Atlanta this summer. It’s also solidified a specific cast of musicians that I use, that I feel like we’ve developed a language together.”

The roster on the upcoming album includes Brian Seeger, guitar; James Singleton, bass; Oscar Rossignoli, piano; and Simon Lott, drums.

“It felt like something that my musical life was missing, that I didn’t even realize it was missing. But now that I got a taste of it, this is gonna be a part of what I do forever,” Walker said.

At this point in his professional career, Walker is more than ever committed to the progression of his craft and his development as an artist.

“We all have an individual path in our lives that we feel is right for us,” he said. “And our contentment and happiness, more than anything, has to do with our ability to be aware of what that path is for each of us, and how closely we are able to tailor our lives to it.”

Walker has had a noticeable influence in the development of jazz at Mud and Water. This concert is significant to Baton Rouge’s music scene since it is the third installment of Jive Flamingo’s monthly Jazz Series. Attendees of the Jazz Series from March might recognize guest vocalist Cindy Scott at this performance, as she will be featured on a number of tunes.

“We’ve been working so hard to create a space where we can present music to a good audience. That’s all we really want,” Walker said.

Don’t say you weren’t warned; the force of this music is captivating and inspiring. Whether you are an avid jazz listener or just someone looking for modern music, the show promises imaginative ideas and fresh sounds. Check out Brad Walker’s website (bradwalker.me) for more information, as well as music for purchase and free download.

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