By Kim Lyle
Hints of R&B, indie, rock, and modern jazz all swirled together to form a rich, flavorful surge of sounds last Thursday night at the Hartley/Vey Theatre. Saxophonist Brad Walker and his quintet were to thank, performing for an intimate standing room only crowd in the fourth installment of the Art Council’s Jazz Listening Room Series.
Originally from North Carolina, Walker found himself at LSU a little over a decade ago, where he built a strong foundation for himself in the School of Music. Soon after graduating, he braved the New York music scene and spent three years learning from some of the city’s greatest.
Ready to carve out his own niche in the modern jazz world, he set his sights back on Louisiana. Now living in New Orleans, his dream has manifested through the talented quintet of musicians with which he collaborates.
If there was one thing blatantly clear throughout the night, it was Walker’s gratefulness for it all.
“We felt very fortunate to be asked to be on this series. I feel like this is something that we have been working towards for a long time, and opportunities like this are rare,” expressed Walker during a brief interlude. “I feel like a lot of it came about because of all the friends I have here in the music world of Baton Rouge, which is strong and vibrant and beautiful and full of amazing people.”
Even more refreshing was the group’s obvious respect for one another. With Brian Seeger on guitar, James Singleton on bass, Simon Lott on drums, Oscar Rossignoli on piano, and Doc Sharp tinkering on a variety of percussion instruments, each had their turn in the spotlight.
As in any successful relationship, every musician was brought to a higher level for having played with one another. While there were several solos during the performance, the group was at their strongest when all instruments were in full swing.
At one point, Walker held his hand over his heart as the bass player performed his solo almost as if to pledge allegiance to the talents of his fellow musician. Or to feel the two instruments beating simultaneously.
Throughout the night, several local vocalists and musicians were invited to share the floor with the quintet.
“Just because I live in New Orleans doesn’t mean I don’t still think of myself as a part of this wonderful place,” said Walker.
One particularly touching moment was when Walker brought LSU professor and good friend Brian Shaw onstage to join him in performing an original version of a classical piece.
“Brian is not just an incredible Baton Rouge musician and world renowned trumpet player, he’s also a great friend and has been a great mentor to me since I moved back here in 2009,” said Walker.
Watching Walker play his saxophone so naturally, one is reminded of the sweetness afforded to those who find their calling and pursue it with every ounce of their being. The raw emotion that flowed from his instrument could easily have riddled your skin with goose bumps.
To be in the room experiencing the music of Walker’s quintet is to step into the magical world they’ve created. One where joy and heart are amplified, leaving all else to become background noise.