Bradd Marquis shows where one chapter ends, a new one begins.

We often wonder why things happen in life the way they do and when they do. Why when you least expect it things – life altering things happen. Needless to say, all of us during most of 2020 in particular, have been racking our brains to figure it all out. Loss of some kind and the distress it causes has unfortunately been a hallmark of these times for sure. So much so you can’t help but wonder if it’s masking lessons, signs of hope or a divine plan – The irony that out of the most unlikely places and times inspiration and opportunity often comes. 

Singer/Songwriter Bradd Marquis has gone through this process of wondering, navigating loss and both discovery as well as rediscovery over the last several years. It was a big part of the reason for his three year absence from the music scene before releasing earlier this year his very relevant single, “No War.” During this time he lost his grandparents.  Grandparents who helped raise him. His grandfather or “Pop” as Marquis calls him was first after a bout with cancer and later, “Mom”, his grandmother followed.  Being very close to them both, a substantial focus was on providing the care they needed. “Both of them at separate intervals needed twenty-four hour care,” Marquis shares. 

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BIGYUKI is summoning angels with 2099

Keyboardist and artist BIGYUKI has been described as “NYC’S musical secret weapon.”  For many prominent artists and musicians, as the saying goes, ‘that cat is out of the bag’ and to further expand it, is running rampant all over the place to parts way beyond the city’s borders. The talented musician, who hails from Japan but dwells in NYC, has over the years become a much sought after player being called upon to add his virtuosic skills to the mix on recordings and live performances for a long list of premiere artists – Q-Tip, Bilal, Talib Kweli, Jose James, Busta Rhythms, Ben Williams, Kamasi Washington, Lauryn Hill, Matisyahu, J.Cole, Marcus Strickland, Meshell Ndegeocello, and many, more.  You can hear his work on the historic last release from A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service and on the recently released Petestrumentals 3 from hip hop producer, icon Pete Rock and The Soul Brothers stellar crew.  

BIGYUKI is still a bit of a secret to music fans by name, but that too is hanging by a thread. In combination with his work with others he’s also been wowing burgeoning audiences with his splendid, high- spirited performances as a leader and has released a few of his own projects that have garnered deserved high acclaim.  Needless to say, the busy keyboardist doesn’t get much time to do the latter. Even during this time of closed venues and cancelled performances his calendar has still hummed quite steadily with recordings and virtual gigs. 

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Jeff Bradshaw knows what makes you Stronger

The year 2020. No one could have envisioned what it had in store when it arrived, but oh boy, most of us the world over are looking forward to seeing it leave. However, it won’t matter if we earnestly move into 2021 and change hasn’t begun to happen – If we’re not wiser, more knowledgeable and involved.  If we’re not more caring and respectful of one another.  If ultimately we don’t come out of this better or stronger.  That is what adversity is capable of doing. Some might argue or testify that is the reason for it. 

Like most of us, revered and accomplished trombonist, producer, artist Jeff Bradshaw didn’t know of course what the year would bring either. But he’s for sure had experience with being blindsided by a tumultuous, life altering event. In 2016, as he’s shared in the time since, the proud North Philly native was diagnosed with the very painful and serious condition, diverticulitis. It was without warning and in the midst of some exciting, successful and crucial times for this in demand musician whose impressive and long list of credits include work with Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Patti Labelle, Jay Z, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Kirk Franklin, Common, and many more. Referencing the challenging times we’re currently in the midst of he notes, “I can say that because of what I’ve been through that I was spiritually and mentally prepared for this ‘season’ in our world.” But he admits, “I don’t think anybody can say, ‘oh yeah I was ready for this.’ In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like this. So I can’t say I was ready for it, but I can say I was spiritually and emotionally prepared to be able to handle something like this.”  

His personal experience, in great part, encouraged the title of his new project being aptly called, Stronger, a super impressive collection of tracks and assembly of premier guests that include Chrsitian McBride, Conya Doss, Amber Jeanne [Moonchild], Frank McComb, Robert Glasper, Glenn Lewis, Jazzy Jeff, Micki Miller, Lin Rountree,  Marqueal Gordon and more. As Bradshaw shares, the title does speak to how he genuinely feels about himself as an artist at this point in his career. “ As an artist, writer, producer, I am stronger. This is the strongest music I’ve put out, my best playing, my best producing, my best writing. I feel like this is stronger than any work that I’ve ever put out.”

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Video interview: Drummer/Composer E.J. Strickland

The most obvious job of a drummer is to provide the beat and keep the band swingin’ or bumpin’ in time. Just doing that is harder than it may seem, but the elite and legendary do it so well we might not realize really how much more they’re doing. Often nestled behind the vocalists or instrumentalists, they’re in a continuing cycle of providing a rhythmic canvas and making split second decisions on their instrument as well as for the others in the band that often set the tone for the whole vibe. And of course, when it’s time to in the immortal words of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, “give the drummer some,” they get to assemble a collage of sonic colors of their own that still artfully fits in the grand scheme.  

It seems the acumen developed over time for many great drummers doing this night in and night out on the bandstand or inside a recording studio booth fosters a talent for leading a band and composing as well. Who knew? Well, turns out many do including the extremely accomplished drummer, composer and bandleader, E.J. Strickland

The in demand beatsmith has and continues to work with a list of burgeoning and veteran, acclaimed artists including names like Vincent Herring, Ravi Coltrane, Russell Malone, David Sanchez, Reggie Washington, David Gilmore, Jaleel Shaw, Brandee Younger, Brianna Thomas  Cassandra Wilson, Lizz Wright, Marcus Strickland (his twin brother saxophonist ) and many others. But he has also garnered acclaim with his own excellent projects as a leader such as The E.J. Strickland Quintet, Transient Beings, and very cool concept, Pads N Loops. In midst of doing so, he has successfully revealed that impressive talent for composing releasing three fantastic projects with the most recent being, Warriors Of Peace. 

His ability obviously didn’t go unnoticed by the Jazz Coalition who in August awarded him, one of fifty given, a commission grant for the creation of music relevant to the times we now live. As you’ll discover in the video interview Strickland was already at a boiling point of expression whipped up by the uncertainty and adversity we are all facing at this pivotal time in our history when this opportunity arrived. The result is his highly anticipated suite called, A Unified Stance, We Must Take.

Check out the video to hear E.J. Strickland’s passionate reason for the title of this new work and the suite as a whole along with where his love of music and the drums came from; his relationship with his brother, saxophonist Marcus Strickland; a funny story about legendary drummer Roy Haynes and more.

To keep up with E.J. Strickland visit his website @ ejstricklandmusic.com