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 raised 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. 

But the talented vocalist who’s music and mellifluous tone have garnered him Billboard – charting success and acclaim with projects like Finding My WayAuthentic, and Thank You was frankly also during this time going over the viability of his music career. That pondering especially significant because of the responsibility of also raising a young son. “I felt I had reached a peak and I was looking for some more doors to open and looking for some more opportunities to continue to grow and to advance,” Marquis confesses.  Those opportunities “just never showed up” and he had to “take a step back and say okay, ‘What am I doing here?’’ So in the midst of this very challenging time he had to make choices that included taking on other work outside of music for some stability. That’s a choice many accomplished artists have long been faced with and now especially. But the love was never lost and timing would prove to be everything.

After the loss of his grandfather and when the time was right, Marquis began using his gift to put into words  memories and thoughts about him with plans of a tribute song.  Later, after his grandmother passed, he wrote words for her as well and included them in what would become a very special, emotion-filled tribute to them both. The result is the moving, blues – tinged track, “The Thrill Is Gone”, a new single featuring standout guitarist Marcus Machado

Most will recognize “The Thrill Is Gone” as the title of the iconic track from legendary Blues singer and guitarist, B.B. King, but other than harnessing a blues vibe of it own and recreating the original bass line from it, this is not a cover but more of an inspiration. Why this song as inspiration for this personal tribute to his Mom and Pop?  “That is an easy one,” Marquis quickly asserts. “Pops was a blues man, he played Blues music all the time. B.B. King was one of my grandfather’s favorite artists. Him, Sam Cooke. He was [also] a quartet type of guy. Soul Stirrers, all of that. It was kind of where I started my musical education before I even knew it.” That last point provides an “Aha” of sorts as it reveals why Marquis’ rich tone and soulfulness delivered with grown man earnestness is not only reminiscent of heralded R&B/Soul crooners of the past, but why he was moved to create and take on the road to sold out audiences, an acclaimed tribute show dedicated to the revered vocalist, Sam Cooke. 

There was also further confirmation that he should use “The Thrill Is Gone” as the title of his tribute. “It kind of stems from when [his grandfather] passed away,” says Marquis.  “I remember putting something on social media and said the ‘the thrill is gone’ and I wrote a piece about [his passing]. So when I started producing I wanted to do a song to kind of grieve over myself, help other people within the family grieve and celebrate their lives. It was only right that I use that particular piece.” Marquis adds, “I let my mother hear it months ago. I just sent it to her and really didn’t tell her what it was and she said, ‘I wasn’t ready for that. I really wasn’t ready for that.” 

Needless to say, the song became everything Marquis hoped and more and was ready to be released alone as a single.  However, little did he know at the time that this would in fact become the “A side” to a dual single release that would present as the “B side”, the vibrant, groove -inducing track “Always.”  “It wasn’t my intent to do that,” admits Marquis.  “We started this project pushing it overseas in the U.K. and the suggestion out there was a “doubled-sided” single.” The suggestion was a little unusual with a digital release planned and with a concern about how people rifle through music these days. “How fast people eat up material these days, some may feel that’s a good idea. Some may feel, no, no let’s drag this out,” Marquis mused. But the UK was pretty adamant and confident about the suggestion of doing both at the same time. “Originally, it was “The Thrill Is Gone” and I didn’t want to take any attention away from it because it was so personal to me. But it’s been working,” admits Marquis. “It’s given people one, an opportunity to not get bored too fast and two, hear two different sides of the same coin. The bluesy, ballad – style song and you also hear an uptempo, feel good kind of thing. You get both sides of Bradd complimenting one another.” 

Check out the official video for “Always” featuring Bradd and his wife, Antiqua

Releasing these two songs together also fittingly represented the greatest of ironies – “The Thrill Is Gone” celebrating the end of a life’s journey and “Always” celebrating a new one – Marquis, in the midst of the pandemic, had gotten married. The by chance pairing of the songs seemed as much a divine orchestration as the song “Always” itself might be considered to be. “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Always” are part of an upcoming full length project.  “Always” is one of three slated to appear on that project that were written almost thirteen years ago.“They were some of my best work, I think. But I never released them,” says Marquis. “They never fit on any of my projects.” With regard to how “Always” and the others were born he shares, “ A lot of what I write about is personal. About things I’ve experienced or seen. These were just kind of hopeful, you know, trying to write my life into existence, kind of things.” “Always” certainly succeeded in doing just that. “My wife, she’s like, ‘yeah that’s about me, that’s about us.’ And I’m like, you can have it. It’s yours. It wasn’t written for anybody. It was written with you in spirit and you in mind.” His wife aptly shares the cover of the single with him. “It makes sense that way,” says Marquis. “For these songs to fit on this [upcoming] project, for me is serendipitous. For me, is a God moment.” 

It’s clear that in the midst of the adversity and introspection Marquis was keen enough to get the lessons, hear the messages and recognize when a plan beyond his own was taking shape.  “I had to come to the realization that I had to start making music for me again. I had to make music that I loved again. Music that had something for me and my family. I tell my wife all the time, one of the major things that I’m doing now is just leaving a legacy for the generations after me. Trying to find different reasons to keep going and to keep pushing even though it may not always be financially advantageous, but it still has a purpose.”  And that realization has ignited a renewed enthusiasm. “I have an opportunity to get back, slowly but surely get back into being a musician and putting out product and work, but just from a different place than where I was at previously.”

So the thrill may not actually be gone for Bradd Marquis just replaced with wisdom and more he’ll cherish Always.

Bert Caldwell

Below is an excerpt of Bradd Marquis talking about the making of “The Thrill Is Gone.”

Click the links to hear both “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Always” on Spotify

To learn more about Bradd Marquis visit his website @ http://www.braddmarquis.com/ and keep up with him on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

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, Lauren 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. 

But luckily for us some of the extra time has allowed him the opportunity to complete and release his anticipated new project entitled, 2099. In the accompanying video he shares the story behind his choosing 2099 as the title which has a little bit to do with Prince and the summoning of “Light Walkers” tasked with helping in a way we can certainly use during these times. 

2099 is a project BIGYUKI believes is certainly relevant and is meant to musically offer hope for a return to not just normalcy, but to a world that’s better than normal. As he puts it, “For each of us to really maybe just appreciate what we have, what we do. You know, we tend to take things for granted. This was a really great chance to see what we really do love. See what we really do miss. So maybe each one of us can really appreciate the things that life can give you.” And he adds,  “Just have more compassion.  The one thing that we could share [during this time] was life’s struggle. We are all in it.“

Bert Caldwell

Check out the video below:

The new release 2099 is out now! Listen to it on Spotify

And to keep up with Big Yuki check him out on Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/bigyuki/ and Twitter : https://twitter.com/bigyuki

JSWISS and Michael Leonhart interpret Paulo Coelho’s meaning of “Solitude” on their latest

“Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when our soul is free to speak to us.”

These words come from noted Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho’s book “Manuscript Found In Accra” and like the standout previous release, “Defeat”, was the inspiration for the track “Solitude” from the duo of accomplished Rap artist JSWISS and Grammy -winning trumpeter and producer, Michael Leonhart. It’s the fourth single release from their debut project, The Alchemy EP. Talented MC Dizzy SenZe also guest on this upbeat banger as classic hip hop drum flourishes and upright bass lay the canvas for top notch lyricism with a message as JSWISS spits affirmations like, “I’m clear of fear and the odds/Rebel without a pause/doing work on my spirit/never need the applause.” The Alchemy EP drops January 2021

“Solitude” is out now on all major platforms including Bandcamp:


JSWISS is an I SPY SOUL Artist

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.”

That is a pretty strong statement from someone who from the drop of his acclaimed debut, Bone Deep in 2003, has consistently offered up gems. However, his assessment does have great merit with just about every track on Stronger worthy of singular distinction let alone put together for one seamless, enjoyable, collection which includes singles released earlier from the album like the soulful “Prototype” featuring Raheem Devaughn and “I Do ( Sincerely)” featuring the sultry vocals of Marsha Ambrosius. Having premier guests has definitely been a hallmark of Bradshaw’s projects and help make Stronger exactly that. And how does he come to tap all this talent? “It’s crazy,” he laughs.  “First of all they’re all my friends, which makes it awesome for me because my friends respect what I do. Because this is what we do for a living, for my friends to respect, and be fans of mine the way that I am fans of theirs, and for them to join my journey and help me show the world that a trombone player can be the artist, the lead instrument on jazz and soul music, it’s so humbling man. I’m so blessed. I’m blessed to have the people that I’ve been able to work with.”

I think that no matter where we are in life, it’s really important to always tell people that you love them. Let your friends know you love them and you appreciate them. Let family know that you love and appreciate them.” – Jeff Bradshaw

But Stronger with songs boasting titles like “Gratitude”, “Euphoria,” “Butterfly”, and “Celebrate,” indeed speaks just as much to the person he is now because of what he’s gone through and the lessons learned. Needless to say, that event presented very scary times, and grand uncertainty for the future. “At the time, I didn’t have health insurance,” admits Bradshaw. “So I spent every dime I had on health care. Was paying out of pocket. I couldn’t work and it was a really tough time for me.”  Several things emerged as key elements Bradshaw would have to give into and accept that along with his faith would enable him to rise out of his quandary and ultimately, yes, make him a stronger person for it. “People, like one of my good brothers, Charles Whitfield [music industry sage], got the word out and let Jill [vocalist, collaborator and friend, Jill Scott] know what was going on and Jill had launched a GoFundMe page for me, which I was completely against, because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want the world to know.” Bradshaw goes on to explain, “Being sick is one thing. But then to lose everything I had and to need to ask for help was a humbling moment for me.” He then shares an equally moving moment.  “Jill said, when I told her how I felt about the GoFundMe page, she said ‘Let people love on you. You have given so much of yourself, now twenty -seven years, so much of yourself to the music industry and the road and shared your love of music with people all over the world. Touring, live on stage. Now allow people to love on you.” Those words made the help something he could then accept.

The genuine outpouring of love through GoFundMe, a benefit concert given by many of his musical friends and more work than he’s ever had in the four years since have not only enabled him to get back on his feet, it now has him standing stronger than ever. “ I’m a baptized believer in christ and I believe that the ultimate power in this world is love. The ultimate power in this world I believe is God,” Bradshaw passionately asserts. “You don’t really know what you’re made of until you go down. When go down spiritually, emotionally, financially – You’ve lost some form of dignity. There’s something about being all the way down and the world watch you struggle. When the world watches you go all the way down and then you experience the love. He then acknowledges, “I know that people say that we live in an evil world, and we do. But there’s some love in this world that I’ve truly experienced and I believe that when God touches the heart of people and people embrace you and come to your aid when you’re at you lowest point and you take that spirit and go in the studio and record an album, it has to be stronger. I am definitely stronger. That’s why I’m stronger because I was embraced and lifted by the love of many and the love of God. That’s why I’m stronger.” 

So certainly, Jeff Bradshaw has legitimate reason to feel or be stronger, but let’s be clear, he long ago established himself a substantial talent on the music scene. On the trombone, an instrument relative to several others not often associated with being out front or toiling in the mainstream music realm, Bradshaw has had great success doing both. There are influences that showed him he could, “I was born and raised in a church where gospel brass bands are the feature and the music ministry so I’ve been surrounded by trombone players and brass music my entire life,” says Bradshaw. “My father was a multi -brass instrumentalist. His main ax was trombone. I watched him play and he was so great at it. Those are the two reasons I play trombone.” Another who helped shatter perceived limitations? “Fred Wesley, who is my distant mentor and a great man. As an arranger for James Brown, for so many songs and as an individual player and soloist.  He is just an amazing, amazing human being” He recalls fondly often being told early on, “Man, man you sound like Fred. Anybody tell you, ‘you sound like Fred Wesley?’” Certainly those examples instilled great confidence to forge ahead on his instrument unbridled by perception.  As a result, he aptly counts himself as leading the trombone charge in mainstream music along with players like acclaimed contemporary, trombonist Trombone Shorty, who’s featured on another standout track from the project, “War and Thunder.”  “We’re in parallel universes,” Bradshaw says of the two of them. “There are many of us out here recording great music.” as he mentions Big Sam Williams and Saunders Sermon as other very talented “bone” players reppin’ as leaders on the scene. 

If we want things to change, one you have to change people’s hearts. If you can touch people’s hearts you can reach their minds. But you’ve got to touch their hearts first.  So I believe that through music we can touch people’s hearts. And then through their hearts we can have an open-minded discussion about ending racism, about white privilege, about racism in the police force, in corporate America and in the music industry.” – Jeff Bradshaw

Jeff Bradshaw has also recently used his trombone with that same spirit of no limitations and passion contributing his voice to an atrocity not inherent to the year 2020 or an effect of the pandemic itself. Seeing as many of us did repeatedly on screens of every size, an image that will forever be etched in our minds, he was moved both literally and needless to say, emotionally. “8:46, that number is what really got me off the couch. I was like, okay I have to do something,” recalls Bradshaw. “Watching George Floyd, watching his life leave his body, the way it did, as callas as and as evil as it left his body. I said, I have to get off the couch. I said, I want to do something. I need to get in the streets and do something.”

It started first with him making a call to ask if he could play the Black national anthem, Lift Every Voice And Sing, before a planned march in Philadelphia. “It was beautiful hearing all of those thousands of people sing. It was amazing! And after that march, I came home and sat on my couch and I was just like, ‘That’s not enough. I need to do more.’” The answer to what that would be came divinely delivered in a dream. “God showed me a vision of myself on the steps of the museum [in Philadelphia] which everyone affectionately knows as the [movie] Rocky steps,” remembers Bradshaw. “In the dream, I was on the steps of the art museum and I was surrounded by horns as far as the eye can see. And when I woke up that morning, I was like,’ That’s it! I got it! I got it! I’m going to bring specifically, horn players together and we’re going to protest through music.” He called up a good friend, Randy Robinson, explained his vision and told him he needed a name for it.  A Clarion Call For Justice was the response. “And I was like, wow, right out of the bible. Awesome!,” Bradshaw fondly remembers. With the help of another good friend, tuba and trombone player, Sam Gellerstein, they put the call out to horn players they knew and didn’t know through social media and phones call to meet at those “Rocky” steps. And as Bradshaw declared, “Let’s play music to the high heavens and try to touch people.” The idea was a success that lead to four more times at those steps, each time bringing more and more players, eventually bringing it to New York City’s Washington Square Park and the recently decreed Black Lives Matter Plaza in the nations’s capitol. “There were about seventy-five horns out there and we played to the high heavens and we celebrated the lives, but we also protested the unnecessary deaths.” Bradshaw proudly asserts, “Now I’m an artist and activist.” This is all yet another example of him coming out of a challenging time being more than he was and with the help of others turning adversity into strength.      

Simply put, “I practice. I play hard. I am playing the best trombone I have ever played in my life, says Bradshaw. “The gift I have to play this instrument is at it’s best thus far because as musicians we’re always learning, we’re always in school, we’re always getting better. You never stop learning and you never stop growing.” And thus, the result for us all, if we follow suit, should be that we get, Stronger as well. BC

Get STRONGER on November, 6

but until then . . .

For more info and keep up with Jeff Bradshaw visit his site @ iamjeffbradshaw.com