Brandon Scott Coleman
Brandon Scott Coleman - Cincinnati Jazz Guitarist / Composer
Brandon Scott Coleman is a young up-and-coming jazz guitar player on the national scene based out of Cincinnati, OH. Coleman earned his B.M. in Jazz Guitar from Morehead State University in 2010, and a M.M. in Jazz Guitar from the University of Louisville in 2012. Since graduating, he has focused on performing his original music across the nation, as well as composing, arranging, producing and teaching music. Beyond playing with his own groups, he has gotten to share the stage with numerous jazz luminaries including tenor saxophonists J.D. Allen and Noah Preminger, as well as performing in groups led by Randy Villars, Sam Blakeslee and countless others.
StrumViews: Who are some of your earliest influences on guitar?
Brandon Coleman: Some of the most inspiring music to me early on were true guitar heroes. Jimi Hendrix was one, he played with so much passion and fire-my childhood bedroom was (and still is) covered in Hendrix posters. Danny Gatton was another, he had that special je ne sais quoi in his playing that freed him from stylistic boundaries. Of course Chet Atkins for his amazing fingerstyle playing. Frank Zappa for his experimentalism and ‘reckless abandon’ style soloing. I also can’t deny the influence of all the shredders: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert…I still listen to all these cats and really enjoy it.
SV: Tell us about your upbringing. Did you have a musical family or background?
BC: I had a very musical family, on both of my parents’ sides. Being from Eastern Kentucky originally, pretty much everyone in the family knows how to play some guitar. And most of them play it really well! However, a cornerstone in my musical upbringing was my grandfather, John Blevins. He was a truly gifted musician who played in the Chet Atkins/Merle Travis style. He taught me everything I needed to know to get things kicked off and supported me constantly in my musical endeavors. His ear was absolutely incredible…he couldn’t read a note of sheet music but he transcribed all of those old Chet Atkins arrangements by ear off of the records. That isn’t easy to do! Not only was he musically inspirational but he was a personal hero as well. He really taught me how to be a good man and the importance of keeping a humble spirit.
SV: When was it that you first became interested in jazz guitar?
BC: I always had a fondness for the nature of jazz guitar because of the harmony; Chet did a handful of standards in his repertoire that I always loved as a kid (and still do). I think the real turning point for me was when one of my dad’s friends bought me a CD of the great fusion group Vital Tech Tones (Scott Henderson, Victor Wooten and Steve Smith). I remember putting in my CD player and being blown away that someone could both shred and play over all these complex harmonies! From there I got into guys like Scofield and Metheny, and I was hooked.
SV: Do you play any other instruments?
BC: Yes, quite a few! I’ve played piano for as long as I’ve played guitar, although its always been kind of an accessory instrument. It was a necessity early on when I was writing and recording music by myself and I needed to make some accompaniment tracks. I ended up taking jazz piano and organ lessons throughout college and from time to time I’ll get to play a gig on piano! I also have dabbled in ethnic instruments such as the Baglama Saz, the Oud and Cavaquinho.
SV: How has your original music evolved?
BC: The earliest music I ever wrote was really progressive instrumental rock. This was when I was a ‘scale and time signature-aholic’ but didn’t quite have a grasp on the jazz thing yet. After getting into the whole school thing I started writing tunes that were more reminiscent of standard jazz forms, and I even have done some classical composition. In the past few years though I’ve really focused on opening my compositional world to include all my influences, and that has involved an abolishing of typical song form, typically long compositions with through-composed sections and non-traditional harmonic movement. Basically I’ve been trying to get back in touch with my younger self!
SV: Who has influenced your music the most? Why and how?
BC: One of the biggest influential moments for me was when I discovered the music of Lennie Tristano and his ‘school’ (Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Billy Bauer, etc.). Funny enough, it was when I saw a Bill Frisell Trio concert in Virginia, and he played Konitz’ contrafact on “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, “Subconscious-Lee”. It opened up a whole new world of jazz that was in opposition to what we were learning in school. All of the lines blurred over the barline in both compositions and improvisation, triplets were being used in groupings other than three…it opened me up rhythmically and compositionally. I was stuck on that music for a good 3 years and I still go back to it for inspiration.
SV: What’s most important to you in terms of how you improve?
BC: I practice constantly in search of new harmonic pathways and rhythmic devices. At this point I can say that I’m not afraid of music but I’m excited when it decides I’m ready to find out new things about it. It’s really important to me to have that feeling of the unknown, to keep that mystery. I don’t like to plan things out too much because I want the music to feel alive.
SV: What would you say to other aspiring musicians?
BC: Don’t let the common portrayal of the music world get you down. Always keep a positive attitude, and stay humble about everything you do. We’re never guaranteed anything for our art so you have to remember how lucky we are that we get to force air particles into making sound for us. It’s real-life magic. The best musicians are the ones with a sharing mentality, a meek outlook and forward-thinking attitudes. One of the most important things for me is to never think about money directly in correlation with your music, it can poison everything you do and touch. If you focus hard, make heartfelt music and work diligently on your skills you will be able to make a living in music.
SV: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 15 years?
BC: Of course I’ll still be playing quite a bit! Hopefully more festivals and things of that nature…I’d really like to be able to play overseas more and reach some audiences in person that I know enjoy my music through the internet. I’d love to have some crossover jazz-classical music under my belt. In 15 years I think the most important thing is I’d like to make as many people happy as possible through music.
SV: Would you share a little about your gear?
BC: 2015 Timberwolf Twin in Shoreline Gold
SV: How can people get in touch with you?
BC: Anyone can drop me a line anytime at my email address, brandoncolemanjazz [@] gmail.com. I’m always happy to answer questions and talk music!
SV: Where can they find out about more gigs, dates, locations?
I keep my website up-to-date regularly with all my gigs: www.brandoncoleman-music.com. I also have a Facebook page for my quartet, www.facebook.com/brandoncolemanmusic.
If anyone is interested in my albums, not only are they available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, but I have a Bandcamp page that lets me keep most of the profits from sales (it’s better for the little guy!) at brandoncoleman.bandcamp.com
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