Contra Costa Times
March 7, 2008

Alan Lopez

When Alameda jazz guitarist Terrence Brewer's first two albums were released simultaneously in 2006, local music writers lauded his work, calling it unusually melodic for a jazz album and a preeminent example of a relaxed West Coast jazz sound.

Now that he has new record, Brewer recently said his goal was to raise his visibility nationally. To do that, he sent his record out to 180 radio stations throughout the United States and Canada.

"I thought with this (record) I wanted to continue to take it to the next level," said Brewer, who had been interviewed earlier in the day by a North Carolina radio station.

Brewer's new album is called "QuintEssential The Calling: Volume Three" -- in part because it features a quintet of musicians led by Brewer. Released March 4, it follows Brewer's first two albums, known as "The Calling: Volume One" and "The Calling: Volume Two."

While the new record keeps its foot firmly in the jazz mold, Brewer said it continues to explore a more funky, groove-oriented approach he began on "The Calling: Volume Two."

The track "In the Search of Mr. Mofongo," for example, is an Afro-Cuban inspired piece he wrote after spending
time in a Dominican neighborhood in New York.

The challenge, he said, was to provide a cohesive sound while exploring new rhythms and more eclectic sounds such as the Fender Rhodes electric keyboard.

Also challenging in his approach was using a dual lead on every track of his guitar and the saxophone playing of Kasey Knudsen.

"It's actually very rare that people do that," said Brewer, 32. "You see two horns do that, trumpet and saxophone -- but it's rare to have guitar and saxophone working together in that kind of voicing."

As a saxophone player while attending Pittsburg High School, Brewer has had experience with both instruments. But he discovered jazz guitar while majoring in music in the mid-1990s at Los Medanos College

He moved to Alameda 10 years ago and bought a house on the Island last year, to be closer to music venues in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. He began his own record company Strange Brew Music in 2005.

He plays about five to six shows a week and regularly plays private shows in Alameda. This summer, he will play as part of a concert series at Alameda Towne Centre.

"There's actually a lot of musicians in Alameda; a ton of musicians and artists," Brewer said. "You have access to Oakland, Berkeley and all those other points but you can have quiet neighborhoods to focus on your art, and feel safe and secure."

Soon, however Brewer may become too high-profile to be kept a secret on the Island city.

Even before the March 4 record release, the new album earned a slot -- a low one, Brewer noted -- on the national jazz record chart, based on the number of spins it's received on jazz radio.

In 2006, he played his first show at the venerable Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland. Brewer considered it a great honor.

He will play Yoshi's for a second time on March 17, as part of a CD release event.

Asked what he envisions for himself for the future, Brewer said he hopes he can be nominated for a Grammy, tour nationally and in Europe and decades from now, have a great body of work to show for. But he's quick to add that he tries to stay humble and focus on what he needs to do day-to-day.

"The fact that I get to play music for a living is really an accomplishment," he said. "Everything that happens on top of that is icing on the cake."

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