March 3, 2008

“QuintEssential Jazz”

D. Scott Miller

2008 promises to be an exciting year for jazz guitarist Terrence Brewer. The 32-year-old impresario had a very good year in 2007 -- he was named best Jazz Artist by the San Francisco Weekly and won the Oakland Chamber of Commerce's “Artist of the Year Award.” This year, he's releasing his third album, QuintEssential, and also touring.

Mr. Brewer has been playing guitar for 18 years, but his musical talents took him to Los Medanos College in a different mode. “I started out as a woodwind major,” says Mr. Brewer, who's originally from Pittsburgh, California, and now lives in Alameda, often performing in Oakland. “I played clarinet and saxophone before switching over to guitar, primarily to play rock in the garage,” he says, laughing at where the natural desire to rock out has led him. Later, he was inspired by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Russ Malone to study jazz guitar with Charlie Hunter and others.

QuintEssential is his third album on his own label, Strong Brew, and his most ambitious project to date. “QuintEssential has a double-meaning,” he explains. “This is the first time that I’ve composed for a quintet, and I believe it showcases some of the best writing and musicianship I’ve been able to be a part of .”

When asked about how the rigors of being the producer, composer, and owner of his own label have affected his growth, Mr. Brewer appears wiser than his years.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he says. “By producing myself I’ve been able to maintain creative control and financial independence. Maybe it would have been easier having someone else produce and promote the first album, but now that I’m on my third, I see the benefit of all the work and lessons I’ve learned going out on my own.”

Recorded at the famous Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, the QuintEssential Quintet features local favorites Casey Knudsen, Ben Stolorow, Ravi Abcarian, and Micha McClain -- all musicians who have been noted as leaders in their respective parts. Casey Knudsen, for example, leads a group that has a residency at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts.

Unlike Pop radio, Jazz stations have more leeway with what songs to play and when. Already, the album is being played on 175 stations nationwide, and there is no need to search for the “hot single” to place in rotation. However; a stand-out cut is “Blues For Katie,” a song dedicated to his wife when her grandmother passed away.

“It serves as a song to remember those who have passed on and appreciate those who are still with us,” he says.

When asked the dreaded question that all jazz musicians under sixty must face: In a world where Jazz is considered too obscure and esoteric, why do young, talented people choose it over more lucrative genres? Mr. Brewer’s answer is definite and deafening, “(I'm in love) with straight ahead jazz.”

QuintEssential’s national radio release date is Tuesday, March 4 and will be accompanied by West and East coast tour dates beginning with a CD release at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square on Monday, March 17.


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