Trumpeter Bria Skonberg performs hot jazz at WVU

Jan. 14, 2016


MORGANTOWN — Trumpet player and singer Bria Skonberg was so ready to make her next album that she was willing to jump out of a plane to get it done.
Skonberg, a triple threat who also composes and who the Wall Street Journal said is “poised to be one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation,” held a crowdfunding campaign to finance her latest album, which will be released in 2016.
To attract fans to donate, she offered them gifts, such as a concert in their home, an invitation to watch her record a song at a studio, and even a date to go to a New Jersey outfitter that would take her and a fan up in a plane so they could jump out.
Alas, “Nobody took me up on the skydiving,” Skonberg said during a telephone interview from her home in New York.
Another prize, a recorded ukulele serenade, illustrates that Skonberg is comfortable on instruments other than her trusty trumpet, which, along with her sultry, bluesy voice, is the centerpiece of her hot jazz performances.
Skonberg will front a quintet for a concert that will take place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at the WVU Creative Arts Center in Morgantown as part of the University Arts Series.
The ukulele serenades had Skonberg playing songs by the Beatles and Johnny Cash.
“That was a fun homework assignment for me to learn,” she said.
Skonberg has shown that she is up to the task of improvisation. An inclusion in a December 2015 Vanity Fair magazine feature pictorial called “Jazz on the Loose” led to her participation in mid-December in an event called the Brooklyn Rock Lottery.
She was invited along with other musicians, who showed up early in the day to get randomly thrown together with other participants who write a few songs together, rehearse and perform that night.
The system allows for some strange band configurations, such as four bass players, Skonberg said, but she ended up with a manageable two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer.
“I lucked out,” she said.
As a musician in the hot jazz genre — also known as Dixieland and New Orleans jazz — Skonberg improvises all the time with her band, which for her Morgantown appearance will include a fellow horn player, saxophonist and clarinettist Evan Arntzen.
“We have a framework,” she said. “It’s like having a piece of paper and you can color within it. You can do whatever you want. There is a lot of freedom. It’s like a democracy, but you have freedom within it.”
And with Arntzen on the stage with her, “There is always an extra level when you get to play off another horn player especially.”
The band also will include a pianist, a drummer and an upright bass player.
A native of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Skonberg started out on piano and then switched to trumpet in the seventh grade when it was time to join the school band.
Her hometown hosts an event called the Chilliwack Jazz Festival, and the West Coast also is home to other jazz events, so that helped to push Skonberg toward her current genre.
“I got to see people play it live,” she said. “That’s a really big inspiration.”
Skonberg majored in jazz trumpet performance at Capilano University in Vancouver. She released her first album, “Fresh,” in 2009 and followed it up with “So Is the Day” in 2012 and “Into Your Own” in 2014.
Her new, untitled album has been recorded but she has been shopping around for a label and hopes to release it in the spring. It will feature many of her own compositions as well as some covers.
“It’s nice to play stuff people know and can sing along with,” she said.
For tickets, call (304) 203-SHOW or