by Jeff Becker
Nothing Never Happens is Bria Skonberg’s latest endeavor that showcases her working band of recent years. Joined by pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Devin Starks and drummer Darrian Douglas, along with guest appearances by saxophonist Patrick Bartley, on Hammond B3 Jon Cowherd, and guitar Doug Wamble. Under the guidance of producer Eli Wolf, Skonberg’s latest effort puts focus on her compositional skills and vocals along with her long-appreciated trumpet skills. Skonberg was born in Chilliwack, British Columbia. She took piano lessons in elementary school, switching to trumpet in her early teens. During High School and college, she appeared at numerous jazz festivals with The 51st Eight. She also led the all-female Mighty Aphrodite Jazz Band. In 2006, she graduated from Capilano University in Vancouver with a degree in jazz trumpet.
A highlight on the album is “Blackbird Fantasy” a creative arrangement that combines Duke Ellington’s 1927 composition “Black and Tan Fantasy” with Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird.” Set to a marching swing feel, the distinctive line cliché sets the mood of the tune. Skonberg’s phrasing of the melody pays homage to the Ellington original. She sings the theme to “Blackbird.” Her phrasing and augmentation of the melody are excellent. Douglas does a beautiful job creating the perfect feel for this song. A creative combination that is not obvious at first, but upon hearing it, “Blackbird Fantasy” will become one of the gems of this album.
Showing that she is open-minded and loves excellent music of all genres, Skonberg’s arrangement of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” from 1984 is a tour de force for the entire band. Skonberg’s solo is passionate as her beautiful round trumpet tone takes us through multiple choruses. The group’s funky feel is contagious, and you will move to this one. Cowherd’s B3 solo brings out the soul in this piece, with percussive phrasing and rhythmically cyclical motifs. Bartley’s saxophone solo is dynamic and leads to a passionate drum solo from Douglas. Arrangements and playing like this are what will bring new listeners to the jazz genre, which is an important factor in continuing the lineage of genre to the next generation.
The album overall has an introspective feel about it. I am starting to see a theme of 60s and 70s tunes popping up in many of today’s generation of jazzers albums. In 2018, we wrote about a duet Sundae + Mr Goessl that also covered the well know Sonny & Cher tune “Bang Bang,” a tune written by Sonny Bono for then wife Cher off her album The Sonny Side of Chér, which Nancy Sinatra also recorded on her album How Does That Grab You. Though each version is conversely contrasting from each other, they both have their charms. Skonberg’s version has a Quentin Tarantino vibe about it. Overall, Skonberg’s new album Nothing Never Happens has an abundance of slow to mid-tempo tunes, but the marrow lies in the performances and the execution.