Jeff Bradshaw is a burst of energy that can't be contained. One quickly realizes this when engaging him in conversation. It becomes clear that his presence is best enjoyed when one surrenders to that energy, becoming a part of it. This is also an ideal way to experience his music.
In a spirited conversation, Jeff Bradshaw speaks about his many years on the road and in the studio, playing trombone for dirverse acts like Jill Scott, The Roots, Kirk Franklin, and Jay-Z. He recalls how his recently deceased father was his greatest musical inspiration, and he shares details about the five-year process of recording his new album, BONE APPETIT.
And for the first time, publicly, he reveals to Darnell Meyers-Johnson the dream project he is committed to making a reality.
Interview recorded on April 5, 2012
Darnell: Good day. This is Darnel Meyers-Johnson for SoulMusic.com. Today I’m speaking with the man they call Mr. Trombone. For the past 15 years or so, he’s either toured or recorded with the likes of Jill Scott, The Roots, Mary J. Blige, and Musiq Soulchild, just to name a couple of people. He’s about to drop his second album, BONE APPETIT, later on this month. Today I’m speaking with Mr. Jeff Bradshaw. How are you, sir?
Jeff: How are you doing, man? Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Darnell: I’m great, man, and I just want to say that we thank you for taking time out to speak with us today.
Jeff: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Darnell: Let’s start here with the nickname, Mr. Trombone. Where did that come from?
Jeff: 2001, on tour with Jill Scott. Jill--she just came up with the name while we were on stage, when she was introducing me, because of, kind of like, my dressing style, and at the time, we weren’t doing uniforms. She just kind of wanted everybody to do them a little, but stay within a color scheme, and I’ve always been kind of a snazzy kind of dresser. She always kind of always gave me the grown man thing. I used to always try to really look nice on stage, and go the extra mile to keep it classy. I don’t know if that’s specifically where she got the name from, but she definitely started calling me Mr. Trombone right around that time, and around that tour.
Darnell: Okay, so now we know who to blame for it. I know you’re from Philly. I’m actually not that far away from you. I’m in Trenton, New Jersey. Tell me how you got your start in the music business.
Jeff: I’ll give you the short version. In Philadelphia, there’s a rich history of great music from jazz to R&B, to hip-hop, and Gospel coming out of Philadelphia. I just happened to be coming out of church; I started playing in church, in Gospel brass bands in church, and I started hanging out with producer friends of mine, Andre Harris, Vidal Davis, Ivan Barias, Darren Henson, Keith Pelzer, Carvin Higgins, which were the producers who started with A Touch of Jazz, which is Jazzy Jeff’s production company in Philadelphia.
I began to hang out with those guys--some of them I knew from church-- earlier when we were younger. I hung out with those guys, James Poyser, Questlove from the Roots, and, basically, what you would think now as the hierarchy of the Philadelphia music industry, as far as notable producers and writers--those are my guys, those are my friends.
So I would be in the studio with them, at the very beginning of their careers, and hanging out at places like Silk City, Willamina’s, The Black Lilly, which were these great live organic music venues where all the producers, artists, writers, poets--where they all hung out before they got record deals-- where Jill was … where Musiq hung out and Jaguar Wright, and so many other notable Philadelphia artists that came through there—through Philadelphia and New York.
But I think it was really about just having the right relationships with the right producers, and having the right stuff at the right time when some of these earlier demo recordings were being made for people who didn’t have record deals; I was a part of all of those records. I was a part of those Jill Scott records, those Musiq Soulchild records, those Floetry records, those early Roots records. So I was a part of the Philly music scene on the live side, in the clubs, and the open mics, and the poetry settings.
But I was also a part of the recording aspect on the studio side, as well. My first professional recording was “Other Side of the Game” with Erykah Badu. Questlove and James Poyser of the Roots, together, produced that song and most of that album, and that was the first major call that I got to record in the studio in 1995, “Other Side of the Game” with Erykah. That’s when I met Erykah Badu and, you know, the rest is history.
Darnell: I’m glad that you’re talking about this, because I have it in my notes that I was going to ask you about what the vibe was like in Philly, because you seem to have come up in what I call the new era of the Philly Sound in the 2000s and around that time period. So I’m glad that you spoke a little bit about what the vibe was like, just to give us an idea, for those who weren’t on the inside like you were.
Jeff: Yes, I tried to give you the short version, because there’s so many intangibles and so many things that come together for me to kind of be in the right place at the right time, but having those relationships as Philly grew, and as it all grew, then I grew with it.
Darnell: When people are so closely connected to a particular instrument the way that you are with the trombone, I’m curious about how they became interested in that particular instrument. I happen to know that you play a lot of different things, but what was it about the trombone that really caught your attention more than anything else?
Jeff: Well, like I said, I was born and raised in a church where Gospel brass bands were on the forefront. So I was raised around a lot of brass instruments--just growing up. My father, who I just lost a few months ago, was a great trombone player in church, and I felt like being surrounded by that instrument--being young in school.
I always tell the story: in music class, in middle school, the first day of music class the teacher told everybody to stand by the instrument that they wanted to play. So there was a crowd of guys around the drums, crowd of guys around the guitar, crowd of guys around the bass, crowd of guys around the piano, crowd of guys around the sax, the trumpet, but the trombones was in the corner by themselves.
I felt like I had an incredibly cool, sharp father who could really, really sing, and who could really, really play the trombone, as well as guitar, and I felt like, you know, I’m going to be the new generation of musicians that makes the trombone, who more people don’t consider to be a really cool, sexy instrument, a really hip instrument. But if you don’t know your history, if you don’t know that Fred Wesley from the JBs--most of his horn lines in James Brown’s music shaped hip hop culture.
So, if you don’t know your history, you don’t really know that the trombone played a part in all these songs. Fred Wesley from the JBs, the trombone player for James Brown--he was the arranger of all of those horn lines, and all of those horn sections that James Brown had.
So the trombone was an intricate part of hip hop history, but because I felt like that people didn’t know enough about it, and because I thought the image of the instrument on the mainstream was an instrument for nerds, little fat kids playing in a marching band, or phenomenal classical artists, but just wasn’t really a hip instrument to play … and I felt like that God gave me something special with the instrument, and that I could really do something special with it and make it a cool thing.
Darnell: I want to say that I’m sorry for the loss of your father, that you just mentioned a moment ago. Sounds like he was a big musical influence on you. What did you learn from him about music?
Jeff: Don’t mess with it if you’re not going to take it serious. And that’s not that he didn’t want me to have fun with it. But understand that I was born and raised in church, so a lot of people don’t know that I’m self taught, that I don’t have a music degree, that I didn’t learn how to play the trombone in school. I played in school I guess to get better at it, but I was born with the gift that I have, and it came from my father, which obviously came from God, but I was born being able to play.
I just watched my father. I watched the guys in church play it. I picked up the instrument, kind of hung around with him, and just picked it up. And I don’t really know how to explain it: I’m self-taught and my father taught me to play the words to songs. You know how musicians learn how to play--they learn how to play with notes and scales, which I later learned and got lessons, and got what I needed to carry me to the next level in music.
But my father taught me how to play lyrics. He taught me how to play words, Gospel songs, "Peace Be Still," "I Stood By The Banks of Jordan." He taught me how to play old Gospel songs that were meaningful, that people could feel. So I learned the words to these songs, and then he taught me how to play the words, and he used to say, "I want to hear the words when you play, but I want to feel the words when you play," and that’s the way that I was taught. I was taught words and lyricism with the trombone.
So that’s why, when I play, and I say this with all humility, there’s no other trombone player in the world that sounds like me, because God gave me gift that I have, and I was taught by my father to play songs of Zion. So everything that I play has feeling. He always told me, "mean every note; I want to know that when you’re playing that you mean every single note." And that’s the way he taught me. So I know no other way but to play with feeling, and all through my career, and all my friends--who all have degrees--all the guys, all of my player friends that I tour with--they all have degrees, and they always say "man, I’ve never heard a trombone player play like that." One of my mentors and big brothers is Greg Boyer. Do you know who Greg Boyer is?
Darnell: I don’t, no.
Jeff: Greg Boyer is one of the dopest trombone players on the planet. He’s from Baltimore. He played trombone with P Funk, and he plays with Maceo Parker, he plays with Chuck Brown, and he plays with Prince. And if you ever see Prince in concert, there’s a really cool, sharp cat, bald headed cat with a goatee and fly glasses--that’s Greg Boyer. I was on a couple of jazz cruises with him about three years ago, and he said to me, "Trombone players work their whole lives to develop that sound you have." He said, "You have the true sound of that instrument; great trombone players work their whole lives and never get to sound that you have." And that was so humbling to hear from somebody as great as him. What a great person he is though, but to hear those kinds of things from people--it’s inspiring.
I know that what I have is special, and I know that people sometimes have apprehensions because of the instrument, before they hear my music and before they see me perform. They are a little apprehensive, because of the history of it, or because of them not knowing enough history of it, but there’s never been another person like me.
There hasn’t been another person like me, and I say that with all humility, because you have JJ Johnson, without argument, the greatest jazz trombone player to walk the face of the earth. And then you have the funkiest trombone player to walk the face of the earth, which is Fred Wesley. As far as I’m concerned, it starts and stops there. And I feel like that I am a correlation of those two people, and add a whole bunch of church in there, a whole bunch of Augusta, Georgia, and some back-in-the-woods and some country and Georgia. Add some of that in there and some Philly sound funk, and that’s who I am.
Darnell: Well, let’s go back to church for a second, because now that you’ve talked about your background, and you’ve talked about your talent being such a God-given one, and that you weren’t formally trained to be as talented as you are, do you think, just looking forward, that you’ll ever embrace the idea of doing a Gospel themed project much in the way that Kirk Whalum has done with a couple of his GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ projects?
Jeff: You know, it’s very interesting that you asked, because about a month ago I talked with a very good friend of mine who I’ve known for many years, great jazz pianist out of Philadelphia, named Orrin Evans. And he has a really, really dope big band called the Captain Black Big Band.
And I had a dream and it was me in my church playing Gospel standards, like playing “Stood by the Banks of Jordan.” I mean, I’m talking about your daddy’s Gospel. You know what I mean? I’m talking about mama's Gospel … playing incredibly soulful, traditional Gospel songs, but putting a swing on them, and really bringing it back to church. And I ran into him at the bank, and I said, man, you know, I had a dream about recording this jazz big band album called BACK TO CHURCH.
I didn't want to play no jazz, I wanted to play Gospel music, but I wanted to put a jazz big band feel on it. But I didn’t want it to feel like show tunes. I want it to be really gut wrenching, heart pulling, heart tugging music. I want it to be The Gospel, what it is, which … you know, the Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. So I wanted people to feel through these instruments, playing this music, because that’s who I am. Everything I have, I’ve been blessed with. My career has been such a blessing, and such a testimony for me.
From people have been in this music business for 30, 35 years and have never seen half the stuff, or accomplished half the things that I have, and it’s only because of the grace of God that I’ve been afforded these opportunities and had these blessings bestowed upon my life. So I feel a responsibility to not only record this album that I really want to do, which is BACK TO CHURCH, the big band album.
And I love Kirk Whalum, what he did. I bought the DVD as soon as I found out, as soon as he made it, because it spoke to me in such a great way. I was like, wow, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ--how clever! It was awesome, but I want to take it further. I want to take it further, and because all church folk love jazz, all of the old ministers, all the old deacons, that was their era. They all came from that era where jazz was one of the true only American art forms. It’s like, those things go together so well. So that’s definitely one of my plans. And I’m talking about near future plans, to record a jazz big band album called BACK TO CHURCH. And that’s the first time that I’ve spoken publically about it.
Darnell: Oh, so an exclusive for us, huh?
Darnell: We'll definitely have to talk again soon about that particular project when it’s done. Tell us a little bit about your long history with Hidden Beach Records. Most of us know that as Jill Scott’s former label. You’ve been with them for a minute now, as they say. How did that deal first come about?
Jeff: Touring with Jill Scott, who is one of my best friends … I was there at the beginning, kind of met the people at the label at the beginning of recording her album. They were coming in and out, A&R'ing the record she was recording. And being on tour with her and doing special things, and catching people’s attention with solos and charisma, and just being me, man. I’m a fun cat to be around; if you hang around me for ten minutes, you’ll know I’m a real fun guy to be around. I like to laugh and I like to enjoy life and like to dress nice.
Darnell: Are you one of those guys who walks into a room and people can’t help but notice that you’re in the room?
Jeff: Well, you know, the funny thing is, the answer to that is yes. But because that’s how my dad was. My father was that way; he was the life of the party. No matter where you’re at, no matter where he went, he was just that guy. So I got that from my dad. I'm just like … because man, life is short. I enjoy laughing. I enjoy laughing and having a good time, and making people laugh, and so, when I walk into a room, people know that I’m going to say something that’s going to stay with them for a few months, or they know I’m going to crack a joke or say something. The way I talk, I’m extremely dramatic, and my speaking and people know it’s going to be a good time. I like to make people laugh. I like to be the life of the party, which, in turn, helps me to be a great performer on stage, because it’s like all the attention’s on me--now I got you.
Darnell: Your first album BONE DEEP came out in 2003. We’re now in 2012, and you’re about to come out with your second one. What has taken so long for this follow up album to come out?
Jeff: The business.
Darnell: Well, tell me about that.
Jeff: The business: The label went through some transitions. They went through some transitions and no longer have Jill Scott, they no longer have Kindred the Family Soul. The label has gone through some transitions; the recession hit, but thanks be to God, ever since my album came out, I’ve been on tour every year since then, and been able to live comfortable and tour the world and gain new experiences. Since 2003, I’ve toured with The Roots, Kirk Franklin, Jill, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, and Tyler Perry. That’s what I’ve been doing since 2003.
Darnell: Yeah, I know that you’ve been busy. I know you haven’t just been at home playing Solitaire. Since you mentioned all of these different people from Kirk to Jay Z, I know that you’ve had great experiences with all of them, but if I had to ask you, which one of those stood out for you as particularly satisfying?
Jeff: Jay Z is probably my favorite hip hop artist. Mary J Blige, I’ve been a fan of for pretty much all of my R&B listening life, so it’s hard for me to tour and play every night and watch her sing these songs that I love so much. The Roots, that’s family. That’s was like touring with family and your family is legendary. I probably had the most fun on tour with The Roots, because we didn’t just play with them, but also my brass section, Brass Heaven--we had a feature in the show.
My sousaphone player, who is now a member of The Roots, Tuba Gooding Jr., likes doing things legendary, innovative things in hip hop music with the sousaphone. The Roots probably is my funnest. The one that meant the most to me was touring with Kirk Franklin, because I got a chance to actually give God back every night what He gave me.
Darnell: That makes sense. Your new album is called BONE APPETIT. Tell me a little bit about that title, why you came up with that title.
Jeff: Boy, you’re killing me. It's a family show, right? BON APPETIT was kind of given to me by one of my good friends by the name of Yameen Allworld, a guy from Philly who’s known for tagging lines and hyping the hip hop presence in Philly. He’s a songwriter, producer, and socialite in Philadelphia. He gave me this.
We were in London; I was in London with Floetry and he said, "I’ve got the name for your new album", and I was like, what? And he said, "Bone appetit!" And we laughed about it, but little did I know that years later, it would all make sense, because once again, when the name came to mind about what I needed to name the album, I had all of these different people coming together. It was like that menu, and you want to eat everything on the menu. It all came together for me like a fine exquisite five star restaurant, that BONE APPETTIT is the menu, and there’s something on the menu for everybody.
Darnell: Well, lets talk about flavor for a minute, because I think a lot of people, if they were to look at you, at any guy really, on an album cover with a trombone or with a sax, they would get the idea that maybe this is a smooth jazz artist, but I’ve heard some of the new music and it doesn’t really fall into that particular category, to me. But how would you describe what you’ve got going on on the new album?
Jeff: It’s a double issue, so there’s 20 songs--under 15 dollars. I wanted to create music that reached everybody. I think it’s really important because I’m a fan of music. I’m in the business because I’m a fan of music first. There are people that I love, admire, can’t get enough of. So I wanted to create a record that spoke to the whole family--that spoke to the grandmother that lives in the guest room, that spoke to Mom, that spoke to the kids, spoke to the grandkids. I wanted to create an album that spoke to everybody, that spoke to grown people on a level of grown folks talk. You know, we’re going to make love until tomorrow. That speaks to the children, telling the kids to keep their head up.
When I grab Mos Def on "Umi Sayd,"... Mama said, let your light shine, to inspire our children; "Lay Your Head On My Pillow"... grown folk's music, a great song by Tony Toni Tone; "Happy Feelings," a summer classic, Frankie Beverly and Maze, a song that I’m a fan of, a song I had to record because I felt I could really emulate Frankie Beverly's voice and take it to another level with an instrument that people are not used to hearing.
There’s so many great songs. "Got Til It’s Gone," the second single that's on all the networks right now. Got Marsha Ambrosious to sing a Janet Jackson Joni Mitchell cover. Dedicated a song to a city like New Orleans and to the gulf coast region to shine, put the spotlight back on that city, because although there have been many natural disasters, my heart is still with them, because that city is still not rebuilt and those neighborhoods are still desolate.
So every song has a meaning and a purpose. There are no—“Let’s-just-throw-this-in-there: girl I love you.” This album has been five years in the making; there are songs I wrote on there--I wrote when I met my ex- wife. I’ve done fell in love and had a divorce through this whole process. There’s a song that I wrote, "Girl I Love You," songs I wrote when I met my wife. "Wait Around Love," is a chance to inspire people that, a lot of times, when you wait around--love, it will kind of find you. You just got to be patient.
Songs that I wrote that really, really inspire, "I See The Sunshine," a feature from Natalie The Floacist from Floetry. A great song about looking at the inner sunshine in you, and stop looking for other people to make you happy--to be your own sunshine. It’s very, very powerful songs on this album. "He Is," a stepping song from Chicago, a song that I love to do, produced by Johnny Smith. Just basically the hook says, “He is …,” a song about God, just relishing who He is.
Darnell: Obviously, as you said yourself, you’re a very charismatic kind of guy. I think that you’re probably a very influential kind of guy, and I want to commend you for almost pulling off the impossible. You almost got Floetry reunited. You got Marsha on one track; you’ve got The Floacist on another track. I’m just wondering, why couldn’t you seal that deal and get them both on the same song?
Jeff: Because that’s not what they wanted. My job is not to reunite them. Because they’re like sisters; we’re like a family. I’ve toured with them for four and a half, almost five years. I was their musical director. I’ve eaten at their parents' homes, they’ve eaten at my home. Natalie has cooked dinner for me. Those are my sisters, and we’ve been through a lot together from the beginning of their career, when their song first hit the radio.
I was on stage with them the first time they ever performed in Philly. When they came to Philly, my band was on stage with them, out performing with them the first time that they came to Philly, and those are my sisters. I love them, and whatever their journeys are, they’re great. I think they’re great as the group Floetry; they’re amazing. I think they’re phenomenal, individually.
If you have both of their records--if you have Natalie’s record FLOETIC SOUL, and if you have Marsha’s record, LATE NIGHT, EARLY MORNINGS, these works are individual. Natalie’s on a smaller label, Shanachie, and Marsha's on a big label. I think that their journey, you know, has run its course for now, and we don’t know what’s down the line.
Darnell: I was being silly; that wasn’t really a serious question. I did interview Natalie when her album came out, so I at least got her side of things.
Jeff: Yeah, so you know where she’s at. They’re not thinking about that at all, trust me. They’re not thinking about, we need to get back together with Floetry. They’re thinking about … they’re focusing on establishing themselves as individuals, knowing where they come from, but establishing themselves as individual phenomenal creative artists, because they are.
Darnell: Let’s talk about your creative process. You mentioned, in another interview, that your first album had more of a live in the studio album kind of feel, but that your current album is more produced. Was that a conscious decision to switch it up like that?
Jeff: You know what, once I got the album finished … the first album was probably 90% live in the studio. This album is about 40% live in the studio. So it’s not all produced tracks, but it’s probably about 70% of this album is probably produced tracks. I still did a lot of things in the studio, "Lay Your Head On My Pillow," "Steppin' Out," the Go Go’s song. I did a lot of songs live in the studio as well. I just think it was growth for me, not to change up the formula that works, but I just thought that it was growth.
More producers wanted to work with me after the first album. It was like, “I loved your first album,” so what happened was there was just an onslaught of producers that wanted to work with me after the first album, because everybody is such big fans of the first album, which I love.
India Arie called me; I’m trying to think, did she email me? I think she emailed me or something, when the album came out and she’s like, “I loved the intro to your album.” She’s like, “The intro to your album is sick!”
We were on tour together; that’s what it was. We were on tour together. Floetry was on tour with India, and we were on tour with India, and she said to me, “Man, the intro to your album is sick,” just randomly, out of nowhere. So people were fans of the first album BONE DEEP, which is my baby, and so after that album came out … people are fans of great music, and producers came from everywhere; and I used a ton of producers. But I used producers whose work I liked and who I thought could help me continue to grow and evolve as an artist.
Darnell: What are the main things that you want fans of that first project to know about your new project? Because it sounds like the vibe of the two may be a little bit different.
Jeff: Ironically, this album is more maturity of me as an artist and musician, but it still feels like the first album. When you hear the live stuff, when you hear "Umi Says," when you hear "Got Til It's Gone," when you hear "Lay Your Head On My Pillow," when you hear "Happy Feelings," these are songs that are all live in the studio. It feels like the first album. I’m not going to say it feels like the first album, but you can tell it’s like the first album, but more maturity. I’m a better player now.
That was eight years ago. I’m playing the instrument far better than I was playing it then. I’m singing all over this album. I’m a far better singer than I was eight years ago. So there’s been growth and maturity in my playing, in my singing, and the songs that I produced, and my arranging. Everything about me has matured, and you can hear it in this project, all the way to my look.
Darnell: Still sharp though, right?
Jeff: Oh, yeah. I’m just down--I forgot to tell my publishers that yesterday. I weighed in and I’m down 60 pounds.
Darnell: Okay, what are you doing to make that happen?
Jeff: I started with a personal trainer by the name of Jonas Palmer, who trained Dave Mathews and The Roots and many other people, and after a couple months with him, I went on my own, and September 12th, I was 298 pounds, and now I’m 60 pounds lighter than that. Kind of buff a little bit too. Working on my sexy, working on my branding. You know Gerald Levert pulled off the big sexy thing; Gerald Levert pulled it off, but everybody can’t be Gerald Levert. How many sexy big cats was it? There wasn’t tons of them. There was Gerald Levert, Barry White.
Darnell: That was about it.
Jeff: That was about it, so I figured I would lean up, cut it up and lean it up and give women something to enjoy, as well as my music.
Darnell: Now, you mentioned Marsha on the Janet cover that you guys did. Also, that’s one of the singles, right? Because there’s a video out for that, right?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the second single, featuring Marsha Ambrosius and my brass alter ego Brass Heaven.
Darnell: And, there was also another single called "Til Tomorrow," with Raheem DeVaughn?
Jeff: Well, "Til Tomorrow" was produced by Harry Wilson, the guitar player in my band. I was looking for a record that could catapult the record. I was looking for something, right out the gate, to get people to be excited about it, but I wanted to reach the audience that was past the contemporary jazz audience … like before with "Slide," featuring Jill Scott on the first album. I needed something hot; I needed something--what I felt to be more mainstream, and something that we could shoot a video to, that could make me more radio-friendly, and could make me more friendly to the masses--not to sell out--but I wanted to reach a broader audience.
And when you want to reach a broader audience, you just have to tweak some things and record different kinds of music, and be clever about it. So he let me hear the track in the studio; I thought it was amazing. So I called Raheem DeVaughn, who’s a really good friend of mine, "The Love Guru"; and I thought he’d be the right person for the record. We’ve always talked about working together, and I sent it to him.
He loved it; he cut the record at his studio in Maryland, shot the record back to me, and said, “Send me an email--let me know what you think.” He sent me back the song finished. I was like, “Oh, my goodness!” I was like, “Now this is a sexy record.”
Initially, I wanted a female rapper. I need a female rapper to turn this thing out, because Rahem already took it--he took it right to the edge, because that’s what he does. He took it right to the edge.
And I wanted a female rapper on it, but I wanted it to be--I just wanted it to be special. So I called my good friend Jill Scott, who is a phenomenal rapper. A lot of people don’t know that. Some people think she’s just a poet, but Jill can spit. Jill can really rap. So I called Jill; Jill was in the middle of doing a movie, and I sent her the record, and she was, like, “I love it, but I don’t have time.” So, I was pondering, like, “Man, I need a female rapper,” and, as far as I’m concerned--I think I’m old school, but I like new school too--but a lot of female rappers … now, there’s some more theatrics and less lyricallity, and my name is Jeff Bradshaw and I approve that message. So, yeah, I said it.
So I felt like Devon Hampton, who directed the video--also from Philly-- who also directed Jill’s "Shame" video and "Hear My Call" video--he said “How about, let’s get Ms. Jade.” I was, like, “Oh my goodness. Yes!” And she’s from Philly, too, so it had that Philly thing on it. So we called Ms. Jade, who is from Timbaland and Missy fame, and one of the illest female mc's in the country. He called her; he said, “She’s going to do it.”
So I called; I was nervous because I was a fan. I was nervous. I was, like, “I really want you to do the record.” She said, "What do you want me to say?" I said, “I want you to be sexy. I need it to be sexy. Grown folk’s talk.” She said, “Okay I got you.” She came down, she said, “I’ve got something for you.” I said, “Okay.” She came down to the studio, and I stood there in front of her while she recorded it, and I actually recorded it in my phone, and I watched her spit those lyrics out from tomorrow to next week--all those grown things that she said. I was, like, wow! The song came together.
We sent it out to a few people. Everybody loved it. It was grown folks’ music, talking grown folks stuff.
Darnell: And the rest is history.
Jeff: And the rest is history.
Darnell: Before we wrap up, I want to ask you about one other guest on your album, because I had a chance to interview her and I found her to be such a, just a genuine person in our conversation, very honest, very candid. And you kind of hear that when you listen to her own music. So I wanted to ask you about how you and Maysa got together for the track that you … I think it was called "So Rare."
Jeff: You know, I got a little crush on Maysa. No, I’ve been an Incognito fan for many years. So I was very familiar with who she was as an artist. But I met Maysa some years ago; I think I met Maysa in London. I was leaving--I was in London with Floetry.
We did seven sold out nights at the Jazz Café, and we were leaving and Maysa was checking in the hotel. She was coming into London because she was doing a show with Incognito, and I was, like, "Maysa Leak? Hi, I’m Jeff Bradshaw from Philly. I’m a big fan of your work. I’m on tour with Floetry. She’s like “Whoa, man, okay! Wow.” I was like, “Where you from?” She’s said, “Baltimore.” I was like, “Baltimore! I’m from Philly.” And we chatted, we exchanged numbers, and that’s been my big sister ever since.
So, whenever I go to Baltimore and I’m working, she comes out, we hang out. She’ll jump on stage or we’ll just hang out. Whenever she comes to Philly we hang out. I go see her show. She’s another good friend, another good dear friend, and a legendary one, as well. When I called her to do the record she didn’t hesitate. “When do I need to be there? What do I need to do?” And pretty much that’s how it was.
We got together. We sang the song. A good friend of mine, Stephanie Aplocio from New York City--she wrote Maysa’s verse. Maysa came and recorded it in Maryland, very close to where I was on tour with Jill, and the song came together and everybody loved it. I thought it was perfect for me, to sing a duet with Maysa. I put a couple duets on this album, sang a duet with Maysa, sang a duet with Coco from SWV.
That was kind of intimidating. It was like, “Oh, so,you’re going to sing a duet with Maysa Leak? And Coco? Okay.” But God is good and it came together, and Jill Scott is probably my biggest fan, when it comes to singing--Jill Scott and an artist by the name of Carol Riddick. Those are the two women who really, really push me to sing more. They’re like, “You’re holding off a secret weapon. You need to sing more,”--To the point when Jill started pulling me off the horn riser to center stage with her and started making me sing on her shows.
So it’s been a blessing, working with Maysa, and working with all the artists on the record. It was just like working with family. Even some who I’ve worked with for the first time, it still was like working with family.
That’s what music is, man; it’s a fellowship. When people and artists get together and produce, it should always be a fellowship. Back in the day, that’s what it was. When the great jazz musicians got together and they played from club to club, there was a fellowship. Because we’re all working towards the same common goal: to record great music with integrity that touches people wherever they are, and that’s my goal, to continue to record music with integrity that reaches people where they are.
Darnell: Let’s do this. You have this great product out. I know that you have a fan page on Facebook, because I “liked” it. So let me know where else people can stay in touch with you online, Twitter, or any other avenues?
Jeff: Okay, well, definitely, I want everybody to “like” my fan page on Facebook. It’s just Jeff/Bradshaw. And they can follow me on Twitter @IamJeffBradshaw. Follow me @IamJeffBradshaw on Twitter, and to hear--you can see music there, on the fan page. You can see music, sometimes; I put music on Twitter, but they also can just go to the website JeffBradshaw.com, and the songs are there. You can preview the double CDs there; you can preview my first album BONE DEEP, if you don’t have that. That’s on the website, as well.
Darnell: And I assume you’re going to be out on the road playing dates; is that information going to be on your website?
Jeff: Yes, it is. Planning a seven … I think it’s up to seven or eight cities CD release tour.
Darnell: Jeff Bradshaw, it’s been a lively conversation. Again, I just want to thank you for your time, and any time that you have anything going on, our doors at SoulMusic.com are open. So feel free to come through and let us know what you’re doing, man.
Jeff: Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity, and God speed. April 24th, we’re going to change the world. And with albums like Esperanza Spalding’s album out, and Rob Glasper, and everybody’s talking about, one of my good friends, who’s a musical director for Maxwell. He called me and said, these three albums, Esperanza’s album, Rob Glasper’s album, and BONE APPETIT, my album, is going to economically change the music that we listen to. And I received that, so BONE APPETIT will be out April 24th, and let’s continue to support great music.
And I appreciate you, SoulMusic.com, for giving us a place where our music can be seen, where our voices can be heard, and it’s extremely important for us, and you guys are important to us, so thank you very much.
Darnell: You’re very welcome, and that’s a great place to end it. Thank you so much, sir.
Jeff: Thank you.
Darnell: Alright, man. Be blessed.
Jeff: You take care.
About the Writer
Darnell Meyers-Johnson is a New Jersey based music journalist and creator of The Meyers Music Report (www.TheMeyersMusicReport.Tumblr.com). Previously, he served as Entertainment Editor for the now defunct publication Nubian News and as Editorial Coordinator for SoulMusic.com. When not conducting interviews or writing liner notes, Darnell hosts a weekly radio show, Vocal About Jazz, which streams online every Saturday from 12-2pm, EST on JazzOn2.org and iTunes.