Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is trombonist and composer Jason Branscum (photo by Tim Perdue). Since moving to Columbus early last decade, he has performed in Europe, ten states and Washington, D.C., with artists including Slave, Dr. John, George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Gladys Knight, and Roy Hargrove. He has led the bands metalbaby, Pooma, and Children, and currently plays with Honk, Wail & Moan, Descendre, Nicole Rachelle’s band, Conspiracy and others. Branscum was kind enough to give us some detail on his musical journey and current endeavors, including a show this week:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Jason Branscum (JB): When I was in high school I started sneaking into clubs and saw some really great live music for the first time. This was in Dayton and there were all sorts of exciting funk, jazz, rock, R&B, and other shows to attend every night. I was going to watch a jazz jam at Jam Central and a trumpet player gave me a cassette of “Work Song” and asked me to learn it and play next week. I already played trombone in school so I worked out the melody and sat in the next week. I played the melody OK but I probably should have passed on trying to solo that night. I really started practicing like mad after a group of friends took me to see the Flecktones here in Columbus at the Wexner Center.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
JB: A lot of these are so cliché, but, in the jazz realm, my main influences include Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Charlie Parker, McCoy Tyner, Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Eddie Harris, Abraham Burton, Bob Brookmeyer, Derek DiCenzo, Eric Zadan, Eddie Bayard, Sonny Sharrock, Josh Roseman, Ron Miles, Joey Baron, and Kenny Garrett.
What is your fondest musical memory?
JB: I used to go listen to this band in Dayton called the Puzzle of Light. They built their own instruments and played a very eclectic style. I’m not sure what you would call it. One time I went to see them play these giant kalimbas, which I had been hearing about for a while. They read this poem and then performed a song called “Hooves on Heather.” I’m not sure what actually happened at that moment, but the most succinct way I could describe it would be an out of body experience. This was during a time before I considered that there might be a spiritual dimension to life. It might sound weird but it was like a startling insight to the potential of inner peace. Playing-wise, the gigs I enjoyed the most were with my band Pooma. I like playing with monster musicians or famous people and going to weird or exotic places but, at least for me, none of those even come close to the fulfillment of actually working through some new creation with bandmates who really cheer you on with the way they play.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
JB: Bach! I listen to a lot of Bach right now. Today specifically its been the Goldberg Variations. I’ve also been listening to Bruno Mars, Marshall Gilkes, and Coltrane.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
JB: The first concert I saw in Columbus was a show in which Christian Howes brought Billy Hart to town. So it was Christian, Billy, Eddie Bayard, Bobby Floyd, Paul Brown, and Andy Woodson. I would put that band up against any other band on the planet! That was the night I realized that wherever the best musicians are in the world, probably only their neighbors know who they are. In other words, I don’t know of a particular exciting movement in the Columbus scene the way there has been at certain times, but it has monsters who play well together and I’m most inspired by a lot of these individual.
What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
JB: Nicole Sherburne is releasing a record this year that I think is going to be great! Adam Smith also has a number of projects I am involved with that are incredible and that I think he has big plans for this year. Honk, Wail & Moan is at Dick’s Den on Thursday, April 9th. That should be a blast! Personally, I’ve been writing be-bop canons (strict canons). I have a number finished and hope to put together a band at some point to explore this idea in depth. I’ve been composing a lot in general but these canons are starting to really challenge my imagination in some new ways.
For more info, visit branscumtunes.com.