Though Jamie Breiwick does his finest work with a trumpet, the longtime Clamnation member and one third of Lesser Lakes Trio does a great deal to advance Milwaukee jazz with his work behind the scenes. Breiwick is a celebrated music educator, a co-founder of Milwaukee Jazz Vision, and one of the integral forces behind Bay View Jazz Fest.
With local jazz clubs now opening (or re-opening) with regularity, Bay View Jazz Fest less than two weeks away, and Lesser Lakes Trio’s sophomore record having just been released, Milwaukee Record asked the veteran trumpeter to toot his own horn about his latest release, the state of Milwaukee jazz, and the upcoming festival.
Milwaukee Record: Why did you feel the need to help start Milwaukee Jazz Vision?
Jamie Breiwick: MJV was the result of a late night quasi-drunken conversation at The Jazz Estate between Neil Davis, Kevin Hayden, Steve Peplin, and myself. We made a conscious decision to be proactive, rather than continue the well-worn cycle of reminiscing of the glory years. The rich and storied history of the Milwaukee jazz scene is not on the radar of many outside of our little bubble. The forming of MJV was a direct attempt at raising the profile of the jazz scene locally, regionally, and eventually nationally and internationally.
MR: On top of all MJV does, Bay View Jazz Fest seems to be your largest undertaking. How has it been since merging with Bay View Gallery Night, and what can people look forward to this year?
JB: BVJF was preceded by a series we called the East Side Jazz Fest, which ran for three years. We presented six concerts between 2010-2012. We presented national and international artists such as Brian Lynch, David Hazeltine, Godwin Louis, Dan Nimmer, Russ Johnson, George Braith, and Bill Carrothers. It was a more formal, sit-down concert.
The Bay View Jazz Fest is much different in that we have multiple bands happening at multiple venues on one night. I had the idea of recreating an event similar to Winter Jazz Fest in NYC, which is an incredible city-wide jazz festival that takes place all over the city. Bay View was a no-brainer with the sheer number of venues within close proximity. I think I may have initially approached Jeff Redmon about the idea.
The first BVJF in 2014 was four venues, this year we have 31 bands in 12 venues, presenting bands from Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, and of course the best of our hometown talent. The first year we did it, the response was so positive from everyone involved. We heard comparisons to New Orleans, or the Village in NYC, which is totally the vibe we were shooting for. If you attend, you will hear a vibrant cross section of some of the region’s best musicians: funk, fusion, straight-ahead, Afro-Caribbean, avant-garde, rootsy.
MR: And your band, Lesser Lakes Trio, is taking part as well. How did the trio get together?
JB: Lesser Lakes was formed in 2013 by Devin [Drobka] and I shortly after he moved back to Milwaukee from NYC. The group was initially just a reason for Devin and I to play together. We were both inspired by a group called Triveni, led by the Israeli trumpet player Avishai Cohen, bassist Omer Avital, and drummer Nasheet Waits and wanted to explore the, then-uncommon, trumpet trio format. We needed a bassist and Devin knew John [Christensen] from a previous trio they were in together. I think we played our first gig together without rehearsing. It was either at The Jazz Estate or The Jazz Gallery, if I recall correctly. Actually, I think we may have played both venues on the same night.
MR: How does your latest, The Good Land, differ from your first record? Are you more comfortable playing together now that you’ve had a few years under your belt?
JB: The Good Land is certainly more lean. The whole record is like 30 minutes long, and most of the tracks are under three minutes, which was purposeful. The focus is less on soloing and more on the compositions, and also the sounds. I think it is easily digestible. We recorded it in two sessions at Howl Street with Shane Hochstetler, who really was wonderful to work with. I would dare to say that The Good Land is more of an instrumental rock record than a jazz record. There are obvious jazz elements in there for sure, but I think it is more a reflection of the band’s diverse influences, which travel far beyond a single genre.
This record is, by far, the most personal musical statement I have made to date. We released it on a record label out of Minneapolis called Shifting Paradigm, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of such a wonderful, like-minded organization. SPR is very musician-friendly, and is bent on putting out great music from the Midwest and beyond, but there certainly is a Midwest vibe on the music they are putting out. I think it’s cool, showing people that there is life outside of NYC or L.A. We did a release show in Minneapolis this past weekend and it was incredible. The chief operator of the label, Zacc Harris, is a fantastic guitarist and we released our albums together.
MR: What’s next for Milwaukee jazz? For the uninformed, who are some local legends that must been seen, and who are some young musicians and projects that are helping to push things forward?
JB: Where to start? There are so many positive things happening, I don’t want to leave anyone or anything out. I would encourage people who might be interested in jazz to follow Milwaukee Jazz Vision on Facebook, Twitter, and our site. Above all, and always, get out and support live music and the venues supporting our wonderful local creative musicians of all styles.
Personally, I’m really looking forward to continuing to push across the boundaries of genre and scene with this band, do some shows with other bands, play some shows in other cities, study more history, write more music, continue to learn more about music and about myself in the process.