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Brian Ward: Press Kit/ Reviews

- (Aug 3, 2006)
Catch & Release -- Brian Ward Trio CD Soiree
Saturday, September 9, 2006
Halibut's Fish, Chips & Chowder House

Brian Ward, Keyboards
Al Criado, Bass
Reinhardt Melz, Drums

There is a new star rising over Alberta in the form of Halibut's Fish, Chips & Chowder House located at 2527 NE Alberta.  This fresh, non-smoking venue sports an intimate atmosphere, friendly service folks and an always-hearty welcome from owner Dave Mackay.  The seafood is to die for with every dish sure to please, including fish & chips, chowder, salmon, codfish, Dungeness crab cakes along with other yummy dishes, which are sure to satisfy courtesy of Chef Jay.  "Big Mack" is sincere about providing a home for good jazz and blues music as a result of which we have enjoyed many magical musical moments at this venue, which feels like a home away from home.

This evening, the Brian Ward Trio consisting of Brian Ward on keyboard, Al Criado on Bass and the always wonderful Reinhardt Melz on drums, debuted Brian's newest CD," Wonderbread."  This ensemble fueled by superb seafood and an appreciative crowd created excitement and awe with their superb renditions of the tunes from the CD and left the crowd hungry for more when the hour of 11ish arrived too soon.  The CD, not yet available in stores can be purchased for $15.00 online at CD Baby.  This CD musical offering is truly a mélange of flavors as tasty as Halibut's chowder. There are shades of Afro-Cuban rhythms, funk and gospel as well as fusion and straight ahead jazz grooves.  These superb musicians know what to do and are infectiously enthusiastic about the music they shared with their adoring audience.  Featured on the CD, the first for Ward as a leader, are Willy Barber and Al Criado on bass, Melz on the drums, Eric Hailstone on guitar and Priscilla DeVold on vocals.  The album was produced by Criado and recorded in his studio.

Ward grew up in a musical family in Salem and is now ensconced in Portland after experiencing mentorship from guiding lights such as Leroy Vinnegar, Mel Brown, Eddie Wied, Bobby Torres, Obo Addy and Curtis Salgado with whom he toured.  He earned a BA in music from Portland State in '99, an MA in teaching in '01, and currently serves as the assistant minister of music at the True Vine Baptist church.  Brian has been teaching applied jazz at Portland State since 2002.  He is married to Vanessa, singer Marilyn Keller's sister.

Ward is already writing music for his next CD.  This writer urges readers to hop on board this musical train and add "Wonderbread" to your musical collection. This musical rising star has created a treat for the senses that you won't want to miss.  Catch this release!
Brian Ward has paid his dues.

In order to develop the gospel-steeped soul jazz that makes up the bulk of the material on this debut CD, he's put in time with the sources. A Portland-based keyboardist and composer, Ward has toured with bluesman Curtis Salgado, absorbed the Latin feel with conguero Bobby Torres, dug into African roots with Ghanaian drummer Obo Addy, and currently serves as assistant minister of music at True Vine Missionary Baptist Church. Along the way, Ward amassed straight-ahead jazz experience as well.

He's elected to place those complex jazz harmonies and post-bop improvisations in service of the groove on this Latin-tinged, soulful collection of funk, soul and jazz fusion, however. The result is accessible and intelligent pop jazz rooted in the R&B tradition.
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Several passages even evoke specific soul tunes from the 1960s and '70s, including an introduction to "Move On" that recalls the Jackson 5's "Can You Feel It."

But Ward's compositions take the familiar to interesting and unusual places.

The gospel-flavored "What Can I Do?" for instance, stays on an even keel, refraining from the soaring, bluesy climaxes typical of a Hank Crawford/Jimmy McGriff outing. Instead, he adds an animated section built on a funk rhythm, where churchy keyboard figures become jazz licks that reach a different sort of peak before modulating back into the original melody.

Jazz chops leap out all over this disc, but too often Ward shifts back into more pedestrian patterns, as on "Morning Walk" or "Ngiculela" -- contrasts to the title tune, "Wonderbread," which is fortified with the energy and sharp syncopation guaranteed to build strong music 12 ways.

The CD is packaged with a DVD -- a practice increasingly common even among independents.
Lynn Darroch - Oregonian (Sep 8, 2006)
“Every tune on "Wonderbread" comes from a different direction. The recipe calls for jazz, funk, R&B, soul and Afro-Cuban flavors all slathered in a gospel gravy.”


Sifting through stacks of recordings to discover fresh, creative, and stimulating music can be an exhausting experience to say the least. With that said, I’m pleased to introduce you to Portland, Oregon native and keyboardist Brian Ward. His unique recipe for blending various textures of music together is well worth sampling and digesting each infectious note on his debut as a leader titled “Wonderbread.”
The opener “Brothers I,” speaks transparently through the lens of percussive beats filled with a colorful array of African rhythms! Brian’s instinctive prowess as a keyboardist and arranger draws you without delay into the fabric of this intoxicating groove.

“What Can I Do?” … Borrows a little sumthin’, sumthin’ from the school of Richard Tee, and please keep in mind Ward does this without mimicking Mr. Tee’s sound. Yes, brother Brian represents by delivering a delectable Gospel inspired down home tune with a touch of jazz.
Brian admits to striving to discover various cultures musically, the next piece “She Ain’t” as he sees it is the only track that’s true in tradition jazz on his debut. This track also features Reinhardt Melaz with a marveling drum solo.

Once you hear the next selection “Baby Girl,” you’ll immediately discover the influence of another great composer and master keyboardist George Duke. Oh yeah, the Duke vibe is definitely written into the script of this jewel features a very talented bassist named Willy Barber.

“Move On,” drops in a the five spot with the cool sensation of an classic R&B groove covered by it’s foundation Gospel. Ward’s fearless approach to the composition on the Hammond B3 and Rhodes are on point.

Brian takes on the first of two covers with his treatment of Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew,” features vocalist Priscilla DeVold. I’ll give Ms. DeVold lots of love for daring to tackle this classic by LaBelle. Ironically, Brian decides to cover a unique piece by Stevie Wonder titled “Ngiculela.” Yeah, I dig this one! It's laced with a luscious Bossa Nova flavor.

At the eighth spot Ward and company switches gears with a phat and sassy fusion groove suitably titled “Pound Cake.” The ensemble delivers the goods by digging deep into the legacy of its preprocessors in jazz-fusion to nail this jewel.

Fender Rhodes lovers will simply adore this project by Ward, the next cut “Stellar Optics” taps into the core of fusion. Nothing superficial here, this further exemplifies why music of this caliber is in high demand these days.

On the next selection Ward’s focus turns to the Latin inspired title track “Wonderbread,” its layered with a near perfect dose of Mambo therefore making it one of the most vibrant tracks on the recording.

“Morning Walk,” was originally written as an interlude for Church. And yes, it does feel like a warm and easygoing Sunday morning spiritual vibe. In fact, this composition showcases Brian’s melodic voice on piano.

On a personal note, this is undisputedly pure contemporaryjazz. This solid playing and livid skill set by Brian Ward and his ensemble is without a doubt memorable. I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet the music of Brian Ward. From the first spin on “Wonderbread,” it’s evident without reading liner notes you get the idea this guy is all about music, which is rare these days. Brian Ward’s music is real, straight from the heart and soul of a man who loves playing music.
**** Cool grooves with a modern flavor

This CD has some great tunes on it and the players play very well together. Brian writes songs that cover a bunch of different genres but the CD has a unified vibe. It's fresh and he uses a lot of contemporary harmonies with electric instruments. You can tell he digs pop music but has checked out some jazz, brazilian, and r&b. This CD is definitely worth checking out.
Musician of the Month (July, 2006)

Interviewed by Rita Rega

Name:  Brian Ward

Instrument:  keyboards

Early Years/Education:  I grew up in a musical family in Salem, Oregon. My mother plays viola and my dad, two brothers and two aunts all play the bass, and everybody sings.

I attended North Salem High School, located across the street from Willamette University. A professor there took me under his wing and showed me the chord changes so I could play jazz.  I started playing professionally at age fifteen.  I studied with Gordon Lee and took a few lessons from Dave Leslie.

As a high schooler I'd show up at the Hobbit every Sunday for the jam session and Leroy Vinnegar would always put me up first and make me call the tune.

He would then proceed to show me everything I didn't know about the tune I supposedly knew.  Leroy, Mel Brown and Eddie Wied were always good to me.  After high school I attended the Berklee College of Music.

I dropped out because they wanted me to play rock.  I knew if I came back to Portland and started playing all the time, I'd really learn jazz.

Eventually, I completed my formal education at PSU earning a BA of Music in '99 and an MA in Teaching in '01.  I currently teach piano at PSU using the "Duckworth Method" where you can teach beginning students to play in all the keys by means of a finger pattern. 

Gospel Music:  About 1989 this guy called me up and asked me to play piano for a local Baptist church.  I quickly fell in love with the music.

I was able to play by ear...the rhythm and the phrasing is to me the core of what jazz is.  The "call and response" and the emphasis on two and four makes everything more exciting.

I've learned from some of the best of Portland's black gospel artists like Lorraine and Roslyn Wilder, Faye Innis and Terry Davis. There's a ton of small family Baptist and Pentecostal churches in northeast Portland.

There are vocalists in this town that you would not believe and they don't sing anywhere but in church.  Right now I'm the Assistant Minister of Music at the True Vine Missionary Baptist Church on North Commercial. 

Bands:  My current band is a trio with bassist Willy Barber and drummer Reinhardt Melz.  We're just really good friends and we did this gig at The Blue Monk and a CD came of it.  The CD is called Wonderbread.  The title comes from one of the tracks, which I wrote based on a Stevie Wonder tune.  I always like to reference the original tune in some way.

For example, I've got another one called "She Ain't" which was based on "Ain't She Sweet." This trio has an ensemble feel since that's how the music I write comes out.  It's fun to write to the strengths of these guys.

I also have a straight-ahead  Jazz trio with Stu Cook on drums and Willy Barber on bass.

I've also toured extensively with Curtis Salgado.  When Curtis first asked me to join his band I had no experience playing the blues, I was a Jazz and Gospel player.   Curtis said, "That's OK come play gospel for me."

I'm in the Bobby Torres Ensemble; I work with Native-American performing artist Karen Therese, and I'm in a Funk band called Ocean 503 and a newly formed Brazilian/Funk band called Indigo featuring Chuk Barber, a displaced Hurricane Katrina musician from New Orleans. 

Musical Influences:  I'm a very big Bill Evans fan; I love Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Hampton Hawes, Big Masio, Otis Span, Prof. Longhair, as well as James P. Johnson, Willie Smith, Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Kenny Kirkland.

Most Satisfying Experience:  The best gig I ever played was with Curtis Salgado at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland when I first joined his band.

We laid down this set and we knew at the time it was magical.  After we heard the recording of it we just said yeah, it was!  Another satisfying experience is the duo I've had with Marilyn Keller over the years.  We've developed a rapport and it's always different.  (Marilyn's sister Vanessa is Brian's wife.) 

Favorite Recordings:  Bill Evans:  Everybody Digs Bill Evans, The Bill Evans Album & I Will Say Goodbye;  Horace Silver's  Horace Silver Trio;  Hampton Hawes Trio Vol. 3; Herbie Hancock Speak Like A Child;  Bud Powell The Amazing Bud Powell; George Duke Brazilian Love Affair;  Kenny Kirkland's Self Titled CD; McCoy Tyner Inception & Reaching Fourth.

What I'm Listening To Now Includes:  Herbie Hancock's Manchild, Thrust;  Memories Of Willie The Lion Smith;  James P. Johnson's Harlem Stride Piano;  Marc Cary Rhodes Ahead;  George Duke's George Duke And Lots Of Tito Puente And Eddie Palmieri.

Discography:   My new CD, Wonderbread, is my first as a leader.  It features Willy Barber and Reinhardt Melz as well as bassist Al Criado, guitarist Erick Hailstone and vocalist Priscilla De Vold.

Al Criado produced the CD at his studio and did a great job.  The CD is not in stores yet but is available on CD Baby.com and Tower Records.com.

Other recordings I'm on as either a keyboardist, composer and/or arranger include:  Silver Lining W/Pete Peterson, Wonche Be w/Obo Addy, Intimate Thoughts w/Cary Simms, Twelve O'clock Moon w/Victoria Corrigan, At Last w/ Marilyn Keller And Unrestrained w/Pamela Rae.   

Gigs:  7/1 Bridgeport Village w/Johnny Martin 2:00, 7/4 Ft. Vancouver 4th of July Celebration w/Patrick Lamb 4:15, 7/6 Jamison Park (NW Portland) w/Bobby Torres 5:30, 7/8 Bacchus Restaurant w/Bobby Torres 9:00, 7/15 Cathedral Park Jazz Festival with Wonderbread 2:00,  7/15 Jimmy Maks w/ Bobby Torres 9:00, 7/16 Augustana Lutheran Church Jazz Service 6:00, 7/21 & 22 Spirit Mountain Casino w/Ocean 503 at 9:00, 7/27 Carnagie Center Oregon City w/Porkpie 5:00 and 7/29 on KMHD's Homegrown Live w/ Wonderbread 4:00.

Future Plans:  I'll be making a new CD.  I'm currently writing music for the next one.  I'm keeping it going further in the same direction with the same guys.  I plan on booking my two trios as much as possible. 

Other Comments: While touring the country with Curtis I got a chance to see quite a bit.  I came back to Portland with a new appreciation of the jazz scene here.  The musicians that live here are some of the kindest, most beautiful people in the world.
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