Featured Musician - October 2012  

Thomas Barber
Thomas Barber

Name: Thomas Barber

Instrument: Trumpet, arranger-composer

Early Years/Education: My parents were adamant about exposing us to art as much as they could. Growing up in Moscow, Idaho, I went to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival every year. I started on trumpet at age ten. My twin brother, Chris, called the drum set first. I also play upright and electric bass. I got into jazz at age 11 or 12.

John Stowell was one of my first teachers. He was one of the teachers at the festival. He would hang out with another influential figure in my development, pianist Dody Dozier. She and John would give me and my brother Chris lessons when they were in town. At age 14, I was in a group that competed at the Lionel Hampton Festival, and we ended up winning the combo competition. When they announced I had won the solo division, I was freaking out, really thrilled. I then realized the solo winners were expected to perform in that evening’s concert, which I did.

After that, I thought I might actually be OK at this, so I decided to take private lessons more seriously. Every year the festival became this amazing fuel for me ... half of the New York playing scene and other major jazz artists from around the world would arrive in Moscow. For undergrad I attended the University of Northern Colorado and got a Bachelor of Music degree in classical trumpet performance. After graduation, I went to Juilliard in New York and received an Artist Diploma in jazz trumpet performance in 2006. While in New York, I found work playing, arranging and composing; did chart writing for people; had a small over-dub recording studio. I had steady work there, but it didn’t feel like home.

Composing for film: My first film score was for my brother Chris. In 2005, he produced, directed, edited and shot his own feature length film. In 2006, we decided to finish it, so I spent about a month writing the score. I realized I grew up listening to John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin and all these artists that do fantastic work writing for movies. After that, having had one under my belt, I could say I’ve scored a feature length project. No business has more competition in the arts than getting into movies. The only way you get into that business is to know as many people as you can -- and luck. My siblings work on production and post-production for film.

Portland: I moved here from New York to be near my brother. Every time I’d visit him, I just loved it. When I first moved here, I was constantly going back and forth to New York for work. This summer I made a point to not do anything but hang out and meet as many people as I can. I adore the playing scene here.

Portland Projects: After meeting and playing with alto saxophonist David Valdez, we decided to put together a group with organ, guitar, drums, trumpet and alto sax with George Colligan, organ, Storm Nilsen, guitar, Randy Rollofson, drums, David on alto and me on trumpet. I’ll be spending the next two months writing for this group. Another project has violin, flugelhorn, two guitars, acoustic bass and drums. It’s going to be a blending of Americana, bluegrass, gospel and modern “straight eighths” kind of jazz. This will be a long term thing developing over a few years.

Musical Influences: I listen to a lot of guitarists. I like Pat Metheny for how he phrases his lines. He is so dense with his phrasing, he is able to play a lot of wellcrafted material and not have a lot of space in there. Dody Dozier, John Stowell and saxophonist Brent Jensen were big influences on my development. My other biggest influences include Claudio Roditi, Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, Michael Brecker, Bela Fleck, Don Grolnick, John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith, Christian McBride, Buddy Rich, Yellowjackets, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Kamen, and Maria Schneider.

Most Satisfying Experience: While in New York, I was called by a producer to arrange horn parts and play for French pop star Chimene Badi. Her record went platinum. From then on, this put me on a little bit of a higher level as an arranger.

Thomas Barber
Thomas Barber

Favorite Recordings: Pat Metheny - “The Way Up,” “Speaking of Now,” “Day Trip”; Joshua Redman - “Elastic”; Bill Frisell - “Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones”; Kenny Wheeler - ”Music for Large and Small Ensembles”; Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - “Live Art,” “Outbound”; Brian Blade Fellowship - “Like a River”; Michael Brecker - “Time Is Of The Essence”; Nickel Creek - “Nickel Creek”; and Chick Corea: - “Tap Step.”

Discography: “Hornology” (2012), Rotato Records/ Justin Horn; “Laisse Les Dire” (2010), Universal Music France/Chimene Badi; “Familiar Places” (2010), D Clef Records/Matt Garrison; “Snow Road” (2009), D Clef Records/Thomas Barber’s Janus Bloc. Scores for more than 20 films, including the Indie feature “Love Sick” (2006), the animated short, “Operation Fish” (2006), and feature documentaries “Mania” (2008), about the Portland Trailblazers, “Rip City Stories” (2009-2011), also about the Trailblazers, and “Kings of the Road” (2009) about the Portland Buckaroos.

Future Plans: I plan to stay in Portland to play, write and teach as much as I can. I’ll be spending the next two months writing for the new project with David, George, Storm and Randy. I’ll be writing three new big band charts, a classical violin commission, and I'll be back in New York in December gigging.

Other: Follow the music that inspires you.


-- by Rita Rega