JOHNNY BRITT DEBUTS CD PROJECT, “MARVIN MEETS MILES”Entertainment, Jazz N LA — By Buddy Sampson on June 16, 2016 at 12:09 am
The trumpeter and composer excels with a hybrid of legendary artists Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis
By Buddy Sampson
Hollywood, California- In Los Angeles, California, listeners marvel at the depth of talent and versatility of artists that live or migrate here from all parts of the world. However, many of the most talented artists in Los Angeles migrate here from other eastern cities in the United States that are meccas of scintillating talent. Philadelphia, New York and Cleveland, Ohio and many other cities have represented themselves well, with artists that are so proficient on their instruments, it boggles your sensibilities. One of those amazing artists is Cleveland, Ohio’s own Johnny Britt.
Johnny Britt, a trumpeter, singer, pianist, arranger and composer, has either worked behind the scenes in the studio, or live on stage with artists such as Josh Groban, Davie Bowie, Luther Vandross, Quincy Jones, Dionne Warwick, Jennifer Lopez, Boney James and countless others. Currently, he is the music producer for the hit TV show, “America Sings.” He also worked for The Temptations, becoming their youngest musical director, which led to work on the TV movie, “The Temptations Story.” Britt started performing and singing in church at an early age, in Cleveland, Ohio as the lead singer for his church’s choir. “Cleveland was the best,” said Johnny Britt. “And I didn’t even know it. I lived right down the street from Eddie Levert (of the O’Jays.) There was a lot of talent in our neighborhood, and a lot of singing going on, so at a very early age, I was in school.”
Many singers and musicians develop their skills in the church. Britt was no exception. “I was the lead singer at four years old in the choir,” he said. “And that led to me being in a group called The Courageous Young Men, an inner city bongo group headed by a gentleman named Eddie Smoot, who was big in Cleveland at the time. I was seven, and the group became pretty popular. We played local TV shows and got a lot of exposure.” The exposure led Britt to performing in many talent shows and in sixth grade he discovered his love for trumpet. Well sort of. “I was in sixth grade and they passed out a sheet of paper,” he laughed, “and it was the first time we were ever going to have a music course at the school. They passed out a sheet of paper with the different instruments on it. I looked at the clarinet and there were too many valves, too many buttons to press. And I looked at the trombone, and it was a slide. Oh no. But the reason why I started playing trumpet is because it had three valves. And I said if it had three valves it couldn’t be that difficult. That’s the real reason I started. It’s not that I was influenced by Louie Armstrong.”
In 7th grade, he joined the orchestra and played with a now famous celebrity. “Actually I became the first trumpet player in the orchestra and I started getting confidence,” he reflected. “Arsenio Hall was in that band, he was playing the drums. He was a little heavy set dude. That’s how we met and started a band together.” He later attended Cathedral Latin, a Catholic school in Cleveland, where he learned a lot about life. “Our music teacher was Brother Ritter, and I hated Brother Ritter,” he laughed. “But Brother Ritter was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. What music does at that level is that it disciplines you. I think that Brother Ritter taught me discipline that I didn’t want to hear at the time. But that discipline taught me a lot.” That discipline propelled Britt to new heights as he studied in Paris, France, at a Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Roger Delmette, who performed in the Paris Opera. His later credits included writing jingles and working on TV and movie soundtracks.
When asked about the state of the music industry, Britt was quite candid in his response. “You have to have the eye of the tiger,” said Britt, a former Motown artist that owns his own label, JJamz Records. “You can accept no for an answer and you have to be determined. But it’s not easy. You have to have tough skin and do it yourself. And when you become something, people will help you along. Learn how to make a record yourself. ”
Britt debuted his album, “Marvin Meets Miles,” June 12, 2016 at the Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood. But why a project that marries the talents of Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis? “Those two legends were a great influence on me, “said Johnny Britt. ”I think the way Marvin sang was very lyrical and extremely musical. And the same goes with Miles Davis. He consumed his notes. He approached the trumpet like a singer. So it was an easy fit for me, because I do play trumpet and I do sing. I’m not saying I am Miles Davis on the trumpet or that I am Marvin, I’ve just been highly influenced by those artists. So the concept came to me, and I’ve been working on it for two years.” From the moment he stepped on the Catalina stage, his talent and musical prowess captivated the audience. His show took a very interesting departure from other shows. He often performed short vignettes that spotlighted his talent as a vocalist and trumpeter. His set varied from jazz to funk to ballads, which worked well for the audience. Johnny Britt is a terrific showman and gets an audience engaged, getting them to dance; even having members of the audience come on stage. His set included classic Marvin Gaye songs, such as “Inner City Blues,” and “Let’s Get It On,” and “Got To Give It Up.” However Britt demonstrated his mettle on the trumpet, and although his tone was reminiscent of Miles Davis, Britt revealed a style that was distinctly his own. He excelled on a beautiful ballad that was so moving, you could barely hear a pin drop at the Catalina Bar and Grill. Later in his set, he brought three vocalists to the stage, which rounded out the vocals beautifully. Their best vocal song of the night was “Just To Keep You Satisfied,” a brilliant vocal piece that spotlighted Britt’s considerable vocal skills. One of the best songs of the set was a Marvin Gaye classic, “What’s Going On,” a song that featured a poignant video as a backdrop. But the best moment of the night was when Britt invited his son, Josh Britt, a trumpeter and instrumentalist on the stage to perform with him. They did a duet that bought the audience to its feet.
If you want to experience the talent of Cleveland, Ohio’s best, then you must pick up Johnny Britt’s project, “Marvin Meets Miles.” Britt proves that Cleveland and the United States has among the best talent in the world. “There were some phenomenal musicians in Cleveland,” said Johnny Britt. “And there are phenomenal musicians all over this country.” With “Marvin Meets Miles,” Britt proves that he is one of the world’s most phenomenal musicians and performers. For more information about his tour dates and how to purchase “Marvin Meets Miles,” visit www.johnnybritt.com.