Maurice "Mobetta" Brown -
Trumpet Star Shoots from the Hip
"One on One"
April 15, 2009
James "Jdub" Walker of Jazz Chicago sat down with world class trumpeter Maurice "Mobetta" Brown last week at his downtown hotel as he relaxed the afternoon after his first of five days performing at the Jazz Showcase in historic Dearborn Station in the South Loop in Chicago.
Jdub: All right Maurice, welcome back to the Windy City, and thanks for sitting down and spending some time with us this afternoon.
MB: I'm really glad to be here. Thank you.
Jdub: How does it feel to return to Chicago to headline at the world famous Jazz Showcase.
MB: It feels really, really good. It's so special for me to come back and play the Showcase, the new Showcase. This is my first time checking out the new Showcase, because growing up in Chicago, I used to go to the old Showcase all the time and meet with the "cats" when they came to town and go to lunch with them, hang out and they would invite me to sit in with them and later to work with some of them. They were great guys and it was definitely a training ground for me when I think back about it.
Jdub: You know, Joe (Segal) at the Showcase doesn't normally have Chicago artists headlining and I think you might be the second Chicagoan to headline the Showcase. Do you know who the first one was?
MB: I think it was Cdub (Mobetta's good friend, trumpeter Corey Wilkes).
Jdub: You two are the first Chicago-based musicians to headline there. Others have performed during the week, but not as headliners.
MB: Im definitely excited about it.
Jdub: Well, we're excited to have you back here. How about giving us an overview of your background and how you got started in music to where you are at now.
MB: Well, I started playing trumpet when I was in fifth grade, and really started getting serious around junior high school and high school and it allowed me to really get my "Chops" together. My uncle was a blues guitarist, Bobby "Slim" James, and he was also a vocalist. My parents loved music, so I was always around music. I listened to all kinds all of music growing up and I was fascinated by music.<
The trumpet was a really cool instrument, very majestic, and it gets the party started (laughter) and I liked that about the trumpet. I also liked the saxophone and I was torn about which one to get. I picked up the trumpet, made a sound on it, and the band director said "you're a natural," and you have to play the trumpet. I advanced so fast. I was in the beginners' band for a month and he moved me to the intermediate band. From there, within weeks, I went to the Honors band. I was always ahead of my class.
Jdub: Was this at Hillcrest High School?
MB: No, this was in junior highs school. By the time I got to Hillcrest, I knew I wanted to play the trumpet. I knew that was my job and what I wanted to be - a trumpeter. That's when I started taking it real serious - practicing a lot, writing a lot, trying to find my voice and working with a lot of great people who helped shape the way I hear music.
Jdub: It's certainly unusual for a teenager coming up during the era of rap and hip-hop to gravitate toward Jazz. Were you torn at all between jazz and another area of music. You certainly infuse hip-hop
with your jazz.
MB: No, I was never torn because there's only two kinds of music to me - good and bad music. Like I said, I like so many different kinds of music. When hip-hop came out, I was all about that, but I still had my jazz collection that I was bumping every day.
Jdub: Was there anyone who influenced you the most?
MB: It's hard to say, because I'm influenced by so many musicians, but I'd have to say Miles (Davis) influenced me a lot. His approach to music was a good approach to take to life. Creating space and taking it all in. Taking time, which is a good approach to life. Relax and think about things clearly - then react. Not always immediately jumping on the case. Musically, I take that approach. When I'm on the bandstand, I don't feel forced to play this second or at this tempo. From Miles, I definitely learned a lot from him.
Jdub: That doesn't surprise me, because Miles was an innovator, definitely ahead of his time, always infusing his music with different styles of jazz, just as you do in your music - not limiting what you do. You don't put yourself in a box. We need more innovators like that who are willing to take chances, because it's a gamble and so-called "jazz purists" want to keep you in a box that satisfies them.
MB: That's the beauty of what I do. People say to me, "Oh, you have guts." No matter what people think, the jazz police or purists, you do what you think is right. To me, it's like when I'm doing it, I'm not trying to press all the lines or push all the boundaries. I'm not thinking like that. It's what I'm hearing. It's like a picture in my mind. I can see it. I can see the picture, I can hear the finished results as we make the music come to life. It's a very gratifying experience where I can be at ease and breathe and move to the next thing, because I carry that energy with me. When I don't put my music out, it gets all bottled up.
Jdub: When do you pen your music? Do you just sit down and write or do you write it down as it comes to your mind? How does it happen?
MB: This is funny that you are asking me that, because I was just thinking about this the other day, because a friend of mind said "I've got to sit down and write some music," and he makes times to write music and I never really did that. He makes time to write music. I make time to practice. When I hear a song, I'm up. Then I have to capture it and record it or write down the melody. Then I have to work on it later and arrange it, but when the inspiration comes, right away I try to get to it as fast as I can. Now I have recorders, but before, I used to call my voicemail and leave myself a message (laughter).
Jdub: I know that you have been involved in a new project working with Laura Izabor (sensational R&B singer from Ireland) how did that all come about?
MB: Laura Izabor, she's a great new talent, a new artist with Atlantic Records from Dublin, Ireland. She's half Irish and half African and she's the bomb.
Jdub: How did you get involved with her?
MB: Well, I got involved with her through Craig Kallman, President of Atlantic Records, and he met me in the studio when I was working on a recording session with Wyclef Jean and he said he liked my work. He indicated he wanted me to do the horns for Laura and work with some of his artists, and now I'm her music director and using my band, "Soul'd U Out" to back her up and everything is going great.
I also just got back from Paramount Studio in L.A. Working with Cee-Lo (hip-hop artist) and others, and I've been also trying to get my music licensed at MTV and ESPN.
Jdub: Is Laura planning a concert in Chicago, or are you returning this summer or fall to any of the festivals?
MB: I know we both are planning on coming back, I just don't know when. We are working on all options and allowing the people (management) do what they have to do to work everything out.
Jdub: We would really love to see "Double Trouble" (Corey Wilkes and Maurice) get back together. It's been a few years since you two worked together.
MB: I know, I know. We would love to do something together. (Maurice later indicated there is a possibility of the two of them doing something together - maybe at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival).
Jdub: In parting - any words that you would like to share with the Jazzchicago.net readers?
MB: I just want to thank everyone who has been supporting me thus far. It's been crazy going through New Orleans and the hurricane (Katrina), then New York, and now really getting into the swing of things and people really catching on. I've been telling everybody the last few years, but I just want to thank everybody for the love and support. I also want to tell everybody that I will drop my new album in August. I should have had an album out way before then, but Ive been involved in so many projects. The first album (Hip to Bop) came out in '04, and now it's '09, but I will be dropping albums more regularly and building a catalog. It's with the Maurice Brown Effect, and will be entitled, "The Cycle of Love, Hip to Bop Vol. II," with Chris Rob on keys, Joe Blaxx on drums, Solomon Dorsey on bass and Derek Douget on sax.
It's really nice that I can use these talented guys in the studio, with Laura, with Soul'D U Out and Effect. We really work well together. They are very talented and versatile musicians. It's a pleasure working with them.
Jdub: Well, it was a pleasure watching you guys last night at the Showcase. I was thinking, what a great group of young men. Who's the oldest in the group?
MB: Chris Rob. He's 33.
JB: WE want to wish you all the success in the world. We'll be supporting you here on the Web site, as well as on our radio show, "Jazz, Chicago Style," which airs every Sunday night from 10p.m. to midnight on WNUA 95.5 and wnua.com. We play you as much as we can, and when the new CD drops, rest assured that we will feature it on the "Dub's Den" segment on the radio show. Thanks a lot, Maurice!
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