Joshua Breakstone

“Fire in velvet. Paul Weidman wrote that Joshua Breakstone’s Jazz guitar is a fitting description. Guitar Player magazine raved about Breakstone’s “flooding lines on up-tempo cookers. They are immaculately clean and fiery. His chordal work on heartbreaker ballsads is the last word in finesse. Japan’s Jazz Hihyo, aka Jazz Critique, recognizes that Joshua’s fluid single-note solos are a result of his Japanese style. But now the school is led by this man. Downbeat has also stated that there are many young, talented jazz guitarists these days. Joshua Breakstone is one of the most talented. Joshua Breakstone was born in Elizabeth, NJ on July 22, 1955. He was exposed to Broadway shows and Broadway show cast recordings by his parents, who were music lovers. He was also exposed to jazz and rock and rolling music through his older sisters. Jill, my sister worked at The Fillmore East as a lightshow operator. I was able to hear all of the bands on a regular basis, including my favorite musicians Jimi Hendrix (then) and Frank Zappa (then). “I started playing guitar when I was fourteen. It consisted of guitars, bass, drums and organ. It was not your standard late sixties rock and rolling instrumentation. Although I was exposed to jazz as a child, it didn’t catch my attention until I met Lee Morgan. Lee Morgan’s music was captivating and inspired me to listen to more jazz. First, I was attracted to jazz by trumpet players. Then I discovered Charlie Parker. He says that the fire of Lee Morgan’s playing grabbed him immediately. “The way Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan fully articulated each note was an ideal towards which I work in regards to the sound I want to get on my guitar. Bird was a musician I admired and wanted to emulate. I loved the way he played music, which is meaningful, emotional, and beautiful. Because the guitar is an instrument that can be seen and patterns are easy to create, it presents a challenge. In my own way, I try to get away from guitar and into the world of music, where ideas, articulation, and sound exist separately from instrument. Joshua also began to study in Manhattan with Sal Salvador. Sal was a great teacher and a great person. He became a great friend. I was exposed to many different music styles and he helped me learn a lot about the instrument. Breakstone entered New College of the University of South Florida in 1972. He graduated in three years, including two terms at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1975. He also received a degree for jazz studies. Joshua lived for several months in Brazil after graduation. He returned to New York and taught while completing graduate studies at NYU. He recorded his debut album on Glen Hall’s Book of the Heart (Sonora Records101) in 1979 with JoAnne Brackeen and Cecil McBee. Wonderful! was his first recording as a leader, in 1983. (Sonora Records 222, with Barry Harris, Earl Sauls and Leroy Williams), he lived in New York and performed with Vinnie Burke, Warne Mars, Emily Remler and Dave Schnitter. He also taught privately at the Rhode Island Conservatory of Music, Providence, Rhode Island. He recorded with Kenny Barron for Sonora Records 4/4=1 the following year. Breakstone signed a four-year contract with Fantasy Records for four recordings on their Contemporary label. Echoes was the first recording, featuring Pepper Adams, Kenny Barron and Dennis Irwin. Evening Star followed in 1986 with Jimmy Knepper and Tommy Flanagan. Self Portrait in Swing was followed in 1989 by Nine By Three, Breakstone’s first trio recording. It featured Dennis Irwin, Kenny Washington, and then Nine By Three in 1990. Josh wrote, “During my four years with Contemporary I have spanned two eras of the recording industry. My first two recordings were only released on LP. My third was released on both CD and LP. And my last, Nine By Three was only released on CD. Joshua’s first Japanese tour was in 1986. He has been touring Japan twice a year since then, both with his own bands and with those of well-known Japanese musicians like Terumasa Hino (Monkey) Kobayashi, Eiji Nakamura, and Terumasa Hino. Joshua started recording for the Japanese King Record Label in 1991, which led to four albums. Walk Don’t Run was followed up by I Want To Hold Your Hand, and Oh! Darling – Two CDs of Beatles songs rearranged and modified to Breakstone’s musical perspective. All three CDs feature the incredible rhythm section of Kenny Barron, Dennis Irwin, Kenny Washington, and Kenny Washington. Grant Green’s bandmates, Jack McDuff (organist) and Al Harewood (drummer), are featured on the next Remembering Grant Green. Kenny Barron also returns to two tracks with Ray Drummond and Keith Copeland. Sittin’ On The Thing with Ming is Joshua’s 1993 Capri Records debut album. It consists mostly of Joshua’s original compositions, except for one selection. “I tend to play a mix between originals and standard songs in live settings. I am constantly writing new material. After recording four CDs of King’s theme recordings, I had a lot more original material that was eventually recorded on Sittin’ On The Thing with Ming. The 2001 recording Tomorrow’s Hours was followed by 2003’s A Jamais (Forever), a tribute to Wes Montgomery’s compositions. “A Jamais was recorded with French musicians in the south of France, which was the first time that I had recorded outside the US. As Sittin’ On The Thing with Ming, it also features almost all of my originals. Some of these were previously recorded while others were recorded here for only the first time. Breakstone’s debut album for Double-Time was Let’s Call This Monk in 1996, which featured Dennis Irwin as bassist and Mickey Roker as drummer. He recorded his tribute to Bud Powell in 2000. His 1999 This Just In was sandwiched between the two on Double-Time. Japanese Songs is an additional item that Joshua has included on his discography. It all started with a gift, as the liner notes say. Junko Noda was an opera singer, pianist, and teacher who gave me an exceptional present while I was on tour in Japan in 1999. It was a hand-made book of Japanese songs. The Japanese Songs CD was born from this gift. It is a limited edition, 1000 copies only, and each copy is signed and numbered by Junko Noda. This is a very special project that I am proud of. What is Joshua’s future? We may record another album in France with Louis Petrucciani, who is a brilliant musician on A Jamais. Also, we are looking at recording with Japanese musicians in Japan. On my April trip, I will have a few extra days to visit studios. “I am basically trying to do more of what I do. I am trying to keep writing, learning new tunes, and being exposed to new players – I believe that my travel and performance schedules contribute a lot to the growth of my music, and I hope that the recordings will reflect that. Teaching jazz music, individually or in clinics, is a way for me to show students my progression as a musician. It starts with learning how to improvise and to navigate any harmonic terrain. This could take countless hours of hard work. When we look at it from a different perspective, becoming an improviser does not mean that you have achieved anything. The goal of jazz is to express ourselves, to be unique, to speak in our own voices, and to share our thoughts. Only by making this leap, from someone who improvises into someone who communicates, can we move from musicians to craftsmen to artists. I don’t care about trying to be something or someone else, my goal has always been to speak from my heart. My conviction has always been that if I say something different, in my own way and with honesty, there will always an audience for me, it’s okay. from

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