Trombonist, composer, and Kansas City native Brian Scarborough releases his debut album, Sunflower Song
, a monument to chronicle and celebrate the growth of his musical voice, and mark the beginnings of a group whose identity will only bloom further. Sunflower Song
sees the fruition of a composer and improvisor whose voice has grown organically from seeds of inspiration scattered throughout various influences, and spotlights the development of a sound and style as awe-inspiring as the blossoms from which the album takes its name.
Brian Scarborough’s curiosity has been piqued by composition ever since he began his studies of jazz. As he began to dive deeper into this music, he noticed that most of his favorite recordings featured original compositions, usually by the bandleader. Drawing inspiration from this realization, Brian has not stopped writing for the groups he has worked with, and has gone from, as he describes it, “just trying to sound decent,” to organically developing a unique voice that is a representation of years of writing, performing, and constantly learning. Alongside his development as a composer, Brian has grown as a bandleader, masterfully piecing together an ensemble of artists whose unique identities and creative voices breathe life into his compositions. It was in this fertile ground of creative brilliance that the music of Sunflower Song
took root. Sunflower Song highlights the artistry of Brian’s Kansas City based quintet, much like the vast fields of sunflowers draw attention to and frame a breathtaking scene that may otherwise remain unseen. “While many see the area as ‘flyover country,’” Brian says, “those that choose to live and create here are well aware that there is a tremendous amount of beauty in the area, the people, and the cities we call home.”
Compositionally, Brian strives to create music that feels organic: music that unfurls itself naturally as it expresses the concepts from which it draws inspiration. As an extension of this idea, Brian’s music often contains combinations of harmony and forms that do not necessarily conform to standard expectations, but whose nature and length serve the overall composition far better than arbitrary adherence to a formula. Brian’s music places value upon the idea of containing singable melodies, and an overall aesthetic that is conducive to dancing.. Brian has taken these seeds of inspiration, and sown them into compositions that are unequivocally unified by his creative voice.
Brian’s nuanced musical voice is a reflection of his time spent in two historic jazz cities; Kansas City
. Growing up in the rich jazz history of Kansas City left an indelible imprint on Brian’s artistic vision, and as a current resident, it is where he continues to find endless inspiration from the musicians around him. Before eventually returning to settle in Kansas City, Brian spent time in Chicago cutting his teeth as an improvising trombonist, and attending DePaul University. The intersection of Chicago’s jazz and creative music scene inspired Scarborough to create an instrumental voice that seeks to express his artistic truth as a steward of jazz while adapting to the modern aesthetic. Brian’s voice on the trombone has earned him accolades from the International Trombone Association’s JJ Johnson Jazz Trombone Competition, the American Trombone Workshop’s National Jazz Trombone Competition (winner), and the Gilberto Gagliardi Trombone Competition.
The first track on Sunflower Song
is entitled This One’s for John" and was born out of Brian’s experience as a composer and bandleader for a jazz quartet in a contemporary church service. During Brian’s time working in this setting, he got to know a man named John—a retired stage actor, pianist, and minister who volunteered his time at the church. Brian and John quickly became friends, and would regularly reminisce about their experiences at Disneyland, where John was once an entertainer, and Brian was a member of the All-American College Band. This One’s for John was inspired by their friendship and was written to surprise John at one of the services. City Lights," another original composition by Brian, was inspired not by an individual, but by a place. In 2018, Brian performed in San Francisco
for a friend’s wedding. While there, Brian and his wife explored the city and encountered a place called City Lights books, which has remained one of Brian’s favorite places. Brian remarks that it felt “only proper to at some point write a tune for it.” Another original composition on the album is I Tolerate You, and like so many other great tunes in jazz history, this song is a contrafact. The humorous title is derived from the names of many standards in the jazz repertoire whose names begin with the word “I” and end with the word “you,” such as I Love You," I Remember You," and I Get a Kick Out of You." While Brian makes it clear that this song was not written about anyone, it is a tune whose amusing title and nature provide an opportunity for Brian to showcase his personality musically.
When asked what he loves about his band, Brian notes their unity and commitment to truly be a band, not merely a collection of musicians for hire. “They understand the music that I write and the way I think, and are able to elevate what’s on the page to another level. They were an integral part of this whole process and really helped the music grow.” Brian describes his band as thoughtful, insightful, and active contributors to the music. He deeply appreciates their fearlessness in taking risks, and their bravery in trying something new to bring his music to life. “These musicians are some of the most creative musicians in Kansas City,” he says, in admiration and gratitude. “They inspire me with their music and their generosity of time, advice, and friendship as we are on this journey together.”
The personnel on Sunflower Song
consists of bandleader Brian Scarborough on trombone, tenor saxophonist Matt Otto
, guitarist Adam Schlozman
, bassist Jeff Harshbarger
, and drummer Brian Steever
is an album that rises to proclaim the brilliant authenticity of Brian Scarborough’s unique voice as both a composer and soloist. In a field crowded with aspiring young artists, the organic nature of Brian’s compositions, paired with the patient and genuine manner in which Brian nurtures his ideas to bloom elevates Sunflower Song to its well-earned position as cream of the crop. Sunflower Song is not simply another new album by another new artist, but stands as the first taste of musical harvest from a master craftsman whose name is surely not to be forgotten.Sunflower Song
releases on NextLevel, an imprint of Outside in Music, on August 7, 2020.
About Brian Scarborough
Brian Scarborough is a trombonist, composer, and educator based in the greater Kansas City area. As a musician, Brian is regularly booked as both a bandleader for his quintet and a sideman for many local and touring bands of various sizes, in jazz and other genres. Moreover, Brian is a veteran musician of musical theatre, having performed with over 50 productions in the greater Kansas City area. Internationally, Brian has performed in the European circuit in jazz, classical, and chamber music idioms. Brian has received critical acclaim as a soloist from international competitions including the J.J. Johnson Jazz Trombone Competition, and the Gilberto Gagliardi Tenor Trombone Competition, amongst others. As an educator, Brian is the Adjunct Instructor of Trombone and Low Brass at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and has a low brass studio at Doctor Note. Additionally, Brian is regularly on faculty for various jazz camps and presents masterclasses widely.
NextLevel is an imprint of Outside in Music, dedicated to early career and first-time bandleaders seeking to make an impact on the music. OUTSIDE IN MUSIC is a record label and media company that exists to serve musicians. We are a community that strives to lift its artists above the noise of the 21st-century music industry and make music that expresses the sounds of today's wide-ranging jazz and creative music scene.