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Miami-area pianist Brandon Goldberg has soaked up jazz like a sponge takes on water. And he’s been doing so for more than half of his 12 years. He’s a normal kid, polite, poised and eager to learn at every opportunity. Those traits serve him well. That he found his way to jazz – and loves it – is something quite remarkable given the wide variety of musical genres bombarding his peer group.
He started playing piano at age 3, and soon became enamored of jazz when his grandparents played a Rat Pack movie featuring Frank Sinatra. His further exploration of other Rat Pack-related music turned him on to Sinatra's classic 1963 recording with the Count Basie Orchestra, Sinatra at the Sands, and other big band jazz. Then Brandon got hooked on Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, who he calls his biggest influences.
So why jazz? “It really shapes everything," Brandon says. It gives you the freedom to do whatever you want.”Brandon has attended the Litchfield Jazz Camp for the past two years. He will return to Litchfield again this summer to continue to strengthen his skills as a player and composer.
Brandon and his mother, Ella, were aboard The Jazz Cruise in February. The cruise was an early 12th birthday present for Brandon. He made the most of the opportunity. Several of the featured bands invited him to sit in during the week, further helping showcase and encourage his young talent. Pianist Benny Green even gave him a private lesson on the last night of the cruise.
Brandon was invited to sit in for a song or two with bassist Marcus Miller's band, Trio da Paz, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, pianist Monty Alexander and trumpeter Randy Brecker’s Brecker Brothers Reunion Band, among others. While the M/S Celebrity Summit was made an overnight stop in New Orleans on Feb 4-5, Brandon also sat in with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the French Quarter.
In his first in-board appearance with Marcus Miller, Goldberg played solo and four-handed piano with the band's regular keyboard player, Brett Williams, on Cherokee" and The Flintstones" theme. Monty Alexander first met Brandon backstage two years ago when both were performing at the Miami Jazz Festival. When I met this guy two years ago he was mean. Now he's even meaner," Alexander said. He brought up then-11-year-old Brandon to perform “Fly Me to the Moon and “On The Sunny Side of the Street” with Monty joining him on melodica and a bit of four-handed piano. The crowds dug each such appearance by the talented young player.
Days later, Brett Williams was still raving about the experience, and about Brandon’s sheer talent at such a tender age. “It’s freakish,” he said. “There’s a man hidden in that little body.” On January19 and 20 went into New York’s Samurai Hotel Recording Studio to make his first recording, which has not yet been released. The session featured producer-bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards, plus saxophonist Marcus Strickland on several tracks.
Brandon certainly is no stranger to the spotlight. He has been featured at several Jazz Foundation of America events, and has appeared on Harry Connick Jr.’s TV show, “Harry,” and NBC’s “Little Big Shots,”. Among others. On April 21 he will make his Canadian performance debut at Stratus Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario as part of the Bravo Niagara! concert series.
A few nights after Brandon performed at a Jazz Foundation of America gala in New York, and presented McCoy Tyner with JFA's lifetime achievement award in the fall of 2016, he went to Greenwich Village to meet and play for for Chick Corea, who was performing his 75th birthday residency at the Blue Note. Brandon was featured at the Blue Note in December 2016.
Several video clips from several of these significant events follow. Many more are posted at Brandon's Facebook page.
Playing for Chick Corea after Chick's show at the Blue Note:
Brandon's own performance at the Blue Note in December 2016:
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.