Home Interviews Exclusive Interview with International Recording Artist/Composer Johnny Britt
Exclusive Interview with International Recording Artist/Composer Johnny Britt PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Tuesday, 02 October 2018 00:00

 

Johnny Britt wears myriad hats; he is a singer, songwriter, producer, trumpeter, arranger, pianist, educator and composer. Britt was born in the U.S. specifically in Louisville, Kentucky. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he lived near Eddie Levert (of the O’Jays). So, he was surrounded by great talent and he was immersed very early in music especially in his uncle’s church The House Of God where he commenced to sing at the age of 4 in the choir. Thus, his musical abilities were practically innate. 

In the 7th grade, Johnny Britt was part of the high school orchestra which Arsenio Hall also became a member of. The latter played the drums. After, Britt went to Cathedral Latin, a Catholic school in Ohio where he learned important skills such as discipline. Britt’s professional journey began with a group called The Courageous Young Men. The group performed all over Cleveland and was well-received. Later, Johnny Britt studied in France where trumpet professor Roger Delmette was his mentor. 

Johnny Britt’s influences are mainly Sade, John Coltrane, Sly and the Family Stone, EWF, John Lennon, Steely Dan and Claude Debussy. In addition, Britt played with Miles Davis’ percussionist Mino Cinelu when he was studying in Paris. By going to France, he obtained a strong musical foundation which provided him a great leeway. Britt studied music in France at The Versailles Conservatory of Music where he perfected his trumpet skills with Roger Delmette, the Paris Opera’s first ever trumpet player, as mentioned. While in Paris, Johnny Britt created a duo singing group with his sister Edna entitled Funk International. Furthermore, he signed his first recording contract in France with an independent record label.

After Paris, Britt went to Chicago and got a full-time music scholarship from Dr. Warrick Carter at Governors State University where he earned a BA in Music and won the Gerald Myrow Award for Outstanding Composer. While studying at the university, Britt wrote and recorded his first song entitled “Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do”. He also did commercial jingle work as a chanteur and studio recording sessions for albums. Britt founded a music group entitled CA VA with vocalist Kay Reed. The group recorded four songs with Benjamin Wright at Conway Studios in LA. After receiving his music degree, Johnny Britt collaborated with Kool and The Gang in the Bahamas to record their platinum album Emergency that had great hits such as “Fresh” and “Cherish”. 

Mr.  Britt was bold and daring during his youth. Once, after a show, he approached Otis Williams from The Temptations backstage without an introduction and let him know that he had songs for the group. They had a meeting soon after and as they say, the rest is history. Chance comes when preparation meets opportunity and Johnny Britt was definitely ready when he encountered Otis Williams.

Later, Johnny Britt opened for The Temptations and he toured the world with them for three years. After the tour, Britt founded Impromp2 in 1993. He was the lead singer and the group was signed by the legendary label Motown/Mojazz Records. Impromp2 was created after auditioning 47 rappers to find the right guy Britt quotes.

Impromp2 went to #1 on the UK Soul Charts. The genre of Impromp2 was mainly a blend of rap and jazz. Later, Kim Fields collaborated at some point with the group (Sean E. Mac and Johnny Britt) and she wrote about this great experience in her recent autobiography. She describes the group as a smooth jazz hip-hop duo. Their hot single “Mocha Soul” was released in 2002. The group appeared in one of the most popular African-American shows, Soul Train. In her memoir, Fields describes her role in the song as a fictional spoken-word poet. She did this with excellence. Impromp2 recorded four albums. The group was nominated for a SoulTracks Readers' Choice Award and two of their albums were on the charts. Impromp2 performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton and at the 1997 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The Temptations mini-series became an Emmy Award-winning film. The movie (made in 1998) was based on Otis Williams’ autobiography with the same title. In addition, the praised Suzanne de Passe co-produced the film which received an NAACP Image Award for Best Miniseries. It got six nominations for an Emmy Awards and obtained an Emmy for Best Director. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Producers Guild Award. The film was watched by 45 million viewers. Diana Ross’ daughter, Rhonda Ross played the role of the wife of one the group’s members, Paul Williams.

Mr. Britt became the youngest ever musical director of the above-mentioned group and co-musical producer of its mini-series The Temptations after his meeting with Otis Williams who co-founded his renowned group. This film was co-musically produced with Dan Carlin. This experience represented the opportunity of Britt’s life. As mentioned, he had the privilege to tour the world with this legendary group. He also wrote on one of their platinum albums as well as producing and writing on others including the song “My Kind of Woman” featuring Ice-T. The group collaborated in a few of Britt’s musical projects. Moreover, Johnny Britt musically co-produced the movie Little Richard (2000). Music is definitely one of Johnny Britt’s greatest passions which started at a very young age.

In Little Richard, Britt also played the role of Clifford Burke. He makes me think of Spike Lee who plays roles in some of his movies while also being involved behind the camera. This demonstrates the various interests of Johnny Britt. The latter co-produced Little Richard with Sidney James. Furthermore, he was a vocal and piano coach for this movie.

Johnny Britt did his first solo project in 2010. In his album entitled There is Nobody (a worship project for him), he used a grand piano, vocals. violin, cello and flugelhorn. The record featured six vocal tracks and six instrumentals. Britt penned, produced, performed and arranged his entire first album which was a combination of soul, jazz, R&B, groove and more. In 2012, he released his CD Feels So Good. It provides a collection of 11 songs that were all penned by Britt with his songwriting partner and spouse Arlene Britt, save one song.

Mr. Britt contributed to Contact, an album released in 2011 by the Grammy-winning artist Boney James. Furthermore, Britt appeared as a trumpeter in the 2011 film Water for Elephants starring the Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon. The following year, Britt independently released the album Feels So Good, which he arranged, produced, performed and wrote himself. The first single of the CD was "Beautiful Queen." The video of this song stars the Emmy winning actress Christel Khalil (Lily Ashby on The Young and the Restless). The video is interesting and possesses a humoristic touch. Britt plays the role of a marital therapist in it. The song pays homage to women and reminds people that this gender deserves to be praised. The video is also a wink to Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” concept which showcased female musicians.  “Trouble Man” is one of the hottest songs in Britt’s latest album, entitled Marvin Meets Miles  vol. 1 released in 2016. This CD contains great musical arrangements. It presents 8 Marvin Gaye classics with 1 original recordings. The song “Marvin Meets Miles” has nice up-tempo beats. Britt has a suave voice in it and nice instruments accompany this song. “I Want You” is another great tune. All the songs of the album are performed, arranged and produced by Johnny Britt. The album, endowed with agreeable soul grooves, represents a hymn to both musical icons. The blending of the two icons was a perfect fit for Johnny Britt because he feels as comfortable as a singer and a trumpeter. Gaye and Davis serve as paragons to Mr. Britt. Thus, his last work, a concept album, is really unique with the fusion of two legendary artists. Britt might be starting a new trend by elevating the musical level in terms of originality. His last album was launched at the London Jazz Festival.

Britt has worked with several well-known people: David Bowie, Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross, Josh Groban, Jennifer Lopez, Herbie Hancock and Maxwell. More recently, he worked with John Legend and Common for the 2015 Oscars, Annie Lenox for the 2015 PBS Special, Adam Levin on The Voice and The Imperials 2015 on ABC'S The View. He has played a trumpet soloist in Oscar-nominated movies such as La La Land (in the Paris scene), Hidden Figures and Dunkirk. Dunkirk received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Music Score among others. In the soundtracks, Britt brings nuance, subtleties, wit and emotion to the music.

Again about Hidden Figures, Johnny Britt and Herbie Hancock (the latter played the piano) are the featured instrumental soloists on this blockbuster movie. Britt performs with his solo trumpet and Hancock plays solo piano on the movie’s music score which was composed by Hans Zimmer. Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch are the movie music producers. The film score, which features an orchestra, a gospel choir, Britt and Hancock as instrumental soloists, received 5 Golden Globe Awards nominations in 2017.

In the 2017 Oscar and Golden Globe Award-winning film La La Land, Britt is featured as a trumpet soloist and a member of the band during one of the movie’s scenes in Paris. He told the media that playing a jazz musician in La La Land paralleled his life in Paris where he worked as a jazz musician and singer during his youth. Marcus Miller produced the music of Marshall and Britt plays the trumpet in it. Viewers can hear the magnificent sound of his trumpet throughout the Dunkirk’s score.

Considering the quality and the uniqueness of his body of work, we can tell that Mr. Britt chooses the projects he gets involved in carefully. His artistry helps to seize the essence and the depth of the storylines. His music takes films to a higher level. He does a great job of capturing the emotions in the films he scores. His musical career has already spanned more than two decades. His longevity demonstrates determination, perseverance, drive, grit and boldness. Johnny Britt believes that success is not a destination but a journey. Throughout the years, he always manages to outdo himself. Music represents an endless labour of love for him.

Throughout his career, Britt collaborated with Dionne Warwick, Ray Parker Jr., The Winans, Aaron Neville and David Foster, Take 6 and so on. In addition, he widened his resume to include well-known movies such as The Lion King, Forest Gump and Spiderman 3. He also was involved in American Idol.

In summary, Mr. Britt is mainly a bona fide musician, singer and composer. He also penned jingles. He likes to use an eclectic style in his artistry. His body of work is opulent and he has been involved in several elite and impactful motion pictures. Hence, Britt does not get involved in hollow movies. His skillfulness brings depth and appeal to his music. Johnny Britt writes all of his own songs and plays several of the instruments on his albums while singing. He describes his musical style as a fusion of R&B, pop, gospel, soul and jazz. Johnny Britt achieved three number 1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Hit Singles as a songwriter and composer. He obtained a platinum record from his work with The Temptations and a gold album with the Grammy-winning artist Boney James as a songwriter. In recent months, Britt was on tour with Josh Groban, as a trumpeter and backup vocalist. Mr. Britt is very active on the music scene. The webpage https://www.reverbnation.com/johnnybritt/shows lists most of the shows he did since 2011. Johnny Britt has a new hit “So Hot" featuring Paul Brown (this single reached the number 4 position on the Nielsen music chart during the last week of August 2018) and the album will be released on October under the label J-Jam Records. “So Hot” has nice sounds especially the trumpet which brings different layers. The CD contains 12 contemporary jazz tracks including a song Britt just penned in honor of The Queen of Soul “Aretha Franklin”. The upcoming So Hot album will be a contemporary project jazz project that features his horn. It contains 8 instrumentals and 4 vocal songs. All the material of the CD was arranged, written, performed and produced by Britt.

Recently, his daughter graduated from high school. His son (who plays the piano and trumpet) studies at the Berklee College of Music and he got a scholarship. Occasionally, his son Josh Britt, a trumpeter and instrumentalist, joins the stage with him. It seems that he is following the footsteps of his father. The parents are very proud of their children. In 2017, Time of the Year was released and will be put again on the market this year. In this album, listeners can hear great instruments and in the song To You a Merry Christmas, Johnny Britt sings loving words to his children and wife.

Johnny Britt lives in the San Fernando Valley in California with his family. He has been married for over thirty years. The couple met in Indiana whilst Britt was performing with a local band in a club. They married the following year. His wife collaborated in some of Britt’s songs as a songwriter. Musical education is very important to Johnny Britt. He strongly believes in the importance of teaching music in schools.

Mr. Britt is humble and unpretentious. He did not forget where he came from or forsake his roots. Being spiritual, one of his favourite mottos is: “Keep moving forward with your eye on the prize … Have faith in God!!!” His professional journey shows determination, perseverance and endurance. In other words, it represents a marathon and not a sprint. We can observe a continuity and consistency in his artistry. Britt has attained longevity in the entertainment industry thanks to his strong musical foundation. He takes his career very seriously. He has been part of the entertainment industry for decades and he does not sit on his laurels.

There is much more work that Britt can do and it will be very interesting to keep observing the contributions he will make in the future in the entertainment industry. His musical abilities are vast. He will be the next Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock or George Benson in the jazz genre and beyond. Britt can stand with the very best. Moreover, he is a real singer who can chant a capella. This is his first Canadian web interview. Readers will discover how passionate Mr. Britt is about his work and especially regarding his latest record. Mr. Britt was very generous of himself. He even suggested that we do the interview in French to make things easier for me. I declined given that I love challenges. I felt an instant easy rapport with him.

P.T. Can you name between one and three musicians you admired growing up and why? In addition, please tell us at what age you began to learn to play an instrument. In other words, share with us your musical upbringing.

J.B. My first interest in music came to me when I was a 4. At that time, I noticed I had vocal talent due to people’s reactions to my singing. I sang my uncle’s church called the House of God in Cleveland, Ohio. There, I became the lead singer of the choir at age 4. At 7, the bongos were my first instrument. Actually, I played it with a professional group in Cleveland called the CY boys which meant courageous young men. It was comprised of inner-city kids. I considered it a fantastic bongo group. I was the lead bongo player in this group. Later, at age 12 I started to play the trumpet. In those days, at my elementary school, the teachers started music classes. They passed around a paper with a list of instruments and pictures. We had to choose what we wanted to play. Generally, trumpets have three valves, so I thought it would be easy. I have to admit I made my decision based on that. When I saw the pictures of the clarinet and trombones I thought these instruments would be more complicated to learn [chuckles]. For instance, I thought the clarinets had too many notes to master. About the trumpet, as I said, I imagined it would be easy to learn the three valves. I was really surprised to discover later that it was the most difficult instrument.

About my early musical influences, I would definitely say gospel music. We used to sing old gospel songs in church. I could not tell you the names of the singers given that there were so many. Overall, gospel music and the Motown sound definitely inspired me.

P.T. Do you think it would be people like Mahalia Jackson who were part of the repertoire in the church?

J.B. She was big and internationally famous. I loved her but I remembered it was local artists such as the Lee singers, a choir from Cleveland. When they came to our church, you just felt it. I was really touched by the power of their voices. Eddie Levert from the O’Jays lived down the street from me. These people highly inspired me. Outside the church and my neighbourhood, The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Little Anthony and The Imperials blew me away while I was growing up. Hearing their songs on the radio, watching their moves on TV like in Soul Train, etc. was jaw-dropping! Stevie Wonder also inspired me. I discovered Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis later in my life. Again, about Stevie Wonder, his artistry led me to play piano at 16. I taught myself to play the piano in the beginning because I was so in love with Wonder’s music [chuckles]. I knew all his songs, I even used to go to sleep listening to them. One day, I walked by a record store and I discovered a Stevie Wonder songbook. I think it was for the Inner Vision album. I bought it. At the time, my mother was taking organ lessons and she had a chord charts. In Stevie Wonder’s book, I saw chords (such as C, F and G) with the melody that accompanied the songs. These tools helped me to figure things out.

P.T. Wow! You really were a musical autodidact!

J.B. I was in the Cathedral Latin in High School band program at that time and it became a great learning experience in itself. It allowed me to pick up a lot and master different instruments. I played soul, R&B, pop and so on in school, concerts, talent shows, etc. The art of improvisation and getting into jazz came later in my career.

P.T. Jazz arrived in my life in an unusual way given that this type of music is not from my generation. I am from Generation X. I got immersed in jazz through my tap dance classes.

J.B. Interesting!

P.T. Why was it important for you to seek a foreign musical education by going to France and what did you learn from this experience?

J.B. The opportunity fell on my lap [Laughs out loud]. I am very close to my sister and she lived in Paris, France at the time with her husband. So, when I was in high school I went to visit them often during my summer vacations. I discovered the great classical trumpeter, Maurice André, during one of my stays there. This represented an amazing moment for me. This event really inspired me to embrace the trumpet at the highest level. So, I came back to the States and finished high school. I decided afterwards with my sister that it would be great for me to pursue my studies in France. So, I went to Paris and auditioned for a couple of conservatories of music such as the Paris Conservatory. Finally, I went to The Versailles Conservatory of Music. I had the privilege there to study under the tutelage of Roger Delmotte, the first trumpet player at the Paris Opera. It definitely allowed me to perfect my craft. I also played in clubs. This is how I got into improvisations. There, I met American musicians and this is how I became enamored with jazz. This is also how I learned French.

P.T. Hats off to you because Molière’s language is a very rich language but also complex even for Francophones!

J.B. Thanks! I love this language. It’s funny because I hadn’t lived in France for years but the words and the rhythm just come to me naturally when I need to speak French. I am very grateful to be bilingual. I would love to do a project in French in the future, at least a song. I have written one in this language but I did not record it yet :). One of my friends did the translation. What do you think I should do in French?

P.T. It depends on your interests. I think choosing a popular song like a classic in English translated into French would be lovely given that we hear well-known songs on your last album. It could be something like “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King in French. I heard the Italian version of this song in the great movie L’homme qu’on aimait trop (In the Name of My Daughter) from Catherine Deneuve and it was awesome!

J.B. Oh, wow! I love the idea! I toured with Josh Groban and he sang phonetically in French even if he did not speak it. The audiences liked it. As I said, I never recorded a song in French yet but I would definitely be willing to do it. I enjoy challenges!

P.T. Given that you have an interest in French culture, would you be interested in the future to create a musical blend of two African-American female icons who were largely celebrated especially in France such as Nina Simone and Josephine Baker?

J.B. This is a very interesting and original question. I do quite a few interviews and I have never been asked that. I should frame your questions in my studio.

P.T. Thank you!

J.B. I think it would be definitely great to do a blend like that. I would be totally open to doing it. You are giving me all kind of ideas [chuckles].

P.T. [Laughs].

J.B. I love France! I lived there for three years. I really like the culture. I should explore the French side of me more in my body of work .

P.T. My favourite metaphoric song of Nina Simone is “Blackbird”. So, a blend of this song and something from Baker could be interesting.

J.B. This would definitely be right up my alley. I like that. These two women speak to me and I am inspired by them. These vocalists sound great. I like their female approach to melodies. Baker is definitely among the women who I would love to pay tribute because she became the first Black international performer and the first one to star in a movie. For Simone, it was always important to receive a classical training and be recognized as such. So, paying homage to her would mean a lot to me. As a classical jazz musician, I believe I can create an interesting blend of these two icons. I have similarities with them like the French connection.

P.T. Given that hip-hop is huge worldwide, a blend of 2Pac and Biggie could be interesting.

J.B. Definitely! I could do that!

P.T. You think that my questions are original but the intermingling you did with your last album is really unique and I would not be surprised that you are creating a new trend. There are so many fusions that can be made with different iconic artists.

J.B. Thanks! You are absolutely right

P.T. When you were studying in France, you met several legendary jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. Which one made the biggest impression on you and why? Moreover, what did you learn from this encounter?

J.B. I would say the biggest one was Dizzy Gillespie. The reason being he called me to play on stage with him. I had my horn with me. It definitely represented a terrific moment of elation for me. It was a great experience to be able to play with this legend.

P.T. I guess, it wasn’t planned?

J.B. Exactly! This shows how generous he was. I was a young guy with an afro and I could not believe that I was sharing the stage with him. I was really filled with excitement. It was awesome and I felt I could pick tips from the best. Do you know what else happened, Patricia [Turnier]?

P.T. No.

J.B. A gentleman from the audience took a picture.

P.T. Cool!

J.B. He gave it to me. I have it framed in my studio. My encounter with Ella Fitzgerald was also great. I saw her backstage. It was easy given that as an American musician, I spoke English and it gave me easier access to her in France. The crew thought I was part of the band. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of that event.

P.T. Probably you did not want to look like a groupie.

J.B. Right! I was with my friend, who was one of the men at my wedding. We went straight backstage. I headed toward Fitzgerald’s dressing room. She had these thick glasses on. She said, “What this boy is doing in my dressing room?” [Chuckles]

P.T. [Laughs].

J.B. I told her, “Hello, Mrs. Fitzgerald. My name is Johnny Britt and I just wanted to say hi to you.” I just shook her hands and I left. That was it!

P.T. [Laughs].

J.B. Even if this encounter was brief, it meant a lot to me. Going overseas to France became proof to me that I could do anything. It boosted my self-confidence and widened my horizons. The sky became the limit! For me, my experience in France was really fulfilling. I met great people who were definitely instrumental in my growth as a musician. I saw the greatest stars in the world there. I played on stage with them. I saw them performing and by watching, I learned from them. My meetings with them gave me strength and the feeling that I can achieve anything as long as I put my mind to it. It provided me with the confidence to tour later in many places in Europe. On the whole, I really enjoyed being immersed in a new culture, language, etc. in France. There are people that I run into now who remember me from Paris.

P.T. Wow! This means you really made an impact and a big impression on them.

J.B. A few years ago, I was on a cruise for a jazz festival. I met a guy who remembered me when he asked my name. He produced my first record In Paris. His name is Ray Kenetsky.

P.T. You said to the media that you were highly influenced by Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye. Please, tell us how these men inspire you in your artistry.

J.B. I believe that I am inspired by Marvin Gaye because I see some similarities and affinities in our music. First of all, we have the Motown connection. Next, if you remember earlier, I spoke about the church called the House of God. Gaye started to sing in a church with the same name. It was his father’s church. So, he began singing in a house of worship like me. He sang in groups like me. He was a crooner like me. In addition, he really wanted to become a jazz singer. Jazz is definitely part of my artistry. So, I feel that we share akin musical tastes. Again, Gaye wished to be a jazz singer. However, given that he was greatly successful as a R&B pop artist with his label ran by Berry Gordy, he felt it would be wiser to stay in that scope. Gaye loved Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. He was enamoured with this genre. The sensitivity of how he approached music is quite analogous to mine. As I said, my next project will be in the croon range. Gaye used his voice as an instrument and I do the same in my artistry. I employ my vocals as a horn player. So, Gaye has a huge impact on me for his soulfulness, his sensitivity and his arty skillfulness of making his voice sound like an instrument.

In regards to Miles Davis, his influence on me is based on his simplicity. He used a lot of bass in his playing. In addition, he was emotional and soulful in his performances. In my opinion, I believe that he was not very technical in his body of work. He was not a high note player, likewise for me. I use spaces or silence in my music. I learned that from Miles Davis. I’ve definitely been influenced by both of them, mainly as a trumpeter and singer. Their styles inspired me to create a fusion of their approaches especially in my last album which represents a tribute to them. I definitely admire their creative wit. In other words, I hold them in high esteem because of their ingenuity.

P.T. About your last album, did you receive any feedback from Gaye and Davis’ families? If so, do not hesitate to share it with us. And tell us about the concept of your latest album.

J.B. I did not really receive any feedback. I know Miles Davis’ nephew, Vince. He is a friend of mine and actually lives in my neighbourhood. Jokingly, he calls me little Miles. Do not take this literally, I do not have the pretension to compare myself to Miles Davis but this comment is like a wink the nephew was giving me because he knows I admire the great musical contribution of his late uncle. With my latest album, I wanted to create a mixture of what Davis and Gaye would sound if they played together. It never happened in real life so I imaged what if both men shared the stage or recorded something in the studio. In this regard, I was curious to discover how both of them would be like. This is how my idea aroused. I sang à la Gaye and I played trumpet à la Miles. So my last project is a concept album where I represent how both men could sound if they performed together.

I wanted to incorporate the Miles traditional band with a smoky sound where you could find Herbie Hancock on the piano, Tony Williams on drums and so forth. These are definitely the types of rhythms that I wanted to introduce on my record with the Gaye musical touch. I added an original song on the CD entitled “Marvin Meets Miles”. So, in my album the essence of it is based on Marvin Gaye’s songs where I put my own arrangements with my personal touch by bringing Miles in and out with the vocals and the vibes. My publicist suggested that I read the book of Gaye’s wife Jane Gaye called After the Dance. This is how I discovered afterwards that Gaye wanted to collaborate with Miles but it never materialized. Jane Gaye penned that her husband wanted Davis to come to LA but Davis wanted Gaye to come to NY. It never happened but they definitely wished it would. I found out about this after I finished the album. I was like, wow, what a coincidence! I was even more overjoyed that I completed my project and I am very proud of it.

P.T. What message do you want the listeners to take away from your latest album?

J.B. The main message I wish to convey is not to forget the great music of these two iconic artists. In my book, great music is classic. In other words, it is about timeless music: the sound of the horn, the soulful hum of Marvin Gaye. I consider my music simple with a feel-good style. So, I want my listeners to feel uplifted with the two geniuses. I just hope that I did them give justice through my presentation. I really love the experiences of showcasing live this music by watching how the audience responds to it.

P.T. If you could ask a question to Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis, what would it be and why?

J.B. I had the chance to meet Miles Davis given that I know his nephew. He used to tell me, “You have to visit my uncle in Malibu”, but I never did.

P.T. Are you crazy? [Laughs out loud].

J.B. [Chuckles] I do regret that I never went to his house. I should have said to his nephew at the time, “Hey man, give me the address and I will be right over there” [laughs]. I do not know what I would say to him. First of all, I would definitely be in awe. Especially when I was young, I am sure that I would have asked Miles Davis to practice with me to pick his brain and talent [chuckles]. I would absolutely want him to show me stuff and I would watch to learn. In addition, I would have asked him if he could give me one of his horns [laughs].

P.T. [Laughs].

J.B. That would be fantastic to have one of his instruments. I would be really curious to know the kind of horns, other instruments and equipment he used. Furthermore, I would like to discover as a player the kind of warm-ups he did. I think it would be interesting to know also from him how he approached melody, did he prioritize the chords and so on. I would want to know more about the musical techniques he employed.

For Gaye, my question would be to ask him who were his favourite singers. I know he loved musicians. So, he would have probably picked someone who can sing and who masters at least one instrument. I would like to know the different styles of music he cherished.

P.T. If Davis and Gaye were still with us, what do you think they would have said about the state of the current music?

J.B. About Davis, my opinion is he never looked back. He always was going forward; in other words, he was forward thinking. When I take a look at his body of work, what he did in each decade of his professional life was always different. For instance, during the 60s, he never went back to what he did in the 50s. Later, he went toward electronic music, etc. So, I definitely think that if he was still with us, he would have incorporated current things in his work or he would have been innovative to include new stuff. I believe that Davis would have liked what is out there these days.

His last album Doo-Bop definitely inspired me to found Impromp2. The rapper Easy Mo Bee was involved with this album and there was a mix of Davis’ horn with rap. This means that his musical contribution was relevant to the youth at the time. The blending of the horn and rap helped me create the concept of Impromp2. Davis liked evolution and never stagnated. He valued modern jazz music. In this regard, I believe he would have embraced the current music.

I think it would be the same with Gaye. “Sexual Healing” used the 8o8, the drum machine introduced in 1980. It created the backbeat of this single. It also had computer music, a synthesizer, a guitar, etc. So, he used eclecticism in his sound. However, I think that Davis and Gaye would be surprised to see current artists on stage using pre-recorded music instead of performing live. They would question this and maybe they would perceive it as artifices.

P.T. I agree! What did Davis and Gaye represent to you? In addition, what legacy do you think they left?

J.B. Davis left a high standard and lifelong artistry of the trumpet. In my opinion, he was the best stylistic trumpet player ever. His contribution transcends time. In my book, his name represents the biggest as a trumpet player like Michael Jordan is the greatest in basketball. His legacy is huge because he will never be forgotten. His heritage will continue. I share the same opinion for Marvin Gaye. He was among the best crooners and future generations will continue to listen to his music. His body of work transcends over color lines, age and demographics. I believe that the coolness and hipness of Miles and Gaye will live forever. For me, they are the examples or role models that I want to emulate in my career.

P.T. Amazingly, a great exposition was done about Miles Davis in my hometown of Montreal a few years ago, at the Fine Arts Museum.

J.B. I can imagine!

P.T. Please, tell us about your future project Marvin meets Miles vol.2 and if you are involved in another movie, do not hesitate to talk to us about it.

J.B. I consider that my last album Marvin meets Miles vol.1 is still relevant. So, I am not planning to work on volume 2 for now, even if will definitely be a future project. When it will be time to work on it, there will definitely be original songs and duets. The jazz classic record that I told you about earlier will be probably completed before the vol.2. I am not planning to work on vol. 2 before next year. I prefer to let people continue to discover the vol. 1 for now.

I am currently working on a TV show called Strange Angels on CBS. I will play trumpet in a band. I am also working on a new Eddie Murphy movie from Netflix.

P.T. Wow!

J.B. We are shooting it right now.

P.T. What is the name of the movie?

J.B. A final decision hasn’t been made yet.

P.T. Do you know if it is true that there will be a sequel of Coming to America?

J.B. I do not know anything about that1. I also want to talk about my new project SO HOT. I am very proud of my new single and album “So Hot”. The single “So Hot” ft. Paul Brown is already a hit at radio here in the US. The full length 12 song album will be release in October in time for our Los Angeles CD Release Party October 24th.

P.T. How did this new So Hot album come about?

J.B. I’ve had a lot of success writing hits for other contemporary jazz artist. I was having a conversation with my wife and she said that you should record a jazz album yourself.

P.T. Are you playing more trumpet on your upcoming CD?

J.B. Yes I am. It will be my 9th album as a recording artist and it will be the first one that is featuring my trumpet.

P.T. How many songs are you playing trumpet on the new project?

J.B. There are 8 songs that feature my horns and I couldn’t resist to sing 4 tunes for my longtime fans … MAKE SURE YOU ALL CHECK OUT THE NEW SO HOT ALBUM.

P.T. Share with us the background musical research you did for one of these films: Hidden Figures, Dunkirk, La La Land, Marshall, The Temptations or Little Richard.

J.B. Basically, the research that I had to do for instance on The Temptations was to seek all the Motown sessions back in Detroit. We had access to the group’s body of work (the footage, etc.) on VHS. We studied the styles of their music since their beginning including their approaches and so on. Given that the movie was produced by Otis Williams, one of the members of the group, and also considering that I toured with them, I became very familiar throughout the years with their artistry. So, it became natural for me to bring my musical vision and input to the film.

P.T. You said to the media that being part of the Hidden Figures movie as a musician was one of the most emotional recording sessions in your career. Can you elaborate on that and share with us what the contribution of these African-American women mean to you?

J.B. Absolutely! I got a call for Hidden Figures from one of the biggest composers in Hollywood, Hans Zimmer. I have to say that before I got the call, I saw the trailer for the movie on TV with my wife. We said to each of other that we must see this movie. When I got the call from Zimmer, I did not know what the movie was. So, I went into the studio with my horn. He was in the booth speaking to me about what was happening (at the period of the movie and more specifically during the scene) in the South. He was telling me about this incredible female scientist who was helping NASA. She needed to go to the bathroom but she could not use it because it was only for the white scientists. So, she had to walk a long way in another building to reach the toilets assigned to her race. He added everything that went along with this. While he was relating this, I became very emotional because I was thinking about my mother. She was present at the I Have a Dream speech of Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington.

P.T. Wow!

J.B. My mother was a maid. She worked for white people in Cleveland. We had hand-me-downs. There was segregation even though we were in the North. I was too young at the time but my mother narrated me later in my life how things were. So, I was mesmerizing all of this when I was using my horn on this scene. It was the first time in my career that I was playing trumpet while tears were coming out of my eyes. I could not hold them back. It took me to my mother and other great African-American women who laid the path for what we have now. I will never forget this moment. To me, it was so powerful to be immersed in the history of people who preceded me while Zimmer was relating the scenes that I became part of. I played with emotions by using my horn.

P.T. For me, the most emotional scene in the movie was when Katherine Johnson played by Taraji Henson screamed at her colleagues about what she had to go through in the workplace (walking long distance outside her building to the segregated toilets, etc.). She was speaking for everybody (in her time and the present day) who experiences all kinds of work discrimination, abuse and exploitation: ageism, psychological harassment, etc.

J.B. Right!

P.T. Share with us how your group Impromp2 with Sean Thomas featuring Kim Fields was created in 1993.

J.B. As I said earlier, I founded the group. It was my concept that I got from Miles Davis when he did his Doo-Bop album with hip-hop producer Easy Mo Bee. As a jazz trumpet player and a Soul R&B singer, I thought it would be nice to add the rap aspect into the musica. I auditioned over 40 rappers at the time and that’s how I found Thomas. I did not want to do hardcore rap with coarse language. I wanted to create a melodic rap using the horn and other instruments with the vocals. I was looking for sophistication in the artistry and hipness. Kim Fields came for one project, “Mocha Soul”. This was for our third album The Definition of Love with a label called Big3 Records in 2003. Kim Fields was into poetry and our manager at the time thought she would be a good fit. She did a phenomenal job. We did Soul Train at the time.

P.T. I still have the performance on VHS. [Laughs].

J.B. Thank you so much! It was a great experience and I was a longtime admirer of that show before I ended up there. Kim Fields was lovely to work with. Even if she was a child star, she was not conceited. She remained accessible and she is really nice.

P.T. Name between one and three songs you wish you wrote and please tell us why.

J.B. I wish I wrote “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack. It was a folk song written in 1957 by the British political singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl. It was recorded by several singers and it became a major international hit in 1972 thanks to Roberta Flack. I like simplicity and directness in songs and in my opinion, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” really evokes this. This single really moves me and I definitely wish that I penned it because it is a great love song. I believe it is timeless and emotional. I hoped I wrote “My Girl” too.

P.T. [Laughs]

J.B. [Laughs out loud]. I wish that I wrote it and that I own the 100% publishing rights [laughs]. This song appeals to people whatever their age and it is uplifting with its joyful beats. I did not write it but at least I am proud that I was the musical director of the movie The Temptations that contributed so much to the history of music in my country. “My Girl” is a classic. Smokey Robinson was one of the songwriters. I also love Bill Withers’ body of work such as “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”. I think Withers is an excellent lyricist.

                                                                               Photo by Paul Batson

 

P.T. What advice do you have for people who wish to follow your path by being involved in film scores?

J.B. I think that first of all, you need to get a solid education, in other words, a formal musical training. In this case, you must know the basics such as how to read music, compose it, etc. You need to master several instruments because it provides a broad artistic approach and perspective. This requires a lot of practice, so you have to be very disciplined and rigorous in what you do. You obviously must have a passion for scores, for today’s soundtracks and those from the past. Guys like John Williams created great scores for E.T, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. It is useful to study and analyze them. There is a reason why a Star Wars’ score sounds the way it does. Scores are never made by coincidence. There is always hard work behind it, research and so on. Many people want to make it and become a star…

P.T. [Laughs]

J.B. [Chuckles] But the reality is you will find a lot of hard work behind masterpieces we see on screen. A lot of people tend to pay attention to the finished product while not really thinking about all the work that needed to be done to get to that point. There are no shortcuts. It is no joke! A) You need to be sure this is what you want to do and accept the challenges, especially at the beginning of your career, such as not receiving regularly a great amount of money for projects. B) You must be serious about your craft. For instance, many kids know all the lyrics of their favourite hip-hop songs with the beats. This is passion. So, they must have the same urge for the path they want to embrace. It is the same approach for performing, songwriting, acting, composing, etc. The reason that I lasted so long in the entertainment industry is that I have a passion for my work. I have a love for my horn, my scores, my songwriting and the list goes on. We all know the popular: “If you enjoy your job, you will never work another day in your life”. You can’t become great at anything without passion. Michael Jordan had to be passionate about basketball to become superb.

P.T. True! Because to be great at anything at least 10,000 hours of work is required. So, you need to love what you do.

J.B. Definitely! You hit it right on the nail. Most of the time, hard work and positivity pay off. Michael Jordan is an interesting analogy to use. I would like to add that regardless of someone’s talent, relationships are very important in whatever you do. People like to work with agreeable individuals. There are people who do not care how talented you are if you are difficult to collaborate with. A person’s reputation is one of his most valuable assets. To finish, I would like to say that I think kids have it easier than any previous generation because they can listen to any scores on YouTube for example. They have instant access to art past or present, which is totally an advantage.

Overall, wishful thinking will never suffice, hard work is required. You need to be really focused on your goals and not deterred by hurdles. It is also important not to be rigid. In other words, you need to be able to adjust to changes and be able to fit with the current time. When you have to face crossroads, make sure to seek advice from experienced sage people who know you and have your best interests at heart. Focus on your strongest points and interests with tenacity.

When someone is passionate about what he is doing, usually the determination and motivation will be there. This will allow him to go further in his path. It is important to unearth your real vocation and your true abilities regarding any course you wish to embrace. You need to have a sense of direction. You must assess your skills and you should have goals within your abilities and training. I believe this is how it is possible to become successful. Kids need to understand that there is not really such a thing as luck. Big breaks usually occur when preparation meets opportunity. In other words, you must be ready; you never know who is watching you and it is important to aim for the best version of yourself. I believe that the harder you work, the luckier you become.

P.T. I could add that I believe everything someone learns can be useful. For instance, we spoke earlier about the movie Hidden Figures. Taraji Henson, who played the scientist Katherine Johnson, studied engineering for at least one year in university before she became an actress. The knowledge that she got certainly helped her to play the role of Katherine Johnson. It allowed her to be involved in a meaty script with a broad scope. Thank you for this cool interview and for your time!

J.B. It was my pleasure.

Official website www.johnnybritt.com  
Twitter account: https://twitter.com/johnnybritt?lang=en
Official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/johnnybrittmusic/

His music is mainly available on Spotify, ITune and Deezer. The new single “So Hot” is available through his official website www.johnnybritt.com, iTunes and all digital outlets.


Great interviews to listen: http://johnnybritt.com/index.php/2016/07/20/johnny-britts-interview-with-gary-spence-on-london-englands-solar-radio-2016/ and

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/talking-smooth-jazz/2016/08/14/trumpeter-johnny-britt

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1 Recently, it was announced on blackdoctor.org that there will be a sequel of the film:  https://blackdoctor.org/523725/vanessa-bell-calloway-husband-celebrate-30-years-of-marriage/