Brad Jefford learned to play the guitar while in a dream. A village of gnomes residing in the belly of a rosewood dreadnought would use the frequencies of bronze strings to communicate to the vast world outside. These frequencies could explain theories of the night stars, meanings of the heart’s feelings, and the rhythm and rhyme found between the lines. In this state of altered consciousness Brad could understand and speak the language of the strings with ease like that of the mother tongue. His time in this world left him with memories of hertz colliding with the wonderful ruckus of his little friends singing and dancing in their little red hats until the morning’s alarm left them silent. Awake, these beautiful sounds are something he can only dream to recreate, but that hasn’t kept him from trying. Each day he opens his ears and heart, yearning to bring the sound of dreams to reality, hoping that one day we can hear and understand the beauty of communication.
This interview has been edited for length and concision.
Annie Corrigan: Your bio is epic. Can you also give me a vanilla description of your music?
Brad Jefford: The band has found its home on a small boundary between groove based music and free improvisation. Everyone in the group really love to groove so that’s really at the heart of it. I personally became interested in breaking away from strict form once I realized how much free improvisation would open our ears, turn off any preconceived ideas we may have had for these tunes, and make sure we were all 100% committed to the collective musical moment.
AC: I see you’re performing a Night Music series. Are you primarily an improv musician, or is this more of a departure from what you normally play?
BJ: I cut my musical teeth on hip hop, funk, and jazz as a kid, so improvisation was basically all I thought making music meant when I was getting started. I started playing to make beats for my friend because we wanted something to rap over. This was before you could get computers to create the music so easily and there were no local djs, so I just decided improvise with traditional instruments. To this day I feel more comfortable having an improvised musical conversation than I do trying to copy music word for word from an existing song or recording
AC: I play the oboe, so I rarely (I mean, never) improvise. Can you give me a brief pep talk for a beginning improviser?
BJ: I think of music as a language. In this analogy improvised music is the same as having a conversation and written music would be similar to reading a script. In most everyday conversation there’s no script. You may notice folks will either (a) choose to say the first thing that comes to their mind, or (b) think about their word choice to make sure what they say is what they mean. Each will result in a very different style of conversation. The same is true musically, some musicians play the first thing they hear, some musicians wait to make sure they play what they mean.
AC: What do visiting SSXIX artists need to know about St. John’s in general and the music scene in specific?
BJ: Musicians in St. John’s are really opened to playing any and all styles of music, the same players pop up in the trad scene, the jazz scene, and everything in between. So don’t be afraid to jump in on a jam or kitchen party while you’re here, even if you are not familiar with the style, if you jump in and play honestly you will be welcomed!
Brad Jefford Trio+ At Sound Symposium XIX*
- Night Music — Sunday, July 8 at 10:30pm (The Ship Pub)
*Times and locations subject to change.