Bria Skonberg Digs Into Tension With ‘Nothing Never Happens’

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Bria Skonberg adventures beyond her trad-jazz roots on Nothing Never Happens.

(Photo: Dario Acosta)

Peering out the window of her practice room high above the East River in New York, Bria Skonberg felt the spirit move her.

Raising her trumpet, she let loose her trademark clarion call—seeming, in the process, to blow away the cares of a decade that saw her alternately feted as the hope of hot-jazz and faulted for not being shackled to it.

“Playing trumpet is the greatest stress reliever in the world,” she said with a half-smile, exhaling generously.

Generosity has been a defining trait of Skonberg’s decade—from the gastronomic delicacies she laid out for a visitor in the waning days of 2019 to the cornucopia of musical offerings that flowed from her horn since she arrived in New York in 2010, armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of traditional jazz built largely on bandstands throughout the West.

Then 26 years old, the native of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, quickly became a fixture on the stages of the Big Apple’s trad-jazz scene—catching the eye and ear of the scene’s stalwarts, like fellow trumpeter Warren Vaché. A onetime teacher and longtime colleague of Skonberg’s, Vaché remains impressed with her sound and savvy.

“She’s a very conscientious young lady with a strong conception,” he said. “And, like most young people these days, she’s very aware of the public, of social media and promotion.”

Within two years of arriving in New York, Skonberg had parlayed those assets into contracts for albums that, like her live shows, attracted audiences intrigued by the spectacle of a young Canadian woman who tapped into the soul of Louis Armstrong. Skonberg had found her comfort zone and, by all indications, could have prospered there in perpetuity.

“That’s not why I came to New York,” she said. “I keep doing a lot of things, but all the time still reaching, learning.”

With Nothing Never Happens, her latest release, Skonberg does just that. Like her most recent albums—2016’s Bria and 2017’s With A Twist, which featured urbane partners like accordionist and arranger Gil Goldstein, pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Matt Wilson—the disc explores new stylistic territory even as it keeps faith with the old.

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