Trumpet Player Kevin Bryan of New York City was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Kevin Bryan's family moved around quite a bit when he was young eventually settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kevin was there for about ten years. Kevin's parents divorced and he moved with his father to Quito, Ecuador. Kevin finished high school there.
Kevin Bryan began playing the trumpet in 5th grade. Kevin was inspired to do so by an episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Mr. Roger's had a trumpet player visit his neighborhood one day, (thankfully a day that Kevin's little sister had dibs on the TV set) and Kevin sat there watching, slack jawed and fascinated. Kevin asked for a trumpet for his next birthday. Although Kevin always loved music, he was a half-hearted trumpet student from then until his senior year of high school.
As Kevin recalls, "I was a big band fan as far back as I can remember. I loved any music that had prominent brass ... orchestral, jazz, musicals, funk. My parents had a large and diverse record collection. I began buying my own records at the age of 10 or 11. John Truitt was my first trumpet teacher; although, I'm sad to say I was not a notable student of his in any way. My senior year of high school, I had the good fortune to meet Jay Byron. He made the trumpet come alive for me. Under his tutelage I began to explore the nuts and bolts of jazz improvisation. By the end of that year, I had decided to become a professional trumpet player.
The summer after I graduated I began to practice seriously. My first trumpet teacher in college was Bill Bing. He was, and remains, one of the finest trumpet teachers out there. Being young and immature, I was not always ready to receive the knowledge he had to impart. After a couple of years, he sent me to see Bobby Shew. Bobby turned my playing around. After four years of studying with him and Bill, I felt as if a whole new world of possibilities had opened up for me. Mind you, my playing was still very rough, but I felt that I was on my way.
After college at Occidental College of Los Angeles, California, I moved to Massachusetts. Through friends, I met Dave Sporny at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Although I was never an official student there, he was kind enough to let me play trumpet in his jazz ensemble. For four years I played lead and jazz trumpet for Dave. Around this time, I began to work professionally as well. After four more years, I moved to New York and took whatever gigs I could get my hands on. After two years in New York, my wife and daughter and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky for one year. While there I played with the University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble under the direction of John LaBarbera. While in Louisville I met trumpet player Mark Van Cleave. I only had a couple of lessons with him, but they were amazing. The altissimo register seemed much more accessible afterwards. After a year in Kentucky, we moved back to New York. I was fortunate enough to study with the great Victor Paz. He was like a great zen master and hardly a day goes by where I don't think of something he said. Following all of this, I spent two years studying with Laurie Frink. Her teaching knitted together everything I had been taught up to that point. Before Laurie it was low register, middle register, high register. After Laurie it's one register.
Currently Kevin Bryan is playing lead trumpet for Harry Connick Jr., the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Mambo Legends Orchestra, and Bobby Sanabria's Big Band. Says Kevin, "Over the course of my career so far, I've worked with Tito Puente, Patti Austin, Celia Cruz, Paquito D'Rivera, Jon Faddis, Michael Bolton, Diane Schurr, Dennis Mackrel, Norah Jones, The Temptations, Lew Soloff, Valery Ponomarev, Candido, Bebo Valdes, The Afro Latin Orchestra of Lincoln Center, Byron Stripling, Chita Rivera, Ray Santos, La India, Bill Cosby, Arturo Sandoval and Bernadette Peters. There are more, but I can't remember them all right now.
I've been involved with Broadway on and off since 2001. The first show I subbed on was The Full Monty. The lead trumpet player on that one was the great Bob Millikan. When he left, I took his place. Since then, I've subbed on Hairspray, Movin' Out, 42nd Street, Gypsy, Tarzan, The Boy from Oz, Little Shop of Horrors, High Fidelity, Annie, Come Fly Away and In the Heights.
You don't have to play as loud as you think you do. You do have to project. Sound is paramount. Sometimes simpler is better. Know the lyrics. Tell a story with your playing. Sometimes loud, high notes will get you the gig. Sometimes loud, high notes will lose the gig for you. Keeping good time will earn you a lot of respect. No amount of chops will make up for bad time.
Kevin is presently using the Stamp Trumpet Method, Bai Lin and Rich Willey's book on scales for trumpet. Kevin offers private trumpet lessons as well as trumpet clinics.
Right now Kevin is playing a very versatile Yamaha YTR-8310Z Professional Model Bb Trumpet designed by Bobby Shew. Kevin's trumpet mouthpiece is a custom Monette. Says Kevin, "It's Dave's take on my previous mouthpiece which was a custom GR. That was Gary's take on my previous mouthpiece which was a Wick 5e. The Monette mouthpiece may be it for me. I can't imagine playing anything else now.
Kevin Bryan recalls, "One of my first big recording sessions was a live recording with Tito Puente. Tito had augmented his Latin jazz ensemble into a full sized big band. We had played at Birdland for the entire week and they were going to record Friday and Saturday. I was playing 4th trumpet; but nevertheless, was as nervous as the proverbial long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. At the sound check Friday Tito and Jose Madera (Tito's musical director) passed out parts to an old tune of Tito's, "Cua Cua." They had decided last minute that they wanted to include this tune on the album. The tune was first recorded on Tito's classic record "Dance Mania" in 1959. The parts looked as if they had been used every day since then. They were ripped, taped, drooled on, eaten with, what have you. Nerve wracking sight reading to say the least. The fact that Tito was a bit on the tense side didn't make things any easier. We read it down well enough, but Tito wanted to be sure that it was all good and tight.
Tito turns to lead trumpet player Ray Vega and says, "Ray, let's take it from four bars after C." The other trumpets all come in and I come in a bar later. I get a horrible twinge in my stomach as I realize I must have miscounted. Tito cuts us off, and says "Take it once more." I resolve to be absolutely correct in counting. He counts it off and again I come in a bar late. Tito cuts us off, sighs heavily and says "Okay ... take it once more." Again I come in a bar late. Now Tito explodes: "WHAT THE F**K IS GOING ON BACK THERE?!" It's at that point I realize my part is written by a different copyist. I took a quick look at Ray's part and see that his and everybody else letter C is one bar back from where mine is. I manage to splutter "Sorry Tito, my letter C is in a different place than everyone else." He looks like he still wants to be really pissed, but he says "OK ... good job." Rehearsal continued without incident. The CD ended up getting nominated for a Grammy Award.