Once upon a time R&B was known for great live performances marked by passion, spontaneity and even transcendence through the great soul revues at such storied venues as The Apollo Theater, The Howard Theater and The Uptown. The musicians playing behind the singers were often the finest players from the realms of R&B jazz and gospel, who delivered intricate arrangements, electrifying solos and undeniable groove. In recent times, such performances have been rare but the hunger for that special sort of musical experience is still there and maybe it just takes someone with great determination and vision to bring it back. Jeff Bradshaw, a key player in Philadelphia’s influential neo-soul scene is the man with such vision. As a boy in Philadelphia Bradshaw performed with brass bands on Broad Street, just a stone’s throw from the spot where Philadelphia’s most prestigious performing arts center, The Kimmel Center, stands today; he dreamed: why not bring the crème-de-la-crème of singers and players to The Kimmel for a genre-crossing one-night-only musical event that would replicate the excitement of the classic R&B revues for this generation of fans?  Since Bradshaw’s trombone has propelled horn-sections for everyone from Jill Scott to Jay-Z and Erykah Badu to Kirk Franklin, this was an easy sell.

The respect accorded Jeff Bradshaw by his peers is shown by the impressive list of artists who wanted to be a part of the concert: Marsha Ambrosius, Will Downing, Black Thought of The Roots, Kim Burrell, Take 6, Najee, BilalEric Roberson, Tweet, Kenny Lattimore, Trombone Shorty and Executive Producer and Grammy-winning pianist Robert Glasper, whose recent BLACK RADIO albums have been innovative fusions of jazz and R&B, becoming some of the biggest-selling jazz releases of the past decade–ironically scoring big with a concept Jeff Bradshaw had been presenting for years.  Bradshaw’s Kimmel Center dream came to fruition on May 28, 2014 and the result was a sold-out success in front of a rapturous, wildly appreciative audience. HOME was released last month by Shanachie Entertainment, enabling those who were not there to enjoy the magical experience, and on the heels of the electric album release concert, Heed had the chance to chat with Bradshaw. We talked everything from growing up in Philadelphia to him working with Erykah Badu and ultimately the production of his latest record, HOME. Check it out!

Heed Magazine: Jeff Bradshaw, how are you doing?

Jeff Bradshaw: Blessed, humbled, happy, fortunate. I’m in an amazing place man. I’m just thankful that I have the opportunity to share my gift with the world.

HM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are?

JB: I’m a little kid from North Philly. A self taught trombone player you’ve probably seen for many years on stage with Jill Scott, Kirk Franklin, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Jay-Z. I moved around quite a bit! I was the musical director for Floetry, on solo Trombone for 3 years. I’m that guy that played on all of those hit records that your heard. Like ‘Butterflies’ by Michael Jackson, ‘Gettin’ In the Way’ by Jill Scott, all of Musiq Soulchild’s singles. I’ve been blessed to be apart of those records and tour with those artists. I’m that trombone player, that you forget is a trombone player…

HM: How did you end up playing the trombone?

JB: I was born and raised in a church where brass bands are the focus of the music ministry. It’s like New Orleans in church, so I was surrounded by trombonists. Although I play numerous instruments, I chose trombone because I was born and raised around it and my father played trombone. He was amazing, and everything I do now in life and as a musician is in honor of him.

HM: When was that first big break for you?

JB: I don’t think I’ve had a big break, I think I’ve had amazing opportunities. I mean recording with Michael Jackson…I have just been blessed to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right gift, around the right people…I can’t think of one time where I was like, ‘now I’ve made it!’ They were all very special times. Touring with The Roots, touring with Floetry, being apart of Jill Scott’s whole thing from the very beginning, being an original member of ‘Fatback Taffy’! [Laughs] You know, I treasure that.

HM: With your latest album, “Home”, why did you want it to be a live recording?

JB: People always say, ‘I love your music, but when I saw you live that’s when I really got it!’ So, I felt it was really important to deliver what I do live on a record, but bring some family to make it an event and that’s what we did. I did what I do and I brought some friends and we made it a musical event. That night was crazy…I cried half the night because you don’t get those kind of opportunities every day. You don’t get opportunities to be a self taught musician and headline a concert with twelve stars, most of whom are Grammy winning or Grammy nominated artists. Some are iconic and to be able to bring their brilliance together to magnify your gift? I am in awe of what God is doing with my career, so I’m going to do the best I can to be the very best that I am…

jeff bradshaw

HM: Was there ever a point in your career where you felt it was difficult to be in certain spaces because of your faith?

JB: Sometimes you have to be a light in a dark place. I carry my light with me. Wherever I go there’s light, because I take mine with me. I think there will always be a challenge when you are a Christian and have to work in a secular environment. Temptation is always going to be there, but as disciples we have to be that light in a dark place. I’m no angel, but I’m a God fearing man. I do know that I everything I have comes from God. This album is a gift, and I know it came from God…

HM: The album is very moving and I’m impressed by the experience that I had listening to it. Each individual artist brought something different, but it still made sense. So, I really appreciate that aspect of the record. 

JB: Wow.

HM: Is there anybody that you have not worked with yet, who you’d like to work with?

JB: One day I would like to work with Prince, Aretha Franklin. I want to work with Josh Groban, George Benson…that’s who I want to work with. An eclectic mix of people, who are all incredibly brilliant in what they do.

HM: Can we expect a tour for this project?

JB: I already have dates! The Jeff Bradshaw and Friends ‘Home’ Tour.

HM: There it is!

JB: June, July and August you’ll see around the country touring with artists who performed on the record. I’m taking Robert Glasper and Tweet to Essence Fest. I’m doing a bunch of festivals and a lot of shows! It’s going to be dope!

HM: What are some things you ‘take heed’ to?

JB: I take heed to the music of people who paved the way for me to get here. Therefore, I carry a certain respect and integrity in the music and musical performance of what I do. So, when I go on stage, I’m not just taking me, I’m taking God first and I’m taking all of the artist that couldn’t eat in the restaurants of the venues they played in. They couldn’t sleep in the hotels that they played at. I’m conscious of what happened and what sacrifices needed to be made for me to be in this place. I’m very careful to make sure I’m always paying homage to the people who paved the way for me to be here.

Be Sure to grab your copy of ‘Home’ today!


Stay Connected with Jeff Bradshaw:

Twitter – @IAmJeffBradshaw

Instagram – @iamjeffbradshaw

Photo © 2015 Lawrence Lowe for Heed Magazine