Whatever happened to jazz?
By B. Fitzgerald
Whatever happened to jazz? Really? Where did it go? If I were to challenge you to name 10 nationally known jazz acts, other than David Sanborn, the Marsalis Brothers, Kenny G, Najee, Bob James, or Earl Klugh, could you? There is clearly a void in the world of jazz that needs to be filled. Today, I heard a fresh new talent that just might fill that void.
Barry Stephenson’s new Jazz CD, Basics Truths will pleasantly surprise you. After listening to all 13 tracks of the CD, I was literally blown away by how good this young man is. Basic Truths apparently was inspired by legendary jazz greats like Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. I could easily pigeon hole his talent and consider it “Modern Jazz”, but it’s got an old school flavor that I haven’t heard in years.
At age 28, Stephenson is one of the most promising acoustic and electric bassists on the music scene today.
Though he now lives in New Orleans, Stephenson grew up right here in Fort Lauderdale. He graduated from Florida State University (FSU) in 2010, and earned his B.A. in music, where he was a member of the FSU Philharmonic Orchestra. Before attending FSU, he graduated from South Broward High School in 2005 and has obtained his Master’s in Music from the University of New Or-leans.
Stephenson comes from a musical family. His younger cousin, Robert Nalan, is the Band Director at Stranahan High School. His grandfather, Dr. Ben Stephenson, played in the world famous F.A.M.U. Marching 100, where he graduated with Nate Adderley. Dr. Stephenson not only jammed with Cannonball Adderley, but he was close friends and collaborated on several musical arrangements with Otis Redding, Brook Benton, Sarah Vaughn, and Sam & Dave. His grandmother, Mrs. Gussie Stephenson would often do Vaughn’s hair before she performed. His Granduncle Oliver (Ben’s brother) sang back-ground for Ray Charles. He studied with jazz bassist Rodney Jordan and the legendary Marcus Roberts and has held his own while on stage with Wynton, Branford Marsalis and their dad Ellis Marsalis; he is also a recipient of the Ellis Marsalis Jazz Scholarship Award.
In the summer of 2011 Stephenson travelled to Colombia as part of the UNO Jazz Ambassadors. While there, he taught master classes and performed various concerts. In the fall, he was invited back by the United States Embassy to perform at the first Mompox International Jazz Festival as guest of honor.
He was selected to be a part of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead, where he performed at The Kennedy Center.
In 2011, he joined the Glen David Andrews Band and played on several albums. Stephenson has also performed at various jazz festivals including the Montreux, Newport, Montreal, North Sea, Umbria and Playboy Jazz festivals after joining Jon Baptiste and Stay Human in 2013.
He’d most love is to play at the Jazz in the Gardens festival.
Check out his debut Jazz CD Basic Truths, which is available on ITunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. You may also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.