Brad Webb: Flexing His Fearless Nature with Extended
By Susan Frances
The jazz trio Extended is coming into their prime. Comprised of pianist Oscar Rossignoli on piano, Matt Booth on bass, and Brad Webb on drums, Extended is a tool for the trio to each exercise their skills as composers, improvisers, and producers.
Webb provides why he wanted to work with Rossignoli and Booth, “Both of these guys are XFactors. True and honest Like-Minded Creators. Being next to them on the bandstand gives me the courage to be fearless. No judgement, no pretension… Just be the most honest YOU, and we’ll be right here beside you, no matter what.”
“I only have begun to realize that now,” he illuminates, “after playing with them in this group for 6 years, but at a time where I was very self-conscious about myself as a drummer, composer, partner, friend… I gravitated towards them and this group. Maybe because they allowed me to truly be myself… I don’t know. I’m grateful for them in music and in life.”
Having produced their latest release, Without Notice with Brian Seeger, the trio is based in New Orleans, Louisiana, the city that founded jazz lions like Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Tony Jackson, to name a few. Like these lions, Extended’s drummer Brad Webb is inclined to fearless impulses, which being a part of the trio has allowed him to assert.
Fearless is a natural instinct for Webb, though, over time, he has discovered that the impulse should be nurtured and focused so the experiences can be savored. He describes a situation that led him to this epiphany as he narrates, “Maybe this story helps; I ran the Philly Marathon my first year of college with a high school buddy. Neither of us trained for it because, as wrestlers, we believed that running wasn’t a real sport. Just training you did for ‘real’ sports. We were teenagers, so please don’t judge too harshly.”
He continues, “Our mindset was that it wasn’t hard physically, just hard mentally and that most people are just weaklings. Again, be kind… So we did that… And we both finished after having not trained for it. But it was miserable, and neither of us really talk about it or enjoyed it at all.”
“What I have become aware of,” he concluded, “is that we were both right and wrong… You can do anything, even without preparing for it, but if you really want to actually enjoy the experience and recover so you can do it again, maybe even better, training, practice, and preparation must happen. Any success, recognition, awards, or money means little to me. Enjoying the process. Enjoying the beautiful and the ugly. I’ve become more and more aware of that.”
The lessons he learned after running the Philly Marathon have stayed with him, enabling him to savor his experiences with Extended by being focused and nurturing his creative urges. With this in mind, Webb considers how the trio’s previous recording, Harbinger was different for him compared to Extended’s latest release, Without Notice.
“I struggled in the studio whilst recording Harbinger,” he admits. “I went home after the first day, drank too much wine thinking about how I ruined the whole session and how we were going to have to re-record everything from that day.”
He recalls, “The next morning I apologized, and they both said for what… confused, I had us listen back waiting for what was surely going to be mistake and mistake and yet, what I heard was awesome. I was so completely in my own head that I couldn’t even enjoy the process. Without Notice was some of the most comfortable I’d been in the studio and some of the most fun I’ve had recording as well.”
Webb surmises, “This record had us trying to be more calculated with our risks. Not letting the music go everywhere, all the time, but rather, have more intent and focus to our ideas, compositionally and improvisatory.”
Each member of Extended took part in composing, giving audiences insight into the mindset of the individual musicians. For instance, Webb’s composition “Tempest” is a gentle and soothing piece that fittingly closes the recording, decompressing the audience from the haunting tone of “The Gardens,” the obtuse entanglements of “Impairment Process,” the ruminating undulations of the title track, and the rippling phrasing that shapes “Sphere.”
He explains how the arrangement for “Tempest” came together, “I really enjoy the ending credits to movies. No matter where or with who, I will stay until the screen goes blank and the lights are off at the movie theatre. ‘I Always Stay Until The End,’ the last tune on our first record, is just that… my attempt at writing ending credit music. ‘Mood Music,’ as Matt has called it before. ‘Tempest’ was the result of me trying to write music that seemingly went somewhere and developed but actually didn’t. Kind of an answer to the question of ‘Does music have to go anywhere or do anything?’ Not sure I succeeded… but the attempt feels really nice.”
When contemplating how playing in the studio compares to performing live, Webb responds, “Recording, generally speaking, is us trying to have more intention and be more focused. Be very clear with what we are trying to say. Not that we don’t do that live. Just that the presentation is different. Audience and venue; set and setting… each has an impact on how the music is received, and we try to be aware of that. It’s received quite differently live than on record. Both of which we want to be an honest representation of who we are as a band at that moment in time.”
Before being part of the jazz trio Extended, Brad Webb led the Brad Webb Making Faces, or BWMF. He recollects, “BWMF started in 2014/2015, I think. The first record came out in 2015. With the encouragement of my longest musical compatriot and one of my oldest friends, bassist Trey Boudreux, I began to compose even though I had some apprehension and almost debilitating self-doubt at doing so for very naive reasons; ‘what does a drummer know about writing,’ ‘nothing I write is as cool as a piano player,’ ‘no bass I write is as cool as a bass players,’ etc., etc.”
He remembers, “The band pretty much picked itself. I met all the guys: Trey Boudreaux, Brad Walker, Reagan Mitchell, and Doc Sharpe in my first few years in New Orleans. Like minding creators and true supporters of new music, not to mention guys I felt very comfortable being uncomfortable around. The group came about because I wanted to create the music I heard in my own head alongside my closest musical friends at the time.”
The seeds to create music were planted in Webb’s head early in life as he recounts, “My older brother and sister were both in band growing up, and my parents were both very involved, which meant I got dragged to all the band rehearsals, contests, football games, events, etc. The drummers were the absolute coolest whilst making the most racket and having the most fun. I like that.”
He reflects, “Music has allowed me to feel the most comfortable with myself, giving me the opportunity to meet great people and travel. And in the pursuit of creating music, I’ve learned to be more creative and more comfortable with myself outside of music as well. Maybe not quite answering why I do it professionally, but it is why I will continue to do it for the rest of my life in whatever capacity I’m fit to do it.”
Looking back at what encouraged him to play live, he pinpoints, “I saw my first drum teacher, Brian Nelson, play at Festival International in my hometown, Lafayette, Louisiana, from a chair sitting next to him on stage. That experience of being so close to the source of the people in the crowd’s enjoyment and happiness that afternoon stuck with me.”
“Seeing another teacher, Danny Devilier,” he raises, “playing around town showed me that even as an adult, after what I thought as a teenager having figured life out, you could still take chances, be uncomfortable, all whilst creating something cool, fun, and unique, had a large impact on me.”
“Classical music,” he specifies, “was my ticket away from home. Not that I hated Lafayette or my parents or anything like that. Just that I wanted to be away from home and meet new people. Didn’t want to go to a ‘normal’ school either. The Boston Conservatory was small, very specialized, and gave me the best chance to be around the best that music had to offer; classical, contemporary, and in Boston and in nearby New York,… jazz. My access to so many musical resources, teachers, performance opportunities, shows, and venues, was a huge reason I wanted to be in Boston and the Northeast in general.”
“Lessons,” he imparts, “further developed the mindset of self-discipline. Something I learned as an athlete playing baseball and soccer as a kid and further developed as a wrestler in high school. The Conservatory is where I learned how to maintain that mindset as an ‘adult.’ How to have a life outside of music whilst also creating music at a high level. The balance of it all, I guess.”
When asked what attracted him to play jazz, he determines, “Freedom. I studied classical percussion at The Boston Conservatory, and although I really love classical music and keep it very much apart of my life, the freedom I get when improvising and composing and creating with my closest friends and creators is what attracts me the most. The drummer and composer Dave King is probably whom I admire the most. Dedication to the ‘band,’ composition, and what comes across as completely fearless in creation.”
Musing over how he has evolved as a drummer, Webb pipes, “Aw man!!!! Hard to say anything that doesn’t immediately have me thinking about all the music I’ve been a part of, people I’ve met, past relationships, places I’ve been, etc.”
Brad Webb is still in the process of making the journey to a destination yet to come to fruition. Along the way, he continues to find time to enjoy other aspects of life, as he shares, “I’m a pretty big soccer fan. Still, coach and referee in New Orleans and have played quite a lot. Although that has been overshadowed by surfing in the last 3 years, or so which has become a big part of my life. Despite wanting to write music for the ending credits of movies, I don’t really watch movies… too much skating and surfing to be had. Sitting still isn’t really my forte, and my hobbies and lifestyle reflect that I think.”
Fearless by nature, Brad Webb has discovered how to nurture and focus his impulses to be wild, enabling him to savor the experiences along the journey. His part in the jazz trio Extended has proven to be agreeable with his bandmates Oscar Rossignoli and Matt Booth, finding a place where he can be himself and be appreciated for his contributions. In their prime, Extended has found their niche along the jazz spectrum.
About Susan Frances:
Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island, I always enjoyed writing and made several contributions to my high school literary magazine, The Lion’s Pen. Influenced by writers of epic novels including Colleen McCullough and James Clavell, I gravitated to creative writing. After graduating from New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I tried my hand at conventional jobs but always returned to creative writing. Since 1998, I have been a freelance writer and have over three thousand articles to various e-zines including: Jazz Times, Blogcritics, Yahoo Voices, Goodreads.com, Authors and Books (books.wiseto.com), TheReadingRoom.com, Amazon.com, Epinions.com, Fictiondb.com, LibraryThing.com, BTS emag, BarnesandNoble.com, RomanticHistoricalReviews.com, AReCafe.com, Hybrid Magazine, and BookDepository.com. In 2013 and 2014, I was a judge in the Orange Rose Writing Competition sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the Romance Writers of America located in Brea, California.