If your instant visualization of a jazz musician is a middle-aged gentleman, possibly with a receding hairline, a slightly wrinkled face and a constantly tapping toe, visualize again!
Nothing could be farther from the reality of two of the most talented jazz musicians being featured in the Elkhart Jazz Festival 2013.
Both are young, very talented, very attractive and very well-versed on the subject of jazz — past and present — and undoubtedly will play an important part in its future.
The only difference is that Bria Skonberg plays trumpet and flugelhorn and Ariel Pocock can be found at the piano.
Both will be familiar to regular visitors at past EJFs.
Bria came to the 2009 EJF as a member of the west coast sextet Mighty Aphrodite, an all-girl group which was a definite plus that year. She not only played but sang. Today she leads the Bria Skonberg Quintet and has changed her “coast of residence” to New York City.
She made the move from British Columbia in the fall of 2010. “I came to New York for its resources,” she said. When contemplating a change, “I thought of moving maybe to Los Angeles or New Orleans, but New York is the most challenging,” Bria explained, adding that, in the course of playing many jazz festivals she got to know many musicians who told her to go to New York.
“Music from all over the world is here,” she said. “I’ve been trying to pick and choose what to do and what to learn. I feel like a sponge, absorbing so much. I’m getting better at my instrument. I want to keep pushing myself in different ways, checking out all kinds of music, not just jazz.”
At the EJF, the quintet will be doing a lot of the arrangements Bria has put together, originals or old jazz songs done in a new and interesting way.
“I do all the arranging,” said the young blonde who could pass for a model. “The hardest part (after her move to NY) was finding musicians who are versatile enough to play a variety of styles — and who are available to play.”
She found a good fit with Random Act Records. The Florida-based company produced her last CD in April 2010. Random Act also appealed to Bria because it donates 10 percent of all on-line sales to the charity of her choice. No surprise, the Jazz Foundation of America benefits from “So Is The Day.”
“I am lucky to have this kind of opportunity at this time of my life,” Bria said. “Things are continually getting better.”
As for the future, “I would like to be identified as somebody who has ideals,” she said. “Honoring the traditions and not forgetting where you came from but still pushing the envelope.”
Ariel debuted here two years ago and instantly became one of the talented teens about whom Jazz Festival audiences have a proprietary air. She headed a trio then and now, but the 2013 musicians in the Ariel Pocock Trio are her fellow students at the University of Miami where she will be a junior and is a continuing student of jazz great Shelly Berg (also an EJF favorite!) working toward her degree in jazz performance.
Her dad David, who she describes as “very important” in her musical upbringing, was her piano teacher when she began studying at age eight. Even after more than a decade, “I’m just scratching the surface,” she said.
Although classes take up most of her time, Ariel has been performing during the summer at such prestigious venues as the Stanford Jazz Workshop and the Iowa City Jazz Festival.
The importance of music in the schools is a priority to Ariel who, through UofM, was working last year with an after-school program at a middle school in downtown Miami. This year, she will be teaching her own vocal and jazz combos and master classes at the Stanford camps.
This month — June — marks another milestone for the young pianist. Her first CD, “Touchstone,” was released. On it are “some originals as well as covers for Randy Newman and James Taylor tunes arranged for the jazz trio.”
With her focus primarily on performing, Ariel admits she likes live performing best. “I don’t prefer singing over playing or vice versa,” she said. “But I spend most of my time on the piano.”
Visitors to the 2013 EJF can hear both Bria and Ariel on a number of stages from the Civic Plaza “freebie” to the Lerner Theatre Mainstage and several other ticket-required rooms throughout the weekend.
Check the free Schedule of Events for times and places for all festival concerts.
See you at Big Time Jazzmatazz!