Written by Floyd Alvin Galloway
Some beautiful music will be vibrating the sound waves at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, this Friday. The multi-talented singer, songwriter, producer, trumpeter, arranger and composer will be in concert at the college February 26, performing with his band and some music students, at the school’s jazz fest.
In a telephone interview he remembered when he was a young student and how a professional’s tips influenced him. When asked how he got started in music, he noted that it was in the church and through his family. “You know music just came naturally to me. I come from a music family; they were singers, no instrumentalists,” said Britt.
He picked up the trumpet in the sixth grade playing in the school band; his mother kept him on task. “I always thank my mamma.” In the eighth grade he went to a school without a music program, so he stopped playing the instrument for a year. The next year that changed and his mother signed him into another school and signed him up for band, marching band and the whole thing. “I never looked back from there,” said Britt.
While growing up in Cleveland, Britt started playing in school bands, local bands, and began to develop his craft. Even to the point where he was able to take advantage of an opportunity to study music in France, where he studied at The Versailles Conservatory Of Music.
“I was meeting trumpet players and musicians from around the world.” While in France he signed his first recording deal.
Returning to the U.S. he had a chance meeting with Otis Williams of the Temptations, which led to him becoming the musical director for the group. “I traveled the world with them and became the music producer to the mini-series on the Temptations.”
Britt has two #1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Singles and currently has a third that has been #1 on the same chart for eight straight weeks that he wrote.
Britt has worked behind the scenes in the recording studio or live on stage with some of the biggest artists and projects in the industry. They include Josh Groban, David Bowie, Jennifer Lopez, The Temptations, Maxwell, Peabo Bryson, Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick, Kashif, Norman Conners, The Winans, Walter Afanasieff, Harvey Mason Jr., Boney James. Some films he has worked on include The Lion King, Forest Gump, Spiderman 3, and The Little Richard Story. Britt also founded the group Impromp2, which combined jazz, hip-hop, rap and soul. They reached #1 status in the UK Soul Charts and were signed to Motown/Mojazz Records.
Coming to the Valley this past weekend, Britt played for a Black History Month event sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Black Nurses Association. “I had a great time last night with them. And then I am working with Dr. Garrison and the South Mountain Community College. I want to thank them for having me and bringing me into Phoenix to work with the Latin band and the jazz band. I’ll be doing a couple workshops with the bands as well as a concert on Friday night at the performing arts center.”
Britt believes in sharing his knowledge and experiences with up and coming young musicians to help them develop their skills. “I remember going to workshops in high school and looking at these guys and saying, ‘how do you do that?’ Britt questions with a laugh. “That’s what anyone needs to be inspired, influenced and then you know its up to them to take it from there. I really do love mentoring, and inspiring and helping young musicians and older musicians as well. Because we have to keep this music going.”
With numerous public schools not having music programs with instruments, Britt feels it is very important to do what he can to influence budding musicians. “We have this in our culture, in both our cultures, the African American culture and the United States period. It’s really important and I’m so happy to be able to inspire and help in that area,” said Britt. “Music has a lot of benefits for youth, keeps them out of trouble, builds discipline and you’re investing for the long haul,” he noted.
Britt has a new project, Marvin Meets Miles. Both influenced his music career, Marvin Gaye with his singing and Miles Davis with his trumpet playing. The CD, which is Britt imagining both of them playing together, will be coming out soon. It will be a unique treat for fans of both Marvin and Miles and, for that matter, Johnny Britt’s fans also.
Check out Britt this Friday in concert at South Mountain Community College. The price is one you can’t beat.