Darren Barrett


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Darren Barrett was born in Manchester, England to Jamaican parents. They moved to Toronto Canada when he was nine months old, where his father worked as an auto mechanic and his mother worked in a factory. Darren's dad was also a part-time musician who "pushed his five children toward music," and there was always jazz, reggae, all kinds of music in the house. As a result, his three older brothers also became professional musicians.

Darren remembers that, "the first time I heard Miles Davis was on the record 'Round About Midnight, and when I heard Miles' sound and his approach, I knew that the instrument I wanted to play was the trumpet."

Two early teachers were particularly significant: in middle school, trumpeter Dan Moir, and in high school Ron Botnick, who had the band sounding like Maynard Ferguson. Besides Miles, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw, Darren cites Clifford Brown as a major influence, explaining, "Clifford, to me, was one of the great improvisers on the trumpet." After high school, Darren attended the Humber College Jazz program in Toronto, Canada, where he studied with Raynard Schmidt and Don Johnson, who were two of Toronto's great trumpet teachers. These two trumpet teachers really gave me a wonderful foundation of the trumpet, and provided me with the proper fundamentals of trumpet playing. Darren spent a year at Humber College and in that year he won the Boddington's Music Brass Award for excellence in performance.

In 1986, Darren attended the Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, receiving a BA in Professional Music in 1990. During his Berklee years, Darren's fellow students included Antonio Hart, Javon Jackson, Mark Turner, Roy Hargrove and Sam Newsome. In addition to his inspiring collaborators, the infamous Mass. Avenue club, Wally's, served as a proving ground, as well. "At that time, Wally's had jazz sessions seven days a week, and it was a really great place to get your stuff together. My time at Berklee was extremely nurturing. The atmosphere was so inspiring, everyone working so hard to really be able to play at the highest level possible. Antonio Hart and I were roommates for a period, and did a lot of playing together, and grew together. In 1988, my curiosity was piqued by electronic music, programming, and synthesis. I dedicated time learning how to program drum machines and synthesizers, and started learning how to produce popular music."

He went on to receive an MA in Jazz Performance in 1993, and an MS in Music Education from Queens College in 1995. It was there that he came under the influence of Dr. Donald Byrd, who became something of a father figure for the young trumpeter. "I was studying with William Fielder, a classical trumpet professor at Rutgers University in 1989, and in 1990 I was offered a full scholarship to do my masters and doctorate at Rutgers. In one of my trumpet lessons, Mr. Fielder had a surprise for me. That surprise was introducing me to Dr. Donald Byrd. Donald stayed and listened to my entire lesson, and afterwards, gave me a lesson in improvisation. After the lesson, we went out for dinner and at that time, he invited me to study with him at Queen's College, where he was going to be teaching in the fall of 1990. Of course I wholeheartedly accepted his tremendous offer and opportunity. I studied with Donald until 1995 at Queen's College, and it was the greatest education a student could receive in music and life. I am blessed."

I started a doctorate at Columbia University in 1994, trying to follow in Dr. Byrd's footsteps. But my studies there were interrupted by a special program that was being developed, called the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, at the New England Conservatory of Music." In 1997, Darren earned a Diploma in Jazz Performance from the Thelonious Monk Institute where he was a member of the inaugural class. At the Monk program, he studied with Barry Harris, Wynton Marsalis, and Clark Terry, and got to perform with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. In 1997, Darren entered and won 1st place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the biggest jazz competition in the world, which highlights a different instrument each year. The judges included Art Farmer, Wallace Roney, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, and Clark Terry. New York times jazz writer Peter Watrous, describing Barrett's winning performance on 'Sweet Loraine' reported that "by the time Mr. Barrett got going, with blues phrases and shouts and riffs, the audience, not in the least bit cynical, and looking for a bit of showmanship, was hollering." Later, Barrett told Watrous "when I played 'Sweet Loraine' I was thinking about Louis Armstrong. Not because I wanted to imitate him, there's no point in doing that, but because I wanted something of his energy."

Darren went on to release his first album as a bandleader, First One Up in 1999, followed by Deelings in 2001. His newest project Wrenaissance Volume 1 was released in May 2004, incorporating R&B, Hip Hop, and world music highlighting his skills playing Nyle Steiner's creation, the EVI (Electronic valve instrument). Darren has performed or recorded with Elvin Jones, Jackie McLean, Herbie Hancock, Antonio Hart, among others. Interestingly, Donald Byrd also played alongside McLean on many classic recordings.

Darren currently an Associate Professor in the ensembles department at his alma mater, Berklee College of Music, in Boston, MA and has private students as well. This position has helped me to realize my ideas pertaining to live performance-using computers, multi processor effects, and groove oriented music with improvisational content. It has also afforded me the opportunity to write a great deal of music and experiment using the students through the whole process from rehearsals to performance.

In a review of a performance by McLean's quintet, Bob Blumenthal wrote in the Boston Globe "while Barrett won the Monk Institute trumpet competition by emphasizing his command of historical styles, in this band he responds to the shirting, aggressive thrust of the music and delivers his most personal work to date. Barrett's solos were unfailingly intimate, with a sound that could be mistaken for a warmer flugelhorn, yet he often followed the rhythm section to assertive and unfailingly accurate upper register climaxes without abandoning the prevailing sense of intimacy." Reviewing a performance by the Greg Tardy Quintet in New York, distinguished jazz writer Ira Gitler wrote that Barrett "continues to impress. He began with sparse statements, gradually expanding the length of his praises and turned up the heat for some hard bopping with the swagger of Lee Morgan and some Woody Shaw-like edginess.

As for the future, Darren is always looking at short and long-term goals. My short term goals are pushing myself to be the best musician I can. I'm working on my craft, trying to be as professional and proficient as I can be. As for the long term, I'm just trying to reach people with my music, trying to concentrate on myself as a performer, bandleader and composer and go from there and try to come up with my own approach. I want to bring the trumpet and jazz into the 21st century by being open and exploring the gamut of creativity. Incorporating computers into live shows, and realizing that one must have a great product and a great live show, is one of my key principles. My ultimate goal is for people to hear me and say, hey, that's Darren.