Willie Bradley will close out a jam-packed opening night at the fourth annual Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival. He recently said his “music is uptempo, real funky with groovy vibes. So, I’m definitely bringing high-energy dance music.”
The long-time Fayetteville, N.C., trumpeter is scheduled to perform from 10:30-11:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. The Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival opens that evening and continues through Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019 on Carver Street in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Click here for a complete schedule. As always, admission is free.
Over the years, Bradley has shared stages with Clark Terry, Betty Carter, Max Roach, Gerald Albright, Ronnie Laws and – most famously – with Dizzy Gillespie. A native of Orangeburg, S.C., Bradley left school to focus on music after meeting Gillespie, who is also a South Carolina native.
“I studied with him for a little while,” Bradley told the Times and Democrat in Orangeburg. “I did play with a couple of corporate bands like Stray Fox out of Florida. I did that for about three or four years, and then I came back home and finished college.”
He later earned a degree in music education and performance from South Carolina State University. Unfortunately, Bradley still faced years of struggle with personal issues, before he finally emerged with a renewed sense of purpose.
More recently, he toured with RJ and the Original James Brown Band in Europe and the Far East, including appearances at Tokyo’s Billboard Live and Summer Sonic Music Festival. Other high-profile stops include the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, Carson Jazz Festival, Long Beach Jazz Festival, Ocean City Jazz Fest and the Jacksonville Jazz Coalition Jazz Festival, among others.
“I had been wanting to be where I’m at now years ago, but I was really struggling and didn’t know how to get there,” Bradley told the Times and Democrat. “After getting across that hurdle, my whole perspective and outlook on life changed and I decided that I was going to go for it.”
Willie Bradley’s debut album, 2014’s Another Day and Time, was produced and co-written by Nicholas Cole. His sophomore studio release, 2017’s Going With the Flow, was highlighted by a collaboration with Manhattans singer Gerald Alston called “In the Meantime.” Bradley worked with producer Preston Glass on the project; Jerry Martini of Sly and the Family Stone also appeared.
Despite all of those famous associations, Bradley told Kim Hasty of the Fayetteville Observer that he strives to put his own individual stamp on every piece of music. “Like Dizzy Gillespie told me when I studied with him: ‘You can learn bits and pieces from everybody, but you’ve got to a special thing in it from the bottom of the your heart, and make it your own.’ And that’s what I do.”
Bradley says he’s now at work on a follow-up album, tentatively titled It’s My Time. After Myrtle Beach, he’s set to perform at the All American City Jazz Festival in Fayetteville and the Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival in Spain.