An ensemble with an incredibly enlightened worldview, its philosophical outlook stems from its co-leaders’ vast experiences. Having initially crossed paths as locker neighbors while studying at Juilliard in the early aughts, Ridenour and Gilkes would each rise to prominence in different professional spheres—the former as a member of the Canadian Brass and a sought-after soloist with top-flight orchestras, the latter as a two-time Grammy-nominated bandleader and a key figure in celebrated large ensembles like the WDR Big Band and Maria Schneider Orchestra. Not surprisingly, categorizing tags came with those accomplishments. But neither man ever resigned himself to one side of any classical-jazz divide, and both found opportunities to cross the aisle. “Marshall grew up in the jazz realm but has more than dabbled in the classical world and I know that many classical players are envious of his fundamentals and skills,” Ridenour shares. “So he’s coming from that sort of angle—jazz into classical—and I’m really coming from the opposite way, having more of a classical background but finding myself in more jazz improv scenarios.”
Fast-forwarding to 2022, both men found themselves in the same place and headspace. Having followed and admired Ridenour’s work over the years, Gilkes brought him into the fold for the genre-blurring Cyclic Journey—an album merging a classically-oriented brass octet with a jazz rhythm section.
And as the trumpeter become more deeply connected to the trombonist’s writing, thoughts and possibilities emerged. “When I heard Marshall’s music it had a lot of neo-classical/jazz shiftiness to it, where it would go back and forth between these melodies in a jazz style and then these other playful things in a classical style,” Ridenour shares. “So I really liked that and I thought it would be interesting to take that a step further.” Ascertaining Gilkes’ interest, Ridenour discovered that he was equally enthusiastic and eager to collaborate. Thus the seeds were planted for Brassology to bloom. After shaping the outfit’s concept in conversation, personnel discussions logically ensued. And in seeking like-minded souls with versatility and virtuosity to match their own, Ridenour and Gilkes assembled an octet beyond measure.
Brassology was founded in 2023 by trumpeter Brandon Ridenour and trombonist Marshall Gilkes. The two set out to piece together a group of the finest brass players in the world who are capable of playing all styles of music.