Junior trio brings jazz music to local cafe

Lili Hakimi

“We are very familiar with each other because we [frequently] play together. We really understand each other musically and things just happen naturally. We know each other’s habits when we are improvising, so we can anticipate what someone might play and play something that works well with that,” junior Brad Chrisman said. 

Chrisman is a part of a jazz trio consisting of himself and fellow juniors August Gilmartin and Brian Browne. All three boys grew up playing music and played a couple of different instruments before settling on their current choice. Chrisman initially played the cello, and later switched to the bass in sixth grade to play in a rock band at his middle school. 

Gilmartin, the group’s piano player, started playing in kindergarten and is currently part of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music precollege program.  

“I started [playing] pretty young so I didn’t really have much of an awareness [of what was going on] when it came to music. As time went on, later in elementary school, I began to push myself because music is fun, interesting and a way to express my creativity,” Gilmartin said.

The group’s drummer, Browne, grew up surrounded by music, playing both the guitar and the piano before settling on the drums. 

“I’ve played instruments all my life. It was important to my mom [because] she wanted me to learn music and the piano, so I was required to take lessons. My sister also plays piano, and my whole family is pretty musical,” Browne said.

Chrisman met Gilmartin in Redwood’s jazz band as a freshman and, later that year, reached out to Gilmartin following the end of remote learning.

 “Coming out of COVID-19, I wanted to play music with people in real life so I asked [Gilmartin] if he wanted to come to my house [to practice], ” Chrisman said.

However, it wasn’t until sophomore year that the duo became a trio when Gilmartin and Chrisman noticed something was missing in their music. 

“Eventually, we realized we wanted a drummer and we are both friends with [Browne] so it worked out,” Chrisman said.

After the three formed a group, they began to rehearse, often in Browne’s garage. As they practiced more, they began to build up a repertoire of songs they could play at possible gigs.

Fortunately for the trio, last year, director of the music program John Mattern approached them with an opportunity to play at Cafe Verde in Larkspur. Since then, the boys have played at Cafe Verde several times in the outdoor dining area, providing a relaxing ambiance for dining customers. Typically, the trio plays jazz standards, which Gilmartin describes as common songs that most jazz musicians know.  They hope to continue playing there in the future and start recording some of their music. 

Playing outside local Cafe Verde, Browne, Chrisman and Gilmartin fill the atmosphere with lively jazz.

With jazz standards as a solid basis, Gilmartin expressed that the unique thing about jazz is the flexibility it allows, leaving space for each group member to shine accordingly.

“I like how we all bring our own musical elements to the table, especially in the jazz setting. It’s great because I can have my own solos too and demonstrate my own [individuality as a musician]. We each have our own creative input and it is us all working together,” Gilmartin said.

Browne maintains that the trio members have excellent musical chemistry and enjoy trying new things within the group. 

“It’s fun to experiment since we all like the same styles [of music],” Browne said. “By playing with the same people over and over, you know how they are going to play and how to react to it.”