Brad Muirhead

Crass Brutes Music

photo: Graham Ord / BM

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Detailed Bio

Brad (bass-trombone, tuba / sousaphone, euphonium) is well known to audiences across Canada and Europe for his powerful sound and inventive improvising and has been involved in the Vancouver music scene as a performer, composer/arranger and music educator for over 30 years. He has performed, recorded and toured with his own groups “Primal Orbit” and “BRASS ROOTS” as well as Vancouver's three most important large jazz ensembles: Hugh Fraser's “VEJI”, “the NOW Orchestra” (renamed “Orkestra Futura”) and the “Hard Rubber Orchestra”. His latest original projects as leader include his original modern jazz outlet “The Brad Muirhead Quartet”, a hard-hitting jazz/funk horn band called “Proulsion” and “Idverb”, which features spoken word and improvised music. Three original projects that are currently on the back-burner (easily reactivated) are worthy of mention - “Koan”: Brad’s Chinese / jazz / World-music sextet, and “The Van East Jazz Orchestra”: an original-music large ensemble co-led with Jared Burrows, and the "New World Orchestra": a 25-piece mixed Western and Chinese instrument classical group Brad co-founded with conductor / composer Jin Zhang.

Brad also continues working with long-term original projects as a sideman in groups such as Hugh Fraser’s “Bonehenge”, "Colin MacDonald’s Pocket Orchestra”, the traditional African group "Adana Habobo" and the independent pro symphony “Plastic Acid Orchestra”. Recently he has also been working with a group called “The Legion Of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra”, performing on hand crafted wooden horns created by Vancouver visual artist David Gowman.

Over the years he has also worked with Claude Ranger’s Jade Orchestra, Francois Houle Etc., Tribal Dynamics, the Miles Black Sextet, The Hugh Fraser Quintet and Lunar Adventures, to name a few, as well as occasionally with such luminaries as Ray Anderson, George Lewis, Marilyn Crispell and Konrad Bauer. He has worked with numerous different club bands, a crazy assortment of creative projects with the local cohorts (as leader and sideman), and has been featured as a guest artist / soloist (trombone and tuba) on a wide variety of singer/songwriter and indie band recording projects.

Brad’s career as an musician has twisted, turned and spiraled in a number of directions, sporadically, periodically and sometimes simultaneously, with extensive common ground and connecting threads between his performance practice and his compositional, collaborative, experimental and educational work. His inclination to play almost any kind of music makes it challenging to pin him down in terms of just what “kind” of musician he is. His non-conformist mindset is comfortable with this but aside from being the best brass player / musician he possibly can (which has always been goal #1), it has diverted him from extensively pursuing a specific artistic or professional direction with single-minded intensity as many artists do. He has accepted this as the inevitable result of being who he is in terms of what it has prevented him from accomplishing on some levels, but has also grabbed with both hands and fully experienced the unique artistic opportunities it has opened him up for him, both in his own creative pursuits and his desirability as collaborator for other like-minded artists.

Brad was originally classically trained, but was introduced very early in his career to the possibilities of improvised music (both classical and jazz / popular) and long ago made the crossover fully into that world, but still plays (both traditional and modern) classical music professionally when called upon to do so. Even in the improvised music world he is all over the place – he plays everything from traditional jazz to totally experimental noise (and everything in-between) with equal enthusiasm and dedication, the same with any original project he gets involved with from Vancouver's first disco revival band at one point (called "Rumplesteelskin") to off-the-wall hippie folk-art music (the "...Flying Monkeys"). He has also always worked non-professionally with visual art mediums, and bits and pieces of that have also found their way into his music work (posters, album covers, set design, costuming…). He is currently teaching himself basic web design - starting with this site.

Brad has been composing and arranging extensively since the mid-1980's for solo instruments, small jazz, classical and new-music groups and larger ensembles ranging up to 25 piece jazz orchestra and concert band – a few commissions, but mostly for the original projects he is involved with. He has also worked extensively as a music copyist, both independently and as a sub-contractor for Sierra Music Publications (1999 – 2002). His compositional directions include jazz / new music, classical & popular styles, multi-media and interdisciplinary practices. He has also made steps into the world of sound design, mixing & producing his own recordings and creating soundscapes and midi music.

Brad has been involved with numerous experimental interdisciplinary collaborative projects as hired musician, composer and/or Instigator or Artistic / Music Director, working with dancers, visual artists, spoken word, performance-art groups, a small amount of theatre work and even playing live for synchronized swimmers. Inter-cultural collaborations have also been a part of the mix, including African music, traditional and contemporary Chinese music, First Nations music and, of course, Latin music.

As an educator, Brad started teaching individual brass lessons in1977 to the younger players in a community band (The BC Beefeaters) and has continued with that to varying degrees since, peaking to almost full-time during the late-1990’s through the mid-2000’s. In 2007 he started teaching elementary band classes and allowed the private work to taper off. Along the way he has conducted many instrumental, band and improv/music theory clinics for local secondary schools, community bands and various band camps. He has also occasionally combined gigs in Europe with teaching some university workshops.

In 2007 he assumed directorship of the elementary school band programs contracted by the Delta Community Music School, where he is also the director of jazz studies. Brad has also become quite involved with music education and facilitation in Vancouver's downtown east side (DTES), instructing a community jazz band program since 2007 at the Carnegie Community Centre. This has led to new artistic affiliations, most notably with Vancouver Moving Theatre and the Vancouver Arts Alliance, and one offshoot group - the "Hastings Street Band". 

He was faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts from 1991 - 1998 as Assistant Program Head / Coordinator / combo instructor at the Summer Jazz Workshop and the Winter Jazz Orchestra program (1993 & 94). This work situation also brought the experience of working and performing with Don Thompson, Ken Wheeler, Muhal Richard Abrams, Norma Winstone, Pat & Joe LaBarbera, John Clayton, Anthony Braxton, Chucho Valdes, Robin Eubanks, Keith Copeland and more.

He has produced independent educational workshop programs as well, notably the Vancouver / Victoria International Jazz Orchestra Workshops (VIJOW: 1995 – 2000 / co-founded & produced with Hugh Fraser), and The Renfrew Community Performance Project (RCPP: 2005 - 2010 / pictured at left).  VIJOW was an annual one-week (two-city), educational event including six nightly concerts each, that gave young and mid-career professionals from around the world the chance to work intensively with experienced veterans such as Slide Hampton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Ken Wheeler, Julian Priester, Phil Nimmons. RCPP was a summer music skills development and mentoring program for all ages that facilitated the inclusion of student compositions and general musical input into the creation of a totally original, multi-media, multi-cultural performance piece that culminated as a featured component of the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival finale.

In 2007 Brad was commissioned by the Western Front program "Sonic Playground" to build an interactive musical instrument for the 2008 Vancouver Children's Festival. He created the "Quadrabalarimbamaphone" - a four-sided polytonal percussion instrument that was a big hit with the kids. In 2009, Sonic Playground again commissioned him to create phase two, which spawned the “Rimbahouse” - a twelve foot square musical house structure covered in recycled and new sound-making materials that interactively housed the "rimbamaphone".

Select Discography

BM4+ OLD / IN / OUT / NEW (The Brad Muirhead Quartet plus guests) 2017 / Suppressed Anthems (Santa Lucia) 2011 / Animal Tales (NOW Orchestra) 2009 / Who Hears? (Koan) 2009 / Foreward Motion (Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra) 2006 / Bonehenge (Hugh Fraser) 2004 / Ignition (Primal orbit) 2002 / Big Works (VEJI) 2002 Rub Harder (Hard Rubber Orchestra) 2002 / E (VEJI) 2001 / The Shadowgraph Series (George Lewis / NOW Orchestra) 2001 / Orquestra Goma Dura Live (Hard Rubber Orchestra) 2000 / WOWOW (New orchestra Workshop) 1999 / V (VEJI) 1999 / Cruel Yet Fair (Hard Rubber Orchestra) 1998 / Laconda Rift (BRASS ROOTS) 1994 / BRASS ROOTS 1992 / Hacienda (Francois Houle Etc.) 1992 / VEJI NOW 1990 Classic VEJI 1985 / VEJI 1980

Inter-disciplinary performance works of note where Brad has had a leadership role

A couple of “oldies”:

"City On The Edge” 1988(?) Vancouver Art Gallery Courtyard: composer / performer (collaboration with Kokoro Dance) - created one segment of an interdisciplinary installation with musicians and dancers occupying various locations on large installation structure.

“Popping The Quiff” 1997 – Roundhouse Theatre: composer / musical director (collaboration with Kokoro Dance) - sixty-minute interdisciplinary piece including eleven musicians, eight professional artists (painters), eleven dancers (Kokoro), five First Nations drummer/dancers. The musicians situated around the room, Kokoro dancers roaming, First Nations dancers in the middle on a low stage, the four outer walls covered with paper – visual artists painted to the music, audience mingled freely and joined in the painting.

More recent:

“The Quadrabalarimbamaphone” 2008 – Vancouver Children’s Festival (collaboration with Martin Fisk) - conceived, designed and built a four-sided marimba-like educational playground instrument for “Sonic Playground” (a Western Front Music project). Installation for open public use and daily performances - it has been featured in several other community festivals since (now decommissioned and graces Brad's back yard as the coolest patio table in town)

“Crossing Oceans” 2008 – Shadbolt Centre for the Arts: co-producer / performer - a collaborative concert with the “New World Orchestra” (Jin Zhang conductor) and “Zelia” (traditional Ukrainian vocal group).

"Pulse To The Podium" aka “Pool Noodles” 2009 – Renfrew Community Pool: composer / Musical Director Not a major work but absolutely must be mentioned as a career highlight due to its unusual and hilariously irreverent nature. It was a pre-Olympics collaboration with Carmen Rosen for Renfrew Community Centre (funded by the Cultural Olympiad) - a forty-five minute performance piece with Koan (Brad's Chinese jazz band) playing the music at poolside for a choreographed aquatic show featuring synchronized swimmers and a chorus of ladies in fancy bathing caps from the nearby Chinese senior's centre floating/paddling around on their pool-noodles (somewhat randomly – their regular fitness activity), framing two opera singers (in full costume), one on “shore” the other “adrift” (in distress) on a kiddie-pool raft , being menaced by inflated sharks (animated by young swimmers) – high tongue-in-cheek drama (including some light burlesque)… totally surreal and somewhat satirical of all the Olympics “hooplah”, but mostly just good chlorinated fun – thoroughly enjoyed by all.

“The Rimba House” 2010 – Roundhouse Community Centre / David Lam Park - Another Sonic Playground project (collaboration with Martin Fisk) - conceived, designed and built a large (12’ x 12’) wooden “house” frame covered with percussive objects (mostly recycled metal objects), to “house” and augment / compliment & add cacophony to the Rimbamaphone. It was featured at the 2010 and 2012 Vancouver Jazz Festival. Included some assistance with design concepts from the Roundhouse After-School Care Program.

“Trisurgence” 2011 – The Ukrainian Hall: Artistic Director / composer / performer - A Vancouver 125 celebration project - brought together Koan, The Renfrew-Collingwood Aboriginal Youth Canoe Club (RCAYCC) song circle (with guests), the New World Chinese Orchestra and the Hua Yi Chinese Community Choir in two concerts presented by the Heart Of The City Festival.

“What’s The Idea?” 2012 – Victory Square: composer / Artistic Director / Conductor - Produced by Dancing On The Edge Festival - twenty-two musicians (horn players), five placed in each corner of Victory square / two percussion and conductor in the centre. Music composed to interact (including improvisation) with the ambient sounds of the surrounding city streets. Eight dancers moving throughout the park in a structurally choreographed, improvised movement piece (choreographed by Farley Johanssen).

Educational Program Work:

The Banff Centre For The Arts: Summer Jazz Workshop  1991 - 1998: Coordinator / Assistant Program Head / teaching faculty - a four-week jazz intensive for post-secondary (and beyond) international students.

The Banff Centre For The Arts: Jazz Orchestra Workshop  1993 - 1994: Coordinator / musician - a one-week large ensemble program for International professional musicians.

The Vancouver / Victoria International Jazz orchestra Workshop(s)  1995 – 2000: Independent Producer, Coordinator, Publicist etc… (all production) / musician - a one-week large ensemble programs for international professional musicians including production of six concerts in each city.

Delta Community Music School (DCMS) 2003 – present: Elementary (independent) school band program director / Director of Jazz programs - started with DCMS as a clinician for the summer jazz camp (all ages) in 2003 / became full-time faculty in 2007 / Artistic Director in 2014 / directing the weekly jazz combo classes (all ages) since 2012. Took over the elementary school band program in 2008

The Renfrew Community Performance Project (RCPP)  2005 – 2010: Independent Producer, Artistic Director, Lead Faculty, composer/arranger - a two-week summer music camp for musicians of all ages and levels of experience - focusing on technique, compositional/improvisational skills, ensemble playing. Created a 45 minute set of original music each year, including student compositions.

The Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival  2005 – present: Musical Director - an annual choreographed outdoor multimedia performance (music, movement, fire spinning, fireworks) featuring the music created by RCPP (music by the Carnegie Jazz band since 2011)

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Carnegie Community Centre: community jazz band program  2007 – presentProgram Director , conductor, composer, arranger - a weekly (adult) community jazz ensemble class in Vancouver's downtown east side for all levels of experience, and the Hastings Street Band - a mobile jazz band in the Mardi Gras style.