Who is Brave Sound?
Zhang started out listening to Dexter Gordon while mowing lawns and playing Deep Ellum bars by night. He left his Texas hometown to study at the Manhattan School of Music where he met his mentors: Jaleel Shaw, Stefon Harris, John Riley, and Wynton Marsalis. Since then he’s been able to share the stage with giants of this music: Terri Lyne Carrington, Wycliffe Gordon, Lynn Seaton, and others. In 2019, Zhang immersed himself into music technology and co-founded Brave Sound Productions. Further information here.
In addition to his work at Brave Sound, you can find Mike behind the drums at notable NYC venues including Dizzy’s Club, Kitano Jazz, Tomi Jazz and the 55 Bar. In 2019, was also chosen by Jazz at Lincoln Center to share the stage with Erica Von Kleist in Whitefish, Montana for a MLK memorial concert, in which he had the opportunity to work with high school students in her program as well as perform alongside her in a state-wide broadcasted radio performance. Further information here.
Why does Brave Sound exist?
Jazz is America’s least popular genre of music (1.4% marketshare in 2015). There are many reasons for this decline but perhaps the largest contributor is this modern reality: If It Doesn’t Exist on the Internet, It Doesn’t Exist.
Our music’s entire history and essence is about the clubs: horns in your face, hardly enough space, and beer stains all over the place. A music of beautiful imperfection. Unfortunately, this is just not the ideal environment for making content for the internet. So we’ve ended up with mountains of poorly-lit, trashy sounding cell phone videos scattered across the interwebs of our music’s greatest talents. Videos that have no hope of competing with more popular genres that have video production teams, animators, dancers, etc. With notable exceptions, we’ve essentially become digitally irrelevant to all but our most dedicated followers, which as it turns out is mostly just younger, aspiring jazz musicians…
But what about our amazing history of studio recordings? Surely, we can continue the traditions of Rudy Van Gelder, Francis Wolff, and Teo Macero in crafting beautiful documentations of our music, right? The problem here is that the recording business model has failed. Since Napster, then iTunes, and now Spotify/Apple Music have made it nearly impossible for smaller artists to profit from their recorded output, record companies have stopped funding these projects. It is now on the artists, themselves, to self-fund their recordings. This is a massive shift as the very business model that sustained this music for decades has just ceased to function. To make matters worse, we can’t just churn out high-quality jazz recordings from our bedrooms like thousands of pop music producers do everyday; the practical, sonic, and equipment demands of recording a 3-6+ piece jazz band are just too much in most cases. Jazz musicians end up spending anywhere from $3k to $20k+of their own money to make an album that they don’t even expect anyone to actually purchase. What more, many venues expect artists to have a recent record out before they even consider booking them, so these records essentially become exorbitantly expensive business cards. These are the issues Brave Sound was created to address.
Then COVID happened. Where before at least a lucky group of top musicians was able to pull together a living from their gigs and other sources, now even that group has had to re-evaluate their livelihood. Musicians are hurting.
Venues are closed, many for good. Touring has halted globally. Even Broadway and corporate events are off-limits.
The jazz and improvising community is left to either fully embrace digital distribution or face some serious hardship. Some have been finding ways to cope marvelously, the Jazz Gallery‘s Lockdown Sessions, Dan Tepfer‘s incredible Jacktrip Concerts, and many more.
What does Brave Sound do?
Mike and Austin started Brave Sound to preserve, give platform to, and foster community around NYC’s creative and improvised music scene.
Our mission is to help NYC’s improvised music community take our live performance-based art and package it in new ways that are cost-effective, competitive, and distributable in our modern times.
We do so by:
1. Embracing incredible technology (virtual instruments and JackTrip) that allows us to make studio-quality LIVE recordings with minimal microphones, massively lower cost, and minimal acoustical/isolation concerns.
2. Providing free and low-cost marketing, photography, and content creation services for NYC improvising composers and musicians.
3. Curating and documenting a beautiful selection of music and these musicians’ stories through our YouTube channel and the Brave Sound Podcast.