Bryan Carter Embraces Jazz Freedom at Pride: Juilliard Musician’s Queer Music Night Honors Jazz Legacy – Qmmunity

In 2019, after discovering there were no Pride events at major New York jazz venues, the Juilliard-educated musician Bryan Carter took matters into his own hands. With the help of friends, what started as a simple night of jazz and LGBTQ+ celebration became the show Jazz to Pride..

Jazz at Pride 2022 in New York (Photo by Perry Bindelglass)

Now headed to Austin on August 11, Jazz at Pride continues what began just two years ago with even more flair and orchestral flair. On the program, not only spins on the greats of traditional jazz like Duke Ellington but also dancing interpretations of artists like Shania Twain and Celine Dion. “There’s nothing I hate more than going to sit in a jazz club and everyone’s quiet and buttoned up,” Carter says. “Like, that’s not what music is about. Music is made to be danced to.” Jazz you can twerk to, a phrase Carter coined in an interview with ABC News, exemplifies this upcoming show’s attitude toward the genre. “There’s nothing wrong with twerking to jazz,” he says. “It’s dance music. It’s party music.

Bryan Carter (Courtesy of Bryan Carter)

But performance is only one element of the Jazz at Pride program that Carter is developing. The Other Piece is a newly formed non-profit organization focused on providing more education and representation to make music and orchestra venues safer for young gay men across the country. “When I was 16, I didn’t know any queer jazz musicians,” Carter recalls of his own experiences as a young, closeted artist. Attending Juilliard threw him into an even more austere environment, where, unlike the divisions of classical music, dance and theater, Carter did not find the same acceptance of a myriad of sexualities and genders. “We’re really trying to let the next generation know you’re not alone,” he says. “You are here, [and] We are here for you. You can be there for each other.

In the wake of Jazz at Pride, Carter says he found that many of the more toxic attitudes he first encountered began to improve. “I think it’s steadily improving, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” he says, adding that “it’s just about making people aware of the consequences of their words and actions. . Once you do this, [the homophobia] naturally dissipates in a way, you know. It feels a little bit better. »

This steady improvement includes not only a reduction in homophobic language, but also a growing community of openly gay musicians like Carter himself, nurtured by safe spaces like Jazz at Pride. “For me, creating a safe space is about creating a space where everyone feels free to be themselves,” he says. “Our show’s tagline is: Jazz is Freedom. Pride is Freedom. For Carter, any lack of authenticity can be immediately noticed with a jazz-like style of improvisation and conversation.” It’s really hard to hide part of who you are, part of your soul, from the public,” he says.

Rather than hiding these parts of himself because of conflict, Carter takes the same approach as if another member of the band were playing a piece he disagreed with: keep playing against the other. musician until he finds a point of resolution in the dissonance. . Finding the right break notes is, in Carter’s experience, the very nature of homosexuality and of jazz itself. With Jazz at Pride performances and non-profit work, he seeks to retain the freedom core of jazz. “It’s always been music that pushes boundaries and makes people think, pushes people out of their comfort zone,” Carter explains. “So I don’t really think what we’re doing is anything new. We are simply continuing the heritage and tradition of what jazz really is.


Jazz at Pride takes place Thursday, August 11 at 7 p.m. at Skybox on the 6th and is the official launch event for Austin Pride 2022. Find tickets and more information at jazzatpride.ticketbud.com.