“I love first takes” said Linda Breceño the moment we finished the first take of the standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is” with Eugenii Zelikman on keys. Breceño, who’s originally from Venezuela, revels in the spontaneity of the initial recording. Linda’s trumpet playing and vocal talents mimic each other in their subtle assertiveness. During solos, she holds back until just the right moment to swell into a crescendo of lyrical phrases, taking the listener by surprise. I spoke to Linda after she played her original song “Creo en Ti” (I Believe in You) to learn about her musical journey from her home country to The New School.
How does your home country inform your music making?
I started playing trumpet in a musical program called El Systema. I started when I was really young [being] involved with classical music … In Venezuela, it was a very important starting point for me because I had the chance to play so many different genres such as jazz, pop music and classical music and all these things started being the blend that makes me who I am today.
How did you find your way to The New School?
A good friend of mine from Venezuela, he moved to New York and started studying at CUNY and then he changed to The New School. He told me he was having such a great time being here at The New School. I got interested in applying for it. And I got a full scholarship to come here … I wasn’t scared of taking that big step [because] you know, it’s a big city. I am really happy I got the opportunity to do that and I never regret [it] because it’s been an amazing journey being here at school.
Who are three artists that really inspire you, who you connect to the most?
Nina Simone is one of my favorite artists. I feel like more than having a very strong voice and more than being an amazing composer and interpreter… she was a huge figure in the civil rights movement as an activist which I can relate a lot [to]. Because I write a lot of music about political systems, I write a lot of protest songs. I like to be an activist through music because as she [Nina Simone] said ‘we have to reflect somehow the times that we are living in’. So, that’s what I want to do with my music. That’s why I like her.
The second one I love is Mahler. He’s a wonderful composer of the 20th century. Everything that he has done has inspired me somehow. I know that I don’t write big pieces like he does, but he has been a part of my journey.
I would love to say Chet Baker. He’s a huge inspiration for me because he was an amazing trumpet player [and] he also was an amazing singer. He has these two things that I can rely on.
What are three records are you listening to currently?
I’ve been listening a lot to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” with strings. It’s a beautiful record that Vince Mendza did with her and it’s [just] an amazing record.
The second record is [anything by] Laura Mvula, she’s an amazing new composer. I love her.
I will say, I always go back to the classics, so why not “Kind of Blue” from Miles Davis. It never ends. I never get tired of listening to these old records.
You mentioned earlier that for your forth coming record you are taking on an “alter ego”. Can you explain the artistic process behind that?
I am creating an alter ego. I feel like I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I’ve been creating this character. It’s a character that I’m creating in order to speak about what’s happening in Venezuela right now. We’re passing through really hard times. A lot of people are going to protest against communism. You know, yesterday they killed a 17-year-old boy and a lot of young people and students are being killed by police right now. My new record and this alter ego is going to reflect all the moments where a student has fallen trying to protest for a better country. There is no food, there is no medicine right now. So it’s a liberation of Linda Breceño as a jazz trumpet player, but more it’s about a singer songwriter who wants to reflect what’s happening not only in Venezuela, [but] Latin America… A lot of things aren’t good in Latin America and in general the world. A lot of things are not OK, and I want to reflect that.
Do you have any interests outside of music?
I like film a lot. I like just being active wherever the world needs to get better. I don’t know what that means, but I like to be active and get this place better for ourselves and the next generation.