A finalist in the 2018 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for their song “One Provision”, Big Brooklyn’s original compositions, as well as their adaptations of klezmer, jazz, and rock standards, captivate audiences with a unique depth of passion in expressive melodies and harmonies, touching on on the inseparable exultation and pathos of the klezmer sound, all interwoven over a fabric of jazz and groove. Bridging jazz, klezmer, rock, and groove, this five-piece group carries a progressive yet inviting presence, exploring beautiful melodies while defining new boundaries.
Big Brooklyn was formed in 2014 by Willie and Melody Dornfeld. Having both been involved in music for a long time, they wanted to create a group where they took freedom to write music they love, that spoke to their hearts, that was passionate and all-out, and which brought together different styles in which they had been immersed. Melody Dornfeld began classical music studies at a young age, studying with Dr. Ramon Kireilis, principal clarinetist of the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra, and later the esteemed and highly-recorded Andrew Marriner, principal clarinetist of the London Symphony Orchestra and of The Academy of St. Martin in the Field. In high school she took first place in the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Young Artists’ Competition, being noted by the Colorado Springs Gazette for “the depth of emotion” with which she played. Her love of music continued to flourish at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music where she first met Willie and took first place in the Lamont Honors Competition, performing as a soloist with the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. She was also awarded the Lamont School of Music’s “Junior Recital of the Year” award, was named the University of Denver’s 2000-2001 Presser Scholar as the outstanding junior musician of the year, and graduated as the University of Denver’s Most Outstanding Senior in Performance. While her classical studies expanded and enhanced her technical skills, Melody yearned for another level of freedom of expression and creativity. She began studying jazz improvisation at Lamont with Lynn Baker. During her junior year she attended a klezmer performance given by a clarinetist and made a soul-connection. Feeling an instant and providential connection, she undertook a Partners In Scholarship Research Project titled “The Art of Klezmer Music” where she travelled internationally, attended camps, and studied with internationally renowned klezmer and jazz clarinetist, David Krakauer.
Music has always been a magnet for Willie Dornfeld. He studied with New England’s in-demand drummer Ric Hadad and spent countless hours of time in deep connection practicing, performing, and venturing through rock, blues, and funk with some his favorite buddies in early years. While resonating with rock and blues, he was also growing in his love of and skills in jazz. Willie headed to Colorado and studied with Mike Marlier, Paul Romaine, and John Kinzie earning his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies Performance from the University of Denver. Willie has played in numerous venues and theatres throughout Colorado, traveling up and down the front range, playing in mountain ski towns, and logging studio time.
Big Brooklyn is named after a cliff on an inactive granite quarry in Branford where Willie and his friends spent many hours swimming while growing up. And, yes, it was big! The Colorado-based band began to take shape as Willie and Melody were joined by other fantastic musicians. Tenor sax player Luke Soasey joined them first, an amazing student of sax, well-versed in jazz, and an active performer. Luke studied with many teachers, including John Gross, Rob Scheps, Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Allan Jones, Bob Mover, David Valdez, David Friesen, Stefon Harris, among others. Aaron Summerfield joined next, a masterful guitarist, comfortable in any genre, from playing a sweet ballad to soloing in free and chaotic sections, and able to play passionately while instantly technically navigating the simple and the complex. Aaron earned his Masters of Music degree at the University of Denver where he was the jazz department’s “Outstanding Graduate Student.” Aaron is a full-time active performer, composer, and college music educator in Denver, Colorado. Finally, Jo Asker joined the group on bass. Jo earned his Master of Music in double bass performance from Colorado State University and performs widely in the classical and jazz worlds with such groups as the Erik Bowen Trio, the Twirling Zucchini Trio, the Mood Elevators, the Modern Art Duo, the Palouse Choral Society Festival Orchestra, the Idaho Bach Festival Orchestra, the Mood Elevators, the Twirling Zucchini Trio, Mark Sloniker, and many more. Jo is also a music educator, teaching double bass at two different colleges.
While thriving in live performance, Big Brooklyn released their first album, Purpose,this year, having the opportunity to work with Denver’s master recording engineer, Colin Bricker at Mighty Fine Productions, who has also recorded artists such as Ron Miles, Brian Blade, Bill Frisell, and Dave Liebman. Their music has been well-received.
“Serious talent in an eclectic and unique package.” -Avogadro’s Number, Live Music Venue
“With a sound that laughs and sobs at the same time, Dornfeld on clarinet is a master of nuance. Her reed is her tongue, joy is her language and this CD as a collaboration of these outstanding musicians is a supernova.” –Debbie Burke, Jazz Author/Journalist
“The clarinet is used incredibly well, and both hits notes spot on and deliberately slinks up to them, showing very different techniques and lip control, adding a slightly laid back feel. “Lazy Environment” is worth many listens for Melody Dornfield’s [sic] clarinet playing, let alone the rest of Big Brooklyn. Sumptuous.” –Sammy Stein, Jazz Reviewer, Something Else Reviews