Brian McCarthy with Sax

 Brian McCarthy Achieves Stellar Reviews While Producing Two Albums in One Year
by Wesley Butler

For 19 years, Brian McCarthy has been a quadruple threat in the world of jazz. Not only is he a talented saxophonist who serenades sold-out concerts and bring an audience to their feet, but he’s dedicated a considerable portion of his career to educating aspiring recording artists, musicians and instrumentalists who wish to follow in his footsteps.

 One thing that sets him apart from other jazz musicians is his sampling of high-quality instruments and accessories. An official Conn-Selmer and Selmer-Paris artist (musical instrument manufacturing companies recognized for partnering with industry professionals), McCarthy has performed with the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Each classification comes with its own unique horn, mouthpiece and ligature (an accessory used for tightly winding or binding a saxophone).

Born, raised and currently living in Vermont, McCarthy attended William Paterson University in New Jersey to obtain his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies/Performance, and subsequently earn a Master of Music in Jazz Composition/Arranging.

Since graduating from his master’s program, he’s built a solid foundation for himself in the music industry. His musical accomplishments range from collaborations and live performances with household names such as Wynton Marsalis, Ray Vega, Kenny Garrett and Frank Wess; the release of a critically-acclaimed album “This Just In” in 2013; and arranging original music for Kenny Garrett and Mulgrew Miller for Big Band.

McCarthy’s mission is to expand and cultivate an appreciation for jazz, especially for young musicians starting their careers. He works as a faculty member and course instructor of new saxophone at the University of Vermont, and is the director of bands at Saint Michael’s College, a private Christian college in Colchester, Vermont.

Student success is of utmost importance to McCarthy, mainly igniting perpetual motion in a learner. “Every time a student discovers a connection to the music, there is sort of a “lightbulb” moment when they begin to see and feel the benefits of this art,” he commented. “Doesn’t matter if it’s engineering major taking my Jazz History class or a performance major in private lessons; that’s success.”

With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign raising $3,536, McCarthy released “Codex,” a full-length album, in November 2017. A series of nine tracks, each spanning about five to eight minutes in length, “Codex” features McCarthy on both alto and soprano saxophone, Justin Kauflin on piano, Evan Gregor on bass, and Jared Schonig on drums. McCarthy’s choice was to experiment using different classifications of saxophone and musical instruments in general.

Codex Album Cover


The creation of “Codex” was a good moment to explore and pay tribute to influential people and memories. A codex is an ancient form of binding a manuscript into a book, so the idea of this album is like an impression in McCarthy’s personal history.

From the first minute of “Commonplace,” the first track, a sense of calmness is presented to the listener. It gives the illusion that an audience is sitting in a café enjoying the talents of a live band. By the time we reach the third track “Miller Time,” the musical energy is more vibrant than it was before. McCarthy focuses on playing higher notes on the saxophone, and the piano takes a backseat to make room for it.

Overall, jazz music means the world to McCarthy. To him, this genre is about people showcasing their intelligence and energy for the betterment of humanity, that he sees as true “better angels of our nature,” one of the major themes of his nonet album sharing the same name.

Album Cover: The Better Angels of Our Nature

    Released June 16 2017 under Truth Revolution Records, Brian McCarthy’s nonet “The Better Angels of our Nature” is a collection of superb tracks with themes of personal and political freedom in a divisive America. He channels jazz roots from the Civil War-era and incorporates them into modern-day techniques used in the genre. These vintage wartime folk songs, especially “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” “Battle Hymn of the New Republic,” and “Shiloh,” serve as a fantastic opening act. “The Better Angels of Our Nature” was well received with  a 4.5 star review in downbeat Magazine- “…a jazz album that makes a cavernous impression for its arresting beauty and conceptual brilliance…” and a 4 star review in “All About Jazz.” Not only did it receive recognition in newspapers and magazines all over the country but “The Better Angels of Our Nature” was listed in both Downbeats Magazine and Huffington Post’s  “Best of 2017!”

“Jazz, especially now, is an art form that people continue to devote their lives to creating and preserving,” McCarthy said. “It was formed in the darkest fires America has ever created, and through this perseverance of all those responsible for creating and evolving the music, jazz is one of the strongest and most beautiful creation of humanity.”

Check out Brian McCarthy’s music on his official website: Follow him on Twitter at @BmackJazz.