Brett Belanger (pronounced BELL-an-jer) got his first bass in seventh grade and soon found himself being recruited by his older brother to join a band. It wasn’t long before he began taking lessons and paying more attention to the bassline when he listened to music. He credits his mother and bass teacher with exposing him to such jazz influences as Jaco Pastorius.
By college he knew he wanted to follow a musical career path, and he chose to concentrate on jazz. In his second year at College of Charleston he began to play the upright bass. “It really in a lot of ways is two different instruments,” he says. “They have the same role and pitches, but they’re really quite different. I now play electric with upright technique.”
It was at College of Charleston that Belanger met bass teacher and pianist Frank Duvall, whose mentorship proved especially valuable. Duvall would play piano during lessons so that Belanger could play bass in context; and as soon as his student was ready, Duvall was calling him for gigs. “I think it’s a really unique thing to be able to play with your teacher,” says Belanger. “To be able to play a gig and then go into the practice room and talk about that.”
“I was playing with a lot of my teachers while still being in school. I really made an effort to go out and listen to everyone in town,” he says. And like many local musicians, he feels Charleston is rich with opportunities for jazz players. “Sitting in was a big thing. Playing a couple tunes for fun when I was checking someone out. I think Charleston is kind of a hidden gem in that, for a city that’s not very large, the caliber of players and the amount of those high caliber players is pretty high.”
In addition to teaching private lessons, Belanger has also been involved with Hilton Head Jazz Camp and ColaJazz Camp for several years. Find Brett Belanger on instagram at @BrettBelanger, on Facebook at facebook.com/BrettBelangerMusic, or on his podcast The B Section.