Q&A: Brian Newman
In the spring, Las Vegas only knew Brian Newman as a New York City musician serving as Lady Gaga’s bandleader for the Jazz & Piano portion of her Park Theater residency shows. After launching his own Brian Newman After Dark residency in May at Park MGM’s dramatic NoMad Restaurant and welcoming an incredible array of guest stars—including Gaga herself—the trumpeter, singer and general purveyor of a unique old-meets-new sound has created one of the Strip’s hottest hot spots. Newman’s show is back at NoMad starting at 11 p.m. on Nov. 3 & 6-9, and he’ll return at the end of the year as well.
You had a lot of fun last time you were in town. What were some of your favorite moments from the first run of Brian Newman After Dark?
I just really love the camaraderie and community of musicians from Las Vegas. Overall that’s my favorite part, and to play the kind of music we love and bring that to some great audiences.
Your show connects to an idea of the Vegas of old, that late-night lounge act where anything can happen, but you still perform your music on your terms. Is it challenging to create that kind of environment?
It’s always challenging to really grab the audience, especially in Las Vegas, but now having been there and done it, and having done this kind of show in some capacity for the past 15 years, it just feels great to bring it to Vegas. It does have that timeless, age-old feeling and at the same time we bring our own influences, whether it’s a bit of newer music or some great guests.
What changes have you made or what additions do you have planned?
The restaurant is going to offer some light bites and different cocktails and that will make it more of an experience. I’ve played many places over the years and all the ones that have been successful for a long time are the ones that have all the things—great service, nice people, all facets in a performance setting. We’re going to bring back some of our great guests like (singer) Jaclyn McSpadden and bring in some new ones, too. And my wife Angie (Pontani) is going to come out. She couldn’t make the last run but she’s one of the greatest burlesque dancers of all time and we’re really excited to have her.
And what about the next round of Lady Gaga’s Jazz & Piano shows? What can we expect there?
There are always surprises and plenty of fun stuff happening. The big thing there is just the incredible music and how we’ve arranged it for that show. I don’t want to say too much because we want everyone to be surprised, but this really is a dream come true, to be in Vegas with my own show and be able to play with her and a 30-piece orchestra. There’s nothing better for me in the world.
That different residency show seems to be really flexible and give the band and Gaga plenty of room to play around and switch things up.
Absolutely, and not to gush about her, but she’s like a jazz soloist the way she changes every night. The same way I’ll play a trumpet solo and it will be different the next night, she does that with the way she sings and the way she moves and her whole persona. It’s great to be able to see her really stretch on those jazz shows.