Born and raised in New York City,
Brett Laquercia lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side all his life until 2004,
when he moved to Dallas, TX for the birth of his daughter. A “dyed in the
wool” New Yorker, moving to Dallas was a culture shock. But Brett is a totally devoted father, and has been raising his daughter since birth as a single dad in Dallas with no family there.
The Early Years
Brett began singing and playing
bongos almost as soon as he could talk and walk. He was a singer and bongo
player from the age of 3. Manhattan in
the early ‘70’s was alive with the sound of congas and bongos echoing throughout
the city, especially around Central Park.
The City was a rough and run-down town, but music
was everywhere: the parks, the
streets, the subways... Brett’s mother
was always singing to him. Show tunes,
jazz standards, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Marvin Gaye. The original Broadway production of the Wiz
and its soundtrack hold deep significance in the collective
memory of the Laquercia home and to this day is an emotional experience to
listen to. Brett's father Ted, was the high school Principal of the singer Stephanie Mills, the star of the Wiz, and Brett met her backstage.
In the early 1980s Brett made his
first public performance as a singer in high school at New Lincoln School in
Manhattan, singing Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” At that time
he also studied acting and music at the Neighborhood Playhouse
and piano with the concert pianist and composer Paul Sheftel, who performed
with the Berlin and Amsterdam Philharmonics, The
Chicago Symphony and New York's leading concert halls including Town Hall,
Alice Tully Hall, and Merkin Hall. Sheftel also served on the
faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, and The Julliard
School. He also been piano
editor for Carl Fischer. Also in the 80's Brett received
private voice training from the former Juilliard teacher, "Madame"
Solarz, and in the '90s and early '00s he trained as a jazz vocalist with
Claudia Catania, a Metropolitan Opera and Broadway singer/actress, as well as the
vocal coach Ted Muzio. Brett also studied jazz vocals regularly for years
at the Barry Harris
workshops in NYC.
Brett began playing drums, while
also a lead singer in a NYC jam band at age 15.
He picked up and taught himself the electric bass at age 19. He still plays the first bass he ever owned, which he
bought for $100 in 1986: a 1960 Gibson EB-0.
Throughout these early years Brett
was in and out of long-term health challenges that found him literally fighting
for his life. At the age of 4, a
playground injury led to a severe Staph infection. The infection dislocated his hip and landed
him in the hospital for 3 months, in a body cast, in an isolation room. He survived, and in time, through Kindergarten
and First Grade, made his way from wheelchair, to crutches, to a brace, and back
to a normal life. Then at the age of 10,
he was stricken with Ulcerative Colitis, a painful and often disabling disease
that progressively worsened and nearly took his life again, until a radical
surgery that cured him. Brett had other health
challenges ahead, some stemming from those childhood maladies, but he gratefully came
through them all with the help of his dedicated parents, Carole and Ted, and still has a lot of music to make…
Brett sang as a baritone in the
Hunter College Choir for two years, and in the Hunter College Jazz Band for one
year. He was also the Bassist for Hunter
College's student-lounge house Rock and Roll band in 1991. During this
time Brett played in a small, short-lived project called "Side III"
where Brett played on the stage at the famed (and now defunct) Village Gate
on Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The Village Gate over the years had featured such
musicians as John Coltrane
, Billie Holiday
, Dizzy Gillespie
, Bill Evans
, Nina Simone
and Aretha Franklin
In 1993 and 1994 Brett was the Bassist and a singer with a successful original rock band called "The Tao," performing in
bars and clubs all over Manhattan. From 1995-1997 Brett was the Singer
and Bass guitarist in a successful acoustic blues and rag duo in NYC called
"Brett and Me," playing the music of Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, Howlin'
Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, etc. They were regulars at the historic (now
defunct) Ludlow Street Cafe on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and also at
O'Flaherty's, a mainstay on Manhattan's Restaurant Row in the Theater District. Brett later briefly had his own
rock, soul, R&B and funk band in Manhattan.
In his last project in NYC Brett was
the lead male vocalist in the Motown-inspired group "Hitsville," a
ten-piece band with three horns, playing regularly at Le Bar Bat, the Lions
Head on Bleecker Street, and other long-established NYC venues. Hitsville
was led by the late Bill Bennett, the founder of the pioneering Off Wall Street Jam
. Hitsville was Bennett's personal project.
Brett Laquercia leads his group, from duos to large bands including multiple soloists such as horns and vibraphones. The group plays publicly in finer restaurants, lounges, clubs, and privately for weddings, corporate and private events.
Brett grew up in an incredibly hip
musical home. His mother and biological father went to Woodstock. Brett's parents were also the original Mambo Kings, Latin dancers
from the “Palladium days” with Tito Puente, Machito, Jose Curbelo, Cal Tjader,
Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, etc. Brett's mom is from Queens, and his
dad is from Brooklyn. Brett's dad was a Latin and ballroom dance
instructor back in the day, and his mother auditioned on Broadway.
Brett's Grandfather Jack (Leroy) Gottesman was an internationally touring Vaudevillian. Brett's mother and daughter are both singers with beautiful voices.
As a child, Brett would sit on the
living room floor exploring the record jackets while the albums spinning on the
turntable were Aretha Franklin's "Young Gifted and Black," Stevie
Wonder's "Innervisions" and "Talking Book," Al Green's
"Let's Stay Together," Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," many
albums by Ray Charles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, early Chicago, Carol King, Paul
Simon, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Phoebe Snow,
Latin jazz legends Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader, Gershwin's
Rhapsody in Blue and many others, and an endless incredible, long list of jazz,
soul, funk, R&B and Pop artists. The Broadway production of The Wiz and
it's musical score were also well worn in the household.
Brett's other musical influences
include: Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Billy Preston, Sly and the
Family Stone, Leon Russell, Donnie Hathaway, Mose Allison, Billie Holiday, Ella
Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horn, Sara Vaughn, Tony Bennett, Jimmy
Witherspoon, Vince Guaraldi, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, the Grateful
Dead, Otis Redding, Elton John, Freddy King, Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers,
Howlin' Wolf, and so many more.