Russell Gunn 

Trumpeter blows his soul into the jazz scene

Russell Gunn strides onto the stage at Churchill Grounds, puts his trumpet to his lips, and starts blowing Charlie Parker's "Au Privave." The bebop standard is not Gunn's usual fare. For the past two weeks, his gigs have revolved around an amalgamation of hip-hop and jazz, a form Gunn conceptualized as a kid in St. Louis. But tonight, his straight-ahead chops shine.

"You have to play in this medium if you want to maintain any connection to the tradition," 36-year-old Gunn says.

His steady Thursday night performances at Churchill Grounds and his presence at jam sessions around town, such as a Monday night show at the Star Jazz and Blues Lounge in Castleberry Hill, allow him to hone his concept without getting pigeon-holed into one genre.

"If I did the same thing every time, it would get boring," he says. Gunn transfers the need for something new to other musicians around town and amateur artists who occasionally join him on the bandstand.

"To me, it's all about experience, because people let me play when I couldn't play," he says. "When you can barely play and people give you an opportunity, you can grow from that."

In April, Gunn returns to the studio to record Love Stories, his take on love songs without the saccharine sentiments found in smooth jazz tunes. But for now, he remains at Churchill Grounds every week, trying to unite the city's music community – jazz players, hip-hop musicians and whoever else shows up.

"Almost every musician in Atlanta has played with me here at one point," Gunn says. "I get all these cats in here, trying to make a real motherfucking scene."

Catch Russell Gunn's Bionic nearly every Thursday at Churchill Grounds, 660 Peachtree St. $5. 9:30 p.m. 404-876-3030. www.churchillgrounds.com.

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