Pizzarelli, mesmerized, remained glued to the stage for two sets.
“It was a total surprise,” said Pizzarelli, whose father is the celebrated jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. “My dad later heard her and goes, ‘You hear this girl play trumpet? She’s unbelievable.’ ”
Her appeal also led jazz authority Will Friedwald to rhapsodize in his Wall Street Journal music column last year, “Bria Skonberg looks like a Scandinavian angel (or Thor’s girlfriend), plays trumpet like a red hot devil, and sings like a dream.”
He left out that Skonberg can also hula-hoop while playing her horn but, really, why brag on her? “It just takes practice,” she said recently over the phone, “and maybe a little sangria.”
Skonberg, who will perform April 20 at the DC Lindy Exchange at Glen Echo Park’s Spanish Ballroom, is resting on the precipice of wider recognition. At age 29, she was nominated earlier this month by the Jazz Journalists Association for its up-and-coming artist of the year award.
Her two CDs convey an eclectic free spirit. She had an impassioned feel for chestnuts such as “I’ll Never Be the Same,” and her versatile repertoire also includes a jazzed up version of the Cardigans’ ’90s alt-rock hit “Lovefool” and a sly interpretation of Janis Joplin’s satiric gospel about material desire, “Mercedes Benz.” She remodeled “Come On-a My House” — the quasi-Armenian folk song popularized by Rosemary Clooney in 1951 — with what she called a “swampy groove.”
Skonberg, who likes to reimagine older jazz songs through a modern prism, once interpreted the 1920s stomper “King of the Zulus” as a collaboration between Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix. To make the effect work, she attached to her trumpet bell a wireless, clip-on microphone connected to a guitar-effects pedal and created a distorted sound reminiscent of the influential 1960s guitarist.
“Some of the ideas I’ve had over the years, I just thought it would be funny,” she said. “I played in ska bands and like all kinds of music. People hear traditional jazz and think it’s stale, where there are so many ways it can be opened up. With New Orleans and old-time grooves, there’s no limit in what can be done with that. I want to break the stereotype of what traditional jazz is.”
From her home in Brooklyn, she tours like a dervish — popping up at clubs, festivals and jazz clinics around North America — and has accompanied on stage and in recordings widely admired performers including Pizzarelli, composer and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and her mentor, the trumpeter Warren Vache.