The trumpet reverberated across the park.
If you followed the sound of the music, it would take you to the top of the Dolores Park Stairs. There, you would find Karl Bryant, 45, basking in the morning sun with his shirt and shoes off. He was playing a medley of Victor Scherzinger’s and Johnny Mercer’s “I Remember You,” Anita Baker’s rendition of “Summertime” and one of his own songs that he’s still working on.
“You hear a bird singing or someone saying something, I can make a melody out of it. And then I kind of just add rhythm to it,” Bryant explained.
Music has been part of Bryant’s life since his childhood, growing up in the South Side of Chicago.
“There was a time where I grew up in my neighborhood … where artists were all around, constantly. You could go anywhere and you would see a guitarist, you would see a flutist, you would see drummers. It was prevalent, because people weren’t bogged down by the state. Period,” Bryant said.
When he was around six or seven, Bryant was visiting his relatives in Indiana and asked if he could take home their trumpet. His grandmother, a nurse and caretaker in her community’s church, was the first person who taught him how to play. His father later taught him the importance of practice and discipline.
But Bryant’s father wasn’t always part of his life growing up. His parents divorced when he was three years old, and his father moved to the Fillmore District in San Francisco.
Around 15, Bryant learned about the history of San Francisco from reading atlases. It was a combination of his Chicago upbringing, his father’s presence in San Francisco and the city’s history that made Bryant move to the city in 1992.
“San Francisco is deeply rooted in a lot of experimentation,” Bryant said.
From the Barbary Coast to Maya Angelou to Carlos Santana, the city’s history of counterculture and experimentation speaks to Bryant.
“When I was 16, I used to see stars all the time on the buses and Muni, just going out sightseeing, because they knew the poignancy of San Francisco,” Bryant said. “That’s what attracted me to San Francisco.”
You can find Bryant continuing the legacy of experimentation around Dolores Park, the lower Haight and Hayes Valley, or every Sunday at Cafe International from 12 to 4 p.m.