& FUnky GRooVEs!
BRand NEw ARranGEments MArk THe FIrst PUblic APpeaRAnce of MAami’s OWn DUo BRuBEck, FEaturing MItch FArber. At THeir LAst PRivate PErfoMAnce, They WEre SUrrouNDed By AUtogRAph SEekers! AMissiON Is FRee!
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The American Brass Quintet is comprised of:
trumpets (Kevin Cobb & Louis Hanzlik),
horn (Eric Reed), and
tenor and bass trombones (Michael Powell & John D. Rojak).
The American Brass Quintet is distinguished in so many ways. As educators, their residencies at Aspen and Juilliard alone have shaped generations of the most promising brass musicians, not to mention their innovative residencies around the globe. As preservationists of a traditional chamber music approach to brass (which more closely parallels that of a string quartet), they are unmatched. From the ABQ dedication to the more evenly matched timbres of two trumpets and two trombones as the core of a brass quintet, to their persistence in bringing new music for brass to every concert, they are the champions of art music for brass. With a bass trombonist as the bottom voice, it was perhaps natural to take advantage of brass literature from earlier historical style periods, to have done so with such detailed vigor is unprecedented. With over 150 new pieces commissioned and premiered for brass, 50 albums, countless tours, and an impressive array of current and former members, the American Brass Quintet has literally shaped the course of chamber music in America for more than half a century.
“FIVE!” tm is delighted to host the innovative American Brass Quintet as featured guests for our chamber music interview series. Our respondents are:
Eric Reed-ER, French horn (formerly of the Canadian Brass)
Michael Powell-MP, tenor trombone
John Rojak-JR, bass trombone
How would you describe the distinct musical values passed down from the ABQ founding members to the current performers?
When ABQ was founded, the members at that time made it their mission to champion music written for brass instruments and to avoid transcriptions of popular classical music, jazz, and music that had been written for other ensembles. Our current group continues that tradition which has resulted in over 150 pieces from composers of our time, as well as dozens of editions of early music adapted from music written for the predecessors of modern brass instruments. We have always known that a concert of original brass music can be entertaining and leave an audience richer for that experience. JR
How do you view the development of the Brass Quintet in the United States, and the role of the ABQ in that development?
Brass quintets started developing in the mid-20th century and all brass players owe thanks to Robert King, who published a wealth of arrangements and original pieces starting in the late 1930’s. The New York Brass Quintet made an incredible impact with their domestic touring in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, bringing serious brass chamber music to many audiences. (By the way, before Harvey Phillips played tuba with NYBQ, the bottom voice was Julius Mencken on bass trombone!) ABQ came along in 1960 and continued what NYBQ had begun, commissioning new works, touring internationally and showing brass as a viable option on chamber music series. The Eastman Brass Quintet, Annapolis Brass and other groups formed and brass music began to develop a repertoire. When the Canadian Brass changed the nature of brass music in the 1970’s, some of those ensembles had a harder time programming serious repertoire. Many groups emulated the CB model, and ABQ became more unique in the field. Currently, it seems that audiences can accept the ABQ and the CB models and young quintets have been formed that play serious rep, light rep, and a mix of styles.
ABQ’s role in brass quintet development has been long term, and we think deep rooted. ABQ has been highly influential, commissioning leading composers of our time and recording dozens of those pieces, giving audiences and performers access to brass music of Ewazen, Sampson, Druckman, and many others. We have performed on 5 continents, 50 states, and reached many thousands of people. With residencies at the Aspen Music Festival since 1970 and Juilliard since 1987, we have coached many brass players and shared our values about chamber music. Many of those students have become performers and teachers, passing on ABQ traditions to the next generations. JR
How would you describe the access to composers, musicians and cultural influences that have arisen due to your residence in New York City?
New York City is truly a melting pot of all sorts of influences. We are lucky to be rubbing shoulders with both preeminent and aspiring artists on a daily basis, and that continues to inspire us. I absolutely love the variety of experiences the city offers to artists. Just to think that for every event occurring in NYC there are at least another hundred occurring at the very same time-all with different musicians, music and composers behind the music, is truly mind-boggling. If we could only be in 100 places at once! The knowledge that other inspired creators of art are right around the corner, perhaps even on the cusp of writing the greatest brass quintet ever written, drives us to keep on our mission to find them-and to get them to write it. We are in a wonderful place to be able to do that. -ER
Adapting to different styles is arguably the most challenging for a brass chamber music due to the greater span of historical music, and the intensity with which the brass timbres were explored during the 20th century-particularly in jazz. As one of the few groups who excel at each style, how does ABQ maintain artistic integrity at such a daunting challenge?
Our artistic integrity is due to performing music written for brass quintet or the predecessors of our instruments. In early music, that means cornetti and sackbuts, or 5 part instrumental music, and in some cases, vocal music from the Renaissance. We consider our early music performances to be historically informed. We have spent time studying treatises and listening to fine examples of performances by musicians who have dedicated their careers to those styles. Contemporary music is actually easier in many ways. Composers tend to mark the score precisely how they want it heard, and better still, we can talk to them! We always spend time with composers who write for us and make sure we are representing the music as intended. JR
What is it like to tour with the ABQ? On the bus? After the concert? What have been some of your most memorable audiences?
The current members of ABQ are having a blast on tour! Our first major tour with Louis and Eric was 3 weeks in Australia. We spent a lot of time together, eating probably 80% of our meals as a group. We had some wonderful nights after concerts, but we’re a fairly conservative bunch—no wild parties or morning hangovers. We talk! We’ve had many memorable audiences and concerts, but perhaps the most moving in recent memory was in Prague shortly after 9/11. We played “Ah! dolente partita” by Monteverdi, a madrigal with text that refers to painful separation, in St. Bartholomew’s Church. The ambience of the church, the ring off of beautiful harmony, and the hushed, then warm, reception of the full house was stunning. The empathy towards us as Americans in the time following our country’s tragedy was incredibly touching. JR
The ability of brass to radically alter their timbre seems vastly superior to other acoustic instruments, and yet sometimes rarely prized. Can you address the pros and cons of mutes, and whether you think that they are under-utilized?
I’d say mutes are not under-utilized by any means in the ABQ. It’s difficult to navigate the stage setup without kicking one, and some of the trombone mutes I see on stage look like alien spacecrafts!
Indeed, there is always room for more color, it’s just a matter of how the mutes are utilized, by the composer and by the player. The trumpet players in ABQ are continuously getting new versions of similar mutes because they are shaped differently or made of a heavier material or offer different tuning options. It’s a wild world of mutes out there, and the ABQ utilizes most if not all of them. I agree, it’s an amazing thing about brass writing that mutes can so vastly alter the sound and color. The only down side that I can see is carrying the things in our luggage! -ER
What is a quintet warm-up like with the ABQ?
I have been in the ABQ for over 30 years, and there has never been a coordinated quintet warm-up. It sounds like a fine idea for a younger ensemble, however. Even when warming up independently in the same room, acceptable manners absolutely apply: Always be personally and musically polite regarding sound level, intonation, and your own passage-work connected with your warm-up. -MP
With the ABQ it is clearly all about the music, and yet the prominence of the bass trombone (certainly not to the exclusion of the tuba), often gives your ensemble a characteristic sound. How would you describe the ABQ relationship with the bass trombone, and what do you make of the trend for smaller tubas in other brass quintets?
The use of tuba in a brass quintet adds a nice roundness of sound, coupling with the conical French horn in a pleasing way. That said, it’s a bit like using a double bass in a string quartet instead of a cello; certain voicings and instrument ranges leave something to be desired in the middle of the spectrum. In the ABQ, the matching qualities of the two pairs of trumpets and trombones create a nice balance of sound timbre, which I think outweigh the sometimes deeper, rounder quality of a quintet with tuba. As for the popular use of smaller tubas in brass quintet, the often unfortunate trade-off for easier transport is a lack of full, round tuba sound mentioned above, and a wonky low-register, which begs the question, why use tuba after all? Nothing against tuba in brass quintet, it just presents more challenges, including overhead bins. We’re happy with the bass trombone for so many reasons. -ER
Describe the ABQ commitment to new music and composers. How do you find it best to bring challenging pieces before the public?
From the beginning, one leg of the ABQ’s mission is to foster new works for the genre. Having a new work embedded in a mixed program is our method of introducing our audiences to music of our time. In general, the newest work is performed at the end of the first half of the recital, after playing older, stylistically familiar works which more easily connect with many concertgoers. On tour, we always speak from the stage between works, which is undoubtedly helpful in introducing the audience to us and the music-whether old or new. -MP
Which are the chamber music groups that inspire you? We often say that a goal of the ABQ is to be on the same chamber music series as string quartets and piano trios, and I’d say we are achieving that goal in virtually every venue. In order to be fully aware of what those chamber groups bring to a series, it’s important for us to see them perform. In the last month, we’ve been fortunate to be presented alongside the American and Borromeo String Quartets at the Aspen and Cape Cod festivals, respectively. Hearing and seeing those fantastic quartets perform was truly inspiring. -ER
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
David Brubeck asked me about the trombone climate that I found myself in around the L.A. area during my time. What follows is kind of a train of events that got me where I wound up along that meandering stream in the music business. Q1. California and LA are know for innovation. From Olds to Minick, Earl Williams to Burt Herrick, Kanstul, and George Strucel, what has your involvement been with CA/LA “customizers”?
A: When i was coming up through the ranks of practicing trombone players, the norm for a bass trombonist was a single valve, Bb/F horn and an actual, not faux, “E” pull technique. After hearing George Roberts I knew I wanted to ‘play like that’ only in a Symphony setting. After using school horns for a few years, namely an Olds Ambassador, and a Reynolds Contempora, I decided to graduate to a real instrument. A guy named Si Zeldin was a local LA trombonist that had a Bach 50B bass trombone that he wanted to unload on a talented student. Somehow we got together, but he needed to hear me play to see if I was good enough for his prized Mt Vernon Bach. It was an early 50’s vintage, serial no. 1183, or something. I fooled him enough that he sold me the horn for $300, U.S., and it was a gem. This very horn solidified the tonal direction I would take for the rest of my time in the bone biz.
I’m often asked the name of my most important teacher, and I have to admit that it was that Mt. Vernon Bach 50B. My main teacher was Robert Simmergren. It wasn’t long before I was experimenting with leader pipes and mouthpieces made my local craftsmen. My first experiments were with “old-tyme” brass repairman, Burt Herrick. He was a true craftsman and made me some bass trombone lead pipes that I treasure to this day. Every one who tried these pipes loved them too and wanted to buy them from me. But no, I used one of his for decades on several different horns. Eventually, experimenting with lead pipes lead me to a collection of about 30 lead pipes of all descriptions. Burt also made mouthpieces and they were very good. I still have a trombone stand that he made in 1962 that has a cymbal stand base and after he took measurements, a mandrel turned wooden head made from a used bedpost covered with felt ( and a succession of black socks) that fits a b. trb. bell perfectly. I also had dealings with Earl Williams who made trombones in his shop in Burbank. I loved his bass trombone but it was still not as good as my old Mt. Vernon. Dick Nash played a Williams and so did Phil Teele for decades. George Strucel had a small shop right downtown L.A. He was the first of the genius-class horn builders that I was happy to have run into. I asked him to add a second valve, stacked to my Bach 50B but using only one lever. No problem. I still have the guts to that job and it worked like on a universal joint, pushing thumb straight down for F and sideways at a diagonally down for Eb (eventually D).
The most important collaboration I was involved in was with the fabled horn builder, Larry Minick. We were the same age within a week and played in the All Southern California High School Honor Band together, him on Tuba next to me on bass trombone. We were like brothers. The guy was simply a genius. He could solve any problem. About the time I meet him for the second time (since H.S.) I was already thinking about making a better mousetrap. He re-arranged Stucel’s handiwork to include 2 independent levers which, in the long run worked better. Larry was the first one to do this and the open wrap on a bass trombone. We tried all kinds of odd-ball ideas like:
Converting a Conn 60H, single valve horn into a double valve/stacked horn with no F-attachment. Huh? Yes, Bb/G/D, side by side. It really worked well fixing the resonance woes with the F attachment.
Another idea was to build a Great Bass Trombone in G. I had bought a Boosey and Hawkes G trombone while we were on tour in Manchester (UK) and got to choose from dozens of obsolete G trombones. I think I paid $100, U.S. for the horn with case and mouthpiece. But, this purchase got the ball rolling to have a lower pitched trombone that could do KontrabaB Posaune duties in the orchestra, and without a handle or double slide. So, Larry made the first of six Great Bass trombones for my perusal. It was an in-line rotor horn using Bach valves and 50B slide with custom neck pipe and hand hammered and formed, two piece soldered bell, the shape extrapolated out about 20% from the dimensions of a Bach 50B bell. With the addition of a European K-baB posaune mouthpiece it was a great instrument.
The pitches were: G/Eb/D/B and later G/D/Eb/B in first position. G, thumb D, 2nd valve E, both-C and the second set: G, thumb D, 2nd valve Eb, both-B. The horn wound up having only 6-1/2 positions, but that was enough with all the valve combinations. Only low Ab, using all the tubing the horn possessed was a little stuffy. It has a great double pedal G.
This is a clip with the Phil with Carlo Maria Giulini playing the Schumann 3rd. Part of it includes the great chorale with Ralph on his Conn Eb alto, Sonny on his 88H, and me playing the Minick G Great bass, so, 3 sizes of trombones. Editor’s note: Trombones featured at 23:20
I learned how to play this horn by practicing the Vaughn Williams Tuba concerto and it took 6 months of actual practicing to get it down so it was automatic. Before this instrument, I was locked into playing Roger Bobo’s 1909 Conn BBb, double slide, double-clutching, contra. I was never enamored of the tone as it did not sound like a trombone; it just looked like a trombone.
Larry also made a double slide contra in CC/GG for the Moravian Trombone Choir in Bethlehem which had the best sound ever of any double slide trombone. We also experimented with in-line instruments and I played the prototype valve Ed Thayer made. Because I have a wide jaw and play downhill slightly, I could never get it around my face. Too bad. I was never really happy with the constrained sound of an in-line rotor horn, even thought I owned a couple and tried like mad to make them work, all to no avail.
Spoiled by the Bach 50B, yet again.
In the meantime, after trying a lot mouthpieces, I asked Larry to make a mouthpiece to my specs. No problem. It would involve a deep, but cup shaped cup as I had had it with cone shaped cups-check; a rather wide rim for endurance -check as I had had it with cookie cutter rims; a rather tight backbone for more middle overtones coming out the bell-check. He wound up make hundreds of them. I still play one that I found on his shop floor, unplated. I asked him if I could try it and noticed it had a ding on the side of the rim-the reason it was on the floor. I played it and asked if it could be plated. No problem.
I’ve owned some famous horns over the years including a 1921 Fuchs model, tuning in the slide, Conn Bass Trombone owned by Ralph Sauer’s teacher, Bob Harper. It had a very special sound. Minick made a valve that went into the F-pull slot so as not to ruin the instrument. It was actuated by a long stem and lever. Lew Van Haney sold me a couple of his old horns including a series 1, N.Y. Bach 50 Bass trombone built as one of the first of six by Vincent Bach in 1933. The serial number was 598 or there about. The bell was only 9-1/4” across but it had that big throat. Great horn. As Harper tells the story, Vincent borrowed his 1921 Fuchs model so as to make dimensional plans for his first foray into the world of bass trombones. So this gives one the Alpha for Bach Bass Trombones.
Now a word about the instruments of the Downey Moravian Trombone Choir. This year will be 50 years since I started this strange ensemble. At the beginning, I had a Mirafone Soprano; a Mirafone Eb alto; and found a couple guys to play in a quartet. Gene Pokorny was also in the band on my Conn 72 H bass trombone. As time passed, I needed to expand the instrument supply for this Baroque Trombone group, so I called Olds, and they happened to have four F-alto trombones already made up with a .455” bore. Just right. A very lightweight sound and half way between soprano and tenor in sound. So, I bought those and looked around for sopranos. I contacted Getzen and talked to MR. Getzen about having some good sopranos made. No problem. So he cranked out a dozen or so of which our players purchased with abandon. Along the way I bought a 1910 Conn slide cornet and own it to this day. What a great sound. In the meantime, I asked Larry to make a Minick Eb sopranino trombone and I own it to this day. Some very good trumpet players wound up playing the ‘Eeffer”. We also used Conn, Bach, Minick, and other Eb altos which were somewhat more readily available. I bought a couple more BBb contras by Mirafone to use with the big groups. The largest trombone choir ever for us was at Christmas in 1979 when we sported 97 players at our Advent program, including five contra players, with case and mouthpiece. Tommy Pederson wrote some special music for the occasion and played in the band along with half of the players in L.A.
Jeff Reynolds, LA Phil www.davidbrubeck.com
Above, in about 1966, is the first gig I ever played with the L.A. Phil. Byron Peebles on 2nd and Robert Marsteller on 1st. They needed a quick replacement for Charlie Bovingdon and I got the call. Right place. Right time. Right stuff. Right people. I had taken lessons from both of these guys.
Q2. Please reflect on the most memorable conductors you have performed with, and their characteristics.
A: In no special order: Zubin Mehta (he hired me, and that’s worth something), Itsvan Kertesh, Salonen, Boulez, and very specially C.M. Giulini. Oh, I’ve got stories, but that’s all ancient history now.
Q3. In televised broadcasts of the LA Phil it has appeared to me and sounded as though it is a remarkably relaxed orchestra physically. How does the LA Phil approach music differently?
A: I don’t know. I think Tom Stevens put it the best when he answered that question to a management person, “We just take care of business.” It didn’t hurt that everyone in the hard brass could pull their own weight. Nothing is more cancerous that trying to cover for a weak colleague.
Q4. From solo recordings to excerpts you have taken on several special projects. Which were most enjoyable? Which seemed to have the greatest impact?
A: Putting an album together is work no matter how you do it. Since the brass were on a perpetual roll with the recording industry at our doorstep it was easy to put together a recording project in terms of logistics. Also, if you have the stuff, record it, quick before you don’t have the stuff.
Q5. How did you become associated with the Moravian church, and how has it enriched your life?
A: My first wife, Judy, played organ at the Moravian Church and we were married there. They needed a choir director and she asked me if i could do the job for $50 a month and all you could eat-(enter the starving trombone player). Sure! I conducted the choir there for decades to good avail. It made me a better musician, with them occasionally bringing me to my knees. Within 2 years, Judy was dead of Hodgkin’s disease. Only after a couple years did I find out that the Moravians had historically used the full consort of trombones for their services. Thus started a collaboration with the old and the new in terms of slip-horns.
Jeff Reynolds, Bob & Gene Pokorny Moravian Choir www.davidbrubeck.com
Above is the Moravian trombone choir about 1967. Gene (Conn 72H bass) and brother Bob Pokorny (Mirafone Eb alto) played in this octet. You can see the two Mirafone sopranos on the right. I’m on the left, next to the would-be tuba player in the Chicago Symphony.
Q6. Please describe your success as a teacher, which has included remarkably diverse students. Which are most memorable at this point?
A: Some of my best work was not with trombone players at all. I’ve had very good luck with every trumpet player I have taught, every horn player; and most, not all, tuba players. Really, my least success has been with tenor trombone players who think it’s the same as playing bass trombone. It isn’t.
Q8. What is the best bass trombone playing you heard?
A: A few not-so-famous hero bass trombonists come to mind, but I’ll keep that to myself. They know who they are. Generally, George Roberts was my hero at the beginning. I got to play next to George on recording dates in Hollywood and have a little story to tell:
One day recording at Disney Studios on one of the VW Herbie movies, there were 5 trombones: Dick Nash, Lloyd Ulyate, Ed Kusby, myself, and George Roberts on last trombone. The tenors fed into one mic, and the bottom two fed into one mic.
After the first set of takes, a few of us went into the booth to hear the playbacks. Tenors got on great. George Roberts sound jumped on the mic. My tone was non-existent. George said he was used to this, and said I should move up closer to the mic.
I got right up on the mic with George several feet away.
No change in balance.
George says, “play louder”. I did that and finally got on but with none of the sizzle that George had. Tommy Johnson who was on the call, confided in me that George had what he called “the mystery tone”.
He could get on any microphone, no matter how distant.
Q9. Please recall your favorite stand out performances.
A: Probably the operas we did with the Philharmonic. Falstaff with Giulini was a pinnacle set of performances. I played the trombone basso part on the G Great Bass. Before the rehearsals started, Bobo and I had a meeting with the maestro to decide what instrument he wanted to play the bottom part. Roger had his F-tuba along, and I brought a bass trombone and the G Great Bass for him to hear, or not and decide. One look at the Great Bass and Giulini exclaimed, “Deese one! I like deese one.” So, that’s how the instrument selection was settled.
I was also fond of doing Wozzek (A. Berg) on the G Great Bass, in this case with Simon Rattle. Just right. Also the Berg Violin Concerto with different fiddle pickers.
The Symphony of Psalms is right up there, with its mystical aura.
After 22,00 services with the band, nothing sticks out any more.
In my declining years I conduct and arrange music for four Compline Choirs.
This is the only Stereogram that started out with accompaniment. The chords I originally selected had been lost, but I added new chords. The accompaniment was beautifully realized by Tom, after a few brief suggestions, and one rehearsal.
If you are familiar with the story of George Roberts’ first performance of “September Song” with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, it was in that spirit that this piece was composed.
If you haven’t heard the story…
“It was George Roberts’ first night as bass trombonist with Stan. The corn-fed Iowan had left the employment of Gene Krupa (where his section-mate had been the great Urbie Green), and moved to California.
As the evening progressed, the electricity failed and the lights went out. Stan announced that the bass trombone feature, September Song, would have to be skipped over, because it was the new bass trombonist’s first night with the band.
George said he had memorized the feature and, with Kenton’s blessing, played it note-for-note, in the dark!
These are the lyrics:
I Didn’t Love You Girl
Words and Music by David William Brubeck
c. 1993/2015 David William Brubeck (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved
I didn’t love you girl, the moment we first met.
And when I heard your name, it was a name I could forget.
Not when you “claimed the room”, not caught by your perfume;
not kiss, nor this.
No look into your eyes, not captured by your sighs.
No bliss. No tryst.
No, none of these were how, ’cause I didn’t love you girl…
This recording appears courtesy of composer Federico Bonacossa.
Words and Music c. 1993/2015 David William Brubeck (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
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Miami’s Own DUO BRUBECK Tom Lippincott, Guitar Mitch Farber, Guitar David Brubeck, Guitar
Miami’s own, DUO BRUBECK has very special plans for our October concert Date at St. John’s. Mark the date!
On Saturday, 24 October at 2:00 pm, the program will feature music for the young at heart and include an introduction to basic elements of music and jazz geared for all ages!
As part of our presentation, we plan to give away 20 Copies of the illustrated primer “Violin, Violin, What Do You Hear?” written by David Brubeck and illustrated by award-winning water-color artist, Barbie Brubeck. This introduction to the basic instruments of the orchestra features full color illustrations of each instrument.
The music for Arts at St. Johns will include all new duo treatments of favorite children’s songs such as “You are My Sunshine”, and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” as well as fresh arrangements of claasics by Jobim, Ellington and Stevie Wonder. Most arrangements are based on Brubeck’s Stereogram concept inspired by the Cello Suites of Bach and the unaccompanied vocal solos of Bobby McFerrin, or the harmonic vistas of Lippincott.
Each selection will begin with a simple statement of the children’s song. Then, the melodies will be played again adjusted for different rhythms like reggae and swing. Finally, the melody will emerge as a full-fledged DUO BRUBECK arrangement featuring the unique harmonic imaginings and virtuosic improvisations of Tom Lippincott, winner of the Guitar Player Magazine “Ultimate Guitar Player” Contest. Lippincott has pioneered and perfected the 8 string guitar, and his finger picking style of playing sounds at times more like a harpist or a pianist than a guitarist. This GENIUS of the guitar creates expansive tonal paintings which the listener is invited to enter.
Brubeck, a third cousin of the legendary jazz pianist, will add in his unique brand of beat-box bass trombone playing with rhythmic self accompaniment which he calls Stereograms. More than 50 Stereograms have been published by Cherry Classics, The International Trombone Association Press and others and have been performed and recorded around the globe. Brubeck has appeared as a solo artist for the International Conferences of the Trombone, Trumpet, Euphonium AND Tuba Associations, and has performed with Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
Mitch Farber, the third regular member of the duo, will make a special appearance. This marks only the third time all three have appeared on the same concert. Farber is a legendary Miami riff-master and guitar shredder who adds the funk and groove to the affair. Having toured the world with musicians such as Julio Iglesias, Farber’s appearnce will mark an additional treat for listener’s ears.
For the young at heart, but definitely not kids stuff! Miami’s Own DUO BRUBECK (the originators of the jazz guitar & bass trombone duo), will present a feast of new and totally fresh jazz arrangements suitable for the novice and the connoisseur!
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
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Tom Lippincot, guitarist, has been honored by the inspirational progressive-rock band Animals as Leaders, by having a composition named after him. The working title of “Lippincott”, stuck after the guitarist Tosin Abasi derived inspiration from Lippincott’s series of guitar tutorials.
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A microcosm of one of the few finest orchestras in all of the world, The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet is as good as it gets in all of chamber music-period. The fact that the long-lived group has done so as a woodwind group, rather than as a piano trio, string quartet or even a brass quintet, is astonishing; that they have done so for decades is inspiring. If you have yet to listen to them, you are in for a treat. For those familiar with the group, Fergus McWilliam, Horn and Marion Reinhard, Bassoon (now of La Scala Opera in Milan,Italy-but still with the group), will take you deep inside the thinking and feeling that has inspired one of chamber music’s greatest treasures-the incomparable Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet is the next leap for “FIVE” tm-Enjoy!
1. As masters of orchestral music and chamber music, can you discuss the
adjustments you make with regard to note shape, dynamics and musical
awareness when switching from orchestral music to chamber music.
FM As a member of the Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestra notorious for its chamber music approach to symphonic repertoire, I would say that I make very little change between both ensembles. I have to be able to play equally quietly in both, but we have some quintet works in which I also have to play as loud as in a Mahler symphony.
2. What do you consider to be among the finest repertoire for woodwind
FM Carl Nielsen, Paul Hindemith, Kalevi Aho
3. How important is the “love at first sight” or immediate musical
chemistry of chamber music, as opposed to the familiarity that comes with
FM In our case we sensed the positive chemistry immediately – and I believe the best chamber music ensembles share that experience.
MR I find it extremely important to feel a certain connection right in the beginning of a chamber music rehearsal.
It is almost a prerequisite to form an ensemble that wants to stay together long term. Even though I was not there, my colleagues tell me that this instant connection was part of the requirements when the “Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet” was formed.
I think if this special feeling is missing at the start, it would be difficult to grow accustomed to one another later on. To sum i up, it basically has to be “love at first sight” if you want to form a group for the “long term”.
4. Which other musical ensembles and recordings inspire you? Non musicians?
MR Things that we all have in common: good food and good wine.
5. The blend in the group is extraordinary! The flute and the oboe in
unison (or octaves), create a completely new and consistent tone color. What
is your secret?
FM Intonation must be flawless, but more importantly we try to play “into” each other’s sounds. The Berlin Philharmonic strives for blend at all times and so do we; it’s our default setting. Choice of instruments also plays a role in the ability to blend. And listening to each other. We imagine playing “flut-inet”, “bass-orn”, “fl-oboe”, “fl-ob-inet” or “fl-oboe-horn” for example. 😉
MRThe secret is that we purposely look for these new sounds and sound-mixtures.
It is both a challenge for us and an irresistible temptation, (perhaps even the biggest difficulty), to discover new sounds.
6. For those more accustomed to pop music which is judged by its
consistency, or jazz which is judged by its improvisation, how would you
explain the expressive contributions made to their music by classical
FM Emotion? Passion?
7. Within the context of orchestral repertoire, woodwinds are more often
called upon as soloists than are brass players. How do you think that this
influences the basic approaches of brass quintets as opposed to woodwind
FM The brass instruments are a homogeneous family, like the strings. The woodwinds are not – they are a collection of individualists. It is the woodwind section of an orchestra that is responsible for the “narration” in an orchestral performance. If we can say crassly that a brass quintet is basically a pair of trumpets accompanied by three lower instruments, then a wind quintet is a quartet of soloists held together by a horn.
8. Music of German speaking peoples is one of, if not the most important
components in all of classical music. How does that tradition inform your
performances, and what distinguishes a Germanic style of approach, as
opposed to say an Italian approach?
FM Tricky question: the Italians seem to prefer to emphasis melodic line and Germanic music is much more vertical, or at least there is more interest in bass lines, inner voices and harmony.
MR After playing for three years at La Scala, I can clearly state that there is certainly a different approach! If you have listened to a Brahms Symphony played by an Italian Orchestra and a German orchestra, you know what I mean. The same goes for Verdi or Rossini Operas!
I think that it is important that each musician continues his or her musical style tradition. At the same time, we (as professional musicians), must have the courage to take on music that is foreign to us and does not come from our own tradition.It is very important to be open to this!
It is true that German culture has a rich tradition of classical music. Perhaps we do have an advantage over other musicians from different cultures when approaching this music. Younger students from another culture, say China, might face a greater challenge to become familiar with Brahms and Bruckner than does someone who has been immersed in Germany’s rich musical culture.
To return to the question of style: the Italian style is definitely lighter, more transparent and more singing.
In contrast, the German style is heavier and more intense. The phrases are performed with greater intensity.
Perhaps another point is that the score is followed with exact precision in Germany, where as in Italy music is played more instinctively.
Most importantly, regardless of the tradition a musician brings with them, one needs to perform the music in a manner which is stylistically correct.
We are pleased to offer the following questions posed in German to and answered in German by Marion Reinhard, Bassoonist of the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet.
3. Wie wichtig ist es gleich zu Beginn einer Probe mit neuen Kollegen eine gewisse sofortige Verbundenheit zu spueren ?
Nach ein paar Wochen oder Monatren ist man ja schon aufeinander eingespielt und weiss was die anderen Kollegen erwarten und wie man miteinander probt.
Ich finde es extrem wichtig in der Kammermusik, gleich zu Anfang der Proben eine gewisse Verbundenheit zu spüren!! Gerade für die Gründung eines festen Ensembles, das nicht nur für ein Konzert zusammenspielt, sondern längerfristig zusammenarbeiten möchte, würde ich sagen ist das sogar eine unabdingbare Voraussetzung. Ich war zwar damals nicht dabei, aber wenn ich meine Kollegen richtig verstanden habe, war dieses sofortige Verständnis auch einer der Gründe, die zur Gründung des Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet geführt haben.
Ich denke, wenn dieses sofortige gute Gefühl in der ersten Probe fehlt, kann man sich auch nur bedingt aneinander gewöhnen und aufeinander einstellen.
Aber zu einer längerfristigen “musikalischen Beziehung” gehört meiner Meinung nach die “Liebe auf den ersten Blick” auf jeden Fall dazu.
4. Gibt es Kammermusikgruppen oder Aufnahmen die sie begeistern und inspirieren ? Oder auch Dinge die nichts mit Musik zu tun haben ?
Dinge, die uns 5 verbinden und nichts mit Musik zu tun haben:
– gutes Essen, guter Wein
5. Der Ton Ihrer Gruppe als eine Einheit ist ganz einfach spektakulaer. Besonders wenn Floete und Oboe in Oktaven spielen, ergibt es einen ganz neuen Farbklang. Was ist Ihr Geheimniss
Das Geheimnis ist, dass wir ganz bewusst nach diesen neuen Klängen/Mischklängen suchen! Für uns ist es gerade einer der besonderen Reize (gleichzeitig vielleicht auch die größte Schwierigkeit?) am Quintettspielen, diese neuen Klänge zu entdecken und zu erzeugen.
8. Die Musik von deutschsprachigen Menschen ist wohl die wichtigste Komponente von klassischer Musik.
Wie schlaegt sich diese Tradition in Auffuehrungen aus? Was ist der stylistische Unterschied beim Spielen von deutscher zu Italienischer Musik, nur zum Bespiel.
Nachdem ich nun seit 3 Jahren im Orchester der Mailänder Scala spiele, kann ich ganz klar bestätigen, dass die italienische Tradition und die stilistische Herangehensweise an die Musik sich sehr stark von der deutschen unterscheidet!!
Wenn Sie eine Aufnahme einer Sinfonie von Brahms mit einem italienischen Orchester mit der von einem deutschen Orchester vergleichen, wissen Sie, was ich meine. Genauso wäre es mit 2 Vergleichsaufnahmen einer Oper von Verdi oder Rossini.
Ich glaube, es ist ganz normal und auch sehr wichtig, dass jeder Mensch und jeder Musiker seine Traditionen kennt, mit sich trägt, und pflegt.
Gleichzeitig müssen wir als professionelle Musiker versuchen, uns auch an Musik zu wagen, die uns “fremd” ist, die nicht aus unserer eigenen Tradition kommt. Diese Offenheit gegenüber weniger Bekanntem oder Vertrauten ist für uns Musiker sehr wichtig!
Richtig ist natürlich, dass der deutsche Kulturkreis eine sehr reiche Tradition auf dem Gebiet der klassischen Musik hat. Vielleicht haben wir tatsächlich dahingehend einen gewissen Vorteil gegenüber Musikern aus anderen Kulturkreisen.
Für junge Studenten z.B. aus dem asiatischen Raum ist es vermutlich nicht einfach, sich mit Brahms und Bruckner vertraut zu machen.
Um nochmal konkret auf die Frage zurückzukommen:
Der italienische Stile ist sicherlich, leichter, durchsichtiger, sehr gesanglich.
Der deutsche Stil hat mehr Schwere mehr Intensität. Die Phrasen werden viel intensiver, nachdrücklicher ausgespielt. Ein weiteres Merkmal deutscher Musiker ist vielleicht auch die Genauigkeit in der Ausführung aller Spielanweisungen einer Partitur.
In Italien wird sehr viel mehr instinktiv musiziert.
Aus welcher Tradition auch immer wir kommen, wichtig ist doch immer, dass wir uns fragen welchen Stil das jeweilige Werk, das wir gerade spielen, verlangt!
The Quintet appears courtesy of David Rowe Artists and his team, many thanks!
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
At the eleventh hour of the International Euphonium and Tuba Conference one of her stars, Dr. Brian Bowman, became ill and was unable to perform. With every good wish for the return of Dr. Bowman’s health, the call went out to Martin Cochran to anchor an evenings’ recital in his stead. This emerging euphonium star and artist for Adams performed with ease, grace, and aplomb and all from memory. Drawing inspiration from the great euphonium performances that inspired him, Cochran inspired those in attendance. Instructor at UA Birmingham and Columbus State University, Cochran is also the nimble euphonic explorer of chamber music. “The Fourth Valve” tm and Martin Cochran are happy to share the hospitality of the South, Enjoy!
1. Do you find it ironic that the perhaps the most successful brass soloists in the world play tuba or euphonium?
I’m not surprised because of the beautiful sound that these instruments produce. However, we are still fighting an uphill battle for serious musical respectability in the eyes of the average concertgoer/consumer. For many, I think the sight and sound of a large brass instrument in a solo setting is still at bit of a novelty. This is especially true of the tuba, which will probably always have to fight the “Oom Pah Pah” stereotype. I think that to some degree this is even true for experienced listeners. Even for me, it’s still a bit surprising on some level to hear someone make the tuba sound like a voice or a violin. Musicians like Oystein Baadsvik, Pat Sheridan, and Carol Jantsch are really helping to defeat this stereotype.
The euphonium has the same image problem in that we’re still a bit of a novelty. However, since we’re mostly unknown to the average listener, I think we have a an advantage in that they don’t have any expectations of how we should sound. To some extent, I feel like an ambassador for the euphonium every time I perform. I’m constantly reminded of a wonderful quote from Brian Bowman: “Always play at least one piece that will make the listener want to come to another euphonium recital.”
2. Which instruments/voices do you most often find yourself borrowing from?
I use any sound that makes my performance more compelling. I’ve heard a colleague of mine describe the different types of articulations, tone colors, vibratos, etc. as different knobs on a mixing board. The more knobs you have, the more you can color the music to your liking. I think about borrowing more from specific performers and composers rather than instruments. For instance, I love depth and power of Jessye Norman and Pavarotti, the agility and playfulness of the great violin, bassoon, and flute soloists, the raw emotion and soulful playing of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the pointed articulations of Stravinsky. There’s so much to choose from. (And there’s so much more listening that I need to do!)
3. Where do you envision the euphonium in chamber music, and is it important?
It’s extremely important. Chamber music has been a huge part of my musical growth and continues to be a major part of my performing career. Since large ensemble gigs are few and far between for euphonium players we tend to put a lot of emphasis on solos. Playing as a soloist is a lot of fun, but nothing will train your ears quicker than chamber music. I had the opportunity about 8 years ago to go on tour with the Sotto Voce Quartet on 2nd euphonium. I already knew that they were incredible individual musicians. However, I was blown away by the quickness with which they could blend and adjust to one another. It was a great wake up call for my ears. One of the unique opportunities that I’ve had while teaching at UAB is to be a member of a very active faculty brass quintet playing the horn part. It’s forced me to learn how to transpose and worked wonders for my facility and confidence in the high range. I also feel that I owe a great deal of my sight reading ability to my chamber experiences. Chamber music forces you to deal with conflicts (both musical and non-musical) in a constructive way. This is great training for future teachers and performers. You’re not going to survive very long in any gig if you can’t play well with others.
The euphonium is still finding its way in the chamber music world. There are some musicians doing great
things with the euphonium outside of the standard tuba quartet. Thomas Ruedi and Brian Meixner are both doing great things with euphonium and percussion. Matt Murchison released a recording that features the euphonium in an Irish band setting. The euphonium quartet is also starting to take off as a chamber ensemble. I also think that we need to get past the idea that euphonium is just a good substitute for the horn, trombone, or tuba. The euphonium is a great 3rd voice in the standard brass quintet and quartet. The key is to get composers on board with the idea. My quintet has had a few pieces written for us. In each case, we specifically told the composer that we wanted the piece to be conceived with euphonium in mind as the 3rd voice instead of the horn. This has led to some interesting conversations. A lot of composers are mostly unaware of the technical capabilities of the euphonium. Many see us as an extension of the tuba voice and are pleasantly surprised when they hear what we can do.
4. For the uninitiated, could you identify and contrast the two or three major approaches to euphonium pedagogy?
I’m not sure if we really have established pedagogical approaches yet in the euphonium world like there are in the trumpet and trombone worlds. The name that pops up most often for tuba and euphonium players is Arnold Jacobs. His approach is often summarized as “Song and Wind.” However, I work closely with two former Jacobs students on a weekly basis and it sounds like there is a lot more to it than can be summed up with a few words. I really wish that I could have had the chance to study with him at least once. In my own observations, teachers seem to emphasize either technique or musicality. Finding the right balance between the two is something that I continue to learn. Also, my approach varies with each student. I have had students who are very mechanically minded and respond best to very specific technical instructions. I’ve had other students that respond more to analogies and emotional terms.
5. Where is the line between a daily routine and a warm up? What works for you?
It depends on the individual and how they are feeling that day. Ideally, the warm up should be rather short. However, you have to be attentive to how your chops respond. If I’ve taken some time off or if I’ve done a lot of heavy playing the night before then I take more time. Some days I need to do more breathing or stretching. I used to push myself through a standard routine every day regardless of how I was feeling. I think I was mostly just wearing myself out physically and mentally. Lately I’ve started playing simple, lyrical tunes very early on to get in a musical mindset. I will often do this at the beginning of each practice session to reset and focus my brain. In terms of the remainder of my routine I vary it quite a bit depending on the demands of the repertoire that I’m working on. I use a variety of exercises that cover scales, slow and fast slurs, articulation, range, and control. For example, if I’m getting ready to solo with a band I’ll spend more time on projection and clarity. I’ve also learned the importance of warming down after a day of playing.
6. What are your biggest inspirations? Musical and non-musical?
Musically, there are so many. First and foremost, I have to mention my primary teachers, Mike Dunn, Alan Baer, Larry Campbell, and Ross Walter. These men inspired and molded me in many ways, and I cannot thank them enough. In the euphonium world, my biggest heroes are Thomas Ruedi and Brian Bowman. If I could copy one musician’s playing and make it my own I would choose Thomas. He has the purest, most naturally beautiful approach to playing. I have tremendous respect for Dr. Bowman. He is a true master teacher. Though I have never formally studied with him, I have had the opportunity to play for him and observe his teaching on several occasions over the past 15 years. Each time, I have been amazed by the level and depth of his knowledge. He has an incredible sense of sincerity when he performs. I once heard him perform the opening of Boccalari’s Fantasia di Concerto in a masterclass. That 20-second performance stands out in my mind as the most beautiful thing I have ever heard performed on an instrument.
Oustide of the euphonium world I’m a huge fan of Baroque and Classical music. I love the energy of Bach and Mozart. Outside of that there are a few individual recordings that really stand out for me: Jessye Norman singing the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s cover of Little Wing, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Brahms’ Four Serious Songs. There are many more.
Non-musically, I find inspiration in many places. I love teaching. I never feel more fired up than after a great lesson or class. I’m a huge fan of the works of Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer.
7. What two or three things occupy your mind most when performing?
I try to keep the technical thoughts to a minimum: “Breathe, play beautifully.” I’ve found that anything beyond that gets in the way. The performance is not the time to be figuring things out. One thing that I focus on in my preparation and with my students is always visualizing myself on stage during practice. Ideally, the only thing that changes when I play in front of an audience is the fact that they are there. We have to remember that we are entertainers and that we are meant to play for audiences. When I have problems during performance it’s usually due to a lack of concentration. The best performances for me have been when I’ve been completely focused on the music I am making at that exact moment. Building focus is something that I have had to actively work on. Recording my practice has been a very useful tool for this. I find that the microphone puts as almost much pressure on me as a live audience. Recently, I’ve started to perform more from memory. This has worked wonders for my concentration and I feel gives me more freedom to make music. I also feel that memorization brings me closer to the audience.
8. How would you compare and contrast the tone and strengths of the euphonium to the tenor trombone and bass trombone?
I love the sound of both the tenor and bass trombone (and I wish that I could play them better!). I have no problem admitting that the euphonium is easier to play. It seems that every aspect of the euphonium has been designed to make it sound pleasing and beautiful. I think it’s very difficult to make the trombone sing. I have great admiration for those that can do it. Stefan Schultz is probably my favorite example. The way that he makes the bass trombone sing in all registers is amazing. Ian Bousfield and Karsten Svanberg are two tenor trombone sounds that I really admire. The area that the trombone has a clear advantage is power and projection. It’s difficult for the euphonium to portray the same sense of clarity and command as the trombone.
9. What is your view on the use of vibrato in solo/ensemble euphonium playing as compared to classical saxophone?
I’m going to go ahead and admit that I haven’t listened to a lot of classical saxophonists. However, I did have a chance to attend a masterclass with Eugene Rousseau several years ago and was stunned at the beauty of his playing. There really isn’t a standard vibrato in the euphonium world. Even just among American players there are a lot of differences. I love the sound and shimmer of the fast British brass band vibrato, but it’s something that I can’t pull off well. In general, I would say that for ensemble playing I tend to use much less vibrato. In solo playing it all depends on the repertoire. One of my pet peeves is that I hear a lot of euphonium players treat vibrato as an “on/off” switch. I think that euphonium players sometimes hide behind vibrato. Occasionally I’ll ask a student play without vibrato to see if they can make music without it. Many times this is very difficult for them. Making a beautiful sound is not enough. We need various intensities and styles of vibrato, just as we need various styles of articulation.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Images credits: iplayeuphonium.com & favecar.com
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The Meridian Arts Ensemble has embraced the revolutionary and quintessentially American line of musical thought which stretches from before Duke Ellington, to Mingus and Zappa. They are intense and flavorful-a connoisseurs choice for the ear. Establishing themselves as a classical brass quintet in the wake of the early successes of the Empire Brass Quintet, MAE has embraced both the tradition of classical music and their authentic reflective experiences of time and place. Having added percussion, at times, and the new ideal of beauty that is the electric guitar, they remain an authentic and varietal ensemble of great passion and determination. Come along as “FIVE!” tm gets lost in the haze of purple that is the Meridian Arts Ensemble..Enjoy!
1. Some brass quintets flirt with Rock, your groups commitment seems more like a marriage. What has the relationship yielded and what are the rewards of more than a superficial look at rock?
We have always felt a strong push to bring our recreational listening into the music we perform. The result has been a hugely productive relationship with the world of rock. It started with playing Frank Zappa’s music, moved from there to Captain Beefheart and Jimi Hendrix, and onward from there.
What it gave us was, first of all, a new world of styles to figure out. It gave us a new sound world, including use of electronics and use of chaos and mess (as opposed to clean blend). And it gave us access to new audiences. So, it was a stimulating relationship for the members of the ensemble, for the ensemble as a whole, and for our listeners.
2. How much do you keep your audience in mind when selecting literature? Are there some pieces which are only for recording?
We have evolved over time. I would say that, in the beginning, we would perform any piece if we thought it merited performance.
As we gained experience, we started understanding the limits of the elasticity of any given audience. We have always enjoyed pushing audiences past what they might have thought were their limits, but we learned that it is possible to push too far.
Some pieces are better for particular audiences. There are some pieces which we have recorded but not performed very much, but most of what we record is our active repertoire. At times, we performed pieces a million times but only recorded them belatedly.
I would say that the group always wants to provide a meaningful experience to its listeners, and in concert, that means creating a meaningful experience for that PARTICULAR group of listeners.
3. The group seems to have an incredibly relaxed, unforced, and fluid approach. Is it technique, or attitude?
It is both.
When we started, in the late 80s, we rehearsed like crazy, hours and hours every week. The result: we got to know each other as players (and people) extremely well. When we are playing as a group, there is a comfortable feeling that we can rely on each other. Much of our music is very hard, both the individual parts and keeping the band together. So we depend on that sense of reliance.
At the same time, we have always made sure to have fun together. At times where it has gotten less fun, we have made changes so that we didn’t feel like victims of circumstance. So, technique and attitude both.
4. How do you address note shape (the front AND the back of the note), when playing more rhythmic works?
The MAE has a better group sense of rhythm than any ensemble I’ve ever played with. We listen closely to each other and imitate attacks and releases.
A lot of our matching each other comes from that listening, and much of the rest comes from our body language, which has developed over the course of our 25+ years. I would say that the listening and the body language account for 90% of how we evolve the shape of notes. The other 10% comes from talking, arguing, singing to each other. Sometimes it’s not really chamber music until you are arguing passionately.
I have learned over the years that my colleagues are always right. I may disagree with them, but their ideas are always good and true.
5. If the typical classical music ensemble embraces the voice, violin and perhaps the piano as an ideal of beauty, what do you think of? (Did the guitar sneak on your list, and how do you achieve distortion on brass?)
Always the voice for us.
The line of the voice, the precision of the drums.
The electric guitar is such an amazing instrument because it imitates the voice, in all its variety, so well. As for distortion, that’s an excellent question. In its early days, the MAE worked so hard at achieving perfect blend, intonation, and color that we had troubles (at the beginning), playing rock music; our approach was too clean, too organized, and too blended! We had to figure out how to make that music sound dirty and authentic.
Sometimes we used electronic effects, and sometimes we just figured out how to make the kind of sounds we needed. I couldn’t tell you exactly how to achieve distortion on brass.
You need a concept of the sound you want, and then it’s practice practice!
6. The trombone tuba blend is exceptional and complimentary without sacrificing individual fulness. How do you conceive of that particular blend?
Those two guys are so talented, I couldn’t even begin to say how they do it. There is no conception – it’s just playing. Probably comes from playing Bach chorales together for 25 years.
7. What are your musical influences?
I’ll answer for myself: first the great composers-let’s start with Bach, Mozart, Strauss, Mahler; next, great horn players; then, performers in non-classical worlds such as Clifford Brown, Zappa-of course, Pink Floyd, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Salif Keita. (70s classic rock, broadly defined.)
And finally, my students, who teach me everything I need to know.
The sky’s the limit. I read a lot, as do most of the people in the group, so authors galore. Beyond that? Once you’re over 50, you are such a mish-mash that it’s hard to tease apart the pieces.
8. Where do you see the brass quintet genre in ten years?
Very hard to know. I see three strands from the past: let’s call them the early Empire strand, the Canadian strand, and the Ewazen strand. The first is the one we came out of: the hard hitting repertoire that the Empire BQ played in its early days, which itself comes from the groundwork laid by the NY Brass Quintet and the American Brass Quintet. The Canadian strand: music as entertainment or show, as performed by the Canadian Brass. That introduced the concept of brass chamber music to huge numbers of people. And finally, Ewazen (as a representation of a particular style), music that appeals to general audiences while maintaining its links to the classical world.
How these three strands will mix, match, combine, or evolve is anybody’s guess. I’m not going to pass judgment on what is good or bad, and I think all three strands have fed the development and recognition of the brass quintet as a performing entity.
9. What are your favorite MAE projects?
Rather than single out particular projects, I would say that my favorite thing about the MAE is:
1. That we always conceived of our work as projects.
2. That we always poured ourselves completely into every project.
So, a project could be huge, like increasing the repertoire, or contained, like recording a particular CD. In either case, it would get our full attention, concentration, devotion, and care.
Coming soon to “FIVE!” tm…..The Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet!
It is rare to meet a man of such character as James Gourlay: humorous, talented, giving and all-heart. A Scotsman whose family of French origins have only been on the isle some 800 years, recalls fondly his father’s secret box-which none were allowed to touch. Family imaginations soared when speculating what family treasure might be hidden inside. After the death of his father, the box was opened to reveal the Gourlay family treasure- all of young James’ medals and awards from years of solo competitions. When faced with paralyzing mandated cuts (as head of the Royal Northern College of Music) which would have resulted in termination and salary reductions to his faculty, Gourlay gave some of his faculty additional responsibilities (his), and raises. He then cut his own position and became a painter, until music called again. And music always seems to call for him. Whether as an accomplished soloist traversing the UK every Saturday, performing with the legendary Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, or as principal tubist of the BBC Symphony or the Opera House in Zurich. Now, he is a Pirates fan, an accomplished tuba soloist and artist for Besson traversing the globe, and an award winning conductor who now leads of what may be the only professional brass band in the United States-The River City Brass Band. With seventy services a year and a host of talented members such as trombonist Scott Hartman and euphoniumist Koichiro Suzuki, the RCBB is blazing new trails for the development of American audiences and repertoire. “The Fourth Valve” tm is pleased to present our favorite kilty pleasure and the treasure of the Gourlays. Enjoy!
1. How long have you taken away from the tuba, and what sort of things do you do to get ready to play again? (Solos, in particular.)
The longest time I have spent without playing the tuba would be around one year. It was during my first year (1998-99) when I was Head of School of Wind, Brass and Percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). I had a very fulfilling, but challenging, job, which was largely in administration. As I had directly come from a the Orchestra of the Opera House in Zurich, Switzerland, and had no training as an administrator, I felt I just had to concentrate on the task in hand, and as I wasn’t actually earning a living playing the tuba, that instrument went on the back burner. As a hobby, I took up the alto saxophone and was soon practicing quite diligently. It suddenly dawned on me, that I could do the same on my first instrument, so started to develop routines that didn’t take up much time, but got me into tuba playing again, and kept me in shape quite quickly.
Nowadays I earn a living as a conductor, and so I sometimes go for long periods without playing tuba. When I do have a tuba gig. I get into shape by playing scales and techniques for about one hour per day. I do this at 6.00 am using a practice mute. I don’t play repertoire until shortly before the first rehearsal, as I’ve learned to separate practice from performance.
2. Which are your favorites to use and in which circumstances? Eb Tuba, F Tuba, C Tuba, Sousaphone, Bb Tuba I mostly play Eb tuba, but my favorite is the Bb tuba. I spent many years as an orchestral player though, so I also play the F tuba, C and cimbasso. I also have two sousaphones. I choose the horn to fit the repertoire and the ensemble really. In the orchestra, I played most things on the C, apart from Russian music and Wagner, which is better, I think, on the Bb. The Eb is great for solo and brass group playing. 3. Your phrasing an legato are exquisite. How do you conceive of them, and how did you foster their development?
Thanks! I have been a singer since I was a treble many years ago, and I still sing the phrases I have to play, then play them. That seems to me to be very natural.
4. What attracted you to conducting? What does it allow you to express? How does your conducting inform your playing,and conducting inform inform your conducting?
I never wanted to be a conductor, but I’m very much a man who believes in ‘following a star’. Someone asked me to step in at a rehearsal nearly 40 years ago. I did. Then, …. the band asked my back.
I always say to young players that the music industry decides what you are. If you get 3 jazz gigs in a row: Hey presto, you’re a jazzer! So it was with conducting for me. Conducting has helped me better understand the structure of music, which has in turn informed my performance as a player. Conversely, having played in orchestras a long time, gives me an understanding of how musicians ‘tick’, which helps me encourage them to raise their game.
5. Air is vital on any brass instrument. How do you conceive of moving air in a large ensemble and as a soloist? I never give this a second thought!
My focus is on the sound I make and how it relates to the sounds around me.
So, in performance, as opposed to practice, I just think of the music.
Having done a great deal of technical practice (including breathing) liberates the musician in performance.
6. What perspectives have you come to appreciate as an administrator of music? How do you handle star players such as those in River City Brass Band?
I’m very much a team player; supporting colleagues and encouraging them to go the extra mile. It’s a style of leadership my musicians seem to like. I trust them to do their best and they do. That goes for the whole team, which includes non-musicians too.
7. How do you choose music to perform as a soloist? As a conductor?
Soloists and conductors need to play music which inspires them.
Only then do they stand a chance of inspiring others.
These are my criteria.
8. When did you begin competing as a soloist? What has your experience taught you that would surprise brass players that are not soloists?
I started competing in solo competitions at the age of 10. I had been playing six months an was pumped to win the under 12 division of my county band district solo contest. In those days I played almost every weekend in such a competition, which was a great training. My Dad kept all the medals and trophies as he often had to go with me to some far-flung corners of the UK. To win, one had to play a cornet solo like the Carnival of Venice, just because the cornet players were also playing it. This developed a really useful finger and tongue technique, which made the orchestral repertoire seem easy. In fact, I left my county Youth Orchestra after one rehearsal, because the parts were too easy, and boring I thought. The parts in question were the Meistersingers and Finlandia. ‘Nothing to play’ I said…
9. What could the American brass tradition learn from the European and vice-versa?
Identify your style and stick to it.
Never let tradition get in the way of high standards.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on Scotsman James Gourlay, Solo Tuba Virtuoso & Conductor of the River City Brass Band Inspires “The Fourth Valve”
Pat Sheridan is a beautiful, insightful and inspired musician, and he likes to share! A born showman from Minneapolis-St. Paul who auditioned into Northwestern University as a freshman to study with Arnold Jacobs, Sheridan became the youngest tubist in “The President’s Own” Marine Band at 20. He is co-author, with Sam Pilafian, of the best selling Breathing Gym and an accomplished businessman with an MBA. Now in demand as a tuba soloist, clinician and conductor throughout the globe, Sheridan shares his perspectives on life, music and the big bell. Enjoy!
1. When you look back at “Bill Bell and his Tuba” and hear the strains of ’Yuba’, do you feel a kinship? What did he mean to the tuba as a musical force?
Interesting question. I started to play the tuba in 1977, and Harvey Philips had already replaced Bill Bell (after his death), at IU a few years prior. When I was young – I thought ‘When Yuba Plays the Tuba’ was super cool. Bill Bell inspired the generation that inspired me. It was the playing and stage personas of Sam Pilafian and Chuck Daellenbach that captured my imagination early as a young tuba player.
Empire and Canadian Brass traveled through Minnesota’s Twin Cities regularly during my formative years as a musician. I couldn’t get over Sam’s range and bass playing on jazz tunes. Chuck’s humor and Canadian Brass’ antics made it OK for me to be ME onstage.
My tonal heroes were Harvey Phillips and Floyd Cooley. My musical style hero was Sam. My stage hero was Chuck. My teaching hero was Mr. Jacobs.
2. BBb, CC, Eb, F, Sousaphone…
For the non-tubist, there are more different tubas than forks at a 12 course meal. Which “fork” do you use
when? (Best all around?). What does flying do to the equation?
Let me start by saying that I have heard fantastic performances from fantastic artists on every key of tuba. Let me start there…
I’ve played Eb tuba as my chamber and solo instrument since I was in 7th grade. While in college, I gave F tuba the old college try. But – the sound in my imagination will not come out of a F tuba, so Eb has always been preferable to F for me. And – the intonation battle that is F tuba…what the hell for? When someone makes an F tuba with piston valves that plays WELL in tune with a great low register…that would be fun to have in the arsenal of tonal possibilities! In the meantime, I’ll use a smaller mouthpiece and play in tune on an Eb to imitate F tuba rather than go to war with an actual F tuba. I remain completely baffled why the tuba community continues to mess with F tuba with its bad low register and horrible intonation when Eb tubas don’t present these problems. Tradition is a bitch, I guess.
CC tuba – I use this axe in large ensembles. For me – this is the instrument that I play the least in my current mix of playing. When I was a member of “The President’s Own” United State Marine Band, I used CC tuba. Same, in Brass Band of Battle Creek.
BBb Sousaphone – When I was a member of the Marine Band, I HATED sousaphone. (Ask Tom Holtz how much I hated the sousaphone.) I hated the sousaphone so much that I refused to play one for more than 10 years after leaving the Marines. THEN – I helped Jupiter Band Instruments with their sousaphone designs and a funny thing happened. I fell in love with the sousaphone. I love it so much that now I own TWO sousaphones. For playing bass lines, there isn’t a better axe to create the ‘pull’ and the ‘weight’ of a Ray Brown quarter note. Funk, Swing, Latin, Rock – sousaphone is now my instrument of choice when my job is bass function in commercial music.
Last year – when the community band I lead, The Salt River Brass, made a CD with Harry Watters, I did all the rhythm section playing and soloing on sousaphone. Pilafian pointed out that my jazz thinking head was definitely BBb sousaphone even though I play Eb tuba 95% of the time as an improviser.
Never say never…right?
3. What are the most outrageous costumes you have worn? What does it add? Kilt?
Most outrageous on stage?
Or in life? : )
I think I’ll pass on the latter. On stage – I do the bee suit. Occasionally – I’ll appear as Carmen Miranda. Pineapple pumps and all. My skirt is hot! (My mom made it for me.)
Last fall – I did a half-time show for a Montana State University football game. The marching band show was The Wizard of Oz. They dressed me up as a wizard and then clipped a ‘Z’ to my sousaphone bell (spelling ‘OZ’). Crowd went ape shit. (or was it flying monkey?)
Not sure I’ve met a costume I wouldn’t try.
What does it add, you ask? Answer this….
How would a Broadway show be without costumes??
4. What is the biggest musical nightmare you have experienced?
I conducted an honor band once for a district of private wealthy schools. I entered the gig thinking, “Wow! This is going to be awesome. Everyone will be a great player. Everyone will be super disciplined. We’re going to have the best time. Can’t wait…YES!!!”
It remains, hands down, the most miserable gig of my career. I’ve never run across a group (this band was 75 strong) of students more entitled and checked out of life than this. I figured myself to be fairly creative in classroom management and motivation. On that gig – I failed spectacularly. After a very long two days of trying to inspire and motivate this crew, their “trust fund” attitudes beat me.
I asked the teachers, “How can you stand working with these types of spoiled, entitled, rude humans?”
Teacher’s response, “The money is so good, it doesn’t matter how they treat us.”
Enough said. 5. Walter Mitty: you take the tuba to any three musical scenarios and replace one player. Which ones?
Number 1: Prior to the invention of the bass ‘pickup’, the sousaphone was the instrument of choice in the bottom of a big band. I would like to see what would have happened to the last 100+ years of sousaphone playing had it remained a viable choice for bass function in commercial settings. Tuba as the bass for Benny Goodman. For Count Basie. For Art Blakey. For Frank Sinatra. For Tower of Power. For Michael Jackson. For Pat Metheny. For Bruno Mars.
I’d like to hear Nat McIntosh play with T.O.P
I’d like to hear Sam Pilafian play with Count Basie.
I’d like to have heard Rich Matteson play sousaphone for Benny Goodman and Clifford Brown.
I’d like to sit in with Led Zeppelin and Prince.
Where would the tuba have gone if the bass pickup hadn’t been invented? OR – if when the bass pick up was invented…a viable tuba microphone was invented at the same time.
It is the WHAT IF that I ponder the most as a “bass-cleffer”. WHAT IF the tuba had remained the instrument of choice for bass line playing?
Number 2: What if Jascha Heifetz played the tuba the way he played the violin? What if Glenn Gould played the tuba the way he played the piano?
Number 3: What if Mozart played and wrote for the tuba? Same of JS Bach?
and Ray Brown
Barbara Conable – author of ‘Structures and Movement of Breathing’ and ‘What Every Musician Should Know about the Body’ (www.BodyMap.org) I’ve never met her, but her books have helped me as much as the teachings of Arnold Jacobs. Application of her techniques have helped me to help hundreds players through difficult issues.
Bikram Yoga – What I’ve learned from this exercise/meditation about teaching, practicing and my own patience has informed my musical performance and teaching in many ways. (subject of another interview…)
7. What was so special about Jacobs and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) brass from the vantage point as their student, and the vantage point of today?
As a teenager, going to the Chicago Symphony was akin to going to see Muhammed Ali box, or Babe Ruth play baseball or Michael Jordan play basketball. AND – I got to go hear this every week for 2 years.
The names of the members of the brass section were more familiar to me than any political figure, historical or modern day. And – because there weren’t social media channels for people to display their personal lives…or even websites to view, MUCH of what I learned about these players was accompanied by great imaginative scenarios in which these players were imbued with super human qualities.
While I studied with them, they began to treat me as at least one of their own, albeit, maybe as the annoying little sibling. I can still remember sitting in Civic Orchestra sectionals with some of these giants and when they would recognize you and use your name…whew, that was acknowledgment that had momentum!
Today – it is watching my friends at the top of their game fortunate to be in a situation that allows them to focus almost entirely on artistic expression as their job. That is a beautiful thing.
8. Who are the greatest instrumentalists of all time?
I don’t know. Material is too subjective to provide an objective list.
Besides the ones already mentioned:
Glenn Gould, Jascha Heifetz, Michael Rabin, Roby Lakatos, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Anna Moffo, Oscar Peterson, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Shirley Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, Pat Metheny, Al Jarreau, Thelonious Monk, Carl Fontana, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Chet Baker, Bobby McFerrin, Clark Terry, Frank Zappa, Astor Piazolla, Edgar Meyer, Bill Evans…
(…that’s the short list…)
Z. How do you select repertoire?
Audience, audience, audience.
Does the literature evoke strong, visceral emotional reactions? If yes – then program.
If not – then avoid.
Repertoire usage varies based on audience profile and, secondarily, based on acoustics of the performance venue.
For example – triple tonguing variation type pieces don’t portray well with non-musical audiences. They hear the repeated technique of triple tonguing as uneven tone and therefore not impressive. The SAME piece of repertoire performed for a musically educated audience will evoke a very enthusiastic response as they can appreciate the difficulty of the technical display. So – there are certain pieces I only perform at instrumental or music educator conferences.
Same for acoustics. If the hall is boomy, Arban stays home. If the hall is dry, ballads be gone.
9. What are the three things you learn in an MBA program that would help musicians most?
Music is a product that needs the correct pricing, placement and promotion. (Music is not an art if you want to work.)
Finance is not a theory.
Hire an accountant. (unless tax code is your hobby)
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Scott Hartman is a trombonists trombonist, and musical to the core. In the debate between valves and slide that is often the brass quintet, Hartman has proven to be one of the slide’s most articulate and eloquent spokesmen. An impressive soloist in his own right, Hartman served for nine years as the trombone counterweight to the stratospheric solos of trumpeter Rolf Smedvig in the Empire Brass. He is in a unique position to address “FIVE!”, and does so….
1. You are one of the masters of matching trumpet AND horn articulation. How do you change your approach to the front side of the note to match trumpets? Horn?
I think about articulation – and most technical – in mechanical/acoustic terms. So an articulation is the dynamic shape which begins a note and I picture it in my mind like this example:
“Articulation” S. Hartman davidbrubeck.com
Each instrument/player has a palette of articulations that they use and the more they have available, the more variety and nuance you bring to the music. Once I identify the sound I want I use the mechanical processes that bear on articulation, i.e., air, tongue, slide, using the partials/overtones in transition to achieve the result. If it sounds right – it is right!
2. You can play really clean, or let it rip! How do you think of “hiding the slide”-(or its smears) when matching trumpets as opposed to your vibrant yet very rhythmic approach to glisses, scoops and falls?
Related to the previous comment on articulation, I have to imagine a sound first, then figure out how you make this sound on the trombone. Oftentimes, I find that people don’t feel that it is correct or appropriate to do something – mechanically or musically – so they restrict their musical palette in the process. I leave the door open to try to make any sound that comes to mind and use any technique that achieves it.
Technique is whatever I do in the process of making a sound. Again, if it sounds right – it is right!
So, a more succinct answer to your question. I think about the air, embouchure, tongue, slide, overtones, valve and how they interact as I make a sound.
3. What are your fondest memories of Rolf?
There are so many Rolf stories! My favorites are the ones that capture his uniqueness as a person. Here are several!
A. We toured the Soviet Union in 1987 as Glasnost was implemented as a policy to open up and soften the Cold War. While in Leningrad (now returned to its previous name of St Petersburg) we toured some of the amazing buildings and institutions left behind by Peter the Great. We saw l’Hermitage, the palaces and his chapel. After several hours of sight seeing these marvels, Rolf showed his true colors by asking the tour guide “How do you get to BE Czar?” Rolf thought big!
B. We did a lot of skiing together on many tours and finished each day with a concert. Rolf was an excellent skier and loved being outdoors. We shared some fun times this way.
C. My good friend, Don Robinson, came out to serve as our Road Manager/Driver for a couple of
Smedvig & Hartman davidbrubeck.com
tours. Rolf liked to sit in the back of the van and was always quick to offer criticism of peoples driving. Don made a couple of abrupt turns and stops the first day out and Rolf made the comment that Don drove like the bass trombone player that he is…whatever that means… “Phrase it, Don!” was a common call from the rear of the van. So Don tried ‘Phrasing’ his stops by taking ¼ mile to come to a stop at a light – Rolf didn’t like that, “Use your brakes, Don!” – so the next time, Don pumped the brakes ABS style. Rolf almost lurched out of his seat this time and launched into Don, who replied that he’s just following instructions! That was it, Rolf gave up. That was the quickest and most obvious concession I ever saw Rolf give!
D. Also in the Soviet Union, we had several Soviet handlers and a lot of contact with the US Embassy since this was one of the first cultural trip to the Soviet Union under glasnost. Rolf started dating a Soviet woman that he met at the hotel which was espressly forbidden by the Embassy. The Embassador became concerned and gave Rolf and the group a lecture about our being cultural and national representatives and that the Soviets may try to use us to create a scandal of some sort. Therefore, no socializing with unauthorized women, no dealing with contraband of any sort. We were all asked if we’d had anyone approach us offering us contraband…Rolf was adamant that he’d certainly not! Afterwards, on the bus, Rolf asks… ‘What’s contraband?’
E. ON and on…
4. How did your approach to music change as a result of your time in EB?
I learned how to listen much better and to be more aware of everything. I remember realizing that I need to have an opinion of rhythm/tempo/momentum at all times. Playing with others, this is necessary. I didn’t understand that before my time with the EBQ! We also taught chamber music at Tanglewood and Boston University, as well as numerous masterclasses. I learned from listening to the others teach/talk and also by having to formulate answers to questions that would achieve the proper result.
5. Were there moments in EB when you fully absorbed the music making at its best and thought to yourself, “this is as good as it gets!”?
During excellent concerts and hearing recordings, we’d hit a home run sometimes and congratulation ourselves. And after concerts, the audience made us feel appreciated, of course! Now, watching and hearing recordings of live performances reinforces what a great group the EBQ was!
6. What were the best and worst parts of life on the road with EB?
Everything-except rehearsal (and sometimes recording), was great! (Rehearsals could get rather tense.)
7. What selections do you feel are among the best literature for brass quintet?
That’s tough. There is a lot of great rep now. Lots of good transcriptions, of course, but there is so much original rep that is excellent.
8. What do you think of the trend towards smaller tubas (namely F tuba) in brass quintets as opposed to the ‘C’ or ‘Bb’ Tuba?
I have to admit that I always enjoyed playing quintet with a tubist playing a large horn. I miss the solid low notes on an Eb or F.
But, that being said, a lot of rep works better on the smaller instrument.
So, ideally, the tubist will have both horns. Not likely though, on tour…
9. What are your favorite EB recorded tracks and why?
My favorite aspect of the EB is the level of chamber music that we enjoyed. When we knew the music, we could reinvent it on each performance; explore musical possibilities on the fly and let the music come to life each time we played. We would transcend our own voice and truly make music. This was amazing to be joined together through music this way, probably much like the bond that is created within a sports team or military unit…
I believe that our first Class Brass recording captured this ability – primarily because the acoustics at the recording were great and you can hear us using the hall the way we would in concert – most other recordings didn’t quite capture the hall acoustics.
c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com