JOHN MARCELLUS & FIVE CENTURIES OF “TROMBONERY”, BRIEFLY INTERRUPTEDunnamed

You may have heard of John Marcellus.

Certainly, almost any trombonist next to you has.

Perhaps, as Principal Trombonist with the National or Chautauqua Symphony Orchestras. Perhaps, as a soloist with the Eastman Brass Quintet or the United States Navy Band, or in dozens of appearances at the Eastern Trombone Workshop and International Trombone Festival-for both of which he served as a founding member. You may have seen Marcellus’ name on a journal article by-line, as an arrangers credit, or even on a mouthpiece.

It is even more likely that you have heard the results of his expertise and teaching on the trombone in the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, Florida Symphony Orchestra, Florida Philharmonic, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Philharmonic, Welsh National Radio Orchestra, La Scala Opera Orchestra, Helsingborg Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Dortmund Opera Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, the military bands of West Point, U.S. Marine Band, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Navy Band, U.S. Air Force Band, U.S. Army Band, U.S. Army Field Band and the professional ensembles of the River City Brass Band, Brass Band of Battle Creek, Woody Herman Band, Buddy Rich Band, and the Glen Miller Orchestra.

Marcellus brings to bear not only his great experience studying and playing the trombone, but also the lineage of his teachers-William Cramer and Lewis van Haney and the tremendous trombone teaching tradition of the Eastman School of Music and his predecessors-Emory Remington and Donald Knaub. “1385” tm is delighted to present John Marcellus as the second installment of interviews with some of the finest musicians in the world who happen to play tenor trombone. Enjoy!

1. How important was the vocal direction for the trombone, which seems to have been established in the United States by Rochut and Remington?

THEIR INFLUENCE WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE “SINGING TROMBONE” CONCEPT. JOHANNES ROCHUT PUBLISHED IN 1928 THE “MELODIOUS ETUDES BY MARCO BORDOGNI” BOOKS 1-3, AND EMORY REMINGTON (1891-1971) STARTED TEACHING AT THE EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC IN 1922.

AMONGST OTHER PERFORMING TROMBONISTS IN THE LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY IN THE CLASSICAL STYLE, THERE WAS ARTHUR PRYOR AND CHARLES E. STACY. PRYOR, COMPOSER OF MANY SOLO PIECES, WAS THE MOST RECORDED TROMBONIST DURING THIS PERIOD AND STACY IS THE ONE THAT CODIFIED IN 1908 THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THIS PERIOD, BASED ON LIP SLURS, IN HIS THREE BOOKS PUBLISHED BY DITSON OF BOSTON IN 1908 WHEN REMINGTON WAS 17 YEARS OLD!

IT’S NO DOUBT THAT THESE TWO (ROCHUT AND REMINGTON), INFLUENCED A “SINGING” APPROACH TO THE TROMBONE, WHICH HAD ALREADY BEEN ESTABLISHED IN EUROPE IN THE EARLY 1900’s, IN THE SOLO PIECES FOR TROMBONE AND PIANO OF THE PARIS CONSERVATORY AND IN OTHER COUNTRIES SUCH AS RUSSIA, ENGLAND, GERMANY AND ITALY. REMINGTON WAS ALSO INFLUENCED BY HIS STUDIES WITH GARDELL SIMONS OF THE PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA BETWEEN 1915 AND 1922.

HOWEVER, IN THE JAZZ FIELD IN 1922, MIFF MOLE, A MEMBER OF THE ORIGINAL MEMPHIS FIVE AND LATER WITH TOSCANINI AS 1ST TROMBONE IN THE NBC ORCHESTRA, WAS PERFORMING IN A CLEANER, SMOOTHER AND MORE TECHNICAL STYLE THAN THE EARLIER JAZZ TROMBONISTS. TOMMY DORSEY COMES ALONG LATER IN 1925 AND PERFORMS WITH THE CALIFORNIA RAMBLERS AND IN 1927 HE JOINED THE PAUL WHITEMAN ORCHESTRA, AFTER WHICH HE WAS KNOWN AS THE “SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN”. IT’S NO DOUBT THAT THESE TWO PERFORMERS ALSO INFLUENCED THIS “SINGING STYLE” THAT REMINGTON FELT WAS VERY IMPORTANT, AS WELL AS ROCHUT WITH HIS PUBLICATION OF “MELODIOUS ETUDES OF MARCO BORDOGNI.”

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2. Please talk about your concept of creating wind turbulence with articulation. Which elements outside of the tongue itself act upon articulation the most.MY TEACHER, WILLIAM F. CRAMER, FROM FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY, USED THE PHRASE “BLOW FREELY” ON MANY OCCASIONS AND HIS APPROACH TO BLOWING WAS TO USE NO TONGUE ON THE INITIAL ATTACK AFTER A BREATH TO ESTABLISH AIR FLOW.

WITH THIS CONCEPT, THERE IS A FULL RESONANT SOUND ON THE FIRST NOTE FOLLOWED BY BLOWING AIR FAST ENOUGH TO MAINTAIN A FULL SOUND ON THE REST OF THE MUSICAL PHRASE. IN THIS CASE, THE AIRFLOW HAS TO BE FAST ENOUGH TO ACTIVATE THE LIPS.

IF YOU PERFORM ON THE MOUTHPIECE THIS IS MOST OBVIOUS WHEN THE VIBRATION OF THE LIPS DO NOT HAPPEN BECAUSE THE SPEED OF THE AIR FLOW IS NOT FAST ENOUGH.

FOR EXAMPLE: BLOW A SMALL STREAM OF AIR INTO THE MOUTHPIECE, GRADUALLY INCREASE THE VELOCITY (FASTER SPEED) UNTIL THE LIPS ARE ACTIVATED. YOU WILL ALSO NOTICE THE CORNERS OF THE EMBOUCHURE WILL AUTOMATICALLY BECOME FIRM IN ORDER FOR THE LIPS TO BE ACTIVATED INTO A BUZZED PITCH.

SOME TEACHERS ADVOCATE FIRM YOUR CORNERS FIRST, THEN BLOW. WITH THE USE OF “NO ATTACK” THIS FIRM SETTING IS REACHED THE INSTANT YOUR AIR FLOW IS FAST ENOUGH.

TO PROCEED TO ARTICULATION OR THE “ATTACK” (IT’S ACTUALLY A RELEASE NOT AN ATTACK), THE USE OF VARYING PRESSURES OF THE TONGUE AGAINST THE TEETH AND HARD PALLET IS NECESSARY TO DEVELOP CONSISTENCY IN ALL RANGES OF THE INITIAL ATTACK.

THE MID-REGISTER REQUIRES A DEFINED “TAH” ATTACK AND CAN VARY FROM “DAH” TO “TAH” WITH NOT A GREAT DEAL OF TONGUE PRESSURE APPLIED TO THE UPPER TEETH AND HARD PALLET. THE UPPER REGISTER REQUIRES MORE TONGUE PRESSURE AND THE USE OF THE “TEE” SYLLABLE WHICH HELPS TO ARCH THE TONGUE FOR THE UPPER REGISTER.

1) PRACTICE ON ONE TONE FIRST IN THE MID REGISTER, THEN EXPANDING TO 9 NOTES WITH THE SAME “TAH” OR “TEE” SYLLABLES. REMINGTON CALLED THIS “TONGUING ON A LINE”.

2) NEXT, START WITH THREE NOTES OF THE OVERTONE SERIES IN ONE POSITION UPWARDS AND DOWNWARDS… THEN ADD 4 NOTES, THEN 5, THEN 6-9 NOTES IN ONE POSITION. NOTES ABOVE D, ABOVE THE BASS CLEF STAFF SHOULD START WITH THE SYLLABLE “TEE” NOT “TAH.”

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REMEMBER TO NOT STOP THE AIR WITH YOUR TONGUE AT THE END OF ANY TONE. THE DAYLIGHT BETWEEN NOTES IS MOST ADVANTAGEOUS AND TO DEVELOP A SHORT BURST OF AIR FOR VERY SHORT NOTES, USE THE ARBAN APPROACH…. THINK OF SPITTING A SEED OFF THE LIPS WITH THE TONGUE…THIS BURST OF AIR NEEDS TO BE DUPLICATED WITH THE USE OF THE TONGUE AGAINST THE TEETH AND HARD PALLET TO RELEASE A BURST OF AIR TO THE LIPS.

3. What kinds of qualities have you noticed in successful second trombone players in a symphonic setting?
FLEXIBILITY IN ALL AREAS OF PERFORMANCE ARE REQUIRED SUCH AS INTONATION (PROBABLY MOST CRITICAL AND THE ABILITY TO HEAR OTHERS AS YOU PERFORM), BALANCE, RHYTHM, CONGENIALITY, AND THE ABILITY TO COUNT WHEN THE 1ST TROMBONIST DOESN’T!

4. How were you able to balance jazz and classical playing at such high levels? Were the perceptions of peers a challenge?
BALANCING JAZZ AND CLASSICAL PERFORMANCE REQUIRES A DISCIPLINE OF EACH STYLE AND TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THOSE TWO STYLES OF MUSIC WHEN PERFORMING. THE MAIN DIFFERENCE LIES IN ARTICULATION AND SWING RHYTHMS IN REGARD TO JAZZ, I.E. TO READ A DOTTED EIGHTH NOTE FOLLOWED BY A SIXTEENTH NOTE AND PERFORM IT AS IF YOU ARE IN A 12/8 RHYTHM. THE FREEDOM AND RELAXATION THAT JAZZ INHERENTLY GIVES TO MUSIC IS A GOOD GOAL TO ALSO USE IN CLASSICAL STYLES. THERE ARE TIMES YOU HAVE TO PERFORM IN BOTH STYLES SIMULTANEOUSLY AS IN “BOLERO” WITHOUT A JAZZ SWING TO IT!

5. Describe your involvement with King trombones,and Benge in particular.
THE BENGE 190 AND 190F WAS INTRODUCED IN 1985. I DID NOT DESIGN THE INSTRUMENTS, BUT DID EXPERIMENT WITH 17 LEAD PIPES TO PICK OUT THE “M” PIPE FOR THE BENGE 190.
KING ALSO DESIGNED THE “MARCELLUS MOUTHPIECE” DUPLICATED (BUT SMALLER) FROM THE VAN HANEY MODEL MADE BY GIARDINELLI MOUTHPIECES IN THE 1960’S. BY THE WAY, THE CONN REMINGTON MOUTHPIECE WAS DESIGNED FROM THE SAME KRUSPE MOUTHPIECE THAT LEWIS VAN HANEY USED TO CREATE THE VAN HANEY MODEL MANUFACTURED BY GIARDINELLI!

I BELIEVE THE KING 2B AND 3B WILL ALWAYS BE AROUND AS CLASSIC TROMBONE MODELS!

6. When you think of the four or five greatest symphonic trombone sections, who comes to mind? Jazz or studio?
OF COURSE GORDON PULIS, LEWIS VAN HANEY AND ALAN OSTRANDER OF THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC IN THE 1950’S IS THE CLASSIC WHILE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WAS AN IMITATION OF THE CONN SOUND IN THE 1950’S. SINCE THEN, THE TRADITIONS OF VIENNA, BERLIN, CHICAGO, LOS ANGLES, BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND THE METROPOLITAN OPERA ORCHESTRA ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE TROMBONE SECTIONS INCLUDING THE PRESENT DAY SECTIONS. IN THE STUDIO ORCHESTRAS OF LOS ANGELES OF COURSE ARE DICK NASH, LLOYD ULYLATE, AND GEORGE ROBERTS AMONG OTHERS THAT STAND OUT WITH THEIR STYLE.

7. How did your double bell come about? What are it’s specifications and best uses.
I GREW UP PERFORMING ON A CONN DOUBLE BELL EUPHONIUM SO THE “MARCELLA BONE” IS AN OUTGROWTH OF THAT INFLUENCE. IT’S SPECIFICATIONS ARE A TRUMPET BELL ADAPTED TO FIT INTO THE “F”ATTACHMENT, SO WHEN THE VALVE IS DEPRESSED, THE SOUND COMES OUT OF THE SMALL BELL. I WAS GIVING A DEMONSTRATION IN KANSAS CITY FOR THE KING COMPANY AND PERFORMED WITH THE “F” ATTACHMENT PULLED OUT OF THE TROMBONE TO DEMONSTRATE A DIFFERENT SOUND WITHOUT THE BELL. THE KING REP SAID TO ME, “WE HAVE TO GET YOU A BELL FOR THAT DEMONSTRATON.” WE PROCEEDED TO A LOCAL MUSIC REPAIR SHOP AND THEY CONSTRUCTED THE BELL TO FIT INTO THE “F” ATTACHMENT ON THE BENGE 190F. I USE IT PRIMARILY FOR ECHO EFFECTS WITH VARIOUS TRUMPET MUTES AND OTHER EFFECTS ON MY COURTOIS, 440 LEGEND SERIES.

Marcella Bone With Watrous, Roberts and Marcellus www.davidbrubeck.com

Marcella Bone
With Watrous, Roberts and Marcellus
www.davidbrubeck.com

8. How important of a musical outlet was the Eastman Brass Quintet? Any memorable moments on or off the stage?
WHEN I JOINED THE EASTMAN BRASS IN 1978, IT WAS A TRIO WITH VERNE REYNOLDS- HORN, CHERRY BEAUREGARDE-TUBA AND MYSELF. I HAD EXPECTED TO JOIN THE QUINTET, BUT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN UNTIL THE APPOINTMENT OF BARBARA BUTLER AND CHARLES GEYER IN 1980 AS TRUMPET PROFESSORS. MY MAIN OUTLET OF PERFORMANCE BEGAN WITH SOLO RECITALS AND MASTER CLASS/RECITALS IN THE U.S. AND THE CHAUTAUQUA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, WHICH I JOINED IN THE SUMMER OF 1979, AS PRINCIPAL TROMBONE. OUR CONCERTS WITH THE EASTMAN BRASS BEGAN IN 1980 WITH NEW MANAGEMENT AND THIS MUSICAL PERFORMING OUTLET WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME SINCE I WAS ONLY IN MY EARLY 40’S.

THERE IS ONE MOMENT, ON STAGE, THAT STANDS OUT. IN 1990, DON HARRY HAD SUCCEEDED CHERRY BEAUREGARDE AS THE TUBIST IN THE EBQ. IT WAS ON HIS 1ST ENGAGEMENT WITH THE EASTMAN BRASS IN HILTON HEAD, S.C.

DON CAME ON STAGE LAST-SINCE WE CAME OUT IN ORDER OF TRUMPETS, HORN, TROMBONE AND TUBA LAST.
IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN HILTON HEAD, THERE WAS A STEP UP ONTO THE STAGE. DON IMMEDIATELY TRIPPED ON AND FELL FLAT ON HIS FACE! WHAT A PREMIERE PERFORMANCE WITH THE EASTMAN BRASS FOR DON!! VERY MEMORABLE, AND HE WAS LUCKY THAT HE WASN’T HURT OR SUSTAINED ANY DAMAGE TO HIS TUBA IN THE FALL.

ONE OF THE MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS, OF MANY WITH THE EASTMAN BRASS, WAS THE PREMIERE PERFORMANCE IN 1983 OF THE “GERSHWIN VARIATIONS” BY RAYBURN WRIGHT FOR THE EASTMAN BRASS QUINTET AND THE ROCHESTER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA. RAY WAS THE FOUNDER OF JAZZ STUDIES AT EASTMAN AND THE “GERSHWIN VARIATIONS” WAS COMMISSIONED BY THE EASTMAN BRASS. IT IS A VERY CHALLENGING PIECE, TO SAY THE LEAST, IN A MIXTURE OF CLASSICAL AND JAZZ STYLES.

9. With the advances in technique and range for younger players, do you see any setbacks perhaps in tone color, or feel?
WHEN ONE CONSIDERS DICK NASH AND CHRISTIAN LINDBERG, AND THEIR TECHNIQUE AND RANGE ON THE TROMBONE, IT IS DIFFICULT TO SAY THERE HAS BEEN AN ADVANCE IN TECHNIQUE AND RANGE OF YOUNGER PLAYERS.

TONE COLOR, ABOVE ALL, IS UNIQUE TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL AND IT IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR ANY YOUNGER PLAYER TO EMULATE THE GREAT PLAYERS WHERE THEIR TONE IS CLEAR AS A BELL (WITH NO GARBAGE AROUND THEIR SOUND!!) SOME YOUNGER PLAYERS MAY SACRIFICE THEIR TONE COLOR FOR SPEED AND/OR FEEL AND WE ALL LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF TROMBONISTS. AFTER ALL, ITS ONLY BEEN WELL OVER FIVE CENTURIES OF PROGRESS OF A GREAT TRADITION OF “TROMBONERY.”

c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of John Marcellus

Interested in more Interviews?
Charlie Vernon
James Markey
Chris Brubeck
Doug Yeo
Jeremy Morrow
Tom Everett
Gerry Pagano
Ben van Dijk
Randall Hawes
Denson Paul Pollard
Thomas Matta
Fred Sturm
Bill Reichenbach
Massimo Pirone
Erik Van Lier
Jennifer Wharton
Matyas Veer
Stefan Schulz

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