TENOR TROMBONISTS Ralph Sauer, John Marcellus, Peter Ellefson, Alex Iles & Irv Wagner SHOWCASED IN NEW SERIES “1385”!

The headline for davidbrubeck.com in 2016 has to be the introduction of”1385″ tm, the brand-new interview series featuring world-class musicians who happen to play the tenor trombone. How could you possibly provide a better start to the series than these five? Master trombonists Ralph Sauer, John Marcellus, Peter Ellefson, Alex Iles and Irv Wagner lead the charge, and we are grateful; it doesn’t get any better than this! Here are the selected highlights…

RALPH SAUER

Ralph Sauer, trombonist www.davidbrubeck.com

Ralph Sauer, trombonist
www.davidbrubeck.com

2. Only Maurice Andre, and perhaps a handful of other brass players have reached a level occupied by dozens, if not hundreds, of soloists on piano, violin or cello. What are we brass soloists missing?
But there are some brass players today who perform at the highest level. I won’t try to name them, because I might inadvertently leave someone out. Those top musicians have something the rest of the pack doesn’t have. It’s not enough to play in tune, in time, and with a great sound. The top players have a fourth dimension. This includes a complete understanding of the composer’s style, and the ability to go beyond just playing all the notes perfectly. Their phrasing is natural and appropriate; their rhythmic sense is elastic, but never distorted; and they can vary their tone quality to suit the style of the music. They are natural communicators.

5. What is your secret to a great legato?
I use the sound of a perfect natural slur as my model for all other slurs. Perfect legato on the trombone requires exact coordination of slide and tongue. The slide is not early or late–it is on time. How each individual thinks about achieving this can vary. Some people think of the slide being ahead. Others achieve good results by waiting in each position. A third way of thinking would be not to move the slide until the tongue says to move. Sloppy legato is usually the result of the slide moving too soon.

Find the other questions and answers by clicking here: Ralph Sauer

JOHN MARCELLUS
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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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.

Find out about more “trombonery” by clicking here: John Marcellus

PETER ELLEFSON

4. What DIFFERENCES have you noticed as a listener/participant in the wonderful orchestras of Seattle, Chicago, New York and others? (Tendencies, priorities, approaches?)

I always try to be a “contributing chameleon” wherever I play. I never really consciously think about the differences, only what I must do at the moment to be a good musical citizen and contributor.

Upon reflection, one of the biggest differences involves volume of sound. I could never play in Seattle the way I have had to in Chicago and New York—although sometimes in the opera pit for The Ring, we hauled it out quite well. Much of that difference has to do with the size/quality of the hall and the size of the orchestra. Boston has such a nice hall that, in my few BSO visits, I never felt that I had to push the sound. Similarly, Seattle’s Benaroya Hall is newer and much more efficient than the halls in Chicago and New York. It is easy to hear on stage and easy to blend dynamically due to the hall’s sonic feedback. It is more like chamber music there. The greatest challenge for me in Chicago was being able to hear across the orchestra and playing ultra softly. That orchestra (and the low brass in particular) has an incredibly wide dynamic range.

The CSO guys play really, REALLY softly.

Another difference is the timbre in different dynamics.

I find that the NYP section maintains a very similar timbre from their softest to loudest. The sound is still very broad at highest dynamics with very little “sizzle.”

The CSO section tends to change timbre at the highest dynamics. It gets pretty “fiery” in the red-zone. I believe that is at least partially due to the equipment they prefer…lightweight bass trombone slides for the tenors and a proportionately larger slide for the bass as well. To be a good citizen, most of the time, I would change slides when playing in the CSO. The last difference I’ll mention is note length and shape. Chicago has a lot of energy at the attack and not a lot of sustain.

New York has less emphasis on attack but lots of sustain. At this point, in case I seem overly analytical, I must declare that it is always the highest honor for me to play with these orchestras. You astutely ask about the differences which are very few, especially when compared to the similarities, which are many. These are the best trombonists in the world!

Frank Crisafulli and Peter Ellefson www.davidbrubeck.com

Frank Crisafulli and Peter Ellefson
www.davidbrubeck.com


7. What is your theory on Frank Crisafulli’s ability to maximize a players potential during a lesson? How would you describe his sound?

Humble, self-effacing demeanor combined with obvious joy of interacting with students. He was able to make us falsely believe as though we played better than he did. He was encouraging while still gently pointing out what needed out be improved upon. I accept that there are big differences in teaching styles but I have never been able to understand the “teaching by humiliation” approach that I know exists elsewhere. In my own teaching, I have completely adopted his style of positive reinforcement. He somehow knew what was most important at the time and what could be addressed later. I also believe that he had an instinct for what he knew we would fix on our own. He trusted us. I played my best during that hour each week and the rest of the time I was trying to recapture how well I played in those lessons—or at least how I perceived that I played.

His sound was like no other I have ever encountered. Compact yet wide and very “meaty.” His sound was full, pure, direct and filled with overtones. He played relatively small equipment (by today’s trend) but he had a huge sound. I like to describe the ideal trombone sound as narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow (a la baritone horn). I believe that the narrow and deep sound is what projects and he certainly projected with apparent ease. I sensed that his air was slow but so well placed. There was nothing flashy, just the facts. His slide movement was a study. Slow but never late. How can that be? Even watching the videos of the CSO (what treasures!), one sees how he seemed to never move quickly but it was always in the slot.

Please catch the rest of the article here: Peter Ellefson

ALEX ILES


1. Take us through the rehearsals and performance/recording of one of the many awards shows. How would you describe this experience to someone outside a major music center?

This varies from show to show, and the calls for these kinds of awards shows generally go out a few months in advance. The orchestra usually has a few sessions booked a week or two before the show airs live where they will prerecord much of the music in one or two six-hour-sessions. The music often includes opening titles, end credits, and a few other show numbers to be used at the discretion of the show producers, directors, and choreographers.

The orchestra also rehearses and records the main themes of the nominated films or shows. For most awards shows, the orchestra plays those tunes live for the winner as they come onstage. During the show the director will eventually cue the conductor over the headphones to cue the orchestra to play when the clock (clearly in view of the award recipient) runs out. Hopefully, this keeps the show from running too long. But the Oscars run notoriously long, even with the speeches getting cut off.

Alex Iles at www.davidbrubeck.com

Alex Iles at
www.davidbrubeck.com


There are some tech and dress rehearsals a few days prior to and on the day of the show. These rehearsals are not as much for the orchestra but for the directors and camera crew to get a sense of how everything runs in order. Depending on how much the directors use the pre­records, the orchestra may not even play live on the night of the show at all. The Oscar orchestra schedule and responsibilities vary a bit year to year, largely depending also on what the host/MC wants to do. The one year I got to play on the Oscars, Hugh Jackman, a great singer and all around entertainer, was co­-host t, so he was a natural to sing live with the orchestra and did a great job performing with his co­-host, actress, Anne Hathaway.

4. What was it like to play for Sir Paul McCartney? Personally, musically, and historically?
I was called a couple of days before Paul McCartney recorded a live webcast to promote the release of a lovely CD called Kisses on the Bottom consisting of standard and show tunes that he had grown up hearing and had inspired him growing up in Liverpool.

My friend, colleague and fantastic jazz musician, Ira Nepus, played all the wonderful jazz trombone solos on that recording. For the webcast, the producers were not originally going to play any of the tunes with trombone solos, but then changed their minds decided to add one of them into the mix at the last minute. Unfortunately for Ira, he was already committed to another job out of town. So, he had to decline the offer and the call went out to me to cover for him!

It was a thrill to be there in the same room as Paul McCartney, Dianna Krall, Joe Walsh, John Pizzarelli, John Clayton and the rest of the amazing band!! Paul was very gracious and trusted all the musicians so much. When he walked into the studio, he walked right up to me and extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Paul.” I was paralyzed, of course and just shook his hand and said, “Yes, I know.” Dianna Krall, another hero of mine, later told me in a hushed tone, “I have known Paul and worked with him for a few months on this project and I turn into a giddy 13 year old every time I see him!” I played on a cool old Fats Waller tune, “My Very Good Friend the Milkman”. It was a thrill beyond words to get to play on this. Another example in my career of getting to do something as a substitute!!

Alex Iles

IRV WAGNER

4. Which musical solos and educational materials have you seen gain importance over the years, or become obscure?
Solos and Educational Materials; That is difficult to answer in a specific manner because that would require me making a list. But in general, the literature has expanded with many fine works in the last 30 years. Composers like Nina Rota with his magnificent Concerto, Eric Ewazen with works that are trombone and audience-friendly, and lesser known composers like Boda Presser, and Thom Ritter George have produced wonderful which are high-quality and friendly. I am afraid many of the most famous trombonists on the world scene commission works which only they can play, so it does not make a positive impact on the trombone profession.

unnamed-45. Who are your more recent musical inspirations? Non-musical?
Musical Inspirations: I like people who were pioneers in the field. Roberto Gagliardi in Brazil, Emory Remington at Eastman, Gaspar Liccardine in Argentina are inspirations because they had no contact with other trombonists with how to play, available literature and the like, and they created out of nothing for themselves and their students good playing, literature to play, and an audience to listen. Real Inspirations!
8. What exciting future implications do you see in the future for young musicians who happen to play the trombone? Do you think that Remington could have imagined it?
As for the future: I see a bright future for trombonists, but only for the ones who approach the instrument as I do with love and joy which needs to be shared with others. Young people who only have “making money in mind” will not get anywhere. But people and trombonist with sincere and joyous hearts will succeed. I think Remington would have no problem because he was such a fine and simple man. He did not make anyone conform to anything that established but rather helped each person become the trombonist and person that they could become. Simple.

Read the rest of this interview here: Irv Wagner

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