You might have heard Terry Cravens with the Pasadena Symphony and Los Angeles Opera, or even the LA Philharmonic at times. Perhaps it was one of two hundred nights of the Phantom of the Opera or in other musicals and orchestras. For any, Cravens is a name not only synonymous with the LA Bass Trombone scene, but with his tenure as Professor of Trombone at the University of Southern California. While the watermark of experience and accomplishment is high, the air is a bit dry. Grab a beverage as Terry Cravens takes “Seven Positions” tm on a tour of the Golden State of the Bass Trombone…
What is your secret to a great legato?
Practice Remington on repeated tones with a light da da da tongue
Then the same tongue with half steps, etc. I want it to sound like a natural slur so I then encompass a natural slur along with a legato tongue and try to match them up.
West Coast trombone player’s strengths and dispositions versus East coast. Break it down for us. What have you noticed?
I don’t really know if there’s that much difference? The air is dryer out here and years ago John Clyman told me that the sounds are different related to that. Maybe a little brighter perhaps? I don’t really think there is much difference.
What do you look for in a trombone?
I like one that speaks pretty easy but one that can get a nice round sound as well. James Conlon, Music Director of the LA Opera, is always asking for that.
I am playing on a Yahama Xeno currently and I like it.I also have used a Bach, Holton, Edwards, and Shires.
What are your favorite classical concertos and solos for bass trombone?
I have a strong affinity for those written for me, and that I was fortunate to premiere.
Trombosis (for 12 Trombones )
by Robert Linn— it’s a great work for trombone choir.
Concerto for Bass Trombone and Winds by Nelson Keyes ( 3 Mvt work—I performed it at the University of Louisville and the University of Southern California
By Randell Croley
It’s a one mvt unaccompanied work
Partita on Hammering
By William Schmidt
Composed for me
Concertino for Bass Trombone and Woodwind Quintet by William Schmidt
Premier Spring of 1977
By Robert Linn
For Bass Bone and piano
Premier fall of 1976
There’s one more,
Brass Abacus by William Schmidt
Written for me Tony Plog and Calvin Smith
We recorded this also
My first examples when I was young were John Coffey, Allen Ostrander, Edward Kleinhammer, Lewis Van Haney and George Roberts. I took lessons from all of them except John Coffey and they really helped me a lot. Today there so many that I shouldn’t go there as to who is the best or I would for sure leave someone out and I don’t want to do that.
How do you approach chamber music for the bass trombonist; what is it’s value and how do we get there?
I have played in brass quintets both on the actual trombone part and the tuba part. I have done trombone trios, quartets, etc. and have benefitted from all of those combinations.
William Schmidt wrote a work for me for bass trombone and Woodwind Quintet which helped chamber music wise in that I was playing with the woodwinds instead of brass.
I approach chamber music like I would any other kind in that I try to decide what I want to sound like and practice accordingly.
What do you imagine for the bass trombone that has yet to come to pass?
That’s hard for me to predict the future.
I’m sure it will still be used in orchestras, musical shows, chamber music and as a solo instrument. I do believe that it is a wonderful instrument and will forever be utilized as long as there is music being played.
c. 2018 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Image courtesy of the LA Opera
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