When the music is the most important thing, taste triumphs technique and the whole is more than its parts-you will need a virtuoso ensemble player. Someone who melds their skills, musical and non-musical, to make the whole even greater. A virtuoso ensemble player like Astrid Caroline Ellann. With a sound big enough to consume a fjord, “Seven Positions” celebrates a wonderful young bass trombonist who was refined in in the Netherlands, only to achieve great success as part of the Norwegian ensemble ten Thing! Enjoy….How do you view the bass trombone, and what drew you to it? 1. I view the bass trombone as my tool to express my musical intent, and it’s were I feel at home. Because of it’s range the instrument gives you freedom, flexibility and versatility to be sometimes delicate and light as a feather to a heavy (and sometimes brutal) monster.
How I ended up on bass trombone as my instrument of choice was a game of chance, or luck, depending on how you see it. In my local school band (which was a standard British style brass band) they needed bass trombone so I left the euphonium chair and joined the bass-clef-squad. So unfortunately there was no moment of a greater calling which would have looked neatly in writing just a situation of an empty band chair.
2. Solo playing, chamber music and large ensemble playing; which is your favorite and why? I absolutely love chamber music, playing chamber music gives me energy and I feel like I’m very much in my comfort zone. I can easily get a chamber music high! As for solo playing – I’m not a very extroverted person so being the center of attention has never really been my thing. However when ever I have to be a soloist I like to see the accompaniment as my equal in chamber music to be able to feel more like home. Larger ensembles like planying in orchestras are fun, and I usually have time to enjoy the genuine qualities of the other instruments of the orchestra and possibly also learn some musical quirkes from them in the process.
3. Who have been your main influences on your instrument, and what main point have you taken from each? My main influences have been the musicians I have studied with which also are among the current bass trombone heros like Ben van Dijk and Brandt Attema.
But of course I have looked to my collegues in tenThing brass ensemble, and spefically Tine Thing Helseth. I think with all of them I have looked at the ease of playing, musical interpetations and the joy while doing it. Inspiration comes with musical qualties, attitude or just the pure joy of playing. All of them of which are elements I enjoy while listening to others when they play, whether its a bass trombonist, cellist, trumpeter or pianist.
4. What is your secret to a good legato? Difficult question! I usually try to remove any technical challenges that would disturb the listeners experience of the music I’m playing. The goal is that the audience will think about the nice music rather than: “that’s pretty good trombone playing”. I record myself to double check that what I think I’m playing correspond to what’s actually happening. Usually it all breaks down to airflow, timing, efficiency of movement and a clear musical idea of style and intent.
5. What was it like to visit the Thein factory and hand-select a custom bass trombone? What drew you to Thein? My current teacher played on Thein, and my Bach had to go to repair and I got to borrow one of my teachers instruments, and I fell in love with the feel of the instrument. And I suddenly got some inheretence and I had the finances to actually buy one for myself. Going to the Thein factory is a very calming experience, where they will never try to sell you something that is not your best option. Meaning if you have equipment that is better sounding then the trombone setup they offer, they advise to stick with what you have. But they always find something better for you. When you go to Thein they try to change the instrument to make you better. Which is different from the practice room where you try to change or develop yourself to make the instrumeny sound better. I always feel very well taken care of when I go to Thein and after all these years I’m still very much in love with my Thein bass trombone.
c. 2019 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
image courtesy of Astri Caroline Ellann-Facebook