Irv Wagner has been the face and the ambassador of the International Trombone Association for as long as anyone can remember. If there is a country that seems inviting to the trombone that he has not yet visited, then it is probably on an upcoming itinerary. Mr. Wagner’s historical breadth of the trombone and trombonists is rare and multi-faceted. Watch as Wagner illuminates a future for the good guys and gals. “1385” tm, is pleased to present Mr. Irv Wagner. Enjoy!
1. How has the conception of a desired trombone tone quality changed as compared with 25 years ago, and 50 years ago? Why do you think the changes have occurred?
Regarding Desired Trombone tone: I think tone has swung back to a little more brightness. I consider it like a pendulum—tone kept swinging darker and darker up until the about 50 years ago. The darkest I knew about was Beversdorf at Indiana University who required his tenor players to play on Bass Trombones. Then the pendulum started back the other way from that extreme, and now tone is still rich and full but not so heavy and dark. It is more pleasant. The Jazz World never changed to that darker tone except maybe Stan Kenton, so they did not have to swing back.
2. Have you taken the trombone it had never been heard before? What were the reactions?
Have I taken the trombone anywhere it has never been? I guess in many respects, my first visit to China could fit in that category. I went there first in 1985 (before it was popular), and it was the first time they had heard what constitutes a modern tone quality. They were amazed and tried to copy my sound. Of course, at that point the trombone was new to their ears because any of the students were basically kids who were beginners. Consequently, I opened an entire culture to what is considered a normal trombone tone. There were many years in the 80”s and 90’s that I was considered the “Father of the Trombone” in China.
3. How important have presentational and speaking skills been to your ability to communicate the musical value and joy of playing trombone?
Speaking presentational skills: I think that has been a great benefit to me. I have been blessed with a simple mind so that I can convey in words the most basic information about the trombone. And I have always been interested in making the trombone a friendly instrument. I have a strong opinion that nowadays, most trombonists program for other trombonists and not the general public. Because I have done that at the University of Oklahoma, I have a large following. In fact, our Trombone Choir Concerts draw as large an audience as the Orchestra or Band.
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.
5. 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!
6. What qualities have you seen in some of your most successful students?
My Most Successful students: They all have one thing in common—
they are nice people.
The real, successful students are the ones who loved the instrument, tried to perfect their playing and musical skills, and were above all good people to be around.
7. How have you adjusted programming in a world with increasingly simpler popular music and shorter attention spans?
Adjusting in programming. I am not sure i have adjusted at all. I have always liked all kinds of music from Blue Grass to Jazz and Classical; and I have programmed all of those styles my entire life. So I have had not issues with those in so called simpler and shorter attention spans. And I have never played down to my students or the audience, because i think students and people all want to experience the highest and best—and that does not have to be something “far out.”
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
9. Which are your favorite solos and why?
Literature—that is so difficult to answer because there are so many. And I like all styles and periods, so, of course, I like the David Concerto, Marcello transcriptions, and jazz or audience-friendly pieces.
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
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Tubist Eugene Pokorny has enjoyed success at every station in his storied career. He has flourished in some of the most demanding brass playing communities and is a Titan of the tuba world and a first class musician. As a soloist, with brass ensembles large and small, and with some of the finest orchestras in the world, Pokorny has plied his craft with humor, warmth and greatness. It is not an easy to follow a Titan such as Arnold Jacobs, nor to take your place in one of the most storied low brass sections of the past 60 some years. To do so without skipping a beat is remarkable. An alchemist of sound, his tone has adapted to the new CSO to create the signature blend that is at once present without being obtrusive, warm yet clear-genius! The “Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to host the master alchemist of sound, the sensational Eugene Pokorny-enjoy!
1. Charles Vernon, has stated that it might surprise people to know that Jacobs, Kleinhammer, Crisafulli and Friedman were, “four different styles of playing, all going for a similar result.” Now with yourself, Vernon, Mulcahy and Friedman, the resultant blend seems to have all the characteristics of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with different players. How did you achieve the blend which is so present (and yet can be so supportive of other timbres), with almost a whole new team? How do your sound and Mr. Vernon’s sound in particular achieve such a beautiful blend that is reminiscent of Jacobs/Kleinhammer?
There is a willingness of the sections’ players (some more than others) to subjugate their own personal playing style to one which is more in keeping with the majority opinion. However, there is occasionally some discussion as to where the final sound result will be.
We are all different players with different abilities to adjust to others as well.
I found in my own listening that Jacobs was very lucky to have a musician as competent as Kleinhammer as a sidekick because Kleinhammer would complement his own sound to Jacobs’ playing style, rhythmic proclivities and interpretive rigidity. But that is another subject. For me, the teamwork aspect of playing in a section is the highest goal.
When I play with Charlie [Vernon], I try to find a sound that complements his array of colors. He is more enamored of the lower harmonics in the sonic spectrum of his sound. So, I will try to emphasize the higher side of the harmonic spectrum when I play with him.
Charlie is quite sensitive to the quality of sound when he listens to me trying out different instruments. I find his input very helpful. When we are working on balancing the section, I need to tell him when I (and perhaps others) simply cannot keep up with the output wattage of a bass trombone. The range of all our volumes has to vary from being barely audible all the way to “hell bent for leather” as my hero Jeff Reynolds used to say. We have to have the capability and, more importantly, the willingness to do it all. I have no answers as to the “how” the of the blend that occurs between Charlie and myself.
2. When you take a breath, on most occasions, do you release it immediately in rhythm, or hold it-no matter how slightly? Why or why not?
On most occasions the breath always moves in rhythm both in and out with no delay. If the first note I am to play is in the mid to high register (as in the solo in “Petrouchka”), I may delay to make sure that I am “up to pressure” before releasing the air.
3. Do you conceive of an articulating tongue along the same lines as Arban, where it is a valve that completely albeit temporarily seals the air, or as denting the air stream (Remington), or creating turbulence (Marcellus)?
I think of the tongue as floating above the air stream. When an articulation is needed, the tongue dips into and interrupts the air stream for as long as it needs to then springs back up floating on top of the air stream. When a note is meant to end, the tongue should have no participation at all, except when the notes are meant to be very short. In that case, I will stop the tone with the tongue. Please do not burn me at the stake for saying that. It works for me.
4. What differences did you notice about playing in the CSO when you first joined, as compared with your previous orchestral experiences? Style, attitude, preparation. Do the members listen more?
I need to gauge my answer with the reality that I joined the CSO when I was 36 years old and was still learning a lot about my own playing. However, the biggest physical change was amount of sound output I was expected to produce. This not only meant the loudness but the softness as well. Both Jay [Friedman] and Charlie [Vernon] can play very soft. So can Michael [Mulcahy] who joined the Orchestra several months after I had been there. All three of them could offer a complex array of dynamic contrast. That factor and the dead, dry acoustics of Orchestra Hall make for a very challenging physical environment in which to produce music especially because the resonance in the room itself is practically non-existent.
I estimate it took me most of a season to get up to the volume levels I felt were necessary to pull my weight in the section. The hall in St. Louis where I previously worked had a wonderful resonance in the low register. There was no need to play very loud because the sound was always present and beautiful. The trombone section did not have to be over-amping in St. Louis because there was no reason. We “let” the sound happen in Powell Hall in St. Louis as opposed to having to “make” the sound happen in Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
Eugene’s New Tie! www.davidbrubeck.com
Regarding style, preparation and attitude every performer in every orchestra is a little different. Some are very conscientious and others are not. As examples of players with great attitudes, I could site Susan Slaughter, Daniel Gingrich, David Herbert, Rick Holmes, Steve Williamson, Richard Lesser, Christy Lundquist, John Hagstrom and some others. Most of these players (from the orchestras in Chicago, St. Louis, Utah, Israel, etc.) are either retired or have passed on. Many of these same players also qualify as ones who prepare their music ahead of time. There are other players who have special qualities. Jeff Reynolds (former bass trombone, Los Angeles Philharmonic) is one with whom I always learned something every time I would sit next to him. Michael Mulcahy (Second Trombone, Chicago Symphony) is one whose musical interpretations would be unpredictable but I know would always be adventurous. Cynthia Yeh (Principal Percussion, Chicago Symphony) would always produce a sound better than the one I would last remember.
Do the players listen more in the Chicago Symphony? Some do.
5. Connie Weldon and the tuba quartet, R. Winston Morris and the tuba ensemble, Jacobs and the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet & CSO Low Brass Quartet/Quintet. How important was chamber music to you, and how do you advise your students to partake?
While playing in chamber music is useful, it is not something I have gone overboard with encouraging students to do. There are very practical reasons for playing in tuba ensemble in terms of playing in tune and adjusting pitch to a “mean tone temperament” (lowering major 3rds, raising perfect 5ths, etc.).
My favorite ensemble in which to play is trombone ensemble. We at one time did that a lot in Chicago but it rarely happens these days. We always manage to put together a trombone/tuba ensemble at the Pokorny Seminar in Redlands during the summertime. I think players benefit in being able to hear individual lines especially when there are fewer of them to listen to in a chamber group.
And who says a low brass player could not play the cello part in a string quartet without great benefit to….well…..the low brass player.
6. How do conceive of or describe the ideal tuba sound? Can you address it in terms of core and breadth.
It is difficult to accurately describe a sound with words and actually know what that sound is. My all time favorite tuba sound is the one produced by Roger Bobo. It was all muscle and no fat. Ideal. Sinewy. Tommy Johnson produced a sound that had heart and depth. It also was a sound I could more easily emulate because of the physical structure of my face, sinuses, etc. David “Red” Lehr has the most awesome, smooth, legato I have yet to hear on a tuba player. I am not sure how to describe any of these players’ sounds in terms of “core” or “breadth”. Maybe the previous desciptions will help.
7. What percentage of the time do you estimate that you use the following breathing strategies and why:
A. Take in the breath and release it by simply allowing gravity and the relaxation of the intercostal muscles and diaphragm to allow the air to leave your body in relaxation.
If I am playing Wagner, Prokofiev or any low register tuba parts, I will let gravity do the work for the most part. That would be at least 90% of the time. When I get to the end of my breath capacity I may have to push a little to keep the air moving out, but then I inhale and let gravity do its magic again.
B. As above, but also bringing the stomach muscles in to speed the exhalation of the air.
GP: Even when playing Wagner, Prokofiev and the other low register tuba pieces, I often must push a little to keep the air moving out, but then I inhale and let gravity do its magic again. As a mantra I try to remember that the “free exchange” of air should be a priority when breathing. The more warmed up and “elastic” I am regarding breathing, the more air I can easily move. Percentage-wise, I would have to say that I eventually start pushing nearly 100% of the time.
C. Placing the diaphragm and stomach muscles is isometric opposition to control the flow of air.
I am sure that in notes that go from “f” (below the middle C) and higher my stomach muscles are in some type of isometric stance, especially as the notes go higher. As a higher air pressure is needed, something needs to produce that pressure. While the isometric is not “ideal”, I am sure it is present as a safety precaution to have ample pressure ready if needed. I think of the aeronautical aspects of landing a plane with the engines spooled up ready to “pull up” again in case of a problem.
7. From your vantage point inside the orchestra, are there any composers for whom your admiration only grows?
Eugene Pokorny All American College Band-Disney www.davidbrubeck.com
When the orchestra plays opera (which is rare for us), the repetition builds up expectations and my attitude improves (usually) when I have to a chance to play or listen to the music multiple times. Prokofiev and Wagner are always a great adventure to get exposed to. The writing and orchestration of Ravel is always revealing something new to me. I am enamored of some music my colleagues would scoff at, for example, Ferde Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite.” Outside of the orchestra, the music of Puccini and Gerald Finzi are now my greatest loves. I am much more moved in significant ways by Finzi than anything I have ever heard by Mozart. [Now you can burn me at the stake, but I will not retract that statement.]
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
images courtesy of
University of The Redlands
The Florida Atlantic University Orchestra, under the baton of Dr. Laura Joella, is set to feature bass trombonist David William Brubeck in the world premiere of Thomas Sleeper’s latest concerto for bass trombone. “Sleeper is a major composer who also happens to play the bass trombone, so it is no surprise that the work is riveting”, comments Brubeck. The trio have collaborated before, as Sleeper provided a world premiere transcription of Six Arias for FAU, Joella and Brubeck. This latest project is even more ambitious, as the composer set out with the conductor, the ensemble and the soloist in mind at the inception.
“The work is intensely visceral”, comments Brubeck, “and features shifting rhythmic accents and syncopation amidst a confluence of polyrhythms and soaring lyricism.” The three movement work is Sleeper’s third concerto for his native bass trombone, and taken along with his Six Arias, establishes Sleeper as one of the most significant composers for the instrument.
Set in three movements, I. Allegro-Lento-Allegro II. Adagio III. Allegro-Adagio Moroso Subito-Allegro, the work is unified by completeness and contrast. Each of the outer movements stands alone, and the second movement is at once understated and yet profoundly satisfying.
“Hauntingly Mysterious”, “Richly Lyrical”, “Soaring Melodies” – all phrases used to describe the music of Thomas M. Sleeper. His output includes 13 operas, fourteen concerti, five symphonies, four orchestral song cycles, works for chorus with orchestra, band, wind ensembles, three string quartets, numerous other vocal and instrumental chamber works and music for film. Sleeper has developed a unique compositional voice whose vocabulary is clearly from, but not limited to, this century-adapted from sleepermusic.com
Why a pre-elementary book and not a standard elementary book?
Almost every OTHER beginning method book is written for BAND, NOT BRASS!
The first few notes matter.
Most methods starting notes for brass are too low, some are even too high, but 5-Minute Lessons have it just right. By choosing a band-based method, which essentially caters to woodwinds, the results for young brass players can be less than optimal, and sometimes downright disastrous, creating inferior embouchures and habits which can last a lifetime. Our advice? Start Here…
David Brubeck’s pre-elementary method for trumpet is written for young brass players by a great brass player. It has been presented at the International Trumpet Conference and featured in the Journal of The International Trumpet Guild. Whether you are heading for “Essential Elements”, “Standard In Excellence”, “Yamaha Band Student”, or even “Rubank’s Elementary Method”, start your your journey here!
This 25 Page Method, includes six Pages of Fundamentals-(The ABC Preludes), 12 Lessons (5-Minute Lessons), AND additional pages of tunes, rhythms, scales, and even sight-reading all geared for the stone-cold, absolute beginner.
Brubeck is perhaps the only musician to be featured as a soloist at the international conferences of the trumpet, trombone, euphonium, and tuba festivals! He graduated with distinction from Northwestern University where he received training from some of the foremost brass players in the Chicago Symphony, and was the first college musician named by Disney as a three-time All-American. A professional trombonist who performs regularly with the Miami City Ballet Orchestra, Brubeck has performed with the likes of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and The Four Tops. Brubeck also has a lifetime of experience teaching young musicians at advanced levels having conducted the Florida Youth Orchestra and Greater Miami Youth Symphony for more than 25 years, and having studied with many of the finest music educators in the world such as Bennett Reimer and Arnold Jacobs. At the time of this writing, Brubeck has two former trumpet students on scholarship at the United States of America’s National School of the Arts-Interlochen Arts Academy, and two former students playing the Tommy Dorsey Chair in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, just to mention a few..
REVIEWED! DUO BRASS Recital at the 40th Anniversary Conference of the International Trumpet Guild, Reviewed By ITG Journal
“Brubeck played bass trombone throughout the recital, alongside an all-star cast of trumpeters that included Marc Reese, Craig Morris, Peter Wood, and Jason Carder. The recital featured a wide variety of music, including works by Bach, Beethoven, Dowland, and Gliere, as well as a commission by Ney Rosauro for Brubeck and Morris. Brubeck also arranged jazz charts by Chick Corea and Horace Silver, which further highlighted the power of this duo combination. Brubeck writes opportunities for each player to be the soloist, to accompany, to weave in and out of the melodic texture, and to play as an equal duo member, thus making his music exciting to listen to and play. The recital was a true exhibit of artistry and style by the whole cast of players.” (RG)
The 5-Minute Lessons for Trumpet were first mentioned at this conference, which resulted in an article about the method in the Journal of the ITG
Article Featuring The Brubeck Pre-Elementary 5-Minute Lessons:
Reprints from the International Trumpet Guild® Journal to promote communications among trumpet players around the world and to improve the artistic level of performance, teaching, and literature associated with the trumpet
PEDAGOGICAL TOPICS JON BURGESS, COLUMN EDITOR
PRE-ELEMENTARY METHOD FOR TRUMPET AND
TROMBONE: TUNES FOR TWO FINGERS BY DAVID WILLIAM BRUBECK
March 2016 • Page 42
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
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Summary: Now is the time to act immediately to preserve an open and free internet backed by the U. S. Government and the accountability of U. S. voters, many of whom are women. If you are a citizen of the United States, please contact your Senator and Representative in Congress today! or by 30 September 2016 to strongly oppose the transfer of the United State’s oversight role of ICANN-The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to an international body which includes many despotic regimes who do not hold free speech nor the accountability of voters as core principles.
The U. S. has moved towards surrender of the internet in previous administrations, but President Obama is acting to transfer the final control of ICANN to an international body in two days, on 1 October 2016. The effects of the transfer will not likely be immediately felt, giving those who support it the opportunity to equate it with Y2K-“See! False alarm”, and yet the slow erosion of free speech and the loss of unregulated space which has been a key engine of innovation, equality, and information will have been doused with water to rust. As the creaking oxidation slowly creeps in, one can expect increased censorship, as is already practiced in nations such as Saudi Arabia and China. How can countries like Iran, China or their ilk improve the oversight to include more freedom when they themselves are censors of the internet?
Others who are sure to benefit are multi-national corporations who owe less and less allegiance to the United States and have already demonstrated their willingness to subordinate your personal freedom to profit and cozy relationships with despotic regimes. So where is the little guy to go to keep the internet accountable? Right now, you can call Congress-in two days you may not.
Who Stands to Lose? Women in the U. S. enjoy greater freedom and economic advantages than women in most other countries, not to mention the right to vote in free elections. A free and open internet can and has changed the lives of thousands of female entrepreneurs and activists who can operate as equals online, where this ability is not available to them within in their society. As global internet access increases, this will become more and more the case, IF the internet remains free and accountable to U. S. voters, women worldwide will undoubtedly have more and more of a voice. A very similar case can be made for the LGBT community, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Christians and other people of faith who all currently find representation, a voice, and accountability in the U. S. Congress.
Who Stands to Lose? Free Speech now protected by U. S. law and culture on the internet could soon be subject to inferior laws of the international community which do not equally cherish free speech to the same degree as guaranteed by our Bill of Rights-if at all.
Who Stands to Lose? English Speaking People may be surprised to find that the internet will become not only less free, but less friendly to English.
Who Stands to Lose? U. S. Technological Advances and cybersecurity are top concerns of US experts, as is a brain drain of the most talented internet experts which the U. S. currently enjoys. Goodbye Silicon Valley….
Who Stands to Lose? Society, culture and education. As many people, especially our youth, spend up to ten hours on line each day and more, the free access to information they currently enjoy may be increasingly stifled and propagandized. If the precedent set by countries to whom we are handing over these controls is any guide-you can count on it!
Who Stands to Lose? Privacy of anyone who owns a website. ICANN has your physical address, telephone number and other information which will no longer be preserved as accountable to US law, voters and Congress.
Who Stands to Lose? Copyright holders and intellectual property right holders who enjoy the enforceable protection of U. S. copyright law may be surprised to find that copyright law is not enforced throughout the globe, this will become even more true if the U. S. loses oversight of ICANN based on lack of copyright enforcement and the past behavior China and other stake holders regarding copyright enforcement is any guide. Good bye Hollywood profits….
Who Stands to Lose? U. S. Taxpayers, who paid for the development of the internet through their tax dollars, will receive no compensation when the oversight of this multi-million dollar corporation is yielded to international interests in two days.
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on PLEASE CALL YOUR U.S. REPRESENTATIVES NOW! VOICE YOUR OPPOSITION TO HANDING OVER U.S. CONTROL OF THE INTERNET! davidbrubeck.com VEHEMENTLY OPPOSES TRANSFER OF INTERNET OVERSIGHT FROM U.S. to ICANN
Forget about Alex being on the Paul McCartney’s video recording, “My Very Good
Friend, the (trombone-playing) Milkman”.
Forget about him playing trombone for Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson before becoming a Los Angeles recording studio standout.
Don’t even think about principal trombone in the Long Beach Symphony, or for the Oscars, or even as a guest soloist for the International Trombone Association.
Just imagine, for a moment, that you are a record producer about to be stranded on a desert island for ten years, and can take only one trombonist with you; it might have to be Alex Iles.
Alex is a man of breathtaking versatility and significant depth, who gives one the impression of a gifted tinkerer. If the trombone were the tone color equivalent of the color blue, then it seems that while many other trombonists seem to be perfecting a single blue, Alex seems to cultivate a every conceivable blue. As a result, he is always in style…”1385″ tm is proud as a peacock to present master trombonist Alex Iles, enjoy!
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
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.
2. Jazz and classical both? Solo and ensemble both? How do you keep on top of four to six different quadrants of playing at a high level. Where is home base?
When people sometimes ask me, “What kind of music do play more of on recording sessions? Jazz or classical?” My initial snide response is usually…”Neither!”
The fact is, the musical demands can be anything on any given day and is often totally the opposite of what the call goes out for originally. I’ve played orchestral bass trombone on sessions I’ve been told ahead of time was going to be mostly small group 30’s era swing era jazz!
Also, within each so called “genre” there can be differences that players have to listen for and learn.
For instance, 20’s and 30’s Kansas City swing feel and style differs in certain significant ways from the music of the 40’s and early 50’s Swing Era Pre bebop. The phrasing is different, the improvisational language can be different and the time and rhythmic feel evolved quite a bit in those 20 years.
Many films scored for giant orchestras these days contain lots of intense ostinato bass lines and rhythmic grooves. These scores demand basically a symphonic sound, but they frequently require the players to be able to play rock, funk, hip hop, or swinging syncopated figures with the right kind of groove. It is definitely not a style of music which relates too closely to Brahms, Bruckner or Mahler…or Basie, or Kenton!
Trombone Alert at 1:40…
I also think that it’s important to discover and address the specific kinds of musical and technical demands beyond any label people attach to it. For instance, something labeled “classical” like Stravinsky’s “Firebird” or “Rite of Spring” requires certain specific musical skill sets (metric changes, rhythms across bar lines, extreme articulation and dynamics, etc) that many players first encounter in jazz big band music. On the other hand, playing a pretty jazz melody might make be easier to play by someone who has been regularly playing legato etudes and melodies in various registers rather than having spent that time blowing through “Stablemates” and “Giant Steps”!
Now, I am all for with delving 100c/o into exploring and growing your skills as an improviser, but again; playing a pretty melody with a great sound requires honing different skill sets.
As freelance trombonists, we also have to be flexible and comfortable playing different instruments depending on the kind of music placed in front of us as well. Tenor trombonists in the freelance world tend to have to stay proficient and prepared on small bore tenor, large bore tenor and bass trombone. And we often receive little or no warning which it will be. Many freelancers sometimes take calls for euphonium and even tuba. I also play alto for certain pieces in the repertoire that come up a few times a year.
A big part of my musical life and livelihood is performing live, outside the studio. I love my positions in the Long Beach Symphony (principal) and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (2nd trombone). In a given year, I will play a lot of shows, concerts, and club gigs. I also love playing chamber music, salsa, trad jazz and new music. I like to prepare and perform recitals and guest solo concert throughout the year. These performances keep me honest and motivated to continue to explore and grow as a musician.
Many musicians become motivated solely by the lure of a paycheck or measure their success primarily in terms of their financial success or failure. I have always felt any work I get called for is largely a gift and if I don’t push myself a bit and get out to play music in creative outlets on my own, and in collaboration with the fantastic individual musicians I’ve come to know over the years, i have a hard time honestly calling myself a musician. I love getting paid to play, but I also find it is necessary getting out there and playing music for music’s sake!
Big musical challenges can come up with little warning. And you can only prepare so much for any given day. I think the key is to have a healthy exposure to a lot of different music on your radar starting out early and continuing throughout your life to keep expanding your musical awareness.
My students are great at keeping me informed of new stuff they’re checking out, but I also try to search out new and different music as much as I can. Some days, I think I have always enjoyed listening as much as playing music myself.
I have never listened for purely professional reasons or because someone told me I should. As a young trombone I realized that in order to maximize my chances to just get to play with anyone at all, I wanted to hear and understand every situation one might hear/see a trombone. I loved discovering and investigating all that music and continue to love hearing new music, composers and performers.
Developing this kind of flexibility just for basic survival turned out to be a critical component leading up to what I wound up doing for a living. I have been frustrated at times when I might only be performing at 75 or 80% of my best in any one genre, but for me, that has to be ok. What I do is sometimes like a musical decathlon!
3. How did the Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson experiences differ? From the leaders personalities, to musical priorities and life on the road.
When I was a teenager, both these bands were my top two “dream bands”. They were the bands I went out to see and hear the most whenever they came through town. Both bands played incredible arrangements at a high level of precision and with plenty of world class musicianship on display. I followed the personnel lists on their recordings and from newspaper articles the way some people followed their favorite sports teams. I idolized their trombone sections and soloists. To be invited to play and tour with these two influential bands was a great honor.
There were differences and similarities, for sure.
Both bands were made up of amazing players and arrangers. Each of the band’s tours took them to many of the same venues. Life on the road, traveling by bus everywhere could be challenging especially if folks weren’t feeling very social with each other or feeling physically sick.
Maynard was an incredibly positive person, especially as a leader. His ensemble had to sound tight and polished but he also encouraged us by making sure each of us had solo space and felt a part of the “show”. His fans represented a diverse demographic. Some people in the audience were not yet fully realized jazz fans. But they loved Maynard because he and his music were exciting, accessible and often resembled the kind of pop music they were accustomed to.
But this was really kind of a beautiful con job on some level because Maynard was subtly delivering a healthy dose of jazz education in every performance. Instrumental soloists were always introduced and featured. He performed many works by legendary jazz composers. And he often pulled out classic arrangements from his own repertoire.
I was invited to join Maynard’s band in 1985 with the departure of the fantastic trombonist/composer/arranger Steve Weist who was going back to UNT at the time to finish his master’s degree and start his illustrious additional career as an outstanding music educator
I learned many valuable lessons in my 2 years with Maynard. Probably the most important lesson of all was that we were all expected to deliver a highly energized performance of basically the same repertoire every single night. There were no excuses!! That is a lesson you really can’t get in school!!
Playing with Maynard was also my first real “name” professional experience. That gave me some professional “street cred” when I returned to my freelance life back in Los Angeles .
Woody Herman heard me play with Maynard at the long defunct Donte’s jazz club in LA and I suppose that might have put my name in his head when his lead/solo trombonist John Fedchock decided to depart after being such a critical member of the band for almost 8 years, playing incredible solos and also serving as Woody’s primary arranger and musical director.
I feel so lucky to have toured with both these bands. Woody’s band was a bit purer and perhaps a more authentic jazz band approach with the music they played. There was a respect for the past, but Woody never wanted his band to be solely in existence for “nostalgic” reasons. He idolized Duke Ellington and, in many ways I think he saw his band as having to always grow and evolve to survive. It was that way up to and after Woody passed away in 1987 when I joined the band. Woody was too ill to tour and passed away while I was on the band. Long time saxophonist Frank Tiberi led during my year with the band. He was very positive and encouraging as well. Besides concerts, club dates, and festivals, Woody’s band played a lot of dances. I loved these gigs because Frank would call some of the great classic big band tunes that made Woody’s band famous. “The Good Earth”, “Bijou”, “Woodchoppers Ball”, and all the rest. That was best danceband book ever, especially for trombone players. There were so many great parts and solos to play.
Again, the quality of musicianship in that band was inspiring every night.
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!!
5. What is your secret to a good legato?
If and when I figure out a “secret” I will let you know!! But seriously, I think it first requires a strong mental image of how you want it to sound. It’s not enough to just think of legato and simply “connected” you want to have a sound picture in your head of a great legato and emulate that. It’s an exercise in listening first and foremost. Great trombonists in multiple genres have “cracked the code”. Tommy Dorsey, Joe Alessi, Urbie Green, Jim Markey, Bill Watrous, Dick Nash, Lloyd Ulyate, etc etc. But I also have been inspired by singers like Dietrich FischerDieskau, Dawn Upshaw, Frank Sinatra, Kenny Rankin and Nat King Cole.
For me, legato is a way trombonists apply to creating phrasing and musical line, not only the mechanics of connecting one note to the next.
With that idea in mind, I think it is good to start learning how to articulate on the trombone by using no articulation at all. Keyed and valve instruments do this, why shouldn’t trombonists? Sure, there are lots of unmusical glisses when we move between notes on the same partial without articulation, but by doing this little exercise, a player can develop a model for an airstream we can use effectively with the tongue.
Gliss your way through a Bordogni etude or other legato melody. You can also focus on all the components besides your tongue; air, resonance, natural slurs, slide movement. What I suggest next is to gradually introduce the articulation JUST ENOUGH to get rid of the glisses. This way you can feel free to first play something the way you sing it or hear other people sing it.
It is also to “loop” between two notes on the same partial, say Bb and Ab and play back and forth, experimenting with where you place your tongue behind your teeth and gums, and perhaps what consonant sound you’re using [dah, tah and the degrees between].
I like using natural slurs whenever possible too. I strive to match my natural slur and legato tongue articulation so that they are interchangable sounding…in theory at least!!
6. Who have your main jazz teachers been, and what did each emphasize?
I would say my primary jazz teachers were JJ Johnson, Carl Fontana, Hank Mobley, Jack Teagarden, and Wayne Henderson. In other words, as Jamey Aebersold said, “All your answers to all your questions are sitting in your record collection!” I am 7580% self taught. In some ways I regret not having really paid my dues studying one on one with a master teacher for a few years. But that said, there have been some incredible lessons I have learned. I attended the Aspen School of Music a couple summers when I was in college and took an improv class with Vince Maggio from the University of Miami. Great teacher. We sat in a circle and each played a chorus on whatever tune we were working on and he would give incredible critiques, playing back whole segments of our solos on the piano and giving alternatives for how to make our ideas more coherent.
I also highly recommend the books by Mark Levine, “The Jazz Piano Book” and the “The Jazz Theory Book”. These books are not “academic” like so many jazz texts which only offer too many alternatives. They are hands on and related directly to the music. He will give a pattern or harmonic or melodic concept that real players [Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Erroll Garner, etc] actually used to navigate a certain harmonic challenge or for a particular effect.
7. Which players and singers have you found so beautiful, that you have sought to emulate them to the degree that you hear aspects of their in your music making?
The jazz trombonists who have and continue to influence me are from a pretty wide variety of
idioms and eras…Jack Teagarden, JJ Johnson, Tommy Dorsey, James Pankow, Bill Harris, Urbie Green, Carl Fontana, Frank Rosolino, John Allred, Bill Watrous, Elliot Mason, Lawrence Brown, Al Grey, Marshall Gilkes,, Jim Fedchock, Jim Pugh, Albert Manglesdorff, Wayne Henderson, Bob Havens and several of my LA colleagues, Andy Martin, Bob McChesney, Bill Reichenbach and Scott Whitfield.
In the “classical” and orchestral world…Ralph Sauer, Joe Alessi, Michael Mulcahy, Paul Pollard, Christian Lindberg, Michel Biquet, Stefan Schulz, Alain Trudel, Mark Markey, Charlie Vernon and Jay Friedman.
In the freelance and studio world of playing, I have grown up surrounded by one of the greatest collection of talented and adaptable trombonists on the planet…
Dick Nash, George Roberts, Lloyd Ulyate, Joe Howard, Hoyt Bohannon, Tommy Pederson, Charlie Loper, Bill Booth, Bill Reichenbach, Lew McCreary, Alan Kaplan, Steve Holtman, Andy Martin, Nick Lane. The list is expanding all the time too with all the great up and coming players turning up here!
If I were to pick one trombonist who has inspired more than any other, that would have to be Dick Nash. He possesses the sound, musicality, phrasing, time, sensitivity, flexibility, technique, range, intonation, creativity and overall musicianship that appears in one person at one time maybe one in a generation. He is just as inspiring as a person as he is as a player
8. What are your most memorable sound recording sessions? Any stories involving composer/conductors or fellow musicians?
Merely showing up for what appears to be an innocent work call, can put you in some pretty musically rewarding or just whacky situations.
Recording the sound track for Star Wars VII with John Williams was a real highlight for all the musicians who were there. It was so musically rewarding and a laser beam-like reminder to all of us of the things that inspired us to play a musical instrument in the first place! It was an honor to be asked and a thrill for all of us to live out our childhood fantasy.
I have performed on stage and in the studio with so many idols…Wayne Shorter, Pavarotti, Barbara Streisand, John Williams, etc. I really can’t believe I get to do this for a living.
Sometimes the actors show up to sessions. A few times they conduct for a photo op. Sly Stallone, Chris Pine and Tom Cruise actually did a pretty good job conducting. Tom Cruise conducted a pretty decent 5/4 pattern on the theme from “Mission: Impossible!”
Sometimes we record music that is supposed to sound like a middle school band or a slightly drunk party band. That can actually be tough in a nice studio with expensive mics and great engineers. Andy Martin and I had to mimic a pair of trombonists in on camera amateur brass band. I wound up playing left handed and out of the side of my mouth!!
9. Please comment on your Disney connection.
Disney has cast a huge umbrella over many of us. Growing up in Southern California, I spent several days of the year at Disneyland and there were always outstanding musicians performing in the “atmosphere” groups and the Disneyland Band, a recreation of a turn of the century town band. There would also be many visiting groups playing dance or concert music all summer at the Plaza Gardens, an outdoor stage. A group of us would pile into a car with my dad driving just to hear the band playing that night. We would all sit in amazement as we sat on the dance floor being treated to some incredible concert performances by bands like Count Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich.
When I was about 13, I heard a band of young players playing high energy choreographed music with great spirit and enthusiasm. I went to hear every one of their sets. This was the Disneyland All American College Band, a 12 week program to introduce select college musicians to the music business and provide a special type of entertainment that only a 20 piece band of great college musicians can create. Five years later I auditioned and was selected to play lead bone with the 1980 incarnation of the band.
Many alums of the AACB will attest that their summer in the band “changed their lives”. It truly did for me on so many levels.
I started playing jazz more seriously, learned what it was like to work as a musician, began developing a lead trombone concept, made lifetime friendships, expanded my overall playing abilities and began a connection to Disney which helped me establish and grow as a freelance career.
It was my friend from the band, trombonist, Dan Levine who called me, suggesting that I send a demo recording to Maynard’s band.
I started working and subbing in various groups at Disneyland after I got off the road. Many of the players I work with and play music with on a regular basis worked full time or seasonally at Disneyland. Wayne Bergeron, Andy Martin, Charlie Morillas, Eric Marienthal, Phil Keen, and Joey Sellers, John Allred have worked at “The Park” in their formative years.
I have mostly worked as an educational consultant the past ten years at the park, conducting clinics and workshops, including appearing at The Plaza Gardens stage as a guest soloist with All American College Band. That is always a thrill on multiple levels!!
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Images Courtesy of Alex Iles
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At any given time, there are a handful of universities that seem to be the most desired destinations and training grounds for young, accomplished trombonists; Northwestern University (NU) and Indiana University (IU) seem to be perennially at the top of this list. Can you imagine what it would be like to teach in BOTH great studios? At the SAME time? Peter Ellefson Has…
And now, (along with IU and UNT in Denton), NU has adopted a team studio approach for trombone. In recent years, they have boasted some of the greatest symphonic players from the great symphonies: Chicago’s Michael Mulcahy & formerly Charles Vernon (and now Christopher Davis), San Francisco’s Timothy Higgins, and Detroit’s Randall Hawes. Could you imagine having the “fly on the wall” vantage point? for ALL of the lessons, with ALL of the teachers? For several years? And how about playing in THAT trombone quartet? Peter Ellefson has…
If you ever imagined playing in a great symphonic hall, or with a fantastic orchestra, imagine playing in SEVERAL of these great halls, with a NUMBER of exciting orchestras. Peter Ellefson has done this, too…
At the apex of teaching music to young trombonists AND performing great orchestral music on trombone, is Peter Ellefson-a trusted colleague, tasteful musician, and dedicated teacher. 1385 tm, the tenor trombone interview series, is delighted to establish the arc and scope of our series, with this third interview of tenor trombonist Peter Ellefson. Enjoy!
1. What was the most important aspect of your playing that was influenced by each of your trombone teachers? How did they approach it?
Warren Baker………….Consistency of attacks, bodies and releases. I learned to hear differently and to not give up until it was correct. He also gave me the gift of sincere encouragement at a critical time in my development.
Mark Lawrence………….The first world class trombonist I encountered. Free and easy approach and effortless upper register. I sat behind him for weeks during the Empire Brass Quintet Seminar at Tanglewood during the summer of 1982, absorbing his resonant sound, virtuosic slide technique and elegant musicianship. He remains my primary solo influence.
Frank Crisafulli………….My primary orchestral influence. That sound! I always made sure I began each lesson with a duet so I could be in the same room with that sound. It was contagious in a very positive way. Nothing fancy, just take a breath and blow.
Dee Stewart………….The magic of easy air and that “work effort does not necessarily equal decibels.”
Joe Alessi………….Although I have only had a couple of formal lessons with Mr. Alessi, I have learned volumes from listening and playing with him as well as watching him teach at the Alessi Seminar. He probably wouldn’t claim me as a student but his influence on me is profound. In my opinion, he set a new standard for orchestral trombone playing and his solo recitals are spectacles of virtuosity.
NY Phil Trombone Section Finlayson, Alessi, Ellefson, and Markey. www.davidbrubeck.com
2. What are the biggest musical adjustments you make when preparing excerpts as opposed to solos? Mental concepts, strategies, musical approaches, etc..
Excerpts are about execution.
Consistent, predictable execution of masterful fundamentals within the style of each composer. Thank goodness I don’t need to prepare excerpts anymore but I do need to teach them to students who claim that they wish to play in an orchestra. There are five aspects I stress in every lesson, whether I have heard the student a hundred times or am hearing them for the first time. I also listen to the same five things during auditions and they guide me in my own practice:
1. Sound– playing with a great sound in all registers and in all dynamics.
2. Intonation– it’s either in tune or out of tune.
Being “a little out of tune” is like being “a little pregnant.”
3. Articulation– playing with appropriate articulation
to enunciate the music stylistically.
4. Rhythm– the ability to keep a consistent pulse
as well as accurately execute the rhythms within the established pulse.
Given all of the fundamentals above, what is produced?
The paint is mixed. Now…what to paint?
Solos are about telling a musical story.
Too many people play solos like orchestral excerpts. Music is about communication. Identifying what we have in our hearts and brains and sending the message via pitch vibration through our brass megaphone, which is then captured through the ears of our audience and received in their brains and hopefully accepted into their hearts. We trombonists are generally “musically challenged.” Unfortunately, we listen mostly to other trombone players who are similarly challenged. We listen to the greatest players to hear great fundamentals but rarely do we encounter great music. We need to take the chance to INTERPRET. We seem to be deathly afraid to put ourselves out there because we have no experience being creative and we are too worried about what other people think. I urge students to take a chance! I try to convince them that a bad decision is better than no decision.
3. NU under your tenure was famous for not only consistently excellent student experiences, but innovative studio logs that encompassed each studio. How did these come about? Which student reports of solutions did you find most intriguing drawn from the methods of your colleagues?
When I was fortunate enough to begin teaching at NU, the “quality ball” was already rolling very powerfully and distinctly. I just joined in and tried to learn as much as possible from my colleagues as well as teach the terrific students. Of course it was an honor for me to go back to my alma mater and share with them what I have learned since graduating in the mid-1980s.
The lesson reports you mention are a very effective way of getting the students to revisit their lesson throughout the week as well as keeping the teachers on task, knowing that the direction would be heard again—and read by colleagues. The summaries were in place before I arrived, I think. The ticket for admission to the lesson was a written summary of the last lesson.
One of the fascinating aspects was to read what my colleagues said to the students but perhaps even more fascinating was to read what *I* had previously said. I would go back and read the student lesson summary, often weeks after the actual lesson and think, “Wow, I said that? That is pretty good advice!” This is not meant to toot my own horn but to underscore the magic that transpires in lessons when the teacher and student are both “running on all cylinders.”
It was also curious to read how the students interpreted our words and what they chose to include i the summary. When I began, there were three of us: Michael Mulcahy, Charlie Vernon and me. When Charlie made an exclusive commitment to DePaul, Randy Hawes returned to NU. After a couple of years, as the numbers were climbing, Tim Higgins, the terrific principal trombone in San Francisco (and NU alum) joined us, which led to the faculty quartet in which I was honored to participate.
Prof. Mulcahy is a master of words and motivation. Prof. Hawes is a master of simplicity. Prof. Higgins embodies/espouses Prof. Mulcahy’s philosophies distilled through youth and practical application. I always learned from the summaries. I still have them all…hundreds of pages of gold. One thing I initiated was scanning all of the summaries. After removing as much identifying information as possible, I would make all summaries available to all parties. Pure gold. There were no luckier students than the ones at NU. What they received from us…and I am sure that which continues today, was the most pertinent information from some of the most active and important players and teachers in the country. I chose to leave in 2013. I had just turned 50, was still teaching full-time at IU and life was going by much too quickly. It was a very, very difficult decision to leave Northwestern. I think they have five teachers now!
CSO Trombone Section with Vernon, Mulcahy, Ellefson & Friedman
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!
c. Peter Ellefson www.davidbrubeck.com
5. Your Umbrella is a beautiful conceptual and visual aid. How do you use it to address student progress?
That was a concept I developed in my first or second year of teaching at IU to help students quantify their product. Thank you for finding it and noticing its value. I might change it ever-so-slightly now but the components remain the same. Student progress is about basic awareness and merely making them cognitively aware of the most important fundamentals immediately improves their product. I would add stress to the subjects of contemplation and focus. Currently, “Device Distraction Disease” is an epidemic, hindering the progress of every student I encounter.
6. What is your approach to a great legato on trombone?
It depends. For me, legato is not legato is not legato. It differs from style to style.
I have a different approach to legato than most. I will suspect that many people often find my legato too “smeary.” When I listen to singers, I hear portamento connections, not a “notched” articulation from one note to another. The trombone is better able to imitate a vocal approach than any other wind or brass instrument. I used to be sensitive about my “smeary” legato. Now I embrace it as espressivo. I can play cleanly (really, I can!) but often it is a conscious choice to play more vocally and lyrically. I don’t hear it so much from behind the horn as I am merely reproducing what is in my head but I do hear the portamento when reviewing a recording of myself. I am not sure I would recommend my style of legato to others because of the stigma of the smear but it works just fine for me. I also mix natural slurs and legato tongue, for variety, however, I have no set dogma as to when to use which. I just play. The above description applies to solo literature or other repertoire that allows for freedom of personal interpretation. When preparing excerpts, there can be no portamento in the legato. Clean wins.
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.
Frank Crisafulli and Peter Ellefson www.davidbrubeck.com
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.
No sooner had DUO BRUBECK finished its premiere at Kendall’s Arts & Letters Day Festival last Spring, when we had been invited back to launch the following years festival-this is the result.
Both Guitar Masters Lippincott and Farber are on hand for a chill to sizzle evening of standards and originals, all done up in the inimitable fashion of “Miami’s Own”-Duo Brubeck. Tracks are listed below. Enjoy!
Featuring Tom Lippincott
And I Love Her
arr. T Lippincott
So Danca A Train
arr. D Wm Brubeck
She’s Leaving Home
arr. T Lippincott
Star Sapngled Banner
By J S Smith
arr. D Wm Brubeck
by W A Mozart
arr D Wm Brubeck
Yes, Jesus Loves Me
by A B Warner
arr D Wm Brubeck
I Dream of Miami Beach
by D Wm Brubeck
arr D Wm Brubeck
Featuring Mitch Farber
arr D Wm Brubeck
You Are My Sunshine
arr. D Wm Brubeck
Old Devil Moon
arr D Wm Brubeck
Stereogram No. 6
by D Wm Brubeck
arr. M Farber
Go Tell Aunt Rhody
arr D Wm Brubeck
arr D Wm Brubeck
by G Gershwin
arr D Wm Brubeck
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
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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.”
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.”
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
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
After performing the New York premiere of the Edward Kleinhammer Sonata in recital at the Manhattan School of Music in November of 2015 with pianist Hanako Yamagata, bass trombone virtuoso Steve Norrell has been invited to encore the sonata at the 2016 Festival of the International Trombone Association. The Norrell/Yamagata collaboration is planned to be held at Juilliard, on Friday the tenth of June, 2016, as part of the international festival’s emphasis on trombone solo artists.
The new sonata, which was written by composer John Stevens, is dedicated to one of the finest orchestral bass trombonists and brass pedagogues of the past hundred years-Edward Kleinhammer. Published by Potenza Music, the Stevens composition combines an intimate knowledge of the capabilities of the bass trombone (which the eponymous Kleinhammer did so much to define), along with expressive lyrical settings, a wide range of timbrel colors, and distinctly virtuosic passages combined with a hypnotic piano accompaniment.
Norrell will showcase the work again on Thursday, July 21st, at 8pm at the Grand Teton’s Music Festival in Walk Hall, with pianist Jason Hardink. This select recital series normally features either the music director, the festival’s featured soloists, or select string groups. Rarely is a brass player invited to perform, and this is believed to be the first time, in the festival’s 55 year history, for the series to feature a sonata for bass trombone.
By our special request, davidbrubeck.com is honored to offer the exclusive published offering of the presentation of the premiere New York performance by bass trombonist Steve Norrell and pianist Hanako Yamagata, via drop box-enjoy!
“Thanks so much for sending along this wonderful performance video! Nice for
me to be able to see as well as hear it performed so well. Glad to hear it
was well received.
Please share my thanks and congratulations with your
pianist for performing her collaborative role with such great energy
thoughtfulness and care. I don’t always hear that form the pianists playing
my music, and it is much appreciated indeed.
It is very special to me to see and hear a performance of this work by someone
who I have known and admired for so long.”
John D. Stevens, composer
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
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Jason Sulliman is a bass trombonist with a passion and a purpose. Original cast memebr for BLAST!, and now its conductor and manager, Jason has explored symphonic and commercial music with aplomb and sought to integrate his personal experiences as a performer with his passion for helping others through education. Along the way, kinesiology just sort of “happened”, and has become a growing area of fascination and expertise. Stretch out and relax, as Jason Sulliman works out all of “Seven Positions” tm. Enjoy!
1. What drew you to kinesiology (motor learning/motor control), and who have been your mentors?
I first learned about kinesiology after I re-joined with Blast in 2005. The job was very demanding physically and mentally, and I worked extremely hard to condition myself for the rigor. I was amazed at the effect this had on my playing (both mentally and physically) so when I returned to grad school at the University of New Mexico, I sought out people to learn more. I connected with Dr. Mary Virginia Wilmerding who is on faculty at UNM for exercise science and dance. She introduced me to kinesiology and I was hooked. I found myself running over to other buildings sitting in on biology classes, exercise physiology classes, and I enrolled in a few classes such as motor learning and kinesiology for dance majors (that Dr. Wilmerding taught herself). Every day was filled with new discoveries.
When I applied for doctoral studies, I applied at schools for both music (DM) and kinesiology (MS) (as if I was two separate people). I continued graduate studies at Indiana University in the master’s program for kinesiology.
2. If movements are like fingerprints, and each is different everytime; can there be any constants in trombone technique?
This is a difficult question to answer in that the product and the process to get there have different spins on the same answer, and to many this will sound like an academic quibble of semantics, but I disagree. I find the whole concept fascinating.
Technically I don’t think any two sounds made in the natural world are identical. Movements are all different (even if it is so slight that it is unperceivable to the human ear) and thus their fingerprints in sound are unique. Musicians will usually get to a point where for all practical purposes, a consistent sound is heard because the nuances are so minute that they aren’t significant in terms of job performance, etc. For that part of the conversation, I do think one can approach playing with a consistent mindset and achieve consistent results, but only if we use the terms loosely. I don’t think there’s any real harm in talking about a consistent product as long as we agree it is a matter of scaling.
I think the word ‘consistent’ can be dangerous though, when talking about the process. If we get so wrapped up in trying to manipulate our bodies the same exact way every time, we might actually be hindering our bodies’ natural ability to adapt to the current environmental parameters and take aim at that ‘consistent’ goal from a slightly different vantage point. Your body’s components must function from their current state, and to interfere with our natural ability to function might limit the freedom of adaptability. The only ‘consistent’ thing about my playing is I am constantly trying to be better than yesterday. I think the whole concept of ‘consistent’ sets limitations and throws our focus off of the real goal.
3. Who do consider the most influential brass pedagogues-both personally and globally?
As teachers, we have all experienced telling a student ‘exactly’ what they needed to hear, but for some reason they weren’t ready to really hear it in a meaningful way. The next thing you know they had a lesson with another teacher or attended a master class etc. and heard the same exact thing, and react as if it was something that they never heard before.
Names surface to the top of a short list: Arnold Jacobs, Emory Remington, Joe Alessi, and Carmine Caruso, but if the art matters more than the people that create it, than we have to remember that anyone can make a breakthrough happen for anyone else and it is those breakthroughs that matter most. Therefore the list of influential brass pedagogues is massive, as it should be.
My personal breakthroughs were with Darcy Davis, David Sporny, Karl Hinterbichler and
4. How do you view the re-affirmation of many of the teachings of Arnold Jacobs in light of cognitive theories?
In a word: accurate. The more I study, the more I find that Arnold Jacob’s work lines up with emergent cognitive theories of today. Sadly, it is not that he was so far ahead, it is that we are so far behind. He stayed with the curve.
5. What has Blast! meant to you?
In one way, Blast! Has meant the opportunity to ‘stay in the game’ of trying to improve and become a musician. I started significantly later than most ‘successful’ musicians and I spent most of my college years playing catch-up. I will probably always feel that way. I am forever grateful for the time, the experiences, the friendships etc. that I have gained from that chapter in my life. In a much larger way, Blast! Was an amazing opportunity to reach audiences in ways that ‘sit-down’ performance can’t. Blast! Is usually compared to marching band, but I think it was so much more than that, and I am thankful to be a part of it.
6. What do you look for in a horn?
I want something unique. I know many folks out there want ‘an orchestral’ sound and try to blend in with what is winning the jobs etc., but I want to bring something unique to the table. Frankly I don’t want to sound like everyone else. I want to sound like me. I think if I do that well enough, someone will want to buy that.
The two most common directions people go when deciding on equipment is either a horn that helps one’s weaknesses, or a horn and amplifies one’s strengths. I can see merit in either case. For me I want vibrancy in the sound. Like a complex Belgian Tripel, I want complexity in the sound. I feel like then I can do so many things with it. There was a time when I gravitated towards equipment that sounded louder or was easier in the high register, but I have since gravitated more towards what I call ‘home’. I recently purchased an M & W and it should be arriving soon. I am really excited about the possibilities.
7. How do your studies movement influence your approach to slide motion?
My slide movement needs a ton of work, mainly because I am still searching for the best set-up in the left hand to hold the horn. I think this matters with bass in particular. It is a heavier horn, and if your left hand doesn’t feel comfortable supporting the instrument for long periods of time, then it will start shifting in a way that eases the discomfort. When that happens the right hand will naturally make compensating adjustments with how it helps to support the weight of the instrument, which will change the slide technique.
Having said that, I try to hold the slide with my fingertips. After that, I really try to ignore the physical characteristics and focus solely on the sound that is created when changing notes. If you are really listening, you can hear a difference between effective slide technique and ineffective slide technique on all sorts of levels. This goes back to ‘no two movements are alike’. I challenge you to find two trombonists that do it the same exact way. I guarantee if we hook them up to measurement equipment (like EEG), we will find differences.
I remember watching the National Brass Ensemble concert in Chicago last year. Some of the Gabrieli pieces were set up with two choirs, so their angles were such that I got a great look at slide work. There were times where I saw some of the most accomplished trombonists playing unison lines right next to each other. Slightly different hand positions, different speeds, but wonderful results. I could only tell a difference visually.
8. How do you foresee the future of the trombone in drum corps?
I really haven’t thought about it.
9. What is your secret to legato?
Legato is my default warm-up articulation of choice these days, as it has been for several years, because the longer and more-connected two sounds are, the less you can hide “junk” in-between them. I spend a disproportionate amount of time on legato, and would say the other big factor is I have recorded myself and others a ton. I have developed some skills with audio-editing over the years, and I would go into the sound files and cut-out transitional space between the notes of my playing and others. I would then create call-and-response tracks with this “super-connected’ version of playing and I would use it as the model for my current playing.
I never could get rid of the transitional sound completely, but I realized that shouldn’t be the goal. Rather than thinking about continuous air, I try to think about continuous sound, and the transitional moments in between notes has its own sound. I let that sound thrive now (albeit in a very short time-span). So the ‘continuous sound’ is really three different sounds (first note, transitional sound, next note). All three need to be beautiful.
Obviously there are two issues with legato- first the tonguing thing, and then the sliding thing. But I feel like I touched on the slide already.
10. How do you teach performance blocking and movement in order to least disrupt or provide a deleterious effect on brass technique?
There will be a trade-off. We will always sound better when not simultaneously engaged in gross motor movements (like marching for example). I say it that way because we are in constant motion on a fine motor level, and I encourage that type of movement. I play on a wobble board almost exclusively in the practice room so my body is free to move as it needs. But for things like marching, there will be trade-offs.
That being said, certain aspects of movement technique will sound better while others will look better. In many ways it is a game of ‘slight-of-hand’ that we play with the audience. I think many marching bands spend way too much time refining the engagement of the knee vs. straight-leg for example. I just find it funny when the same band will then have kids rolling their shoulders forward and taking small breaths, not rolling their toes to smooth out their landing, etc. Their feet will be out of time anyways, who cares how their knees are!?!?!
Let’s get everyone’s feet in time and on the downbeats. Let’s get everyone standing with an elongated spine so they can take a good breath, etc. I try to put my eggs in the basket of sounding good, looking good, and being efficient with our time. I think it is impressive when a band has a real level of detail to their uniformity, but most high school bands spend too much resource focusing on aspects of marching technique that are too expensive (too much time to clean it, not enough pay-off). I think 30 minutes of good stretching and body movement followed by 30 minutes of marching technique is far better than 5 minutes of poor stretching and 55 minutes of marching technique. Sadly, the latter is what most programs do.
11. What are your musical inspirations?
I will always have a soft spot for the work of the Tallis Scholars, the Chicago Symphony, the German Brass, Fleetwood Mac, the Cleveland Orchestra, Bela Fleck (both solo and with the Flecktones), Bruce Hornsby, the Vanguard Orchestra, J.J. Johnson, the Kings Singers, Louis Armstrong, Eminem, Tim O’Brien, David Wilcox. Specific to bass trombone I would say Randy Hawes, Jim Markey, and Stefan Schulz.
I am a sucker for so many stories of people overcoming adversity. Underdogs. I think we can all relate in some way to an underdog. When you are one person out of a hundred auditioning for a job, it is simple math. The odds are not in our favor if you just look at the simple math.
I have found quite a bit of inspiration from many movies based on a true story such as “Rudy”, “The King’s Speech”, “The Imitation Game”, “Invictus”, as well as other amazing life accounts of people such as Mother Teresa and Gandhi. I think they all share the theme in that at one point there was an overwhelming impression that their ideas and actions made them a ‘minority of one’ and yet they pressed on if for no other reason than they felt it was right- it was what they believed. It was the only way to be true to themselves. I am constantly inspired by others and they fuel me to just keep moving in a direction that is right for me.
c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com