Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"It's Trumpet or Nothing!"

I always said that when it came time for my kids to choose school band instruments, I would steer them towards the ones where there is a shortage of players, less competition, and scholarship dollars if they were to continue on to study music at the university level (trombone, double reeds, string bass, etc.).  I didn't take into account that my kids would have opinions of their own, not to mention incredibly strong wills.

The local middle school hosted an instrument demonstration evening at which my son declared "It's trumpet or NOTHING, Dad." I pulled him aside and explained how trumpet is a daily commitment. He said, "How much time are we talking, here?" to which I replied, "15-20 minutes at first...every day." He responded, "15 minutes is nothing!!"

So trumpet it is.

I talked to my trumpet-playing buddies about what brand of horns they would recommend, as well as what brands to avoid.  Uniformly they all said to stay clear of Jupiters.  But wouldn't you know it, that's the only brand the local music store had in stock.  The salesman did a good job trying to convince me that the new Jupiter trumpets were superior to anything else on the market... but as I was having an inner debate with myself, my 9-year-old son made one of his typically astute comments:  "Dad, who are you going to believe --- a guy who's trying to sell you his product, or professional trumpet players who actually know what they're talking about?!"  YOWZA!  This kid is wise beyond his years (in some ways)!  He also doesn't hold back.

A friend ended up finding me a nice "gently used" student model Yamaha trumpet on Craig's List.  Here I am giving it a bath:

And here's my little man blowing some notes after his first band class:

Now... to track down the photo of Maynard Ferguson holding him as a baby, backstage at Manchester High School.  Maybe I'll print off a copy and put it inside his case.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jazz Meets Hollywood Squares

Despite being touted as the exemplification of creative music, jazz could benefit from a new influx of outside-the-box thinkers. To a degree, the problem may stem from how jazz is now taught. Young jazz students are indoctrinated into a mindset of revering and emulating the masters who proceeded them. Oddly those same masters bucked convention in their youth. So, here we are, with a new generation of highly skilled players, well-schooled in the music's past, who are seemingly content to play in the style of their predecessors; and jazz (at least a good-sized chunk of it) remains at a standstill.

Ambrose Akinmusire's band has piqued my curiosity,
but they still need to ditch the suits.

The absence of challenging convention extends way beyond musical vocabulary in jazz. No one seems to be questioning why performing jazz quintets still dress like they are living in the mid-1950s. C'mon folks, let's stir things up; it's 2015 for crying out loud! 

Similarly it is rare to see a university jazz program embracing instrumentations other than big bands and combos (consisting of trumpet, sax, trombone and rhythm section).  Since when is respecting the music's lineage more important than artistic advancement?

Even big band seating configurations have become nonmalleable. Whatever happened to Kenton's "flying V" set-up? Ellington and Basie weren't locked into three rows with the rhythm section to the side for their entire careers.

Sure there are benefits and practicalities in setting up as we do, but with mic-ing and monitors, visually appealing, truly creative staging could be realized, that both compliments and enhances the music (like we see in dramatic art and pop music productions). 

Darcy James Argue needs to be applauded for taking the lead here. His most recent set-up, as documented in the New York Observer, resembles a clock face, with the horns seated around its perimeter.

  Equally stunning is the stage plot for his "Brooklyn Babylon" production. 

 The bar has been raised folks! Just think of the countless possibilities which could be explored!  Off the top of my head, I could envision "going vertical", with a variation of Hollywood Squares.

Hopefully others will follow suit in transforming not only the music, but how it is presented.  I'm tired of the same old, same old.  How about you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jazz Showcase

UConn JazzCoordinating a university jazz program is no small task; but it is especially challenging at the onset of a semester. In addition to teaching related duties (like planning course work and writing syllabi), there are ensemble placement auditions and the formation and scheduling of groups. It took lots of time, energy and organization, but I’m pleased to say that all the UConn jazz groups are up and running once again, like a well-oiled machine.

Our fall semester Jazz Showcase Concert is tomorrow night, Thursday, Sept. 24th, from 7 – 9 p.m. at the UConn Co-Op Bookstore in Storrs Center. All the UCONN jazz groups perform an evening of music spanning a wide range of eras, styles and instrumentations - from bebop-infused quintets to big band swing. C’mon down!

Here’s the program:

University of Connecticut Jazz Showcase Concert – Fall 2015
UConn Co-Op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Thursday, Sept. 27th, 2015
7 – 9 p.m.

Jazz Lab Band
Directed by John Mastroianni

Minor Matter..........Lennie Niehaus
Festival..........Rick Stitzel

Alto Sax 1: David Jardim
Alto Sax 2: Rebecca Demaio
Tenor Sax 1: Rich Sadlon
Tenor Sax 2: Sally Kurdziel
Bari Sax: Nick Oliveira
Flute: Haley Hanenbaum
Trumpet 1:Kameryn Larkins
Trumpet 2: Sarah Falkenstine
Trumpet 3: Jeremy Cruz
Trumpet 4: Nathan Kwak
Trombone 1: Liam Evans
Trombone 2: Matt DeNegre
Trombone 3: Akua Frimpong
Bass Tbn: Gregory Bicknell
Piano: Alec McCandless
Bass: Nick Monllos
Drums: Steven McArdle

Combo #2:
Doug Maher, director

I Mean You..........Thelonious Monk
Stella By Starlight..........Victor Young

Grant Eagleson - trumpet
Kevin Duffy – tenor sax
David Caffrey - guitar
James Duffy – bass
Michael O’Callaghan - drums

Earl MacDonald, director

No Moe..........Sonny Rollins
St. Thomas..........Sonny Rollins

Michael O’Callaghan – trumpet
Andrew Wynsen – piano
Nate Giordano – string bass
Earl MacDonald - drums

Combo #3:
Doug Maher, director

Darn That Dream..........Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Eddie DeLange
Au Privave..........Charlie Parker

Jeremy Cruz - trumpet
Patrick Pierce – alto sax
Danny Cioffari - guitar
Alexandria Bodick – string bass
Steven McArdle - drums

UConn Jazz 10tet
Earl MacDonald, director

Sordid Sort of Fellow..........Earl MacDonald
Miles Apart..........Earl MacDonald
Smoke and Mirrors..........Earl MacDonald

Adam Harris – alto saxophone
Charles Salley – tenor sax
Kevin Duffy – bari sax
Grant Eagleson – trumpet 1
Michael O’Callaghan – trumpet 2
Alex Gertner – French horn
Liam Reynolds – trombone
Andrew Wynsen – piano

Combo #1:
Gregg August, director

Moose the Mooche..........Charlie Parker
Cheryl..........Charlie Parker
Lover Man..........Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez & James Sherman.
Confirmation..........Charlie Parker

Michael O’Callaghan - trumpet
Adam Harris – alto saxophone
Patrick Adams - guitar
Andrew Wynsen - piano
Nathan Giordano – string bass
William Trautmann – drum set

--- jam session to follow ---