Author

Aaron Shragge

October 2, 2014

FONT Music 2014: Night four at Cornelia Street Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Riley Mulherkar, winner of the Laurie Frink Career Grant, played with two groups: The Westerlies and his own quartet.

 

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Then John McNeil took the stage with his quartet featuring Ethan Iverson.

Wonderful night to celebrate the legacy of former board member Laurie Frink.

September 30, 2014

FONT Music 2014: Second Night at Smoke

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Steve Fishwick from London played a touching tribute to Kenny Wheeler. That’s Frank Basile on baritone sax.
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Nadje Noordhuis and Sara Caswell played a beautiful set of originals, also with a Wheeler tribute, called Big Footprint.
Keyon Harrold and Paul Williamson also played smoking sets. Visit Jeremy Pelt’s instagram account, peltjazz, for more great photos.

September 28, 2014

FONT Music Interviews Louis Hanzlik

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How did you become a trumpet player? 

My parents were both “band directors” so it was inevitable I would pick up an instrument.  When they asked me “what instrument would you like to play, Louis”, I said “drums”.  They paused, repeated the question, and I said “trumpet!”

Were there recordings in the beginning that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?

My first recordings were of the Count Basie Band, and Maurice Andre – I continued to pair jazz and classical listening (and playing) well into my twenties.  The recording that really inspired me to practice:  Wynton Marsalis’s album “Carnaval”; an album of virtuoso cornet solos he did with the Eastman Wind Ensemble.  I was 13 or 14 when I first heard that album, and just “had to do that!”

People often talk about how the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. Do you feel this is true? What doesn’t the general public understand about playing the trumpet that you wish people would realize?

It does require regular attention to achieve mastery (or simply, consistency) – I have to remind my students of this, frequently, general public aside.  Even the most accomplished players must be somewhat selfish; protective of their trumpet (or brass) time, in order to see patterns of  consistency.   

If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be?

My teachers – Tom Tressler and Derek Stratton for early inspiration.  Andrew Classen, for routine.  David Greenhoe for artistry and love of all things trumpet. Ray Mase and Mark Gould for polish, teaching myself, inspiration, uh, just about anything!

My colleagues – every player I’ve ever shared a stage with – I’ve learned from them all.  

What do you find most compelling about your current work? I mean, for you, what is the aspect of what you are presenting in the festival that most absorbs you?

 

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.  Brass chamber music requires you to listen, learn, and (hopefully) evolve as a musician and person.

September 28, 2014

FONT Music Interviews Raymond Mase

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How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet? If so, did those instruments inform how you played trumpet? Or did your view of how music is played change once becoming a trumpeter?

I began trumpet at an early age, as my father was an amateur trumpeter and got me started. I never played any other instruments until college when I became interested in historical performance and learned cornetto and natural trumpet. 

Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?

My first sampling of trumpet recordings were of my father’s favorite players–Louis Armstrong, Harry James, and Rafael Mendez. That list grew pretty early on to include Doc Severinsen, Al Hirt, Maynard Ferguson, and Maurice Andre. By high school the list was even longer and more diverse. 


People often talk about how the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. Do you feel this is true? What doesn’t the general public understand about playing the trumpet that you wish people would realize?

I don’t believe the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. But we are faced with some different challenges than other instruments. For one, playing the trumpet makes a lot of demands on us physically, so we have to be intelligent about how we practice and perform. Trumpeters also face the challenge that we are always heard even in tutti passages, so even small flaws in our performance can be noticeable to the audience. 

If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be?


I’d have to say Armando Ghitalla, my teacher at New England Conservatory, was a really important mentor to me. Also, as a young player coming to New York back in 1973, I learned a great deal from trumpeter colleagues Allan Dean, Lou Ranger, and Jim Stubbs.

Who are some of the most inspiring trumpet players or composers you’ve come across lately?

Wish I could say that I’m out and around checking out new things all the time, but that’s not really the case with the schedule I maintain. But the most recent ABQ recording—Chesapeake of David Sampson—is some really remarkable brass chamber music. I’ve had the pleasure to perform Sampson’s music for nearly 35 years and have the utmost respect and admiration for his work. I encourage people to get a listen. 

September 23, 2014

FONT Interviews Jonathan Saraga

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How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet? If so, did those instruments inform how you played trumpet? Or did your view of how music is played change once becoming a trumpeter?

The trumpet was the first instrument I actually practiced. My mother had a piano in the house, and she played it for fun, as did my two older brothers, who didn’t live with me, but who would be over often enough, at least until I was about 10 or 11. I would say, this had no influence on my conception of music or trumpet playing though. Around that time, I was assigned trumpet in my middle school band class, I did not choose the trumpet. It turned out that I was able to produce a good tone and sound on the instrument, and was section leader for all three years. My parents decided I should stick with it, and after a much needed embouchure change early on in high school, I began to like playing more and more, second only to video games.

Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?I hadn’t really understood why I was playing the trumpet until sophomore year of college when my mother picked up a free copy of Clifford Brown with Strings from some store, I can’t remember the name, but they were just giving copies of this record out for free.. She hadn’t heard of Brownie, but she saw that he was a trumpet player, so she brought it home. As soon as his sound came through the speakers of the boombox at home, I felt that I had been hypnotized. I couldn’t believe that the trumpet could sound that way; it was angelic, deep, and passionate. I can still remember how it felt to hear his sound for the first time. I knew then that I wanted to be able to sound that way, like Clifford, and that was how my journey into jazz, and music that wasn’t high-school-band-material came about.People often talk about how the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. Do you feel this is true? What doesn’t the general public understand about playing the trumpet that you wish people would realize?

The trumpet is a paradox within itself because there really are so many variables that factor into how someone will sound on it. Mouthpiece, air, the instrument, posture, facial features, jaw and tooth alignment, mental and spiritual states, and the list goes on. The instrument is hard to master, but what instrument isn’t. The trumpet is definitely not one that you can just pick up and sound like a master on. It takes consistent, diligent, focused practice, and sacrifice to play the trumpet at a high level; and again any musical instrument has the capacity to be played at an infinitely high level. There is no limit to how good one can get at anything in life. I don’t wish that the public would realize any of this though. That is not necessary. All I want from them is the same thing I want from myself: to be present and to listen.

If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be?

It’s hard to just thank one person, because there are hundreds of people, both living and not living, that have made an important impact on me, and each one as important as the last. So, I will go with “otherwise” and say that the consciousness that has brought all of those people into my life, that I have learned from and been touched by, is a great and powerful force that I depend on for my abilities as a trumpet player and musician, and for my time on this earth. I thank this force for directing me towards the musicians and teachers of many kinds that I have learned from. I am thankful to have the opportunity to repay them by offering people the best version of myself I can embody, and playing music from that place within me.

Who is your favorite trumpeter today (as in today, the day you are writing this email) and what recorded song available to the public best exemplifies why this trumpeter is so badass?

There are so many incredible trumpet players out there today. I am going to go with Wynton Marsalis Live at the House of Tribes. Just put on any song from that record. His playing on that record, and truthfully all times that I have heard and seen him play, is just at such a high level, and his intention that is behind what he is playing is so real and truthful, and coming from this very deep-rooted place. It’s hard to think of a present day trumpeter that touches me as deeply as de does. www.jonathansaraga.com

September 19, 2014

FONT Interviews Tim Hagans

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How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet? If so, did those instruments inform how you played trumpet? Or did your view of how music is played change once becoming a trumpeter?

“I started playing the trumpet when I was nine years old. I chose the trumpet because more than any other instrument I was fascinated and excited by its sound and emotional impact. I also thought it looked very hip, like an extension of the soul. I was exposed to Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Doc Severinsen through their television appearances in the early 60’s and was fascinated by the orchestral and big band trumpet sections that I heard in concert.  I also had a record titled A Child’s Introduction To The Orchestra that featured a character named Crumpet The Trumpet.  I was sold on the trumpet!

As a teenager I played the guitar and wanted to be the next Woody Guthrie. I learned tablature and listened to a lot of folk music and early blues. I played the trumpet along with Leadbelly records. This music described what was going on in the streets of America at that time and showed me that music was a powerful and influential force.

I decided to become a professional trumpet player after hearing Ray Maldonado with Mongo Santamaria when I was fifteen years old. I stopped playing ice hockey (which also has a great deal of improvisation) and began focusing on improving my trumpet technique and learning about music theory. I listened exclusively to jazz recordings, performed odd jobs to finance record buying and concert tickets and, most importantly, became aware that jazz is the ultimate celebration of individualism and, with trumpet in hand, to devote a life to self-exploration in the improvised moment that will inspire others to think freely and search for truth is indeed an honorable mission. “

Were there recordings in the beginning that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?

“I borrowed LPs from the public library in Dayton, Ohio.  The first record that I borrowed was Miles Davis Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk.  So the dark and up close sound on that record became my model for how a trumpet should sound and also how a rhythm section should play and interact with a soloist.  I played along with that record quite a bit. I also love Freddie Hubbard’s sound on the Hub of Hubbard.  And what he plays on that recording!  It is one of the best examples of ultimate swinging harmonic hipness.

Bitches Brew was the first record that I bought as a newly released recording and life changed during my first listening. The energy and vibe of the late 60s America was captured and amplified with a cry for freedom and a demand for a deeper understanding of glorious diversity.  Bitches Brew, packed with Miles’ melodic painting, deep grooves and suspenseful space, encouraged me to imagine how music could heroically impact the good future. Miles’ playing always emphasized playing the perfect note to best describe the emotion of the moment.”

People often talk about how the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. Do you feel this is true? What doesn’t the general public understand about playing the trumpet that you wish people would realize? 

“I always give it up to french horn and oboe players first although I am starting to rethink that concept.  My first trumpet teachers were fantastic in relaying how to make music from a phrase or melody. They spoke about dynamics and phrasing but very little about the mechanics of trumpet technique. Consequently, I had to overcome many embouchure weaknesses and then research and teach myself the proper way to play.  Bobby Shew has been a great help and I am constantly asking trumpet players questions about chops, tonguing and breathing. As an improviser I am always hearing ideas that are just out of reach of my technical level, so I devise exercises to enable those ideas and then the next wave of humbling melodies appears in my ear’s mind and the process of improvement continues. Trumpet players are lucky to have such an arduous but ecstatically rewarding endeavor for a life’s mission.  It keeps one young, humble and honest.

Because of the difficulty of trumpet performance and the great service we provide to society, I do believe that the general public should agree that trumpet players should be given first class upgrades on all flights, lifetime alternate-side parking suspensions and free coffee on gig days.”

If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be?

“John Coltrane for his searching vibe and extremely personal way of combining global spirituality with music. Thad Jones for being a true 100% improviser and for the joy of life that pervades his playing and writing….and for that big smile and those rib-crushing hugs.”

In your upcoming performance you’ll be improvising music to a silent film. What is it that appeals to you about adding a visual element to improvisation? Is it something you do often?

“I have always been fascinated with film music. I will watch films just for the music and ponder the composer’s choices concerning orchestration, harmony, density and space.  Sometimes I wonder if the music is needed at all and sometimes I wish I could mute just the music and add my own.  So the project with Aaron and James is exciting for me because we will be adding a score and it will be improvised.  The film could be considered the soloist that we are accompanying or maybe as just another member of the band although the film’s interaction with us is, of course, limited. It is very easy to play literal ideas to support the visual but I think a more interesting approach for the musicians is to portray the core emotion as abstractly as possible.  This enables each audience member to freely interpret the integration of music and film on a personal level rather than being told what to feel. For me this is the primary mission of any film composer or any group of two trumpeters and a vibraphonist improvising to a Japanese silent film.”

September 15, 2014

FONT interviews Riley Mulherkar

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Winner of the first bi-annual Laurie Frink career grant, Riley Mulherkar will perform at Cornelia Street Cafe on Saturday, 20th.

How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet? If so, did those instruments inform how you played trumpet? Or did your view of how music is played change once becoming a trumpeter?

I became a trumpet player thanks to the incredible support and love for jazz education in Seattle. When I was young, I went to see my babysitters play in the local high school jazz band every year at the neighborhood community center, and I always thought they were the coolest people ever; and the trumpet players were the coolest of the cool, so I had to be like them!

As I developed on the trumpet, the instrument brought me into many musical settings in Seattle that further shaped my view of how music is played, in opportunities to play orchestral music, collaborate with hip hop producers and rappers, and be part of an incredibly supportive scene for improvised music. I’ve yet to find a style of music that the trumpet doesn’t fit in, so I’m excited to see where it takes me!

Were there recordings in the beginning that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?

On the day that my parents gave me a trumpet, they were also wise enough to give Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. The impact that those five tunes had on my entire upbringing as a trumpet player and musician is immeasurable. However, even before that I had stolen some of my older brother’s jazz CDs and memorized them front to back, singing all the solos and listening to them on repeat – Count Basie’s Roulette recordings were my favorite. Those trumpets on “Scoot”…whew!!

People often talk about how the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. Do you feel this is true? What doesn’t the general public understand about playing the trumpet that you wish people would realize?

I certainly wouldn’t argue with anyone who says the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play – it reminds me of its challenges every morning, every afternoon, and every night! However I think it is immensely rewarding in its unique ability to create such a dynamic range of human expression – it can blow you away with a fanfare or bring you in with an intimate whisper, and I think that’s how it can connect to the general public: communicating and speaking to people through its sound.

If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be?

There are so many people along the way who have generously mentored me both on the trumpet and in my broader musical journey, so it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a couple. However, when I first arrived in New York fresh out of high school (and a bit overeager), I was fortunate enough to spend over a year studying with Laurie Frink. Laurie was truly a trumpet guru, but she was so much more than that, too. She gave me invaluable clarity and perspective on all of the pressures that come along with moving to New York – classes, rehearsals, gigs, etc. – she would even make sure I was eating healthily and exercising to stay sane! Laurie shared with me the joy of practice and hard work for the sake of the means, not the end; my morning routine still begins with the exercises she taught me four years ago.

Secondly, I’ll mention Wynton Marsalis. We first met when I was just starting the trumpet in Seattle, and he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received: “practice slow.” He mentored me throughout high school and when I moved into the Juilliard dorms, I soon discovered that he lived right next door, so I went knocking on his door day after day with endless questions about all things trumpet, music, and life. I still do today, and I’m sure I’ll still be knocking on his door twenty years from now.

What do you find most compelling about your current work? I mean, for you, what is the aspect of what you are presenting in the festival that most absorbs you?

The Westerlies are a very exciting project that’s come together over the past few years – we all come from Seattle, but formed in New York based on common friendship and musical values. The instrumentation is a bit unorthodox, but the challenge of writing and arranging music for two trumpets and two trombones has proved to be a catalyst for compositional and technical inspiration on the trumpet that has applications outside of the brass quartet as well.