Last Monday, we posted an article featuring trumpeter and 2015 FONT Music Curator, Nate Wooley discussing his view of “Visionary” as he is curating one of two nights during the FONT Music 2015 called “Visionaries”. The other night, Sunday September 27, is hosted and curated by trumpeter and FONT Music’s Secretary, Aaron Shragge. Aaron himself is quite a visionary in the modern/creative music and trumpet world as you’ll read and hear below.
A Note from Aaron:
The term ‘visionary’ can be a difficult to define. For that reason I think it’s all the more important to search deeply and find a way to actualize its essence. The artists that I’ve chosen for this series (Chad McCullough, John Blevins, Leo Hardman-Hill) are all wonderful examples of the unity and diversity of the trumpet. I feel they have each committed themselves to the visionary path by continuing to search for their own unique musical voice without being swayed by convention or novelty.
More About Aaron: Aaron is active in the NYC improvised/creative music scene and serves on the board of Festival of New Trumpet Music NY/Canada. His unique instrument the Dragon Mouth Trumpet was designed to expand the trumpet’s melodic capacity and is the result of over a decade of studying both the Shakuhachi (Japanese, Flute) as well as North Indian Vocals. Aaron Shragge’s current projects include a duo with Ben Monder, a Jazz quintet that plays the music of Tom Waits and his continuing solo works for Dragon Mouth Trumpet/Shakuhachi.
AARON SHRAGGE’S MUSIC “…DELVES DEEPER INTO THAT SATORI PLACE IN YOUR BRAIN” – JAZZ TIMES.
Teachers: Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to study with Laurie, but I did study with Jon McNeil who is a long time friend and colleague of hers. He would sometimes mention her and her pedagogy. My other trumpet teachers include Lou Ranger during my time at UVIC and Miles Newman from Saskatchewan before that. More recently I studied with Anthony Coleman, Joe Morris, and several other NEC faculty during my time in Boston.
Influences: Greg Kelley, Nate Wooley, Peter Evans, Axel Doerner, Don Cherry, Kevin Drumm, Merzbow, Morton Feldman, …I think this list might get long now that I’ve exited from trumpet players so I’ll stop there.
Current Projects: I’ve been on tour in the States for a few weeks now playing with several different people and I’m leaving on another mini Canadian tour right after the CFONT festival. These dates have all been free improv. When I’m finally at home for awhile in April I’m going to spend some time writing for a group of Boston musicians I’m bringing up to Montreal for a recording session in May. I also have a collaborative project with electro acoustic artists Max Alexander and Eric Powell that I’m hoping to spend more time on when I get back to Montreal.
On the Side/Hobbies: I have an 11 month old son, so most hobbies these days are baby related ones. We like to spend time in the parks in Montreal, which when the weather is nice are really beautiful and lively with people.
I knew I wanted to play the trumpet when: My older brother plays the trumpet and my father used to. I think when I was little I just wanted to be able to do what they did so I started playing it pretty early in my life. I always liked playing it when I was younger…I think me and the trumpet argue with each other more these days then we did then.
Performance Highlight: It’s hard to pick just one, so many gigs are rewarding but unique. A recent highlight was playing at a house show in Boston with guitarist Chris Cretella. We played right after Joe Morris and Patrick Kuehn. Was one of those nights that the music just seems to go all the right places without you having to force it anywhere, and the audience was really listening and got that it was good. It’s really a great feeling when the whole experience of the performance is good and not just some elements of it.
Dream Band: hmmmmm, thats a tough one! I’m tempted to put people from radically different genres or times together but who knows if that would make a fruitful venture so…….I’m going to leave this one alone!
Fun Fact: I used to be really into juggling. I was once Ben Mulroney’s stunt double on a Canadian TV show called “Corner Gas”. If you ever see Ben juggling torches while riding a unicycle…
Douglas’ Own Sextet Sept. 23, Featuring Jon Irabagon, Josh Roseman,
Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston & Special Guest Vocalist Heather Masse,
Celebrating Release of New Sextet CD, Pathways, Part of DD|50 Box
Q: How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet?
DD: Even though trumpet was one of my earliest instruments after piano and trombone, I always naturally thought of myself as a musician. It didn’t occur to me that I was a trumpet player until it was way too late, which is one of the reasons for this festival. It’s to celebrate the trumpet as a piece of equipment in the hands of musicians of every variety, to counter the idea of the trumpeter as a music jock, a sort of athlete of the high notes and proponent of the showiest, brassiest sounds regardless of what the music calls for. We celebrate the Music first. Then the Trumpet, then the New. This is a Festival for music and musicians involved in some of the most compelling, expressive, protean, challenging, and fun music around.
Q: Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?
DD: When I finally realized and accepted that I was a trumpeter I was drawn to unique sounding players like Miles Davis, Thad Jones, Lester Bowie, Woody Shaw, Herb Robertson, and of course all the other giant spirits of jazz. I also listened to great classical players like Gerard Schwarz and Raymond Mase, more recently Alison Balsam and Hakan Hardenberger. But I am really a sucker for Macedonian and Mexican brass bands. When the trumpet itself makes people dance how can you not smile?
Q: 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?
DD: They say the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. I’m not sure I agree — they are probably all equally hard. But the trumpet is exposed and personal, like the human voice. You have to figure out how to get a part of your body to effortlessly vibrate at extremely high velocities. This is why trumpet sounds range from the most vulnerable to the most brazen and powerful.
Q: 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?
DD: Aside from all those trumpeters I’ve loved, John McNeil, Carmine Caruso, and Laurie Frink have had the biggest impact on my life as a musician-trumpeter. No question, without them I would not be where I am today. We would likely not be doing this festival. I met co-founder Roy Campbell when I first came to New York in 1984 and at that time I was studying with Carmine. Roy and I heard each other a lot around that time. In starting this festival we both had the same sense that a booster organization for creative trumpeter/composers was an essential job that needed to be done.
Q: How did you select the people you wanted to showcase in your particular curation? Were these people you felt were deserving of wider recognition? Were they people you felt shared a similar working aesthetic as you or came from someplace completely different?
DD: Every year we try to cast as broad a net as we can. We try to support recent arrivals to the scene. We try to celebrate creative pioneers who have pointed the way. And yet, no matter how broad the net, we are always discovering new players and new sounds. We always leave people out, unintentionally! This is one of the richest periods ever as far as new music goes.
Q: 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?
DD: I practiced a lot today, so if you ask me who is my favorite trumpeter today I am going to say that I am my favorite trumpeter today. How about that? We are all out here practicing to make music and life better. And we all doing it together one note at a time. I love so many players these days and the Festival of New Trumpet Music is a way of celebrating that.
Q: Talk a bit about the venue you chose to curate in? Why is it special to you? Why do you want people to experience that particular venue? Or was it the most hospitable venue available for what you wanted to do?
DD: For the past few years I have been involved in music and spirituality, through recording hymns and spirituals, and through exploring the essence of making music in the moment. Hugh Ragin is a trumpeter who shares that pursuit. When the concert hall at St. Peter’s Church became available for this festival I knew right away that I wanted to present my suite Pathways there. And I knew I would try to get Hugh Ragin to do something. He surpassed my wildest imagination by creating music for the vespers service itself! I cannot wait to hear it.
Q: Can you all share an anecdote about this year’s honoree Marcus Belgrave and what bearing, if any, he has had on your life as a listener, trumpet player, student, or appreciator of creative music?
DD: As I listen to this year’s honoree Marcus Belgrave what amazes me most is how he pulls notes out from all around the horn, the embouchure, and the room. Watching him play is like watching popcorn pop — you never know where the next movement is going to come from. He has one of the most amazing techniques I have ever seen. We are proud to bring him to New York with his own group to honor him with our Award of Recognition.
Q: What event besides the events you curated are you most looking forward to checking out live?
DD: The Henry Brant Flight Over A Global Map for 52 trumpets!!! and percussion is our pièce de resistance this season. I’ve never been involved in anything like this. So many great trumpeters are coming forward to play. It has been a supreme piece of work to organize and I know it is going to be an amazing thrill that will not be repeated any time soon.
Q: Any other thoughts about this year’s festival?
DD: Festival of New Trumpet Music enters its 11th season stronger than ever. New board members, new players, new venues. As a 501(c)3 public nonprofit we appreciate all the support we have had and encourage interested parties to visit our site and consider donating. Thank you.
The ninth Festival of New Trumpet Music, at the Jazz Standard, pays tribute to Kenny Wheeler. The eighty-one-year-old trumpeter, making a rare New York appearance, will be joined by Ingrid Jensen’s + Brass band and the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and will play with his own quintet. (fontmusic.org.)
THE 9TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW TRUMPET MUSIC CELEBRATES TRUMPETER/COMPOSER KENNY WHEELER AT THE JAZZ STANDARD
(New York City, NY) – JAZZ STANDARD, one of the nation’s premier jazz clubs, presents the 9th Annual Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) series, “Kenny Wheeler Celebration,” from Thursday, October 20, through Sunday, October 23, 2011. Program schedule and artist bios are outlined below.
The FONT series celebrates Kenny Wheeler, one of the most creative and iconic of progressive trumpeters. Wheeler, a Canadian residing in the UK since 1952, celebrated his 81st birthday this year. He will make a rare New York appearance in this series devoted to his music and vision.
The Festival also presents a cadre of progressive New York trumpeters, among them Ingrid Jensen, Shane Endsley, Nate Wooley, Jonathan Finlayson, Tony Kadleck, and Jon Owens. As part of this celebration, Kenny Wheeler will be featured with Ingrid Jensen + Brass, will play his music alongside John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, and will also convene a New York Quintet, featuring Jon Irabagon, Craig Taborn, Matt Brewer, and Rudy Royston.
Kenny Wheeler commented on being honored by FONT Music and returning to NYC: I first came to New York in the late 40′s. I was with a big band attached to the American forces and I had joined with the sole purpose of getting to New York. I just wanted to find and maybe talk to Miles. I couldn’t find him but in the process I had a really short (even for me) conversation with Charlie Parker. I was so disappointed I had missed Miles that it wasn’t until hours later I realized I had actually spoken to Bird! By that time though New York had gone from being in my head to being in my blood, heart and soul. It’s where most of the Jazz I listened to before and after that trip was born.
Although I have played in New York a few times over the years every time I come back I still feel the same excitement I felt that first time I visited all those years ago. For me New York is the place to play. The fact that I am being honored with a New York week and that so many fantastic trumpet players are involved is overwhelming. I am so proud and, before my nerves get the better of me, I would just like to say thank you to all of the people who have put this event together and thank you to New York for giving me the opportunity to come back and play here again.
Wadada Leo Smith talks about the trumpet, Ankhrasmation and the Golden Quartet. Hear him with this group at Le Poisson Rouge, June 5th at 7 pm. Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet with Angelica Sanchez (piano), John Lindberg (bass), Pheeroan akLaff (drums).
FONT: When you look at the total history of the trumpet, from its beginnings as a signaling device, to the incredible diversity of approaches in the world now, what parts of the trumpet’s character is attractive to you? What keeps you interested in playing the instrument?
Wadada Leo Smith: The trumpet really does have a great diversity of approaches but the are only six major lines of trumpet languages with some major connecting branches. The major lines for me are: Freddie Keppard, Joe Oliver; Louis Armstrong; Bix Beiderbeck, Joe Smith, Bubber Miley; Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro; Miles Davis; Donald Cherry, Donald Ayler, Lester Bowie.
What’s interesting about the trumpet is the artists that find a way to create music, to express life’s most unique essence, to make art. Now, that is what the trumpet is for me.Read More