Warming Up

Warming Up

Monday, February 28, 2011

Listening Contest Winner

The winner of the seventh installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is…….. no one! And the correct answer is……..Malachi Thompson. The tune is called “Take a Look” and it’s from the Delmark Malachi Thompson career retrospective compilation CD Timeline.

While I won't say that Malachi, a longtime AACM member, is one of my favorite trumpet players, I do have four of his albums and I enjoy them all. On straight ahead material Malachi can certainly hold his own (his front line partners include: Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Carter Jefferson); on more adventurous stuff he shines. His sound is what attracts me. There is a reckless abandon in his tone that reminds me of later-era Lee Morgan when he had some chop problems. Things clearly were not working physically but he persevered with more hard blowing, which is probably not what you are supposed to do. When a trumpeter experiences chop problems he/she should lay off the horn for at least a day so that muscle tissue can heal and then the player can start over again with fresh chops and hopefully he/she will get back into shape with good form and mechanics. Malachi’s huge and often brash tone sounds sometimes like it's teetering on the verge collapse. I know that doesn't sound like a compliment but I mean it as such. Almost like his living on the edge gives his playing an urgency and heavy sense of purpose. Play like this is the last time you’ll get to play. That’s how Malachi sounds to me sometimes. When you function that way you are going to take risks, you are going to make mistakes, split notes, go out of tune because of too much pressure, etc., but you are also going to say something real. The best of Malachi Thompson does this. At least for me it does.

I only got to see Malachi play once. And although I cannot find anything to verify this, I think the performance I saw here in Philly was one of his last. He passed away from cancer about 45 days later (an obituary of sorts HERE). He must have been sick when he played. He did look a bit weak (at the time I thought it was age – even though he was hardly old). He left a lot of room to Texas Tenor Billy Harper (who has maybe the biggest tone ever – bigger than a house) who, of course, tore it up. Malachi played flugelhorn all night (the smaller bore flugel requires less air) except for one uptempo Eb blues when he played trumpet. At the climax of his solo on that tune, Malachi gave it everything he had and pinched out a high F (concert Eb). The crowd applauded his effort. And it did look like effort. Malachi looked beat after he hit that note. But he also looked victorious. Afterward I wanted to talk to him, to thank him for the music and for the inspiration. But I was nervous to introduce myself; maybe a mix of not wanting to bug him and also being intimidated by him. I should have said hi and shook his hand. He’s gone now. Glad to have his music at least.

No comments:

Post a Comment