Warming Up

Warming Up

Friday, September 30, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player

It’s time for the twenty-fifth installment of “Guess The Trumpet Player.” I know what you are thinking: “Darn it, Outside Pants, it’s been a month now since we’ve had a listening contest – what gives?!?!” Ok, well maybe you aren’t thinking that. Maybe you didn’t even notice the absence. Well, either way this is a pretty sweet track off of a pretty sweet album!

Click the link (it’s safe), click play, listen, guess the trumpet player. The first person to leave the correct name of this trumpet player in the comments section of this post wins a CD – your choice of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players or Outside Pants Vol. 2 – Ron Miles Mix or Outside Pants Vol. 3 – Brownie Mix or Outside Pants Vol.4 – Dave Douglas Mix. The contest ends with Monday’s post.

Here’s the tune: http://www.box.net/shared/ub5mxer9jqlz33j6xte0

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Health and Trumpet Playing

This might sound pretty obvious, but taking care of your body will help your trumpet playing. Eating well, drinking lots of water, exercising, getting enough sleep – all of these things will help your trumpet playing. More than you might think.

As I get older I’m starting to realize that I can’t treat my body like I used to when I was in my teens and twenties. I still have a pretty high metabolism and plenty of energy, but I’ve noticed that if I eat crappy for a day or two and maybe drink a couple of beers, well, my gut actually gets bigger. And my energy goes down a little bit. So I’m trying to be good. I’m lucky because a few days of being good makes my gut get smaller.

But the main new thing I’ve noticed lately has to do with sleep. I typically can get by without a lot of sleep. I’m a night owl - but I have kids so I also have to be a morning person. So, yeah sometimes not a lot of sleep. This used to be ok, but as I’m getting older I’m recognizing that the amount I sleep has a direct effect on my trumpet playing. Not much sleep for several days in a row = frustratingly crappy trumpet playing. This makes sense. The body repairs itself when it sleeps. All of the physical work and trauma on lip tissue that goes into playing the trumpet all has to be fixed and renewed at night. Eight hours of sleep is enough to fix most normal issues (if you smashed your shops at a gig then you might want to take a whole day off). But not getting enough sleep can really be detrimental. So that’s my new vow – at least for the time being – I’m going to try to take care of my body so that my body will let me play my trumpet better. And there’s the whole added benefit of living longer with a higher quality of life, blah, blah, blah.

Eat properly, drink water, exercise, get some sleep, and practice. Seems simple enough.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guilty Pleasure – Don Ellis Montreux 1977 Concert on YouTube

OK I can’t seem to help myself. I really enjoy listening to Don Ellis. I’ve written about him before (here and here), but thanks to my friend, Philly musician and composer, Travis Woodson, I’ve just discovered that Electric Bathhouse has recently posted Don Ellis’ full concert  at the Montreux Jazz Festival July 8, 1977. (Update: some of the videos have been taken down due to copyright infringement. Stupid copyright infringement!).

Sometimes I’m almost ashamed to admit how much I like Don Ellis’ music. The guy can be really cheesy and his trumpet playing can be really hokey and corny (king of straight eighths). But – and this is a big but (!) – there is a sick amount of music involved with Ellis’ music and Ellis is a really good trumpet player. This Montreux set proves it. Ellis did almost all of the arrangements here. And like always, the guy was thinking big. Sometimes to the point of excess (it was the 70’s, remember). Most jazz bands had a hard enough time in the 70’s. But Don kept a big band working throughout the decade. And not just a regular big band; this one had an electric string quartet, multiple kit drummers (Don sometimes played kit on stage too – three kits set up on stage!), Latin percussion, mallet percussion, keyboards and synths, amplified sax section. How the hell did Ellis manage to pay these people? Seriously. How did he do it? These aren’t punk musicians. These guys (and ladies) can all play their butts off. And Don’s music is really hard. But the band is always crazy tight. Watching these concert videos now, I’m blown away by the quality of musicianship. Also blown away by the cheesiness of the set design and the band uniforms! I’m also wondering how the sound crew must have felt when they found out who they would be setting up and mixing for that night! And who w

Hope you enjoy watching these videos. I hope Electric Bathhouse can keep posting more Don Ellis!

Open Wide

Future Feature:


Sporting Dance:

Pussy Wiggle Stomp

Arcturus (
from the Star Wars album which I don’t have, can’t find anywhere, and really want!):

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Listening: New Miles

When I heard that Columbia was releasing yet another Miles Davis recording, my initial thought was “Do we really need to have yet another Miles album?” Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge Miles Davis fan. I have more Miles albums than any other artist in my collection. Even more than Jimi Hendrix. And I have a LOT of Hendrix. But still. Another Miles album? Then I read that it was a 3 CD live set (plus a DVD) from late 1967. This changes things a bit. Any Miles album is good and worthwhile as far as I’m concerned, but there is something unique and special about his Second Quintet. And by late ’67 this band had been a BAND for three solid years. They had coalesced into something extraordinary – an amoeba that could mutate and move in any direction at any time. And the restless, searching energy of this group is especially evident on live recordings. The band was completely different in the studio. That’s not to say that the studio albums aren’t amazing – they are. But live in concert, the band really stretched. Staggeringly so, considering how narrow the live repertoire was for the 3 ½ - 4 years this band existed. They, for the most part, played the same tunes night after night. Often in the same order. In lesser hands this would become boring and tiresome. But Wayne, Herbie, Ron, Tony, and Miles – this band, was a once in a lifetime kind of ensemble. A living, breathing organism.

A lot of times when people talk about the live version of the second quintet they mention the Plugged Nickel sessions. Yes, those are great recordings, but they were recorded early on, not that long after the group formed. Sure, you hear the band stretching and pushing, but not like on later recordings and bootlegs. Plus, Miles is in pretty sad shape during those concerts. Shitty Miles is still great Miles as far as I’m concerned, but he’s struggling with the horn on the Plugged Nickel sessions (a lay-off from health-related issues, if I remember correctly). Whereas, a couple of years later, on this new Columbia set from 1967, Miles is pretty much at the peak of his powers as far as trumpet playing goes - from a technical standpoint. He’s all over the horn. High, low, fast, slow, loud, quiet. Power and control. And his tone is gorgeous (his sound hasn’t gotten to that amplified, coked-up, splatty sound that he would get in the early to mid 70’s – mind you, I love that sound too!). It hasn’t lost the romantic sentimentality that he was famous for. But he’s really, really pushing himself. His lines on fast tunes are just frightening. Anyone who ever says that Miles just wasn’t that great a trumpet player is completely full of crap as far as I’m concerned. Don’t believe me? Listen to this:

First Listen: Miles Davis, 'Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1'

Thanks, NPR! You’ve done it again (based on this alone, how can we not fund NPR???!!! – tongue in cheek – but not really!). NPR “First Listen” has given us the opportunity to listen to the first CD of this new Columbia set before it’s even released! And guess what? It’s AWESOME! The Band is absolutely operating at its peak. The music is a strange mix of old (Green Dolphin Street, ‘Round Midnight) and new (Agitation, Masqualero) and a few tunes that the band had made in the studio (Gingerbread Boy, Footprints). This is truly a moment of transition for Miles, and really all of the guys in the band. Six months later the Quintet would record “Filles de Kilimanjaro” – the record I really consider the pivotal record as Miles moves toward a different sound. “Kilimanjaro” comes before “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew.” Change was in the air before people knew that change was in the air. And on this 1967 recording you can feel that something is going change. There are going to be new developments and new directions (This suit that Miles is wearing above is about to get tossed in the trash. Leather pants, scarves, crazy sunglasses, and mesh tank tops are on the horizon!). It’s almost as if they’ve pushed the music as far as it could go. And this new live document really illustrates this quest for exploration. It’s a pretty sweet set. And I bet the DVD will be pretty cool too. My wife has put it on my Christmas list. Got more money than me? Pre-order your copy here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Practicing with Hakan

Check out this amazing documentary on the Swedish monster trumpet player Hakan Hardenberger:

I love how he opens this video – playing the same James Stamp lip bends that I do every day too:

“Every day is practice. Every day is slowly waking up and finding the point where it should vibrate like a violin bow finds the string. It’s almost like a meditation.”

YES! This is really how I view practice – especially that first session of the day: a form of meditation. Centering in on something and blocking everything else out. I always feel great after a good practice session. And for me a good practice session is one where I can truly allow my body to relax and allow my body to play the trumpet – and make music. And the music can be scales or slurs or exercises or it can be etudes or free playing or whatever (a teacher once told me to “find the music in it” – whatever “it” may be). When I’m finished with a good practice session I feel ready to go, inspired.

Hakan is a little bit older now and even better of a player and musician. He finds this balance and this perfection whenever he picks up his horn. That’s why he sounds the way he does. He’s a monster!

There is one thing he says in this video that I disagree with though. He says that the Golden Age of the Trumpet is the Baroque era. With all of the amazing players, teachers, and information that is available, I think the Golden Age is right now. We’re living in it, Hakan.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Practicing: Sound the Trumpet

I’ve been switching up my practice routine a bit lately. Sometimes I get into ruts. I tend to focus a lot on tone and sound and playing exercises – flexibility, slurs, lip bends, scales, etc. This is all good stuff to do, but I’ve been finding more and more lately that while this kind of practicing helps me keep my trumpet technique in shape, it’s not really helping me on a lot of my gigs. Sure, it’s important to maintain ones chops – range and endurance and basic technique – but I only have so much time each day to practice. Most of the money I make from playing is from private cocktail jazz gigs and from church/wedding gigs. Maybe I should be focusing my practice attention on making my playing in those situations better. Instead of playing tonguing exercise in Arbans, why don’t I make up my own, specifically creating exercises that work on arpeggios or scales that I might use while improvising on a tune. If I’m doing lip bends, why not do them in the form of the triads from the Giant Steps progression? I’m starting to realize that I need to make the most of my practice time to truly get the maximum amount of musical benefit out of the little time that I have. The key for me is going to be, I think, finding the balance of keeping the trumpet maintenance portion of practicing in balance with the music making part of practice (learning tunes, playing etudes, practicing music for upcoming shows/projects). I just discovered a really cool website and iTunes podcast series that’s been giving me some great ideas.

Sound the Trumpet: How to Blow Your Own Horn. There is a ton of info on this site and tons more if you start clicking the links. Chicago-based trumpet player and educator Jonathan Harnum has put together a massive amount of info on his site. And he also created a pretty sweet podcast series on iTunes: Sound the Trumpet: Podcast for Trumpeters. This past weekend I listened to the podcast interviews of jazz trumpeters Avishai Cohen and Ingrid Jensen. Harnum specifically questions these masters on what and how they practice the trumpet. Hearing how these players balance the time they have with what they need to work on has been a big inspiration for me. The Ingrid Jensen interview was particularly enlightening, specifically with regard to her use of a drone in her practicing. She sets up a tanpura drone (but one could use anything to create a drone – or for that matter, another person can create the drone if practicing with someone else) in whatever key and then she practices off of it. Scales or arpeggios or patterns or even progressions with the intent of hearing the actual intervals in relation to the drone note. And the cool thing is that the drone could be the tonic of a chord or it could be the third or the fifth, or whatever. This concept really reminds me a bit of my friend and bandleader Bobby Zankel’s interpretation of Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodics concept. This drone practicing is all about developing the ear. But at the same time you can practice necessary trumpet technique. I just downloaded a free tanpura app from iTunes. I’m going to practice with this tonight to see what kinds of things I can come up with. I might try to keep the drone going and set up a pulse with my metronome and then assign myself a scale to play. Or maybe triads over a partial cycle of fourths.

The possibilities are endless. And this is really the key to practicing. There is so much to learn and the journey is such an individual one. We have to make the most of what we have. A quote from Jensen’s interview sums it up nicely:

“Really get it together as it’s supposed to go, but also explore with it; take it down the road, take it for a walk around the block, climb to the top of a building and come back down with it, and then come back and play it exactly as it’s supposed to be as well.
There is no end point. The more you learn, the more that you find out there is to learn.”

I’m excited to explore my practicing more. I always enjoy playing but I’m going to try, or rather allow myself
to make the most of it. Check out this site and the podcast. Great stuff!