Why should you include concert video when you hire an engineer to produce an audio recording of a concert?Read More
As a musicians, we often hear the term “producer” used in reference to new recordings, new artists, and even new sounds in a particular musical genre. It’s evident that producers are an essential part of the recording process, and in an artist’s or ensemble’s development. I mean, there are Grammy's awarded for Producer of the Year in both the rock and classical music worlds… So, what does a producer actually do? And how does that affect me as a recording artist? I’d like to answer some questions, specific to the classical world, that have come up in situations I have been in.Read More
I recently had a chance to record and produce for an outstanding brass quintet, Stiletto Brass. This ensemble has been around for quite a few years, and has been a consistent presence at international brass festivals and workshops. They have a previous album, featuring none other than Doc Severinsen on trumpet, and they contacted me this spring about putting a new album together this summer.
I simply love recording brass quintet. The ability to hear the sonic blend and resonance of a great brass ensemble, hearing the overtones produced when all the voices are in tune and balanced, is truly a special experience in the musical world. Stiletto Brass has the enviable trait of having 5 individuals who each have a stylish musical voice of their own, able to stand out as soloists, yet still come together to produce a beautiful, sonorous, and blended sound quality that fits the various styles they recorded perfectly.
Speaking of style, Stiletto Brass is able to play anything from jazz, to baroque, to modern music composed just for them, in a convincing way. It was a treat to hear a new work commissioned by the ensemble by Drew Bonner, as well as a jazz tune called Boy Meets Horn (nicknamed Girl Meets Horn by both the group and me), a baroque standard by William Boyce, and a piece by Andre Lafosse that I wasn’t familiar with called Suite Impromptu. Lafosse was professor of trombone at the Conservatoire de Paris from 1948 - 1960, and contributed some important works to the trombone, and brass quintet literature. The piece Stiletto found and recorded is an absolute delight.
For the recording, I covered all my bases and used two sets of main mics (omni and cardioid), plus my stereo ribbon mic to gather the sound in the room where we recorded. Flank mics to add width, and spot mics for any minute balance adjustment in post production rounded out the mic-ing plan. The chapel at Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church was a beautiful venue for us to record in for the three day session.
Oh, and did I mention that this ensemble is all WOMEN?!?! I figured you might guess that… ;) I have to say it is wonderful to see these musicians leading the way as brass players in a field that is starting to see greater numbers of women as professionals. I can only imagine the young girls who might be inspired to know that they can play trombone, tuba, horn, or trumpet, and that they have professional role models to hear and emulate. A discussion about the title of “Boy Meets Horn” needing some reworking for this recording just might have taken place… I can’t wait for you to hear it!
Release details will be forthcoming, and I will certainly make an announcement here when the finished recording is ready. I’m excited for you to hear and to get to know Stiletto Brass.
Stiletto Brass is Amy Gilreath and Susan Rider (trumpets), Rachel Hockenberry (horn), Natalie Mannix (trombone), Velvet Brown (tuba)
You may find their website HERE.
Their first album is HERE.
Some of you have already read or heard me speak some of the words below, but I feel like any chance to talk about my friend, Ron Haney, who we lost way too early a few weeks ago, is a chance I can’t pass up. Remember, if you have someone in your life that you haven’t called in a while, or seen lately, pick up the phone or get in your car, and connect with them again. You just never know.
A few years ago, world renowned cycling coach and guru, Lennard Zinn, wrote a new book on all things cycling called Zinn’s Cycling Primer. The book is an overview of all things cycling: bike fit, training concepts, maintenance skills, nutrition, and deals with both mountain and road cycling.
I wanted to remember my friend, Ron Haney, and tell you about a side of Ron you may not have seen as much, other than the wonderful colleague and musician that so many of us know. Of course, Ron was an avid cyclist. “Avid" doesn’t really quite define Ron’s interest in cycling. “Obsession" might fit, but it’s maybe too negative a word to fit. “Passion” and “mission” might begin to describe Ron’s relationship with his bike, and with many of us who had a chance to ride with and learn from he and Barb over the years.
The first time I met Ron was at a Marine Band concert. I had only been in the band for about 6 weeks when we left DC for the 1999 West coast tour on October 1. Our first concert was in Frostburg, Maryland, and Ron had driven Barb out to the concert. This was the first tour that they wouldn’t be together in many years, maybe ever. Barb introduced me to Ron, told him I had a new found interest in cycling, and simply said, “yeah, Ron likes to bike too, you guys should get together.” I’m not sure if more of an understatement was ever spoken. Ron and I proceeded to talk a little cycling (I really knew nothing), and left it as “sure, let’s do some riding when tour gets back!” Ron gave me that sly grin and head nod, shook my hand, and I parted ways to get ready for the concert.
To say I rode my bike with Ron Haney doesn’t even begin to explain what I got from our friendship. Ron taught me nearly everything I know about riding a bike, how a bike should fit, maintenance and repair, and how to ride safely on the roads. I spent many days with he and Barb in Southern Maryland over the years following that first meeting, and rode many miles sitting on Ron’s wheel. Most of all, Ron taught me that cycling is a life long sport, a place of refuge, and a way to see the world from a new perspective. Most of all, it is a way to enjoy the company of the people you love. Over the course of many bike rides, a lot was learned by me about friendship, working in the Marine Band, enjoying life, staying fit and healthy, and perseverance.
Speaking of fit and healthy, Ron was really one of the most fit people I have ever known. As I said, I spent many miles sitting in his “draft” while cycling the roads near his home, but he always rode with a sense of compassion and care for those of us who might not be as strong as him. We would often start our rides, Ron, Barb, and me bringing up the rear, and we would all take turns riding in front, and trying to keep a consistent pace. By the end of the rides, we would just be sitting in Ron’s draft as he efficiently cranked away in the wind, bringing us home. He always had this effortless way of riding, like it was no big deal and that he would never tire. I rarely remember seeing him even look tired on a bike, and I always just marveled at his understated, but friendly and caring nature for everyone on the ride. I remember a trip to the doc, I believe on his 50th birthday, and the young Navy corpsman became concerned when he took Ron’s blood pressure. He was concerned because Ron’s resting heart rate was alarmingly low, in the low 40s, and he thought something must be wrong with Ron. Ron patiently explained to the young sailor that he was a cyclist, and his heart rate was low for a reason! I’m not sure the kid ever knew what he meant, but the doc came in and cleared everything up.
A bit has already been shared about Ron’s care for other people, friends, and especially animals. Ron and I shared a trait, that we are both only children, and we have reaped the benefits, as well as sometimes suffered the consequences of our parents family planning choices. When I first met Ron, his mother, Cleo, was nearing her later years, and I always marveled at the way that Ron loved her with his characteristic patience and understanding. He called her daily, and in her last years, he cared for her in a way that I only hope I might someday have the patience and ability to care for my own parents. He was a shining example of a good and loving son.
Ron cared so much for those around him. After a bike crash on one of our rides in Southern Maryland, I had a broken collarbone and concussion. Ron and Barb kept me at their house, with Ron waking me every hour or so due to the concussion, to keep an eye on me. Ron cared for animals, especially cats. Like my wife and I, Ron was a cat person. His gentle, calm nature, seemed to soothe both felines and humans around him always.
A few years ago, I decided to go back to school, and work on a doctorate. I studied with Dave Fedderly, then tubist of the Baltimore Symphony while working on my degree at Catholic University. Dave literally turned my philosophy on playing a brass instrument around, and tuned me in to a type of brass playing that involved working less, not getting so wrapped up in what everyone says is “correct”, and to trust your intuition about what works for you. He also taught me to trust cold hard evidence, in the form of various breathing apparatus and to record myself while practicing my trombone. After a few lessons with Dave, I realized I already knew someone that demonstrated all the qualities he was trying to shovel into my brain, and that was Ron. Ron would pick up his tuba, and with seemingly no effort at all, produce a beautiful and large sound, one that both provided his colleagues musical as well as acoustical support, but that also blended together with the sounds around him. As a brass player, many days my only goal is to simply produce a pleasing sound on my instrument, and Ron did this masterfully, with little effort, and he did it all the time. There is often a reason that musicians choose a certain instrument, and in Ron’s case, being the foundation on which everyone could rest fit the person he was to a tee.
Ron was so many things to so many people. At different times he felt like your big brother, college roommate, exercise physiologist, favorite uncle, and senior Marine that you learned how to do a strange job from. Musician, cyclist, engineer, bartender, barista, bike mechanic, woodworker…you name it, Ron probably knew how to do it, and do it well.
Most of all, Ron was a friend. I will miss this man for the rest of my days. What a wonderful person, and I am so glad to have shared some space on the planet with him.
In the Lennard Zinn book I mentioned earlier, Mr. Zinn devotes an entire chapter to Ron’s method of cycling fit. It is chapter 12 of the book, and it is appropriately titled, Haney’s Way. With so many things I had the pleasure of doing with and learning from Ron, I strive for the “Haney Way” always!
There are a few pieces that, whenever you get the chance to perform them, are just always a treat. The thing that makes them a bright spot, to me, is the musical ideas available to us, and the many choices the performers can make. With a piece like this perennial favorite by Henri Tomasi, we always have a new way to try, or different ideas decided on by the group, and a different soloist to support.
The Marine Band has a fairly prolific chamber music series, in both fall and winter, and many of the Band’s musicians really look forward to a chance to perform on these recitals. To me, there is nothing more enjoyable as a musician than chamber music. You have some of challenges of solo playing, but you get the fun of teamwork with your friends in the chamber ensemble on top of it. As a trombonist, you are often the only trombone in chamber music settings which gives you a chance to be a solo voice more frequently, and to contribute your unique sound to the ensemble.
While this piece is, essentially, a trombone quartet, Tomasi does a remarkable job of showcasing what a trombone section can do, and he does so in a very theatrical way. Of course, with a title drawn from Shakespeare, it darn well better be theatrical!
We made a couple of musical choices that I hope you enjoy…. I always see this piece performed in a more or less standard “four bones across” quartet setup. We opted to put the soloist in the center, with the trio off to the side and farther away, with the idea that we could serve more as a commentary to the solo voice, possibly more Shakespearean, but who knows? It was fun to do something different! We also opted for some fast slide vibrato where Tomasi indicates vibrato in the score, to give a shimmering effect with a different texture.
We performed this piece on a Marine Band chamber series concert, and then decided we wanted to have some more fun recording it. This is the result of a single late night session capturing our musical take (this time) on this trombone favorite.
I am always thrilled to play with my colleagues in the Marine Band, and this piece is no exception. Besides Daniel’s stellar bass trombone playing, Christopher Reaves and Tim Dugan covered the tenor trombone parts with me, and we had a great time doing it! Also, Will Samson was indispensable running the recording rig and taking notes on our various takes….thanks, Will!