Clark Media Productions

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Filtering by Tag: trombone

Great 3 days of recording with Stiletto Brass

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.

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Happy faces when the producer says, “OK, that’s a wrap!!!”

Happy faces when the producer says, “OK, that’s a wrap!!!”

"Pathfinder" Trombone E-Course for Young Trombonists

Hi everyone - I hope you are all having a great summer!  Things have been busy here, but we’ve managed to get some good relaxing in as well.  I know I’ve been posting a lot of video blog (vlog) entries this summer, and quite honestly, I’ve just been enjoying making videos and the process that goes in to that!  I hope what I’ve made this summer has been interesting and helpful to you!

This week’s blog post is a little different.  I’ve been working on an idea that’s been bouncing around inside my head for quite some time now, and it’s getting close to being ready.  Every year, when I have new students starting lessons with me, I seem to take a week or two to get my footing.  I find myself searching for music, trying to find old scale sheets on the version of Finale I had three years ago, etc.  On too many occasions, I have found myself frantically writing out a new piece of music on the computer the night before a student’s lesson (or the hour before!).  This becomes especially important when I have a beginner student that needs guidance.  I decided to finally get all the materials I use with my young students together in one place, and package them together, along with a number of videos covering the fundamentals of trombone playing, as well as a complete warmup and daily routine for beginner students.  

Announcing…..

The Pathfinder Course for Young Trombonists!

The Pathfinder Course features video content recorded in 1080p HD with excellent audio quality

The Pathfinder Course features video content recorded in 1080p HD with excellent audio quality

The real heart of the course is the warmup I’ve developed over the years for my own students.  It draws on Remington and other routines in use by many brass players.  I’ve also recorded play along videos with a metronome track, for students to cue up at home for their own practice sessions.  It’s common for students (and parents) to feel a little lost between lessons, or between days that their band class meets.  This course aims to help young trombone players practice with purpose, and to develop a daily practice habit of fundamental concepts.

When you purchase the course, you receive:

  • a comprehensive collection of short videos covering fundamentals of trombone playing (breathing, posture, mouthpiece buzzing, etc.) as well as practice skills and concepts
  • a video especially for parents
  • play along video of the entire warmup routine
  • PDF warmup booklet (3 pages)
  • handy teaching materials: scale sheet, circle of 5ths, position chart

I’m currently building the Course page on my website.  Check back at www.virtualtrombonist.com soon for more information, and to watch some sample video.  I will also be posting an introductory video in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks so much!  If you have a young student, or know parents of young students, please share this with them!

 

The Pathfinder Course features play along tracks for young students to practice with

The Pathfinder Course features play along tracks for young students to practice with

Cool Stuff at ITF 2016 - part 2

Picking up where days one and two left off, Saturday at the 2016 International Trombone Festival saw some great events and visits to exhibitors.  I will admit straight away to being a little ashamed that I missed Peter Ellefson’s 9AM recital, but I had a good excuse.  I have wanted to see the High Line on Manhattan’s lower West side for some time now, so while my dad judged one of the competitions, I took the 1 train down to Penn Station and walked over to 10th Ave. where the High Line begins.  Built on a converted elevated rail line running along 10th Avenue, the High Line is a wonder of urban design, landscaping, and ingenuity.  It was a such an enjoyable visit, I was sorry when I reached the Southern terminus at Gansevoort Street. 

The High Line - NYC

So, after a quick ride on the 1/9 back up to Lincoln Center, I managed to catch the second half of the World Trombone Quartet.  The quartet usually consists of Joe Alessi, Michel Becquet, Jorgen van Rijen, and Stefan Schultz.  On this particular performance, Hakan Bjorkman and Denson Paul Pollard substituted for Becquet and Schultz.  Wow, what a group!  I caught two solo performances, the first by Hakan Bjorkman of the Carnival of Venice.  He played the original Arban version, and holy cow did he play it!  Besides amazing technique, Mr. Bjorkman has all the other tools that made it obvious why he would sub in a group called the World Trombone Quartet.  Unfortunately, Mr. Bjorkman was in a bicycling accident at home a few days after the festival ended, and sustained some major injuries.  According to what I see on Facebook, he appears to be recovering well and out of immediate danger.  That is great news, and I wish this fantastic musician my very best in his recovery.  Having had a couple of bad cycling accidents myself over the years, I feel his pain, and I hope he reaches full recovery.  Following the Arban, Jorgen van Rijen performed a piece called Slipstream.  This utilized a loop station with Mr. van Rijen providing the loops in a live recording environment.  What a cool piece!  Jorgen’s playing is so smooth, even, and effortless, he makes things sound so easy.  This is a genre that seems new, but has a lot of elements that have been around for years.  Improvisational in nature (I assume), the piece really develops as if you are hearing it for the first time, and made this listener feel like I was hearing something being literally composed right in front of my eyes.  I am going to have to definitely check out the piece and the loop station setup.  The final piece on the program was for the full quartet, First Trombone Quartet by Steven Verhelst.  This was a perfect closer and featured a little bit of everything, including some lovely clog dancing by all 4 players.  Besides his beautiful bass trombone playing, Mr. Pollard provided the closest approximation of what my own attempt at clog dancing would look like… but it was very entertaining!  As serious as Joe Alessi might appear to us all, he showed once again his great sense of showmanship and humor, along with Jorgen and Hakan.  Really a fun program and great ensemble.  The have a new CD available - buy it and check it out.

I heard bits and pieces of a few other things - I’m going to list them in no particular order… There was, as always, a lot to see and hear - way more than I could absorb!  

M&W Trombones - Matt Walker and Mike McLemore have continued the tradition they began when both worked for Gary Greenhoe - the tradition of making beautifully crafted horns that play great.  Their new instruments are stunningly beautiful, and they play just as well.  I only wish I was in the market for a new horn!  These guys will have their work cut out for them in the years ahead meeting demand, I imagine.

S.E. Shires - while not a Shires player myself, I have really liked some of the horns I have played that this Boston based outfit makes.  Like the M&W horns, these instruments are beautiful, and play amazingly well.  They make the FINEST alto I have ever played (the edition with a b-flat attachment), and were I doing more alto work these days, I would find a way to pay for one and add it to my stable.  BUT, what I thought was really super cool is the new screw bell tenor trombone edition they have come up with.  A concept that has been around for a while, Shires has taken it and made it a truly useful and practical option.  In addition to a bell section that is already screw bell converted, they have created an amazing little hard case.  People, this thing is SMALL.  Slightly larger than a violin case, the design is ingenious, and very protective.  If I flew a lot with a trombone, I would buy one in a heartbeat.  Just amazing.  You have to check it out!

This was a prototype case Shires has developed for their new screw bell tenor trombone option... I was told the final production case will be slightly thicker - but it is still super compact!

 

Soul-O mutes - This is the one thing I came to the workshop dead set on buying before I left.  I walked up to the booth with cash in hand determined to not leave without one!  The Soul-o folks are very friendly, and have created a bucket mute that is the sweetest sounding version of the genre I have ever played.  They have also begun making a cup and straight which I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to try, but if they play as well as the bucket, I imagine I’ll end up with those at some point as well.  I have some plans for some recordings using bucket, I’ll keep you posted when I get them recorded.  Looking on their website, most of the big names in the LA scene these days seem to be playing their mutes, so they are definitely a hot commodity!

Edwards/Griego mouthpieces - As always Christan had his full arsenal available to try.  Again, I didn’t play any horns as I just didn’t want to make myself “need” another horn, but the Edwards remain as popular as ever.  If you haven’t checked out Christan’s line of mouthpieces, they are truly beautifully made and sound great.  

Some other people I ran into or met for the first time:

  • Doc Marcellus - I always love seeing Doc.  He is such a wonderful person, and never fails to make me feel glad to be a trombone player.
  • Carol Jarvis - I met Carol briefly for the first time.  I have only recently become familiar with her playing, and I really enjoy her beautiful style of performing.  Her new album is great.  I downloaded it as we were driving out of Manhattan, and it was the perfect accompaniment for our drive through the Lincoln Tunnel and back to DC.  Carol is beginning to work with ITA on their social media presence, which I think is a great move on ITAs part.  The organization is definitely behind the times in that respect, and I think they will see some good growth, especially among younger players, with a more concentrated effort in social media.
  • Jon Whitaker - Jon was conducting the Cramer Choir this year, and it was great to see him, albeit briefly.
  • Joe Dixon - Joe has been a teacher in Texas for a number of years and is always a great resource for information about teaching.  He has a great website with a lot of materials he has developed for use with his students over the years.  MANY of his former students play in major symphonies all over the world.
  • Steve Norrell - It was a great pleasure to see and hear Steve again.  He played in the Juilliard alumni choir, and it’s amazing to think how many performances this man has played at the Metropolitan Opera over the years.  I remember vividly hearing a master class he gave at the 1991 trombone workshop in Rochester.  His sound and concept of playing has been burned into my brain ever since!
  • Dave Taylor - I already mentioned Dave in Part One, but he is always such fun to be around.  A man that is all about the music, he is an inspiration.  His interest in young players and his care for their development is evident in the way he interacts with people he meets.  A gentleman and a New Yorker in the very best sense of the term.

The Juilliard Alumni Choir performed an afternoon concert which was well attended and sounded beautiful.  It was such great fun to be back at Juilliard and get to perform a little with such great players and friends.  Per Brevig did a fantastic job getting the group ready in basically one rehearsal to play a very nice program.  Hearing many alumni who attended Juilliard before me, and connecting everyone’s lineage of teachers and experience at school was really amazing.  This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this in an “alumni” event.  They can be a great way to bring a sense of camaraderie to a group that might not otherwise ever meet, much less perform together.

After the Alumni concert, it was time to do some more sight seeing and “New York stuff”.  We had a blast and really enjoyed the rest of our weekend.  Many thanks to Joe Alessi, Jack Schatz, Per Brevig, The Juilliard School, and the ITA for a fantastic experience and weekend.  If you haven’t been to an ITF, try to get to one at your first possible opportunity - you won’t be disappointed!  Next year's festival is at University of Redlands in Redlands, California, June 28-July 1, 2017.

 

 

David Bowie and brass quintets...

No not really, sorry!  But I am embarrassed to say that it took David Bowie's death for me to discover his music.  And wow, have I been missing out!  His new album, Blackstar, is amazing, and due to my wife's amazing Christmas gift to me of a new turntable, I did order it on vinyl!  

Tonight, I watched a great video produced by the BBC, with producer Tony Visconti, about the recording of another seminal Bowie album, Heroes.  The video was posted by one of my favorite writers, Austin Kleon, and it's well worth the 20 minutes you'll spend watching...

http://bbc.in/1QqfRTZ

I think one of the most interesting things about insights like this is the debunking of the myth that great creations spring from some fully formed vision of the artist, and that it all comes out in one clear and finished product.  Just like one of my favorite podcasts of late, Song Exploder, you see that that is most often not the case...

So, what does David Bowie have to do with brass quintets?  Well, nothing yet... maybe we can get our good friend Tom Holtz, who has arranged so many great tunes for Valor Brass to arrange something cool...???  Tonight, we had the chance to perform on a recital of the Composers' Society of Montgomery County in Bethesda, Maryland.  We played a new piece by composer Jeffrey H. Bauer, titled Danse Macabre.  Jeff is a conservatory trained (Peabody Institute) pianist and trombonist, and he contacted Valor Brass a few months ago about working together.  We really enjoyed his new work, and it just reinforced the fact that relationships between creators (composers) and musicians (performers) are such a rewarding experience.  Check out Jeff's scores at Balquhhider Music.

Here's a rehearsal recording from a few days ago of Danse Macabre...

 

Many thanks to Bruce Faske! Here's another great recording to check out...

For those of you who've read my page about Dr. Neill Humfeld, you know that he was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where he studies with the great Emory Remington.  When he began teaching at East Texas State University, he brought the great trombone choir tradition from Eastman to Commerce.  This is a recording of Tommy Pederson's Cogent Caprice, featuring Dr. Humfeld and the trombone choir at the 1974 Texas Music Educator's Association convention.  Dr. Bruce Faske is a graduate of Texas A&M - Commerce (as ETSU is now called), and took the time to put this performance online.  Many thanks, Bruce!

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