A Little Different And A Lot Of Talent

392920_10150920650568876_2005699815_nI recently came across a very talented trio fronted by a young trumpet player you must hear. Noticed I didn’t say your “should” hear. The trio is called Sweet Talk and no matter what kind of music trips your trigger, you need to listen to and follow the progress of this interesting ensemble (an experimental jazz trio based in Brooklyn, NY. Jake Henry – trumpet; Dustin Carlson – guitar, Devin Drobka – drums).

Each member of the group is able to contribute artistry in every composition. And when you combine only a guitarist, a drummer and a trumpet player, you are putting it on the line every time you kick off a tune. When I first realized the instrumentation, I have to admit that I started the video with the intention of proving to myself that this strange combination of instruments would never keep my interest. Was I wrong!

After reading my interview with Mr. Jake Henry (trumpet player and leader), start the video, set back and begin to listen to a style of music you may hate, love or even question. If you have the same reaction I had, you will want to learn more about this group and for that reason I suggest you first read about Sweet Talk and then play their video. In this way, you will better understand why I was so “blown away” with their work.

And here is my interview with Mr. Jake Henry-

How would you classify your style of jazz?

Genre is always a bit tricky for new jazz music, but I’d say it probably lands in avant-garde jazz, though free jazz and noise have been thrown around as well.

If it is free Jazz, I noticed that you all were very organized as far a structure and you had charts in front of you. Please explain. To me it sounds like “Well organized Free Jazz” if there is such a thing.

The reason I say avant-garde over free jazz is because of the emphasis on compositional elements. We improvise within the constraints set by the pieces, similar to traditional jazz, though the constraints are often construction and deconstruction of themes as opposed to an ongoing form.

How long has you group been together?

We’ve been together since 2011, but Dustin and I started playing together a year before that.

What type of venues do you perform in?

It’s a mixture of jazz clubs, art galleries, house shows, noise venues and DIY spaces.

How is a new composition created?

My compositional process is something I’ve settled on after a lot of trial and error. I mostly start with some form of material, whether it’s melodic, harmonic or rhythmic, and then map out the structure of the piece from there… melody, how we get to the improvising, what material we improvise on, and how we exit into more composed material. Most of the work is done in the “editing” phase though.

How do you decide when to come out of the free sections?

It really depends on the piece. Often I will write bookends to the improvising to provide a unique contour to each song, as the improvising is generally free of predetermined form and harmony, I try to vary the material we start and end with enough to make each piece’s improvised section(s) distinct. A little bit of exit material really helps to make a song identifiable, and ensure that the ends of pieces always make an impact. With that said, sometimes we will stop organically in which case the end material may be disregarded

Are your ensemble sections written in notes or rhythms?

Absolutely. The piece we play in the video is actually one of the simplest in the book. Even for freely played or rubato melodies, the way they appear on the page is carefully determined.

How did you come up with this instrumentation?

Touring is a bitch. This band fits in a car.

Who do you consider an influential trumpet player in the development of your style of improvisation?

Man, that’s tough (as you well know there are so many). I’ve definitely spent a lot of time with Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Wheeler and Lee Morgan, but in terms of modern players that have had a more relevant impact stylistically Ralph Alessi, Peter Evans, Dave Douglas, Shane Endsley, Nate Wooley. Super important to my concept as well are my friends Brad Henkel, Kenny Warren, Joe Moffett and also saxophone players Tony Malaby and Tim Berne

What equipment do you use?

I play a Marcinkiewicz Rembrandt trumpet with a GR 66mx mouthpiece and valve oil I make myself.

Who do you most often listen to?

Jake Henry’s Sweet Talk is an experimental jazz trio based in Brooklyn, NY. Jake Henry – trumpet; Dustin Carlson – guitar, Devin Drobka – drums

My friends and contemporaries. There is very inspiring music out there right now. Some of them are Adam Hopkins, Patrick Breiner, Sean Ali, Will McEvoy, Josh Sinton, Chris Weller, Kate Gentile, Matt Mitchell and David Grollman. Also here are some names of some other folks I like: Bartok, Beyonce, Messaien, Curtis Mayfield, Frankie Valli, Kendrick Lamar, Ben Monder and The Tallest Man on Earth

What kind of musical background do each of your players have?

Devin, the drummer’s background is mostly jazz and free jazz, though he definitely played in a few metal bands in his day. Dustin, the guitarist’s background is a lot more rock and funk bands. As for me, I started young as a jazz guitarist and gradually switched over to trumpet in my mid to late teens. My musical taste has definitely broadened over the years.

What do you hope to do with your group in the next couple years?

Well I don’t want to give it all away, but we’ve got another album that we’re set to record this year, and I plan to take the band overseas. Also in March we’ll be playing the Canadian Festival of New Trumpet Music in Montreal.

Every trumpet player, young old, professional or amateur should listen to this group for I feel that the music which they are producing is worth the time to evaluate. Some of you may not like their work and that is alright. Some of you may wonder what is going on and still others may “flip” over the group. Whatever your reactions you experience after listening to these talented musicians perform, your musical taste will have been expanded and that is good.

For those able to make the “Canadian Festival of New Trumpet Music in Montreal” in March, I will be jealous for I would love to be at that festival and hear this important trio in person.

The very best to our new friends in Sweet Talk.

Now meet Mr. Tatum Greenblatt

188927_150323081699342_2054809_nIn our never ending quest to showcase the best in trumpet playing….

A Seattle native, Tatum Greenblatt is a musician, composer and bandleader who has established himself as one of the most in-demand trumpet players on New York City’s music scene and performed with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Mingus Big Band, Richard Bona, George Gruntz, Donny McCaslin, Jacques Swartz- Bart, David Berger, George Garzone, and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, among many others. Having earned his master’s degree from The Juilliard School, Tatum has toured extensively with The Richard Bona Group and The Mingus Big Band, performing in 38 countries across 6 continents, and can be heard playing frequently around New York City with a wide variety of groups, including The Mingus Big Band, Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, The Fat Cat Big Band, and The Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra.

The New Schagerl “Raven”- The Best Of Both Worlds

IMG_0570James Morrison explains his newly designed piston/rotary valve trumpet as only he can…..

This is my new trumpet from Schagerl – although it looks a bit like a cornet, it is definitely a trumpet.

The design comes from my wish to have a rotary valve instrument due to the different articulation you get compared to piston valves. I find the rotary sounds more precise and there is a smaller “dead spot” between when you push the valve and when the next note comes out clearly. This is particularly noticeable when playing quickly in the upper register (something I like to do).

So if I want a rotary trumpet, why not just use one of the many Schagerl’s that already exist?

Rotary trumpets vary from their piston cousins in another way than just the valves… the lead pipe on a typical rotary is very short and goes from the mouthpiece straight into the 1st valve. The lead pipe on a piston trumpet is nearly 4 times as long, it goes out towards the bell and back into the 3rd valve. This difference in lead pipe length has a considerable effect on the sound and feel of the trumpet, particularly the power in the upper register.

So the Raven was conceived to be a rotary valved trumpet with a long lead pipe. This lead to several prototypes of different shapes and configurations until the beautiful instrument you see now. It actually still has the lead pipe going into the 1st valve (like any rotary) but only after a long trip out towards the bell and then back towards the mouthpiece – giving a length similar to a piston trumpet.

The ‘cornet – like’ appearance was due to the fact that the rotors needed to be placed low (increasing the vertical dimension) and this lead to a decreased horizontal length – like a cornet. But as far as the tubing goes, this is all trumpet. The valve actuators, that look like pistons, were placed on top – so the instrument can be played with one hand. I need this for various reasons, including using a plunger mute, playing piano at the same time and conducting a big band whilst playing. It means the Raven is played ‘upright’ like a piston trumpet, rather than on it’s side like most rotarys. In this respect it is similar to that other wonderful Schagerl – the Gansch horn.

One characteristic of the Raven is that it is extremely warm sounding when played softly, almost like a flugel horn. When you blow it hard, it goes the other way and is even brighter than a regular trumpet. This ‘breadth’ of tonal range is very appealing to me for jazz work, as I can create a very intimate sound even without a mute and still ‘scream’ any time just by increasing the air.

Finally, why is it called the ‘Raven’?

It was decided to plate it with a combination of platinum and silver that looks black, hence the name of the black bird. Unfortunately there is a delay with this type of plating and so I asked for my first Raven in gold plate. There is a second prototype on the way that will indeed be black and should look wicked!

Apart from playing it on all my gigs from now on, I’ll be recording with the Raven over the next few weeks and will get that up on Youtube so you can hear it. Also some better pictures are coming, this was just taken with my iPhone on the hotel bed before jumping on the plane home.

Robert Schagerl has done an amazing job and created yet another masterpiece.

A Musician Must Be Flexible

When speaking of flexibility in this case, I don’t mean that you can do back flips and hand stands. Flexibility in this case refers to the ability to adapt to your surroundings and situations. Another word I could use to describe this valuable trait for musicians could be adaptability. I will try to cover a few examples of adaptability or flexibility which you may run into in your journey down the page.

Flexibility when practicing– Many times we find a groove in which we enjoy pleasure in our playing. We search for just the right combination of loud and soft playing, high and low playing, solo and ensemble playing and while we relish the experience, we tend to get bored doing the same thing over and over again (See post- Bored practicing). Even though we recognize that what we are currently doing is beneficial, after an extended period of time, we tend to move into other practice habits which do not benefit us as much as what we have already decided works best for us. It is human nature to want greener pastures and more interesting practice habits. Is it bad to wander from the most beneficial routine to something less productive? In most cases it is but if you are addicted to one outline for practice, you will find that your improvement will eventually become stagnant and unproductive. You must learn to be flexible.

Your basic areas to practice for most musicians would be the following-

  • Strength exercises
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Loud playing
  • Soft playing
  • Fast playing
  • Slow playing
  • Tonguing exercises
  • Sight reading
  • Solo playing
  • Ensemble playing
  • Style changes (both symphonic as well as commercial)
  • Technique of changing notes (trombone- slide work, trumpet- finger work)
  • Excerpts (orchestral)
  • Improvisation (jazz)
  • Playing just for the shear enjoyment

I’m sure many more areas could be added but for now, let’s assume that theses are the most important.

If all you currently play is loud high notes with your rock band or only soft notes in the middle to low range, why would you spend any time practicing the opposite areas, i.e. soft when playing in rock bands, loud and high when only playing in a sweet band? The reason is obvious for if you relegate all of your playing in one area, you will eventually loose other areas of your playing. To make sure that you do not fall into this habit you must first identify what the majority of your playing requirements are at this time and supplement the opposite material in order to keep the best balance.

I remember back about thirty years (the old days I remember, what I did last week is a problem) when one of my students came to me and with great excitement, told me that he was going on the road with a band I had played with. The student asked me for advice while on the road and I began first by telling him to make sure he was paid regularly (preferably in cash) and that his road expenses could wipe out his salary if he wasn’t careful. Because I had played with this band before, I also shared with him the style of music and pointed out to him that he would not be challenged and because of that fact, he would need to practice regularly even though he was playing every night. The band was one of the last full time “Sweet Bands” meaning the music was dated and the trumpet player was required to play the melody exactly as written, most dynamics were between p and mf. Another characteristic would be that you play all the time. This was markedly different than what he was used to at the university. When he returned from his gig he thanked me for without regular work outs on his horn, he would have had no chops at all when he returned.

Rule #1- Set aside time to practice the opposite of what you are currently performing.

Yet Another Toy For Our Trumpet Toy Box


When will this ever end?

There is no question as to the ability of this monumental trumpet player, so when I received an invitation to “Like” a site connected with Arturo Sandoval’s name, I jumped at the opportunity.

If you are new to the ever widening trumpet world and have not yet heard of this gifted performer, check him out at this site- Arturo Sandoval

For the rest of the trumpet world, we all shudder at the mere mention of his name.

So when I heard that the maestro was endorsing a new and revolutionary accessory for trumpet players, I had to investigate and this is what I found….

After viewing this product and as yet not purchasing or even trying it, I have decided for my own development to forgo the expenditure and continue with my primitive, yet inexpensive alternative………Make Your Own Mouthpiece Adapter

I would be very interested in any report from my readers who have used this tool.

What Is A Neti Pot And How Can It Help My Trumpet Playing?

Neti Pot is its name and NASTY POT is what I call it. The agony and humiliation I go through while using this instrument of torture cannot be overstated. Now that we have addressed all the positives connected with this helpful little item, I will share with you its benefits and the history as to how and why I am currently putting myself through this agony twice a day.

It all started when I moved to the Branson, Missouri area. If you are not aware, Branson is located in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by a National forest. Trees have pollen and people suffer from the combination of allergies, people like me. This summer has been particularly troublesome for those of us with allergies.

While visiting with my chiropractor last week concerning my allergy situation, he suggested that I use a Neti Pot. Being new to the Neti Pot world, I asked how does it work? …… If someone tells you that you are to pour warm liquids into your right nostril, and then let it fill up the inside of your nose and eventually let it run out your left nostril, what would be your reaction? That was mine also.

After visiting the local pharmacy and purchasing my very own Neti Pot, I hurried home with great anticipation for what was to come. In theory, the application of liquids through one hole in your face and the subsequent drainage of the same liquid out another hole in your face are very popular with many people. My question would be what kind of person would find this enjoyable?

Now visualize the scene at my home. My wife is reading the instructions while I’m questioning why she has a slight smile on her face. The instructions are simple and straight forward; 1. Rinse the Neti Pot, fill pot with clean water. 2. Pour contents of included powder into pot and mix. 3. Stand in front of a sink and tilt your head to one side. 4. Pour the contents into one nostril and with your mouth open, without holding your breath, place the tip of the pot in one nostril, and “allow the solution to gently flow until the solution starts draining from the opposite nasal passage”……… Think about that for a minute.

The scene in our laundry room would be difficult to justly describe. There I was, head in sink coughing, spitting, gagging while all the time my wife was doubled over laughing her head off. Fortunately we have a strong marriage and once our dog was finally extracted from her hiding place under the bed, we all decided to re-read the instructions.

We had correctly implemented this device and after a few days of practice, I got on to the process. My allergy problem improved and as a side effect, I was able for the first time breath unrestricted through my nose. For a wind player, this is a big improvement. By the second day, I noticed a slight difference also in the tone quality of my trumpet. Just as deep breaths will affect your tone, an open nasal cavity will also change your instrument timbre.

After a week of rinsing my nasal cavity twice a day, I am convinced the Neti Pot has helped me. Do I enjoy the application? No. Would I recommend it to other trumpet players? It would depend on how close a friend they were. Am I suggesting my readers go through the torture? ……….

Instructions on the use of a Neti Pot.


How To Learn To Circular Breath- Part II

In my first post, I explained what circular breathing was and showed you two examples of the process. I also listed several exercises for you that would allow you to take air in and at the same time let air out. What we will be doing in this post will be giving you additional exercises to do in order to actually produce a note from your instrument which you should be able to sustain indefinitely.

Getting a buzz going while inhaling.

First we need to practice what we had accomplished in Part I of this post.

1.      Lower your jaw, fill your mouth with air and close your lips together.

2.      Raise your jaw while keeping your lips sealed.

3.      With you cheeks expanded, continue to breathe in through your nose.

4.      Slowly let the air escape from the center of your lips and at the time breathing in through your nose.

Now we continue.

5.      Repeat this exercise but this time place your mouthpiece on the vibrating area of your lip to get a buzz through your mouthpiece.

6.      Practice this same exercise several times until you are able to not only get a buzz, but you are able to change pitch.

7.      You may have had a difficult time accomplishing exercise # 6. If you were able to accomplish the exercise, you are way ahead of most people.

If you were not able to accomplish #5- #6, do these exercises.

1.      Place your mouthpiece in your horn and insert the most restrictive mute you own, ie. practice mute or cup mute.

2.      Play a second line G and as you sustain the note, allow your cheeks to fill with air.

3.      Seal the areas between the top of your mouth as you have learned and force the air out of your cheeks at the same time you raise your tongue and move it forward in your mouth. This may take some practice before you are able to accomplish this exercise.

Do not be surprised if this seems impossible for this is the most difficult coordination exercises that you will have to learn. Some students have had to practice this level for several days before becoming proficient at it. If you want to circular breathe, you will have to learn this technique before moving on. If it takes you four weeks, take four weeks and learn it.

Now that you are able to sustain a second line G indefinitely, you need to improve on what you have accomplished.

I have asked you to play the G second line for a very good reason. This note is the easiest to begin and sustain and because of that fact, we started there. You may notice that as you take you quick breaths through your nose, the pitch changes. You need to first be aware of this sound change and as you continue, try to minimize the sound difference and work toward a consistent tone and pitch. Trust me, it’s not easy at first but it will come with practice. Once you are satisfied Ambien Online with your consistent sound, pitch and volume, you can then start to play other notes. The extreme upper and lower ranges will be the most difficult to develop but they also will come with time. When I say practice, I’m not talking about days or even weeks. Some students continued to work at this level for months before they were proficient enough to move on.

Moving on.

I have listed a few important areas you should be aware of as you continue to develop you skills in the technique of circular breathing.

  • The easiest notes will be in the middle range and at the middle dynamic level.
  • Always work for a consistent pitch and volume, try to hide the points when you take in air.
  • Sustained note are the most difficult to develop for they are the most exposed.
  • After you have accomplished consistently sustained notes, it is easier to learn scales and runs.

Coming into the final lap.

Now that you are able to sustain a single note without the slightest change in pitch or dynamic, you are now ready to start moving your valves.

1.      Start on second line G and play for about a minute without a break. If you are able to sound consistent and you have the confidence to show everyone that you can play indefinitely without stopping for air, continue to the next exercise.

2.      Start the G again and slur between that note and the F# just below it. Try to move the valves when you are not taking a breath.

3.      Now move the valves when you are taking a breath. You should not hear any difference between the two. If you do hear a difference, remain on this exercise until both sound the same.

4.      This time start on G and move down to F# then back to G and up to G# and return to G. Work slowly until you are able to play this pattern at any tempo without change in your tone or dynamic level.

Congratulations on a race well run. If you have been honest with yourself at all levels in this post, you should now understand what goes into circular breathing and what it will take to polish your new technique to the point of perfection. The first video I had you watch was impressive but the next should impress you even more. Many people have a hard time with Kenny G as a serious jazz musician and rightly so. He is not in my opinion a jazz player but I do feel he is a very gifted musician and for that reason I would like you to view his explanation of how he uses circular breathing in his playing. His use of connected and changing pitches is what I want you to understand. In the first video, Mr Morrison used circular breathing  primarily on a couple notes, Kenny G, on the other hand covers the full range of his instrument.

I wish you the very best  in your continued development in art of Circular Breathing.

How To Circular Breath- Part I

The first time I viewed circular breathing was at a Duke Ellington concert and I was blown away with the ability of one of his tenor sax players using this technique. After that concert I began trying to duplicate the technique and apply it to trumpet playing. From what I have learned as well as observed from others, I will explain how it is done and give you exercises which will get you on your way to circular breathing.

What is circular breathing?

Circular breathing is a technique which allows you to take air in and at the same time expel air out.

How can it be used in trumpet playing?

A wonderful example of how this practice can be applied to trumpet playing is demonstrated in this video by James Morrison.

How is that possible?

The physical components used in circular breathing are well documented in this video by Terry B. Ewell

How do I get started?

If you have viewed the preceding videos and now understand the physical process, then you are ready to begin a series of exercises which will help you put it all together.

Exercises to learn how to circular breath-

1.      Fill your cheeks with air and breathe through your nose for thirty seconds.

2.      As you breathe, think about the graphics in the second video.

3.      Visualize what is taking place in your mouth and nasal areas as you breathe.

4.      As you inhale through your nose, slowly let the air escape through your lips.

5.      Repeat the previous exercise but this time tighten you embouchure to create a buzzing sound as you continue to breathe in through your nose.

6.      This time, do not fill your cheek but fill your oral cavity by dropping your jaw, lowering your tongue, closing your lips and begin to buzz by slowly forcing the air out Valium 20mg of your mouth by gradually moving your tongue upward and forward.

7.      If you were able to do exercise # 6, then repeat this action but this time inhale through your nose at the same time.

If you were able to complete these seven exercises and accomplish the desired effect, proceed to the next series of exercises. If you are not confident that you are doing it correctly, follow the following exercises.

Additional exercises to practice.

  • Take a sip of water and swish it around in your mouth for thirty seconds.
  • As you breathe in and out through your nose visualize what is happening in your mouth. What is happening to the air in one area of your mouth and what is happening to the water in another area? How are they separated?
  • Keep breathing as you begin to squirt the water slowly out of your mouth. The water is doing the same thing as the air will be doing when you play your instrument.

If you were able to complete these three exercises and accomplish the desired effect, proceed to the next series of exercises.

What have you learned?

You have been able to buzz your lips at the same time you inhaled through your nose. That is how circular breathing is done. Did you notice that when you filled your cheeks with air, you were able to take deeper breaths of air than when you kept them flat? The reason is there is a very limited area in the mouth to store air when compared to the larger area of the mouth and cheeks combined. I will explain this in more detail later in the next post.

My next post will be the continuation of this topic and by the end; you should be able to play a continuous note which will impress both you and your friends.

What You See Is Not What You Hear!

tape recorderFlash Mobs have been increasing in number as well as creativity. We all would like to be present when one of these apparent haphazard occurrences take place. The thrill of this unpredictable and well-rehearsed performance happening in front of our very eyes is something every person would remember all of his/her life.

Now, let me jump to another similar and related question. How many of you have heard complaints about a live show using tracks? Many people will rant and rave and say such things such as “I paid good money to hear “real” music, not a canned recording”. Yet the same people will have no problem sharing the latest Flash Mob video with all of their friends even though the audio track was obviously added after the fact.

Recently a very good friend sent me a link to a recent Flash Mob video and as I watched it, I began to think of the Xanax extremely high quality of the recording and the unusually fine mix. Most of these Flash Mob presentations are performed under unusually bad recording situations and yet many of these recordings could rival studio level quality. This inconsistency perked my interest in what is real and what is Memorex.

I have included several Flash Mob events and I challenge you to pick out what is real and what has been dubbed in from a professional recording. I have my own thoughts as to what is live and what is edited in but you will have to judge for yourself.

If you would like to submit your opinion on this topic, please add your decision to the bottom of this post and let us know how you came to your final conclusion.

You may also be interested in another post submitted by your humble and often time’s skeptical author-

Tracks Or No Tracks? That Is A Question