WILLIE MUNILLO: ON "CHEATER" MOUTHPIECES
Question: Why should players consider using multiple mouthpieces? Some would argue that, in some way, that’s cheating.
Willie's Answer: Well, when people see me switching mouthpieces, they sometimes remark, “That must be a cheater mouthpiece.” I always asnswer, “If there is such a thing as a chater mouthpiece, I want to know about it!” Because, whatever makes the job easiest should be what we’re using at any given time. Every mouthpiece requires skill, practice and effort.
There’s a stigma about smaller mouthpieces being better for playing high notes. The “cheating” accusation is only considered when we cheat “small.” However, no one seems to have an issue with cheating “big” – using a bigger mouthpiece to get a big sound. There’s no such thing as “cheating” – it’s our job to have the right sound and hit all the right notes.
There are inherent qualities in the cup size that help you play “big” and inherent qualities in compression that help you play “high”. But everybody is different physically, and this has more to do with it.
My friend Don Clarke, uses a tiny mouthpiece and gets a huge sound, and he’s got a big old melon of a head (sorry, Don!) and massive lips. Byron Stripling is physically the same as Don, but uses a much bigger mouthpiece – equally big sound.
Question: What should someone start out on?
Willie's Answer: Generally, a bigger cup size does allow for a bigger sound, more room for tonguing, etc. I do recommend starting out on a bigger mouthpiece, perhaps a 2C, to develop your sound. Most learning is done with more traditional music, and developing a “purity of sound” is crucial not only to traditional music, like classical, but to every player’s development.
So, since the basics will be taught using traditional music, it’s a good fit to start with that kind of mouthpiece. You certainly don’t start a student on Maynard Ferguson solos!
L.A. studio trumpeter, producer, vocalist.
Dan Jacobs: Writings
By Arturo Sandoval (from a video interview with Jens Linemann
"The sound is inside your head. What you have to do to switch and sound differently, is interior. It has nothing to do with the horn or technique or something. It is what you want and the way you want to sound (before you play the note)."
YOUR GREATEST ASSET?
By Larry Meregillano Bach Trumpet Artist and Clinician
Unison. In the Latin language this means one sound or one voice. Who leads the section on a unison passage? Just as in an orchestrated passage it is the lead voice!
If your lead player decides to bend a note or change the dynamic level, I.E. crescendo or decrescendo, you must follow his every change in order that you keep the blend of sound as one voice. Attack, release, volume, shape of tone, and overall tonality must be identical.
What is your greatest asset as a musician? It is your ability to listen and adapt in an instantaneous manner.
By Larry Meregillano, Vincent Bach Trumpet Artist, Clinician.
If you press an inch wide piece of metal on your lips against your teeth long enough your body is going to adapt. It may bruise at first and you might even get cut.
But if you stick with it muscles will develop and even a few calluses. Then you learn to resist the air and the balance of the air stream compressed against the metal forms what Dizzy called “the ping”.
It’s just one of those things that you can define only after you have experienced it. You can hear it in the sound.
It’s familiar as all of the legends that you have studied have thrilled you with it all of your life. If you understand this you must be a Brass player.
TECHNIQUE SHOULD NEVER BE OBVIOUS
The sole function of technique is to enhance your ability to express yourself. Technique should never be obvious. It must be subservient to the art form whether it be music, painting, dance or writing.
The audience cannot be blamed for responding to what is often called “flash” – the player should be blamed for that. Those players who have opted for a flashy presentation have not thought very deeply about their artistic processes.
It is each artist’s responsibility to have the courage to be brutally honest whith oneself through subjective artistic self-evaluation. This kind of self-evaluation must be a constant, ongoing process for every artist. A teacher can hardly be blamed for a student’s lack of bravery.
By Hal Galper, composer, educator and pianist with Chet Baker, Cannonball Adderly, Phil Woods, Mike and Randy Brecker.
ABOVE HIGH "G"
By Larry Meregillano, Vincent Bach Trumpet Artist and Clinician
The register above high “G” requires a more concentrated and faster stream of air in order to easily produce the vibration needed for these higher frequencies.
Do not confuse this with a louder or larger volume of air passing through the embouchure, as this is counter productive.
When I back off the amount of air that I am channeling through the lips and form an air stream that is shaped like a concentrated laser, my sound in the double register gets louder. An intense yet small , more concentrated air stream is what is needed to play the notes in the double register.
Velocity not volume!
PRIMER ON MOUTHPIECES
By Larry Meregillano, Vincent Bach Trumpet Artist, Clinician.
The question is, what mouthpiece?
What are we looking for in a mouthpiece?
Our choices are greater now than ever before. Shall we choose a wide rim or a narrow rim? Deep, medium or shallow cup? Shall we choose a sharp bite on the rim or a wide rim with a dull bite?
What is better? Small drilled throats or large drilled throats? Don’t forget the taper on the outside of the back bore to adjust the gap between receiver and mouthpiece. Bob Reeves offers twelve different gap sizes.
Should we play a Gold or Silver mouthpiece? Should it be a heavy mass or a lightweight piece like Al Hirt’s aluminum Jet tone, or even a plastic piece? What about large verses smaller back bores?
We can even choose shapes these days and play a half circled shaped mouthpiece. By the way this idea is not new. Herbert L. Clarke played an oval mouthpiece! Let’s not forget the Parduba double cup! Heck… Harry James was monstrous on it! And did Cat Anderson and Bud Brisbois really play on a cup the size of a dime? How did Maynard play on an 18 drill sized throat?
Let me try to help you make sense of some of our choices by benefit of my own trial and error.
First of all let me tell you that it is of utmost importance to find a mouthpiece that you find efficient. In another words that you find a mouthpiece that provides a good balance of back pressure that together the mouthpiece and horn combination creates. The horn and the mouthpiece will fit together like a good pair of shoes, and when you first try them on you will know that they will be comfortable.
You should always get immediate results and gain in what you are looking for in your sound or in the ease of playing upon first trying a new piece. If not, don’t force the issue. Move on with your search.
Let me address some of the questions that I asked in my first paragraph.
Large circumferences verses narrow circumference
A larger circumference will produce a larger sound due to the wider vibrating surface. The down side to this is that the wider rim is ultimately a bit more work and can affect endurance.
Deep verses shallow cup.
The deeper the cup, the richer and more colorful your sound becomes. There are certain styles of playing that require the sound of a deeper cup. You cannot dispute this fact! I use a Mt. Vernon Bach 7C for my Classical calls and really enjoy the sound that I get from it when working with a jazz combo.
The deeper the cup the easier it is to articulate and to be flexible. Accuracy also increases.
Shallow cups tend to be more efficient in the upper register. However, having a smaller, nasal quality to the sound pays the price.
The shallow cups tend to be a lot brighter as well. I play a Bob Reeves ES cup for the bulk of my work. Es stands for extra shallow. My range and endurance are far superior on the shallow cups. The demands of today’s lead playing are extreme and I can use as much help as I can get.
Sharp verses dull shaped rims.
The sharper the inside of the rim of your mouthpiece the more locked in your sound will become. This has the effect of locking in intonation and providing for sharper articulation.
The down side is that they tend to be uncomfortable and may cause you to bruise your chops. Dull,wide rims are more comfortable
Back bore size
Large back bores produce a more open feel. Larger back bores are a good choice with a smaller bore horn while smaller back bores are usually better with large bore horns. The sound of a large back bore is usually bigger and a bit darker. The tighter, high velocity typed back bores tend to be bright in sound.
Small-drill throats verses larger drill size throats
The small-drilled throats tend to be more efficient. The larger the throat, the less locked in the sound becomes. The partials or harmonic series tend to become wider and more open. Intonation suffers. The length of the throat will change how locked in the partials become. The longer the throat the brighter and more locked in the sound will become.
Gap between the mouthpiece and receiver.
Finding the correct gap adjustment between the end of the mouthpiece and the beginning of the lead pipe on each individual horn is all-important!! You may not need a mouthpiece change at all. You may just need to adjust that gap, the difference it can make is drastic. The way the horn responds will change greatly with a correct gap.
Heavy Mass or light?
The heavier massed mouthpieces do get a more solid sound. There is generally more core to the sound. This is due to the fact that the heavier metal changes the way the energy passes through the horn.
Oval or half cup mouthpiece?
I really couldn’t advise, as I have never tried one. But I suspect that they accomplish that which we should be doing anyway, and that is to place more pressure, or carry the weight of the pressure on the bottom jaw.
Harry James sure sounded great on them and I hear that they are a pretty good choice if you would like to sound like a Mariachi.
What a bout the extremes in the small size mouthpiece that Cat Anderson and Bud Brisbois used?
I took lessons from both of these greats. Yes they played small diameter pieces but they could also play their incredible range on any mouthpiece that you could hand them!
One of the greatest lead players of all time, the late George Graham, Played a Mt Vernon Bach 7c. George never had endurance or range problems. In fact when he played to double c and above he had the same quality of sound in that register as Bud Brisbois did! I don’t think that Arturo Sandoval has any chop problems on his Bach 3c.
In closing let me warn you that while you may get immediate results from a new mouthpiece, there will almost always be a down time or a slump while the muscles of the embouchure learn to adjust to the new challenge that you have presented them with. In the end you can expect the same results that you initially found in any particular mouthpiece.
My greatest Trumpet coach was Harold “Pappy Mitchell. He once told me after hearing that I had switched mouthpieces three times in a couple of months that the mouthpiece is just a tool that we use to generate sound.
While the muscles of the face will adapt differently to each mouthpiece as we change cup volumes and back bores etc. We will always end up sounding the same! You have a sound locked up inside of you; a concept of sound that your brain has created.
In the end you will always sound like you. So stop changing mouthpieces!
He should have told his friend Doc Severinson this as in those years Doc had an entire bathtub filled to the brim with mouthpieces!
Oh, lest I forget to answer the last question.
How did Maynard play on an 18-drill throat?
By Larry Meregillano/ Vincent Bach Artist Clinician.
THREE BASIC PRINCIPLES
by Don (Jake) Jacoby, transcribed from a trumpet clinic
I love this quote (pure genius) from legendary teacher Don (Jake) Jacoby:
"As far as I'm concerned, there are only three basic principles involved in playing any wind instrument:
1) Take a breath in the right way.
2) push that breath completely through the instrument.
3) Think musically.
I believe if you'll remember these three basic principles at all times, then about 95% of the little picky problems that keep popping up won't even appear."
Don (Jake) Jacoby
ON PLAYING HIGH NOTES
By Barry Danielian, freelance NYC trumpeter on tour with Bruce Springfield, 2013
"High notes for a lead player are a different scenario than a jazz player"
(as a jazz player) "I can decide to play in the upper register and I can decide not to"
"I can also decide how I want to get up there and how I want to get down"
"But if you're playing lead you basically have to do what the music says and most the time you're going to have to play high when its the least convenient time to do so"
Note: these are comments by Barry in a uTube video on how to play high notes. (highly recommended)
ON TECHNIQUE & IDEAS
by Freddie Hubbard
"Some musicians don't seem to care about technique," Freddie Hubbard stated in 1964, "but to me, there's more in playing trumpet than just working to your own capacity.
I want to keep developing, and I want to be able to play the whole range of the horn any time I feel like it. When a certain idea occurs to me, I want to be able to execute it. That's what I've been working on ever since I started playing.
It's no use having a whole bunch of ideas floating around in your mind and then not being able to execute them."
OVERBLOWING HIGH NOTES
By Jason Harrelson
Play softer as you play higher and louder as you play lower when you practice. And allow the highest notes to barely squeak out as you grow your upper register gradually. Spend a relatively small amount of time in your extreme upper range, but hit it every day always reinforcing what feels comfortable from the day before.
Never play your highest notes loud, always soft. As your range increases, what was once your highest note will eventually become a few notes lower than your new range and it will increase in volume naturally. Over-blowing high notes is a habit of most players and the cause of limited range in most instances.
EMBRACE squeaky high notes and accept your limits each day.
PS. New Years resolution tip: Never play higher than you can slur up from low C.
The term "music business" is an odd and interesting one to me.
To quote my book:
"A non-professional's contribution to this art form is no less valid than that of the professional musician. We need to separate making music from doing business. Whether they make their living playing or not, a person's ability to play and create music stands for itself.
Many pro musicians are just average players but great business people. Some are great players, but average at doing business. Some are great at both. Some are bad at both. The point is, when it comes to the art of music, business does not enter the equation, Whether a person plays for a living or not, a player should never forget what inspired them to take up their instrument."
At best, the music business is an unstable popularity contest. After a student has put in their "ten thousand hours" of practice and learned how to play to an acceptable level, for the most part, they should be qualified to play most any "bread-and-butter" gig still available in the music industry today and, pretty much, any job that is referred to as a "high level" gig.
. . .
the rest of this article is available on Roger's website:
Clinician and Performing Artist: KHS / XO / Jupiter
Online and Private Lessons: RogerIngram.com
Ingram Signature Mouthpieces: One Too Tree Publishing and Products
My book: "Clinical Notes on Trumpet Playing"
MY APPROACH TO JAZZ (Interview, 1977) --- Woody Shaw
"In order for me to be consistent as a trumpet player, I try to practice every day, for at least two or three hours. Oh, I’ve been in certain grooves when I said: “Well, I don’t need to practice”, and I rely on certain professional tricks, that I can get by with. But my creative mind tells me that getting by isn’t enough. So I do my chromatic scales and the little exercises. Then I have some symmetrical exercises of my own that I’ve developed. I‘m hoping to write a fundamental book on some of the exercises that I use to attain the concept that I have. A lot of trumpet players have been asking me to put out a book; so I’m working on it.
Definitely, every register is important. As for when they get hung up with the upper register—that turns me off. Because the beauty of the trumpet is in the middle and lower register, you know; I use the high register for excitement, and for effect.
For fingering, the difficulty is in middle register, from middle C on down—that’s why they play so high! I’m going to see if I can have a trumpet designed where I can go even an octave lower than the concert E that it goes to right now. I hear something else; to do what I want to do, the conventional trumpet is not enough now. I need another register—where am I going to get it from? I think it’ll have a fourth valve; I’ve seen a German flugelhorn like that—it goes down to four octaves.
I think I can claim to have one of the newest approaches on the trumpet. I know some very good trumpet players out there, but they’re just not playing what I want to hear. It’s something that comes with a lot of study and practice. See, to be a good improviser, you’ve got to know about music, to know what you’re doing. – Woody Shaw
SPIRIT Verses SPIRITLESS PERFORMANCES
By Scott Cowan, Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
• An obsessive technician tends to create very safe, spiritless performances.
• Too much familiarity with a chart could encourage a stale, lackluster performance.
• Technical imperfect performances packaged with a highly spirited sensibility can be more musical than perfect performances.
I would define a spirited performance as one that is special, interesting, and memorable; in other words “musical.” Musical performances might
1) demonstrate dynamic nuances,
2) highlight noteworthy orchestration blends and textures, and
3) balance foreground, background, and other supportive material.
They may not demonstrate a technically perfect performance but could communicate a highly emotional musical experience. This highly emotional musical experience could be exhibited through jazz nuances such as vibrato, bends, a wide dynamic palette, stylistic integrity and appropriateness, accents, melodic personalization, phrasing, and tone manipulation. A clean performance may be applauded for its technical proficiency but lack all the qualities that make a jazz performance spirited, special or memorable.
Listening critically to recordings of spirited jazz ensemble performances can assist a director to guide his or her ensemble to capture the spirit in which the music was delivered. It is this spirit that has the capacity to transform or lift a technically brilliant but dry performance to the highest level of art.
One might seek out examples of near perfect technical performances that are full of spirit. I would reference the Count Basie Orchestra. It is above all a world-class jazz ensemble that exhibits the ultimate level of jazz spirit. Basie’s ensembles also had the capacity to perform charts at a technically brilliant level. This was, in part, likely due to a rigorous performance schedule.
Ensembles that play night after night often achieve a technically proficient level that is rarely heard from ensembles that perform much less frequently. Duke Ellington’s band occasionally struggled with technical issues but because their performances were so highly spirited the intense spirit of the performances superseded the technical issues.
By Scott Cowan, Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), trumpet
Faculty Jazz Specialist at Western Michigan University
OVERBLOWING – THE BIGGEST ENEMY By Roger Ingram
(NOTE: Following is an email received from Roger Ingram, legendary lead trumpeter. It is a email answering questions from a student trumpeter who wrote to Roger for help. The information he shares with us is invaluable.)
There is the old saying among trumpet players; "You can't fill-up the world!" This is of course in reference to playing outdoors. What we're really talking about here I suppose, is acoustics.
Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word acoustics as 1. "qualities of a room that affect sound", 2. "science of sound".
So, what we're REALLY talking about here in regards to your query is the LACK of acoustics there-of. When I travel with various performing groups, we usually play a different venu everyday. We could literally go from a wonderful concert hall with fantastic acoustics to some type of outdoor festival the next day with either no acoustics at all, or sub-standard acoustics at best.This is all in a days work and we get used to it.
When I was a kid, I had no choice but to practice outside. I wouldn't chalk-up any benefits from having been forced to do this though. It probably was NOT good for me as I most likely got into the habit of overblowing the horn from the lack of ANY acoustics (sound bounce back) in order to "hear" myself.
OVERBLOWING the horn is one of the BIGGEST ENEMIES for a trumpet player, and alot of players do not not know this.
This is why so many players have trouble extending their register among other things. You must remember, for your entire trumpet playing career you're behind your bell. You'll never REALLY hear just how loud your projection is. Besides the fact you are always behind your bell, you must also realize that one's sound doesn't "come into it's own" until approximately 4 to 5 feet out of the bell. These combined facts have a tendency to cause the unaware player to overblow in order to "hear" themselves.
FAITH.......an interesting word applied to trumpet playing.......it has it's place in the trumpet world though. You must just have simple faith that your sound is getting "out there" and leave it t that. That's it!
Also, try not to get "mental" so to speak about it all. Experience in the recording studio usually teaches trumpet players how well their sound gets out there. Pre-mixed playbacks don't lie. That's why most great studio trumpet players don't play overly loud in the studio. Playing "backed-off" also helps pitch, blend, quality of sound, and flexibility just to name a few good playing qualities.
Believe me, when you play at about your 70% level, the horn responds better and actually sounds "louder". This also saves your endurance and helps you perform on a more musical level. That's why so many wonderful studio trumpet players still sound loud on tape. This is commonly referred to as "printing well on tape".
My best embouchure development came from playing soft. Soft playing builds a different set of muscles. Loud playing generally tears down muscle tissue, along with "forcing".
I'm able to consistently play at my 70% to 80% volume level only because I spend time practicing everyday at my 10% to 30% volume level to restore my playing from the previous gig.
Roger © 2007 Roger Ingram
By Bobby Shew
Communication is the key ingredient in music of ANY type.
It really doesn't seem sane to play to oneself of to the music stand or wall. So the person(s) at the receipt point is as important to the experience as you are.
It's the emotional reaction to your creation that completes the action. The emotional communication takes precedence over style and technique. You need plenty of technique, but only enough to execute what you hear and feel.
S0, study emotions ; it'll intensify your playing.
Another area of communication that's very important is in your ability to communicate with the other guys in the band. In fact, if you have trouble with this, it'll show up in your playing. You're in a sense "rapping" with people when you play. If the entire band maintains a high level of communication, the affinity will be high for each other, the "vibes" will be right, and the band will swing.
It might be worth mentioning here that lots of people apparently misunderstand communication in thinking that they must just talk, talk, talk, when in reality, the art of listening is super important and can help to smooth out your relationships with other people.
This then will increase your ability to listen in the section to your lead player of the rhythm section or whatever.
Do you see the point? It all fits in together and the picture starts to clear up end make sense.
- Bobby Shew
LOUIS ARMSTRONG STORY (TRUE)
This story was told to me first hand by Harold “Pappy” Mitchell. Louis Armstrong was booked at a big theater in down town Los Angeles. Louis refused to go on after being told that the Fire Marshall would not let his band open up a can of sterno so that they could barbeque red beans and rice on stage. Pappy settled the argument by suggesting that the concert be catered. This is a true Story! Now you know where the name of the song “Struttin with some Barbeque” came from.
Larry Meregillano, Bach trumpet artist
ON PLAYING LEAD TRUMPET
By Larry Meregillano, Vincent Bach Trumpet Artist and Clinician
WHAT IS A GOOD EMBOUCHURE? by Carl Saunders
What is a good embouchure? Good question. Embouchures are like snow flakes, golf swings and finger prints. None are the same. I've seen many different approaches and positions that trumpet players use to place a trumpet on their face that work. Some have the horn pointed down or off to the side. These to me are unnatural positions, but have been made to work by a lot of very good players.
In my view, the reasons for these unnatural positions are:
1.Poor or no fundamental training when starting out
2. An unnatural bite
3. Uneven teeth.
I contend that people who fall in the categories of 2 and 3 should be discouraged from playing a brass instrument from the beginning.
So what is a natural embouchure?
To me a natural embouchure is placing your lower jaw out far enough so your lower teeth align evenly with your upper teeth to make a wall where the mouthpiece can comfortably rest without tilting up or down or to either side. 60% of the pressure should be on the lower jaw and 40 & on the upper. With this position achieved, the upper lip should be free to vibrate (of course your lower lip vibrates, too) and your horn should be pointing straight out (even with the ground.) More results with less effort should ensue.
On hard and long pounding gigs one should make sure that the pressure and abuse should be directed to the lower jaw and lip not the upper. The upper teeth can't move or do anything to help the positioning. The lower teeth (jaw) can move and must be set in a position to achieve proper alignment of the teeth and take responsibility to protect the upper lip.
With your lower teeth (jaw) dropped back and behind the line of your upper teeth, your horn will start pointing down, your upper lip will be taking most of the pressure, and proper vibration is stifled. Your lower jaw has got to take care of business and that is to take most of the stress off of the upper lip.
You'll know when you’re doing this properly when you develop a little callus on the inside of your lower lip and your upper lip isn't bashed and mangled from playing hard. Your range and endurance will improve.
A lot is said about blowing air. "Blow more air, more velocity, blow harder, louder". Most all trumpet players that I have observed in my career blow too much air or over blow. They're trying to overcome the physicality of the trumpet with force. I have found that when one blows too much air, their flexibility suffers. Light and tight swinging is near to impossible and your sound and ability to play clean and delicate is compromised.
If one uses the embouchure described above, the lips should be in a position to vibrate freely and effortlessly with less air. I'll leave you with an axiom from my personal approach to playing trumpet....
"Use the least amount of air to get the job done to its fullest"
IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD by Roger Ingram
(NOTE: Following is an email received from Roger Ingram. It is a email answering questions from a student trumpeter who wrote to Roger for help. The information he shares with us is invaluable. See www.rogeringram.com for more info)
I know what you mean about Bobby Bryant's sound. It was very distinguishable. Although most people like to chalk these things up to chops/equipment, but as far as sound is concerned it's all in what you hear in your "head".
Everyone has a unique sound. No two people sound alike. There are as many sounds as there are personalities. This is what is so wonderful about "sound!"This is why music and art is such a great thing! It's very personable.
For example, if I were to switch to equipment totally opposite of the equipment I use now, EVENTUALLY over a period of time and adjustment, I would end up sounding almost exactly as I do now because I have a "set" idea of what the trumpet sounds like for ME that I've had in my head ever since I heard a trumpet for the first time.
That's why it's OK to use the equipment that is EASIEST for YOU to play. You're going to end up sounding the same anyway, so why kill yourself? If you want to change your sound, change your personality.
If you really want to become a better player, change your personality!
Roger © 2007 Roger Ingram
TASTING LIFE'S NECTAR
by David Ackert, LA Times
Singers and Musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they'll never work again.
Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life - the car, the family, the house, the nest egg.
Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience's soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life's nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another's heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic and perfection as anyone could ever be.
And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.
--- David Ackert, LA Times
By Conrad Cozzo
"You must practice filling the room with your sound as you play softly."..............Conrad Gozzo
FREDDIE HUBBARD INTERVIEW By Craig Jolley
This article was originally published in May 2001.
(note: Craig's question is in bold followed by Freddies' answer)
New Colors: I met David Weiss a couple of years ago. He's from North Texas State. He had a rehearsal band [New Jazz Composers Octet] in New York, and he had been writing out a lot of my compositions and arranging them.
He said he'd like to get together and have me play some of my material with the group. At first it was only supposed to be a one-time thing, but we're going to be working together the next couple of years until I get back strong again on my horn. They appreciate my music and give it a good feeling like when I was playing with Elvin Jones. They inspired me to start back playing again.
This is an opportunity to let some of the more serious kids play this music and have it arranged for them. Craig Handy and I did a record with Betty Carter (Droppin' Things, Verve 1990) years ago. I always liked his playing. Same with Joe Chambers—he had played some of these songs with me before. I brought in Kenny Garrett and Javon Jackson as guest soloists.
Those are some of the musicians I really enjoy playing with. They've played in my previous bands, they know me, and they know my style. They came in and helped me out quite a bit. I'm very happy to have made this CD. New Jazz Composers Octet Tour We start in New York at the Iridium May 8-13.
Then we go to Annapolis, Maryland; Arlington, Virginia; Scullers in Boston; Philadelphia; a couple more things. We're gonna make the Berlin Festival this year, but I'm not going to play the West Coast yet. We'll be playing the songs on the CD and some of my other tunes David, Duane Burno and Xavier Davis have arranged.
With all the horns you can hear more color. When I originally recorded some of these tunes the music went by so fast people didn't get a chance to hear them. I have a lot of songs people have never heard that will sound good with eight pieces.
Lip problems: I busted my chops. I had to go back to square one after 30-40 years of playing. I was out there trying to be Coltrane—take thirty choruses. I was working all the time, and I didn't warm up. If you don't start off getting the blood flowing later on you're chops get weaker. It wasn't from playing that commercial stuff—it was from hard-core improvising.
What made my style different was a whole lot of jumps, strenuous ideas. That's what makes jazz chops different from classical chops—at any moment you may have to change your embouchure [the position of the lips when they touch the mouthpiece]. I gave it everything I had. You have to be ready for that style. It was really bad—I didn't know if I was gonna play again.
I can still play, but I can't hold long tones—that's something I never had trouble with. I didn't realize there were so many muscles in the embouchure, about 120. When you're young you don't even think about it.
You get a lot of bad habits—you think that's the hip way to do it, but it's tearing your chops down. “I can't play what I used to play, but that's not the point. Let Jon Faddis and those guys hit those high notes--that's their thing."
Now I play better in the middle register. I have more ideas, and it's better than half-hitting it.”
Comeback: I thank the Creator. He enabled me to attempt to come back. I have to practice, get the feeling, get the blood flowing again. If you don't do that you don't get back.
I came back too soon before (in '94) when I had trouble with my chops. I'm playing the flugelhorn now because the trumpet would be too hard. Instead of playing all that hard stuff I'm gonna to play some ballads.
Playing flugel is kind of messing up my chops in itself—I eventually want to get back to playing the trumpet. I can't play what I used to play, but that's not the point.
Now I play better in the middle register. I have more ideas, and it's better than half-hitting it. It'll take another year to come back strong again. The trumpet is not like a piano or a saxophone. If you lay off it you're back to zero. I've still got a lot of stuff I want to play.
I can play it on the piano—that's where I get a lot of my ideas—like [sings fast] dah-doo-dah-didli-ah-dit...bah-booo-dle-ootie...doo-deee-doo-dooodle-eedle-doodle-at...dee-dat...deee-dle-ootie. Those kinds of runs are very difficult to execute. It's the way you accent those things. I got that from playing with Sonny Rollins and Philly Joe Jones. I want to bring some that back.
Louis Armstrong: He had that funny sound. I didn't dig it when I first heard it, that Dixieland. But if you listen to him for a while he had that feeling. He didn't have that execution like Dizzy Gillespie.
Clifford Brown: When I was starting out I tried to sound like him. His execution thing and his phrasing were out of the book. He gave me a lot of ideas. He could do it all—that style was the way I wanted to play. I was still in Indianapolis so I never got to hear him in person. When he (Clifford) died I cried like a baby. He was only 25 years old, and he never got his due.
I've got my reward—now I've got to give some back.
Miles Davis: I used to try to play like him too—those ballads. One night he heard me at Birdland. He was sitting on the side of the stage. I had my eyes closed, and I was playing some of his licks. I looked down and saw him, and I almost passed out.
When I got off he said, "Why don't you play some of your own stuff?"
After that I stopped copying people.
Miles and Dizzy used to tell me I played too hard and too long. I should warm up before I played. Miles might take an hour before he started. It would take him that long to get his embouchure set, but it came out pure and clean.
Lee Morgan: Yeah, I was close to that crazy ___. He and I were the Young Turks at that time. He was a cocky little young cat, and he was great, exciting, spirited. He was the only cat that could frighten me. He got messed up.
Maynard Ferguson: I used to go see that guy play at Birdland. He used to play those high C's every night. Remember when Maynard had lip trouble? He went over to England to get straightened out. He's still going strong.
Wynton Marsalis: I didn't know it at the time [late 70's], but he was going to school in New York. He came to my dressing room and played all of my licks back to me, some I'd forgotten. I said, "Where did you learn to play all that?" He said, "It's all your stuff." He's the only one I've heard who could play some of the stuff on my records. I dig that lip thing he can do—(sings) yaw-yaw-ya-yaw-yaw. He's a technician, but he's stiff—I guess he can play that way if he wants to. We did a big band thing at Carnegie Hall together.
Richard Davis: I love to play with Richard—he's fantastic. I think he's teaching now. He and I made a record [Out to Lunch, Blue Note, 1964] with Eric Dolphy that was kind of advanced. That free music is not the feeling right now.
Current favorites: I like Tom Harrell—he's a nice guy. He wakes me up—he and Roy Hargrove. You think Roy sounds like me? Maybe that's the reason I like him! I like this guy Christian McBride and Benny Green—they worked with me. I love Bobby Watson—I heard him last time I was in New York. They're keeping it going.
Favorite records: One of my first records, Ready for Freddie (Blue Note, 1961). I had full control over it. That and Red Clay (CTI, 1970) were my best playing straight up. When it comes to more commercial stuff, First Light (CTI, 1971). It has some nice arrangements, and I won a Grammy. I've met all kinds of people, old and young, that like that record. I played it with feeling. Melody Maker did a discography on me.
Check this out—I've made 300 records. I started looking into it, and I found some money from these companies.
Rap: I'm entertaining ideas about doing it after I get better on my horn. Those rap cats have some crazy meters. I'll have to give it some serious thought before I do it.
Jazz education: I have students come over in the evenings. They want to play some of the fast stuff I used to play—they're in a hurry. These kids coming out of school now, they have the correct embouchure, but they don't have the strength or the time. It's hard to play the trumpet with feeling.
Chuck Mangione: —he doesn't play loud or hard, but he has that feeling. He's not trying to be hip. I used to go over to everybody's house and say, "Teach me this, teach me that." They'd show me (They'd play it on the horn.), but they didn't teach me how to execute it. They didn't take time to teach me to play it right. We used to go on the road and play with Art Blakey, Count Basie, Horace Silver in the 60's and 70's. I used to sit in with bands that were established. I learned the backgrounds, everything.
It's not like that now—it's more like a vacuum.
Wrap up: I'm glad you're doing this for the Internet so people can find out about me. I have a computer now. My wife's using it to write a book. I'm 63. I don't feel like it, and I don't look like it. I still have a lot in me.
Since I moved to California I haven't wanted to work much. I got discouraged for a while. I still don't want to work that hard, but if I can arrange to work about six months a year that's what I'll do.
I hear all these kids playing my ideas on the radio. Sometimes I have to stop and say, "Is that me?" It feels good to hear it, but people think the kids started it.
Tell the young boys to look out—Freddie Hubbard's coming back!