Monday, August 30, 2010

Howard Johnson ...

Howard is one of the top tuba soloists since the early '60s, Howard Johnson is a very versatile player who not only plays tuba and baritone but other reeds and trumpet. He moved to New York in 1963, where he worked with Charles Mingus (1964-1966), Hank Crawford, and Archie Shepp. In 1966, he started a 20-year off-and-on association with Gil Evans. Johnson's four-tuba group Substructure performed with Taj Mahal, and, in the late '70s, he formed a different tuba band called Gravity that, in 1996, finally had the opportunity to record (plus play at the Monterey Jazz Festival). Howard Johnson has recorded with Crawford (1983-1984), Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, Jimmy Heath, Bob Moses, George Gruntz's Concert Jazz Band, and frequently with Evans' orchestra, among others.

Edwards "Alessi" model T396-A trombone

Interesting article by Brad Edwards (trombone instructor at University of South Carolina) ... I've played on trombones w/different lead pipes & it makes your horn feel like 3 different horns, but this is a new one on me...

Whenever I go to a trombone convention showroom, I carry with me a good dose of skepticism. I've seen some pretty ridiculous things.

However, I had a pretty mind-blowing experience at the Edwards booth when I spent some with Christian Griego and their new model, the "Alessi" model T396-A.

Now you might think that, given my last name, I play an Edwards. Wrong, I play a Shires and absolutely love it.

Here's the thing, though....
This new Edwards trombone is what they call an acoustically-tunable fixed instrument. Basically, if I understand correctly, this trombone doesn't have a removable lead pipe (I could be wrong about this, though). What it definitely does have, though, are these three threaded holes near the tuning slide (I think they call it an "harmonic bridge"). The horn comes with a variety of small bolt-like pieces made of different metals which can be screwed into these holes.

At the outset, I felt pretty confident that I was about to have another 'snake oil' experience. However, as Christian began to add or change these metal pieces I was amazed by the difference in the instrument.

He would make the smallest adjustment and it was as if he had handed me a different instrument. One time, the change was the same piece/same hole but he screwed it in from the opposite side. Even this caused a big difference in the way the instrument responded.

Am I ready to leave Shires?
No, but I'll admit that, if my horn were destroyed or stolen, I'd have to look closely at these new Edwards trombones before I automatically go back to Shires.

This time, it isn't snake oil. I think he's really onto something here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Katrina & the sousaphone ...

'I love the horn ... and I want my city to survive'

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, August 28, 2010
Leigh Munsil
Faced with rising floodwaters, Mark Smith's first thought was to save his tuba.

As Mark Smith headed for the Superdome in 2005, he carried his sousaphone past National Guard vehicles. "I didn't know what to do; I didn't know how to get out of the water. So I grabbed my sack and my tuba," the lifelong jazz musician said. "Let me tell you something – when I'm without this horn, I ain't nothing."

Smith was walking toward the Superdome carrying his sousaphone, a tuba used by marching bands, as National Guard vehicles drove by – an eerie juxtaposition that was captured on film.

Every morning, Smith is in front of Café Du Monde in the French Quarter with trumpeter Hack Bartholomew. Five years later, Smith, who now has a new horn, is still a familiar sight in New Orleans' Jackson Square. He performs seven days a week in front of popular tourist spots, including Café Du Monde and St. Louis Cathedral.

"I'm 53 years old, and I live for the culture of the music," he said. "New Orleans is a city that never sleeps. It's a city that always parties, because they call it 'The Big Easy.' If you take away this music, New Orleans is not going to be the same."
The French Quarter was one of the few areas of the city unaffected by flooding, so it feels about the same as it did before, Smith said.

"We're really trying to build the city back up and we're trying to get up on our feet," he said. "But we've been having some hard times, because we had the oil spill and we had [Hurricane] Gustav come through here, and we had to leave. We had to leave again."
The people of New Orleans have changed since the hurricane, Smith said.

"When Katrina came, people in this city lost everything," he said. "Half the people in this city don't have any more love and any more morals, and they don't care for each other anymore."
Smith decided to stick to music after another job didn't pan out. He has been living with friends, working on getting his own place.

"It's hard. It's really, really hard," he said. "I'm living a day at a time and I'm putting it in the hands of the Lord."

But as long as he can play the tuba, Smith says he'll be all right.

"This is my life. This is what I do for a living. I love the horn," he said. "I love my music, I want the group to continue on, and I want my city to survive."
Leigh Munsil

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Miraphone Corporation

IN 1948 13 veteran brasswind repairmen from Graslitz, Germany, set out to pool their substantial technical knowledge and expertise to create a new line of exceptional musical instruments. A new manufacturer, Miraphone, was born

Miraphone earned important endorsements from some very popular U.S. tubists. Legendary tubists such as Roger Bobo (born 1938,) a noted American tuba virtuoso and teacher. He retired from active tuba performance in 2001 in order to devote his time to conducting and teaching. He gave what is reputed to be the first solo tuba recital in the history of Carnegie Hall. and Winston Morris further augmented the popularity of Miraphone tubas..

To accommodate growing production demands the factory was expanded in 1983. In more recent upgrades, the factory's research and design lab was equipped with high-tech computers that analyze instruments' intonation, sound production, and tonal character, making each of today's German handcrafted instruments.

The company also offers trumpets, fluegelhorns, tenor horns, baritones, trombones, and French horns. Approximately 25 percent of Miraphone's sales are to the United States, 20 percent to Asia, and 55 percent to Europe and elsewhere.

Miraphone's flagship products have long been its rotary valve a valve acting by continuous or partial rotation, as in the four-way cock.
Miraphone began producing its own pistons onsite 22 years ago, and in 2002 it introduced its acclaimed 1291 "Big Babe" front action piston tuba. Outside of the realm of tubas, Miraphone has made recent improvements in the Miraphone 1258 compensating euphonium or tenor tuba.

Under the direction of President Markus Theinert and Vice-President Josef Lindlmair, tuba design specialist Christian Niedermaier develops each new Miraphone instrument design. Over the years Niedermaier has worked with Gene Pokorny is an American tubist. He has played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since his appointment by Georg Solti in 1988. He has also played with the Israel Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Oystein Baadsvik, Winston Morris, and Alan Baer have contributed to continually improve instruments and develop new ideas. Markus Theinert, himself a professional tuba player who has played a key role in product design and development since he joined Miraphone 16 years ago, performs the final test on each new innovation before the design is sent to Miraphone's 70-person production staff.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Amanda Davidson

Amanda Davidson joined the New York Philharmonic as Associate Principal Trombone in September 2009. Born in Oakland, Maryland, she began playing the trombone at the age of six. Her studies started with Harold Hudnall and continued with Keith Jackson, professor of trombone and euphonium at West Virginia University. She received her bachelor of music degree from The Juilliard School in 2004, studying with New York Philharmonic Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi.

As a soloist, Ms. Stewart has performed with the San Antonio Symphony and the Deep Creek Symphony in McHenry, Maryland. As a chamber musician, she was the trombonist for five years with the San Antonio Brass Quintet, which performs throughout Southern Texas, presenting educational outreach programs and an annual three-performance concert series. As an orchestral musician, Ms. Stewart has played with the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Houston and North Carolina Symphonies. She was the principal trombonist of the San Antonio Symphony (2004–09) and assistant principal trombonist of the Lyric Opera of San Antonio (2005–09).

Ms. Stewart has been a guest artist at the International Women’s Brass Conference, the Big XII Trombone Conference held at Texas Tech University, and at Trombone Days held annually at Baylor University. She has also taught master classes at several other universities in Texas. In summer 2007 she toured Germany with the Christian brass group, Eurobrass, and in summer 2006 she taught and performed at the Seoul Trombone Ensemble Summer Music Festival in South Korea. Ms. Stewart has taught privately at several universities, namely Our Lady of the Lake University and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, and is a member of the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship. She is an Edwards artist, performing on Edwards trombones.