If I Could Be A Bell

A formative influence on my playing was a single performance at a Methodist church somewhere in the late 70s.  A fellow named Hal Lovvorn played a trumpet obliggato in, if I remember correctly, only one song at the end of a long youth choir program.

It was gorgeous.  It sounded like a handbell, a bowl of still water, and a silver mirror blended together.  We had a recording of it on reel-to-reel, so I can say it isn’t just a kid’s lens-flare memory.

I spent years trying to sound like that, not realizing until later that there is a wonderful effect in a church called reverb.  At any rate, I did my best to become a tone player, but nowadays I don’t play every day and I’ve lost a bit of it.

Still, it’s good to remember that every single performance could be the one that inspires someone.

Outside Rhythms

I’ve taken a break from working on playing outside the chords; mostly I’ve been working on when to do it and how much.  Now I’m trying outside rhythms, crazy stuff like quarter note triplets in 3/4 time (9 notes in two measures) or quarter note triplets starting on beats 2 and 4, that kind of thing.  The former took a great deal of concentration, and the latter required letting go.  It was sort of the same contrast as Brubeck and Debussy.

The great thing about being a horn player in a group is that a lot of the time I’m not playing, so I get to study what the others are doing.  A soundman at a recent gig commented on how we all came back in together after a drum solo.  We do that all the time, and from years of practice, we know a lot of Mike’s phrases.  It’s dirty pool to end a drum solo with a roll, but he gives us tempo cues with dynamics in it.  I just hadn’t thought about how subtle they are, or how we’ve learned to roll with some of the other things he does.

Of course, as with playing outside notes, it devolves into chaos if you don’t have a solid context, a tight rhythm section.  We were playing some Bomba (I wasn’t familiar with the term) and similar rhythms, and the bass purely avoids 1 and 3.  I finally concluded that the bass plays the absolute minimum necessary to keep the dancers in line–about three notes every six or seven beats, and not just accenting the beats because that would be square.  Swing, too, is all about the upbeats; I just didn’t grow up immersed in some of the more complicated Latin rhythms.

So right now, I’m just trying to get inside.