Top 50 JAzz Blog

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Jazz Rarity: Successful Doublers.

I suppose we should define our terms. One definition of doubling is that a person play various saxes and flute. Kudos to you guys, but that's out-those axes are all too close. It's expected (sorry, Rahsaan). Next, there are people who play credible piano, apart from whatever horn they play. You really have to play some piano anyway, so forget that. Then, there are those people who play "lower brass," meaning trombone and tuba/euphonium. This is a little more like it, as you have to master both slide and valves. But, still not enough (sorry Howard J.). And, in this context, singing just don't count. No, I'm talking about musicians who master instruments from two completely different families: trumpet, reed, percussion and strings. With this, we've narrowed the field down from millions to just a handful. This is difficult enough to do that these people qualify as freaks of jazz nature. I know I'll get in trouble with some folks by (they will say) putting a premium on virtuosity over expressiveness. Probably the key person in that conversation is Ornette and to that I say-sometimes yes, sometimes no, but without the technique, it's hit-and-miss. With the people I'm talking about, it's almost always hit. I'll start with Ray Nance (aka "floorshow"), a man who played sweet violin, trumpet and danced, as his boss might say, divinely. Here's Ray soloing on violin and playing w. Duke's trumpet section. Then you got Benny Carter, basically a contemporary of Nance, who, aside from writing and arranging, played beautiful alto and very credible trumpet-really knew his way around the instrument. How about Jimmy Dorsey, who started on trumpet and moved to reeds, but managed to retain his trumpet chops. Here's a page of Dorsey stuff. Bobby Hackett, whom we know as a fabulous cornet player actually started as a guitarist. I'm gonna pair him with Adrian Rollini, a fine bass sax player who doubled on vibes. Here the 2 of them are together. Slightly younger than the above and on the Latin side was Mario Rivera, who played w. Machito, Stitt and many others. There was no family of instruments this guy did NOT play. Go here for videos. I'm learning nobody likes a long post, so I'll end here. However, I got half a dozen more, including Gowans, Wetmore, Durham and one more, who I believe is the best of them all. If you got anyone who deserves to be with this august group, let me know.


Ronan Guilfoyle said...

Ira Sullivan (trumpet and saxophone), Django Bates (piano and tenor horn), Jack De Johnette (piano, drums, bass, melodica), Don Thompson (bass, vibes, piano), Hendrik Muerkens (harmonica and vibes) and Hermeto Pascoal (everything!)

Steve Provizer said...

Ronan, You got my mystery #1 pick with Ira... By the arbitrary rules I set out, piano doubling doesn't count, as it's so common.

Since you brought up Muerkins(whom I don't know and will check out), there's also Toots Thielemans. Yes, Hermeto is a great citation.

Chris Rich said...

Our own Mr. Lavelle is quite impressive. He employs Bass and Alto Clarinet on one side and then trumpet and flugelhorn on the other and I saw him do it all in a trio here with Syd Smart and John Voigt.

One particularly cool thing he does in performance is pause in ensemble flow, listening to the others and then he makes his pick.

I have what he and I call 'the Lavelle Box Set' of 5 discs he's made over a run of nearly 10 years and they are a ball, even the one he doesn't care for.

Jason Crane, bless him, did a Lavelle podcast recently. I'm podcast clueless but I'm confident both were impressive in their banter...because they are anyway.

Steve Provizer said...

The people cry out: Let Brilliant Corners be podcast! I can help you there. The usual local suspects can record it here at Zumix Radio. Sound quality would be excellent.

Chris Rich said...

Sounds fun. Give Jason's world a good look, I keep him at the very top left of the page because of his quality.

Taran Singh is Jason's counterpart in France and Justin DesMangles covers the west coast. You'll love the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Okay, circus guys here: Harry James played not only trumpet, he could beat the drums now and then, also on recordings (especially when Buddy Rich sang).

James Morrison from Down Under plays nearly every wind instrument. He did a multi-track recording once, where he did an almost one-man big band. (Honestly, I can't listen to such stuff 'cause it hurts.)

Sidney Bechet doubled on clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums on the very first multi-track recording in the history of (jazz) music:

Blues Of Bechet (1941) Funny, huh?

Benny Goodman played the cornet here and there. It has been recorded, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

Lionel Hampton's two-finger piano ... ahh, but he was a great drummer too.

Don Elliott, wasn't he a multi instrumentalist as well? Yep, trumpet, vibraphone, and mellophone.



Steve Provizer said...

Django Bates is indeed an incredibly versatile musician and fine composer- a very interesting character...Muerkin's also a good player. Thanks for bringing them to my attention... Morrison is truly freakish in his capacities. I saw him crack a walnut with his chops on the Tonight Show w. Carson-I don't think it was a setup...Harry James was also a freak of sorts. Other musicians said the guy literally never warmed up; just picked up the horn and blew full out...It's true that Bechet's soprano and clarinet playing overshadowed the other things he could do...Don Elliot was also an apt citing.

rob chalfen said...

Goodman plays cornet on 'Jungle Blues' (Morton) w. Benny Goodman's Boys (mostly Ben Pollack guys), Chicago, June 4, 1928.

Matt Lavelle said...

Joe Mcphee and Howard Johnson may
be the greatest of them all.Doubling all reeds or all brass is one thing,.but when you mix up the actual core focus,.brass,reeds,strings,.you enter a realm not many can really operate in.You have to hear the different sounds,.and be drawn to them.
Joe has done what is very,VERY difficult,..soprano sax,..almost perfect,..and then brass.Its a gift,.a true gift.Howard can READ and PLAY anything on EVERYTHING..
If your talking reeds,.Sabir Mateen is a true master on EVERY horn,..
My trumpet chops are deeper than my clarinet chops,.Ive played it 10 years longer,.but approaching Bass Clarinet as a trumpet player has given me a totally different style.
In realms of being yourself in jazz in 2010,.
"By any means necessary"

Steve Provizer said...

It's not been my good fortune to hear McPhee's brass playing. Maybe you can refer me to a url...I know that playing an instrument way out of your usual ballpark can take you in a new direction. That idea was one of the main impetuses behind the art/diy band movement which peaked some years ago. I think that movement was also a response to the "professionalization" of art in the US. I'm always in favor of people who lack craft on an instrument being invited to participate in a musical situation-but in convivial social circumstances, not onstage. Unfortunately, we lack the kind of rituals that would allow us to make art as a natural part of our daily activity.

Anonymous said...

I know a guy from the Cologne WDR radio big band who appeared on our, the youngsters', Monday jam sessions, held at a very small joint in Bonn, E-V-E-R-Y freaking Monday with yet another instrument:

Tenorsax (his main horn), flugelhorn, trumpet, valve trombone, piano (which was there already), and bass ... as I saw him unpacking a drum set on one of these Mondays, respectively putting his own cymbals on the stands, I said to myself:

"Gosh, Brew, this will be your very last session at this joint!" Then I grabbed my trumpet, and left the scene. This was in the early 1990's.

The man was incredible. He really could play them all quite well, almost perfectly. But he was definitely *not* a good musician, in my opinion. His improvisations were perfect as well, too flawless though, for my dirty jazz taste. He could play in one style only, kind of semi-Coltrane-Hubbard-hardbop ... all licks, not really swinging.

When we still talked to each other - this was at yet another place - he asked me what kind of mouthpiece I was using. I told him: Vincent Bach, 1 1/2 ... silence ... He: "You're a suicide player!"

He reached into a small bag then, replete with more than a dozen various mouthpieces, and borrowed me one of them: "Try this. You will have more endurance with that one." This was a Giardinelli mouthpiece.

Okay, he was right, and he was responsible for the Schilke #9 I'm using up to this very day.

I've never met the man again; but I'd returned the Giardinelli (of course!).

By the way, I hate this question: "What kind of mouthpiece do you play?" And I always would leave a room, when a bunch of trumpeters start discussing mouthpieces ;)

"Jazz Lives" @ said...

Currently, how about Scott Robinson -- all the saxes and trumpet? Also Dan Block (ditto but less publicized). Rossano Sportiello plays gutbucket trombone as well as piano, and the late Tom Baker could do brass and reeds splendidly. Pete Brown played alto but also picked up trumpet for a 1940 Leonard Feather-organized Decca session -- TEMPO DI JUMP. And there are surely more players of this ilk we can't think of at the moment -- but they are there! (Andy Stein on baritone, tenor sax, and violin . . . )

Steve Provizer said...

Thanks for the ref's. Tom Baker- yea. Didn't know about Pete Brown on tpt. I have a devil of a time finding any non-sax Scott Robinson or Dan Block stuff... My draconian rules don't allow for horn/piano doublers which are numerous.

In fact, I think this group of doublers is pretty singular and not that numerous. This little group of posters is doing a pretty thorough job of rooting them out.

Steve Provizer said...

Brew-look on the bright side-sax players can jive about their reeds for hours. We tpt. players tend to make it brief. Except, don't you like going in to the repair shop and shooting the breeze with your local repair guy? He keeps trying to get your horn into a chemical bath and you keep saying you're gonna clean out the lead pipe and everybody's happy.

Steve Provizer said...

Just got this via email:

Another doubler is Ray Perry. Doubled on violin and alto. Also known to
play clarinet. Dick Wetmore's idol. Find him on record with Lionel
Hampton, Sabby Lewis, Illinois Jacquet.

Dick Vacca

Matt Lavelle said...

Scott Robinson is fantastic of course,.I played his Bass sax at Ornette's,.(yall Gotta hear OC on Bass sax!)

playing multiple horns without trying to go deep is one thing,.but I myself work really hard on bass clarinet every day,.I pursue to tame both beasts.

It should be easy to track down Joe McPhee on brass,.but the real gem is hearing his pocket trumpet live, of the most original things You'll hear in brass,..anywhere,anytime,anyplace..

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Steve, saxophonists are worse, I know. -- I knew a guy who "bathed" his reeds in various little plastic vials; there was some (neurotic?) philosophy behind it, which I have forgotten. -- And I won't visit any repair shop unless the horn would be really kaput.

My old Conn "Constellation" (1960's) got restored in 2003: new varnish (the correct word for brass instruments?), new felt for the valves (because they were gone), and that's it.

Yep, a clean lead pipe is very important. A German friend and biographer of Chet Baker tried to convince Chet that he should clean his horn. Chet wasn't too willing at first, but the guy insisted, and so he cleaned it for him.

Although Chet was too proud (or too embarrassed?) to admit it, he seemed to be quite happy about the cleaning action of his friend. It's not always soulful playing which lets you sound husky.

Chris Rich said...

Brother Lavelle is modest and I'm just starting to set up my long promised piece on his discs I have here which we wryly call the Lavelle Box set.

As I lay out the basic information, I began to occur to me that instrument doubling is more common in the swath of 'free jazz'.

And I also realized the older practice may have had a different reason. You'd get more kinds of work back when people expected to make a living.

Nowadays, it is more a search for sound colors and instruments a person is drawn to as timbre expansion is a big part of 'free jazz'. Gunter Hampel plays Vibes and Bass Clarinet equally well and came from a family of Berlin Phil players who were spirited out of town by Albert Speer during the fall of Berlin in a motorcade through battle zones trying to outrun the Soviets and find the Allied line. It musta been quite an experience for a kid.

Anyway just look at the instrument shifts Matt does with Daniel Carter in that duet concert at Tower he describes in his 'Tower' post.

Tubman Atnimara.
Duet: Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter—tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet, piano, flute.
Matt Lavelle—piano, pocket trumpet, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, trumpet.
1. Mouth In The South. DC Tenor Saxophone, ML, piano.
2. Old Souls. DC. Alto Saxophone. ML. Pocket Trumpet.
3. Moon Under Water. DC. Clarinet. ML. Bass Clarinet.
4. Texas of the North. DC. Piano ML. Flugelhorn.
5. The D. C. Key. DC. Flute. ML. Bass Clarinet.
6. Church In Chinatown. DC. Tenor Saxophone. ML. Trumpet.
7. Elbowitis. DC. Clarinet, ML. Piano.
8. All Aboard. DC Alto Saxophone. ML. Trumpet.

Matt Lavelle said...

Giuseppi Logan may the first free jazz multi-instrumentalist,..paving the way for Sabir,Daniel,and beyond..

It may shock folks to know that Charles Gayle was at once a serious trumpet player,.citing Clifford brown as an inspiration.He's working on BASS now.

whats your have your own music language you can speak different dialects

its not just free guys,..I saw Nicholas Payton play bass,drums,and piano at smalls,.
(this may have been a dream however as I passed out at Smalls all the time)..

rob chalfen said...

Tommy Dorsey played trumpet so well that some of his records were mistaken for King Oliver! and a few are still in dispute (Blind Willie Dunn Gin Bottle 4, 1929)