Showing posts with label nat adderly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nat adderly. Show all posts

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life, Death, Resurrection and the Cornet-by Steve Provizer

During a recent Nat Adderly listening session, I thought “Why play this style on cornet and not trumpet?” I was thinking of the cliched perception of the cornet, as personified by cornet greats Oliver, Bix, Bobby Hackett, Jimmy McPartland et al. The cornet sound is theoretically mellower and rounder than a trumpet’s. The horns have the same length of tubing, but the cornet is squashed together a little more and most important, has more conical tubing than a trumpet, which has a cylindrical bore until it flares approaching the bell. The cornet mouthpiece emphasizes this difference. No scientist I, but I assume the acoustic difference may be that the wave form is less sawtooth and more sine. But think Adderly, Ruby Braff, Thad Jones and Warren Vache. Think Olu Dara and Graham Haynes if you want. To some degree, these guys have all broken the bounds. When they play long tones, you hear the difference in the horns (especially with Vache's vibrato), but essentially, these guys play the cornet like it was a trumpet, with brilliance, fire and a lot of upper register. Adderly emphasizes the blues and funk, Ruby the swing, Thad newer harmony, Daru and Graham the sonics and Vache facility all over the horn.

The evolution of a horn is an interesting thing. The cornet was the locus of technical innovation through the 19th c. while the trumpet was still thought of as it was in the Baroque period: a long tube with holes and little else. In 19th c. concert bands-feeder for brass-centric jazz-the cornets played the melody (The star was Herbert Clarke, whose technique books trumpet players still use) and the trumpets essentially played fanfare parts. Trumpet manufacturers began to catch on and applied cornet innovations around the turn of the century, but Jazz was an ensemble music and cornet worked better. Louis and Bix both played the cornet, but eventually, Armstrong stretched the limits of the cornet to the breaking point and switched to trumpet in 1927 for the Hot Seven recordings. The cornet lost ground and never caught up, except for "Dixieland" or "trad" players. For brass doublers, the pendulum swung hard to the hyper-mellow fluegelhorn. Me, I would rather hear a cornet. So, in a bizarre way, Nat, Ruby, Thad and company brought the cornet-trumpet cycle all the way back around. Where once Armstrong broke through the limits of the cornet to get to the trumpet, they did the reverse.