Monday, October 18, 2010
Horns and Hormones by Steve Provizer
I just finished reading "Hotter Than That," sub-titled "The Trumpet, Jazz and American Culture." I might add-"That's Awfully Grandiose For A Book That Slices Off Such A Teeny Tiny Piece of It," but that's the kind of blurb and sub-title hyperbole that jazz books aimed for a general audience sometimes indulge in.
I realized after I read it that Krin Gabbard, the author, had edited two weightier tomes I read a while back when I was contemplating going to grad school: "Jazz Among the Discourses" and "Representing Jazz;" the kind of stuff that convinced me my place was not in the Academy.
There is interesting material in this book-trumpet history, the dangers/early deaths of trumpeters, some material on how the trumpet is made (albeit with too much conversation with and about Dave Monette), a variably entertaining exegesis about Miles-but remembering Gabbard's academic inclinations helped me understand why he took such pains to introduce a "THESIS" into "Hotter Than That;" a thesis requiring significant mental contortions and sporadic leaps from a high, shaky scaffold into a shot glass-sized target.
Alright, we've talked enough about ego in this blog to not dismiss this thesis entirely, especially in the case of African-American musicians, who indeed had far fewer choices for anything. But why push it so far? (WARNING: amateur shrinkage ahead). Gabbard is an aspiring trumpet player himself, and I can't help but notice how longingly he talks about hitting the high C's and reaching that hyper-masculine, testosterone-riddled musical pinnacle: The Lead Trumpet Player.
He seems to be aware of the other pleasures of playing and also says that "a lead trumpeter might also be a nerd masquerading as a brute." He admits there are some great female players and also notes the fact that the guitar replaced the trumpet as our adolescent male's chief macho instrumental choice. None of this seems to derail him from his need to return to the masculinity leit motif.
So, you trumpet players out there, seems like the safest thing is just to fess up. You know you suffer from a lack of hormonal self-confidence, so wise up, cop to it and give it a gangster lean. Just repeat after me: "I'm too sexy for my Benge, too sexy for my Schilke, too sexy for my Bach..."