Top 50 JAzz Blog

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Successful "Wrong" Trumpet Embouchures

Jon Faddis

My wife calls my trumpet my mistress. Don't think so. It's way too high maintenance.

The fact is, for many of us, the struggle to find the right embouchure can seem sisyphean. There is so much bad information-especially for young players (see my post on mouthpieces); so much cant, rhetoric and conflicting theories. Right now, I have put myself in the hands of John Lynch. Previously, I have been indentured to Pivot-Master Donald Reinhardt, Mr. Superchops Jerome Callet, the carefree John Coffey and, finally, my first teacher, who told me not to tell my mother he told me, but that I had to bear down like I was taking a poop.

The fact is, there is no single right way to do it and for those of us who have chased this unholy grail through the years, it can be a comfort and an inspiration to see people do it the wrong way and yet become masters. In that spirit, here are a few examples of how right wrong can be:

Here is the great bop player Bill Hardman. Note how far off to the left side he plays:

Here's cornettist Ruby Braff who, if anything, plays even more off to the left than Hardman:

High note king Maynard Ferguson plays way over the the right of his chops.

Don't want to shortchange the swing players. Here's Ziggy Elman, playing off to the left.

Jon Faddis plays off to the left and also uses very exaggerated head movements to change register. Jon-don't ya know you're not supposed to move your head?

I always love an excuse to post this video. Here are two of the greatest-Diz and Pops. Pops played off to the right and Dizzy is the most famous "wrong-way to-play" genius in jazz history.

Trumpet players are an admixture of masochist and dreamer, as those who live with us know. In exchange for the head, neck and backaches and cyclical depression, we thirst for the daily chance to live several lifetimes in one practice session. To us, beyond every crumbling G there lurks a golden double G, crystalline, centered and in tune, or a perfect negotiation of Rhythm Changes.

Sex may be a rival to this experience; but little else.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Introducing the Secular Football League.

We all remember the struggle the new AFL had when it first tried to crack the National Football League monopoly-playing in baseball stadiums and college stadiums, etc. It was a real American success story: one flock of rich guys who, by throwing enough money into the hopper, convinced the other flock of rich guys to take them seriously.

Now it's our turn.

I know the odds are against us. Our pockets aren't deep. In fact, they're only pocket simulacra. Nonetheless, the rise of evangelism in professional football, along with the attendant cant and rhetoric about family values and god in general (plus another highly annoying half hour of ads stuck into the game), has inspired me to invite people LIKE YOURSELVES to put together a league that will blow the current bunch of pseudo-Jesuits out of the water.

Finally, after a strict 6-month regimen of Armagnac, Setlitz Powder and Ambien, we at The Institute are ready to make the announcement and open the process to YOU!

The following teams are, even now, being formed in the new, fabulous Secular Football League (SFL). Peruse the list and submit your own squad. We'll see that a publicly-financed stadium is built in your hometown tout de suite:

The Paducah Pagans
The Cambridge Sophists
The Aqaba Atheists
The Somerville Shamen
The Dracut Druids
The Newton Non-Newtonians
The Zagreb Zoroastrians
The Detroit Doveners
The Malibu Sufis
The Nome Gnostics
The Death Valley Taoists
The Akron Agnostics
The Brooklyn Buddhists
and, of course,
The San Antonio Sadhus

Each of these squads brings a mental toughness currently unknown in the NFL. I'd like to see those lummoxes do the Little Thunderbolt Pose at all, never mind naked in the Arctic.

You know you harbor a secret desire to own your own professional sports team. Now's your chance. It's up to you. You'll either end up canoodling with a cheerleader in the Skybox or rotting on your couch with a box of stale corn chex.

Act now and you get my personal guarantee: No "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance*.

*Written by Christian Socialist Edward Bellamy; amended against his opposition "under the leadership of the American Legion and The Daughters of the American Revolution."

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Not Sci-Fi; It's Radio! by Steve Provizer

You see this object?
Recognize it?
Vaguely familiar.
It’s called a radio.
Yea, it’s a device that lets you listen to different kinds of sounds.
Oh, an mp3 player. Looks like an ipod with a really clever skin.
It's different. You don’t have to put anything into this thing to make stuff come out of it.
No downloading? Where does the sound come from?
You just turn it on, like this: 
and the sounds coming through the air are caught and brought into the radio by this metal rod.
Oh, you’re just screwin’ me around. Stop it.
Gospel truth.
What about those other gizmos?
They're called tuning dials. All you have to do is turn them and different kinds of music pops out. You can even hear people talking-live.
Talking about what?
Politics, sports, Hollywood, the weather, weight loss pills.
Is it interactive? Can I text them if I want to comment on something?
More than that, big guy, you can actually call in to their studios and then YOUR voice would come out of this little box too.
Sounds impossible.  These things must be just for the military, right? 
No, regular people are allowed to use them. They're a little hard to find, but I might be able to hook you up.
Must cost a fortune.
You might well believe that, my friend, but you can get one of these things for the cost of a bag of munchkins.

And once you buy one, that’s it. You never have to pay another red cent.
No set-up charges?
No rental fees?
Absolutely not. 
It’s all a little overwhelming.
Technology can be that way, my friend.
Well, put me down for one of these babies, cause I want to be on the cutting edge.
That’s my man.
Ra-di-o, you say.
Yea. Imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"An Open Letter to Occupy Boston." Steve Provizer

It's always tough to move to the next thing, but it would have been delusional to think that Occupy Boston and other Occupy groups would be allowed to continue camping. 

In her ruling, a Boston judge said: “while Occupy Boston protesters may be exercising their expressive rights during the protest, they have no privilege under the First Amendment to seize and hold the land on which they sit.” I hope this First Amendment skirmish does not become the END IN ITSELF. I know this in the foreground and serious points have to be made, but please don't get bogged down. Don't hand it over to the lawyers (even the good ones) and don't rely on the judicial branch to solve any problems for you. Start thinking about YOUR NEXT MOVES. 

It will be very difficult. I'm sure the encampment, the publicity, the joy of being a living symbol of what you believe and witnessing the large number of people who have rallied to support you has been a potent experience. Marshaling the same level of energy for continuing the struggle in what may now be a less visible and adrenalin-fueled process, is a tremendous challenge. Equally difficult will be maintaining your extremely high level of inclusive participation when this movement gets down to the irritating and grinding process of getting people to agree on specific demands and political moves.

But, the creativity that Occupiers have shown to this point makes me optimistic that you will not get drawn into a court-centric approach; that you will demonstrate great agility and find and implement new dazzling tactics to move the process ahead. I'm not alone in thinking of you as a vanguard, as people with the will and commitment to continue to be leaders. To win, you've got to be several steps ahead. Go ahead, do it. We'll be there.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Occupy Jazz? by Steve Provizer

Economically, there was never much of a middle class among jazz musicians, but to steal an Occupy Wall St. slogan, we are now in a 99%/1% situation. In this post, I'll take a look at whether it's useful or folly to apply the OWS paradigm to the jazz financial picture.

In the Occupy Wall St. realm, when you sweep away the bologna covering the pro and con arguments, what's left is a disagreement about meritocracy and the Myth of Mobility: