composer, conductor, trombone soloist

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New York, Los Angeles, Stubenberg, Vienna, USA, Austria
Ed Neumeister’s profile is the result of long and deep experience. As a performer he has been at the forefront of Jazz for more than 40 years developing a unique voice. Having also worked with high level classical orchestras and ensembles nurtured his focus on conducting and composing. He knows what the musicians need because he was there.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A busy month

Just coming off a busy month of tours and gigs, all great, as it turns out.

Early December was the Netherlands tour. I spent in week in the Netherlands as a guest with a couple different bands and schools. Then a 3 day “Portrait” at the great jazz club in Vienna, Porgy & Bess. Three nights, three different bands, three different kinds of music. Whew!! Fun!!

Started in Enchede where I played a concert with the Millennium Jazz Orchestra, a quartet concert with some of the teachers from the conservatory and a concert with some of the students. The concert with the Millennium Jazz Orchestra led my Joan Reinders went very well. Then band played my music great and were enjoyable to work with. Joan conducted (which I often do as well) so all I had to do was show up and play. I did conduct Jari, one of the pieces I didn’t play on.

Unfortunately, it was extremely cold with icy snow on the ground and an icy wind blowing so the size of the audience wasn’t as large as we would like. Those that were there were quite enthusiastic.

The quartet concert with some of the teachers was also great. There are all great players and very sympathetic. With no rehearsal we picked some tunes and played. Felt like we had played together for years (oh, they have…) really fun. The concert with the students went well, more challenging for me, of course. Sometimes I felt as if I was pulling a train. But, it’s important to play together with students so that they can get the experience of playing with experienced players.

Next, off to Utrect to play with the Frits Bayens Big Band. Frits is an old friend and colleague. As a producer for the Metropole Radio Orchestra he commissioned me to write and come as soloist for several projects over the years. He’s also a great arranger himself and we played many of his charts with his band, which has been together for 30 years. This was an interesting gig for me as I was the featured soloist on every piece and the only rehearsal we had was a quick run-through at the sound-check. Fun.

The next morning I was at the conservatory in Rotterdam for some composition lessons, trombone clinics and master-classes. A cool week, especially as it was below freezing and snowing the whole week. Made for some interesting travel days.

The big news, really was the Suite Ellington project and the three day “Portrait” at the great club Porgy & Bess in Vienna.

The Suite Ellington Project: Billy Drewes-Alto Sax & Clarinet, Jim Rotondi-Trumpet & Flugelhorn, Fritz Pauer-piano, Peter Herbert-bass & Jeff Ballard was put together to perform my arrangements of some of the more obscure Ellington and Strayhorn. Mostly from their Extended Suites, such as Black Brown & Beige, Far East Suite, Afro Eurasian Suite and the complete Queens Suite.

We started in Graz where the guys who are not associated with the University, Billy Drewes, Jeff Ballard, Peter Herbert & Fritz Pauer (who made his first return visit since retiring from teaching a few years ago) all gave clinics, workshops and master-classes. We started with an open rehearsal. All the students were invited to attend and the room was full. I think it’s important for the students to see how a high level professional rehearsal is run. We ran through everything, made sure the road maps made sense and played most everything a couple times, so that we could all become accustom to how our part fit into the whole. With three horns, in order to get some variety of colors the lead sometimes moves from player to player. Of course, you need to know where you are in the formation in order to make the proper blend.

The next morning started with workshops on the prospective instruments, Billy with the saxes, Jeff with the drummers etc,.

End the evening we played the concert at the Orpheum in Graz. Great concert! What can I say? The guys played my arrangements, which are sometimes quite twisted and other times more of an orchestrated transcription, with precision and passion. It’s such a great pleasure to hear ones compositions and arrangements played by the highest-level players.

After the Orpheum concert in Graz we then moved to Vienna for the beginning of the three-day Portrait. It was generous of Christoph Huber to offer me this Portrait and let me design the three days any way I wanted.

Consequently, I wanted to do three completely different programs. Suite Ellington focusing on my arrangements, Chamber in the Now focusing on improvisation, or, composing in the moment, and thirdly the music for big band.

It was a great opportunity to present my music, which is admittedly somewhat Schizophrenic, in a concentrated time. The one style, I left out is the one that I am most known for, Modern Mainstream, or, whatever you call it??

Happy Holidays!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trombone Plunger Technique

I’ve spent a lot of time with the plunger and the trombone. I think that’s the most important aspect of mastering any specific technique or style. Concentrated time spent honing, refining and exploring. I didn’t practice with the plunger, I explored, experimented, searched and researched.

With that said, here are the basics of plunger playing.

The Equipment: It takes time to find the best plunger. There was a period of years when if I passed a hardware store I would go in and check out their toilet plunger selection. If there was a plunger there, that I had not tried, then I would buy it. Not a big investment really, usually two to five dollars. It was always fun to buy the plunger and tell the clerk that I didn’t need the stick. I always got a kick out of their reaction to that. So consequently, I had a basket full of plungers at home in my studio. Had a basket full of trumpet mutes too. But we’ll get to that in a minute. I have one favorite plunger and one or two back-ups, but I’ve been playing with the same mute plunger combination for more than 20 years.

For my taste, the plunger should be relatively hard with no open holes and nothing shaved off the rim, which I know some players like to do. In my earlier plunger days, I had a soft plunger that I could squeeze, which feels good but doesn’t really affect the sound that much. The advantage of a plunger with hard rubber is that the sound is manipulated by bouncing off the inside of the plunger. With softer rubber the sound is more absorbed, therefore less bright. We want to be able to close the plunger completely so that we can produce that “buzz”, a very cool sound, so the plunger needs to be big enough to be able to close completely. Some guys will cut out the whole in the middle and put two pennies or dimes in there to get another kind of buzz. I had a mute like this for a while, but prefer the whole uncut plunger. With a good plunger the sound should change when the plunger is moved as little as half an inch (1 centimeter). This gives us many possibilities for different sounds, from tightly closed to completely open and everything in between.

Without Pixie Mute: The advantage of playing without a pixie mute is that we can play louder and if we are playing a solo in front of a loud big band riffing backgrounds behind us, then subtle sound variations won’t be heard, so playing without a pixie makes sense.

When playing the plunger without a pixie mute there are intonation issues that need attention. On certain partials the pitch is raised approximately a ¼ tone, sometimes as much as a flat ½ tone when the plunger is in the closed position. Therefore the player needs to learn the open and closed positions of all the notes in his/her playing range so that they are in control of the intonation. With some notes the intonation is not changed when the plunger is closed and with others the note changes drastically, and the player needs to know how the note will be affected so that the desired effect is performed rather than an “out of tune” note. Which, let’s face it, an “out of tune” note is not a very pleasing sound. Somehow, it seems that many plunger players just don’t take the time to learn these idiosyncrasies in order to be able to perform freely. But, when we do take the time to learn the basics and explore the possibilities the results are rewarding.

I usually prefer to play with a pixie mute when performing with the plunger because of all the sound possibilities. If the volume is loud and a good microphone is not available then I would consider playing plunger without pixie, or open horn entirely or maybe, if I have it, the trombone pixie (with the O ring popped out) with which one can also play relatively loud.

The Pixie Mute: As I said earlier, I have a basket of pixie mutes, but use primarily one mute, a Humes and Berg (Stoneline) trumpet straight mute, with the corks filed down so that the mute fits tight in the horn. I play a King Silver Sonic 3B and the throat or flare of the bell is relatively narrow in relation to many other horns. Many a friend has had my pixie mute stuck in their bell. Then, the only way to get it out is to drop a drumstick down from the other side, or to push it out with a cleaning rod or something similar. As the mute needs to be tight, I sometimes have trouble getting it out of the horn if I have sweaty and slippery fingers, one of the trials and tribulations of a plunger player.

I like this mute because it is in tune and playable the complete range of the trombone and is very expressive sonically. This mute allows many possibilities of producing different overtones.

The other mute that is generally in tune is the trombone pixie mute made by Humes and Berg. I also like the Shastock Trumpet Straight mute.

When I was exploring the possibilities of plunger playing, I would often go into music stores and see if they had some trumpet straight mutes for me to try. If I had my horn with me I’d try all the trumpet mutes. Many just didn’t work at all, but I would buy the ones that had potential and check them out at home, sometimes moving or shaving the corks so that they fit right. We should to do this with any mute. Any mute is fitting properly when we can play the entire register of the horn. The low register is tricky when muted. A mute fits properly when we can play chromatically down to low E, or below for the trigger guys, with all the notes sounding, more or less, in tune and with no “dead” notes. With all mutes, including the pixie, one should check the intonation with a tuner to see as well as hear where all the notes are. Note that with the pixie mute the tuning slide will probably need to be pushed out roughly 1 inch (2.5cm).

I have played almost all of the trumpet straight mutes available including the Nonpareil, which the Ellington guys used. The problem with this and many other mutes is that the note choices and range is very limited. I heard that Trickey Sam Nanton only had 13 good notes with the pixie and plunger. Of course Duke knew what those 13 notes were and put them to good use. I’ve never bothered counting his notes to see if this is true. Makes a good story though. The sound(s) of the Nonpareil and other mutes are cool, but I want the sounds and the complete range of the horn. The trombone pixie gives me the range, intonation and some volume, but not the variety of sounds. It’s the Humes and Berg (Stoneline) trumpet straight mute that gives me the sound(s) and full range of the horn. The lowest 3 or 4 notes are a little wolfy, but with some work can be controlled.

Posture: It’s important that we don’t put our body into any contortions in order to hold the plunger and the horn. Try to use good posture when playing with the plunger, just like you would when playing normal open horn. I like to balance the bell in the heal of the hand, above the wrist (when holding the hand up), that way the horn can be supported by the hand and the hand is flexible enough to manipulate the plunger from closed tight to open which is about 45 degrees.

The Basics: We have from “as open as possible” to “tightly closed” and everything in between. Every note has unique overtone possibilities when combined with the different positions of the plunger. Often there is a sweet spot for a note with the plunger a specific distance from the bell. Al Grey said he used 6 plunger positions. I don’t think about it that way, I’m using feel and sound to guide me. Sometimes a very small movement will create interesting overtone variations.

The plunger articulations are Wa Wa or Ja Ja and the opposite Open-Close or Open-tight closed.

We can color the articulation by adding the tongue with a light legato, or brief flutter. The flutter can be used as an articulation or by continuing to flutter one can sound as if growling.

We can help accentuate the Wa Wa or Ja Ja by shaping those syllables with the tongue in the mouth.

Many people have asked me how I do the Ja Ja. And the answer I usually give is “I don’t know”. I just play and that is what comes out. Lucky I guess. With that said, I use a combination of notes, plunger positions, articulations, vowel sounds and sometimes singing or growling to produce the desired affect. Important to note that what I am hearing when I am playing is not exactly what the audience or the microphone is hearing. It’s only on playback that I hear what the audience was hearing. I don’t hear Ja Ja nearly as clearly as the audience hears it. So if you think that you can’t Ja Ja, you better record yourself and listen to the playback. Maybe you can? But don’t be troubled if you don’t produce the Ja Ja clearly. I’ve known some excellent plunger players who just couldn’t Ja Ja. Wa Wa is it for them. One can still make a lot of music with Wa Wa.

OK, back to the basics. In order to get that buzz from the closed plunger, the plunger needs to be tight against the bell, therefore in order to play a buzzing note at mf we need to play that note ff or fff so that it sounds mf. This takes some practice to be able to color the note of a line with the tight buzz by playing fff while playing the other more open notes mf or even mp.

The voice: The voice as singing or growling can be added for interesting and varied effects. One can sing above the note being played or sing or “growl” below the note being played. I would suggest beginning to work on this technique, sometimes called multi-phonics with the open horn, then when you are able to control your voice and the trombone you can apply this to plunger playing to good affect.

Explore: This is the most important aspect of playing the plunger freely. Just like most things in life, when you spend concentrated time studying and exploring, you get better at whatever you are working on. Plunger technique is no exception. I spent many hours working with the plunger, mostly with the pixie, exploring all the possibilities that I could think of and hopefully discovering some possibilities that I didn’t think of, discovering them through exploration and experimentation.

I’ve made it a point to play at least one solo piece with pixie and plunger at my quartet and even big band concerts. It’s a great expressive tool. And, the audience always enjoys the vocal qualities.

OK? Are you ready to explore? Hope so. “Music” is a wonderful vocation when we can “play”, explore and experiment in order to come up with “cool” lines, rhythms, harmonies and colors etc,.

One more point: Have Fun!!

Keep in touch,


You can see/hear many examples of me playing the plunger. On YouTube, my “Solo Improvisation for Trombone, Voice & Plunger” has received more than 180,000 hits. This piece is more of a sound sculpture with some vocal sounds and singing together with the trombone plunger sounds. There are also examples of more tonal plunger playing on all my CDs and in the CD that accompanies my book Trombone Technique: through music.

And, there are several examples on my latest lecture demonstration Video:
Creative Practicing – Practice Creatively.

All available at:

I also offer lessons via video conference

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments etc,.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rediscovering Bach Part II

Played through the 1st and 2nd Bach Cello Suites in consecutive days. It’s been many years, but it was like butter. Like visiting an old friend. Seems like yesterday. They are so beautiful, great music and a great way to start the day.
Then I came to the 3rd suite. Oh boy, another story. In the key of C, so lots of low Cs. Guess I didn’t work ion this one as much, probably because it’s in the low register, more in the bass trombone range. So I decided to play it up a perfect 5th, superimposing the tenor clef. Now it goes up to High D. I think there is a French edition that transposes this one up a 4th, but that’s not too easy to do on the fly, but tenor clef should be possible. It’s kicking my ass, challenging to say the least. Cool!!! Guess I’ll be on this one for a while. It’s good to be back, a great way to start the musical day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rediscovering Bach

Was going through some books the other day when I came across the Bach Cello Suites. There was a time for many years that I played Bach every day, first the Cello Suites then later the Violin Sonatas and Partitas. I remember reading that the great cellist Pablo Casals said he played Bach every day. I was/is a big fan of his playing, especially the Bach Cello Suites, so I took up his idea. Bach every day. Kind of like “A Bach a Day will keep the cobwebs away.” It’s such great music. Always inspiring, amazing, challenging and inspiring.

I often say that Bach is one of my favorite jazz musicians.

After finding the cello suites book (I have several editions but this one is one of the cello versions) I read through the 1st suite. Still Great!! Will play the 2nd today.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I wonder if the audience has any idea how much time goes into preparing for one 90-minute set?

For me, it means building and strengthening the muscles of the embouchure so that I am able to execute the crazy ideas that pop into my head as easily at the end of the gig as the beginning. Although…… I know I play, sometimes, more “music” when the chops are hurt’n and stiff. Can’t rely on the fancy schmancy, so I have to rely on pure musical ideas without fluff. What a concept…….

In other words, I need to build endurance, flexibility and range. When I was a busy freelance player in New York, I was “working”, playing the trombone almost every day, so the basic maintenance was not an issue. All of the basic maintenance could be taken care warming up for each rehearsal or gig, plus the actual music played during the gig, whatever that was. Consequently, in those days practicing was about getting better, improving and working on the music that I was playing on my gigs.

Now-a-days, my musical life is filled with activities outside the trombone even though I try to play as much as I can, but to be honest, I only keep the chops in a place that can be tuned-up relatively fast and in a place where I can play a “normal” gig without chop endurance issues.

Preparing for a jazz gig is something else of course. Each of the guys contributed a piece and we’ll be playing four of my pieces. The goal is to learn each piece so that one can be free with it. So, I have four new pieces to learn and I have to learn, relearn or “bring back” my pieces.

I first play through the melodies over and over so they are absorbed and memorized, then move on to the harmonies where I start with the harmonic chord root and function movement. All this is done with a metronome playing on 2 & 4 for faster pieces, even st8s pieces and on quarter notes on the slower pieces. If there is something that doesn’t flow, then I bring down the tempo to an easily playable tempo and gradually bring the tempo up to the real tempo. Analyzing the harmonic rhythm or general tonal centers is also important.

The goal is to be free in the form so that the ideas flow freely. The maintenance work mentioned early helps to insure that the ideas are executed through the instrument.

My goal as an improviser is to “play” like a composer. In this case that means applying compositional material from the piece of the moment into a development, while at the same time interacting with the other players. Usually the interaction is with one of the other players sometimes two and occasionally with all those playing at the time.

The Quintet Includes: Bob Mintzer – Tenor Sax, Peter Erskine – Drums, John Beasley – Piano & Edwin Livingaston – Bass.

Thursday September 9 at Vitello’s in Studio City CA.
Vitello's Reservations & Info: (818) 769-0905
4349 Tujunga Ave. Studio City CA 91604

Reservations are suggested.
Hope to see you there/then.


New Reflection review found

Just came across this review, which I haven't seen before>

Ed Neumeister | ArtistShare (2007)

By Celeste Sunderland
CD/DVD Reviewer
Joined AAJ in 2003

Celeste makes pillows for Futopia, her mother's store on Kent Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Combining Ed Neumeister's loose, flowing trombone lines with the organized counterpart of a tightly sewn rhythm section, a vibrant, balanced calm permeates Reflection. Mimicking the natural patterns of a day or a life, the album's rhythmic energy shifts smoothly within a single tune, or from track to track. The result never seems unwarranted; in fact, unexpected moments regularly pique interest, like when the chimes glint off Fritz Pauer's piano lines during "It Was After Rain That the Angel Came, composed by bassist Drew Gress.
Each player contributed one track to the album, and the leader filled in the rest. Drummer John Hollenbeck's "Coping Song, written on September 12, 2001, presents an interesting test of time and the musicians' own relationship with it. A syncopated beat plucked out simultaneously on bass and piano underlies convoluted sounds created by a muted trombone. Neumeister makes his instrument speak a bluesy lament—talking, wailing, searching, seeking—all comprehensible on a certain human level. The dense five-note loop eases into the sparsely notated opening of the title track, played in the high range of the piano, then quickly releases its breath into a luminescent percussive shimmer by Hollenbeck. The relaxing effect is welcome after the earlier tenseness.
Neumeister's compositions have an alacrity made apparent by this particular combination of players. They bring a level of vivacity to the arrangements, pounding hard, but also mingling amongst each other with confidence and authority.
Though many tracks meander slowly through contemplative terrain, many of them bust into high-energy displays. The opening "Trees features maelstroms of big, showy energetic solos from each player. Neumeister takes the lead, flittering around with sophisticated and gleeful buoyancy, easily pulling himself into and out of a variety of situations. Gress continues the enthusiasm, brandishing a deft hand over his bass; Pauer adds dramatic passion, jostling the piano keys about before embarking on an intrepid journey to the summit. Hollenbeck plays rumbling percussion that recalls acrobatics. It all culminates in a firecracker finale.
Track listing: Trees; It Was After the Rain That the Angel Came Down; Osmosis; Coping Song; Reflection; Yanagumi; Lumuria; Gobblers Nob.
Personnel: Ed Neumeister: trombone; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion; Drew Gress: bass; Fritz Pauer: piano.

Style: Modern Jazz

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

All Dressed up and nowhere to go, challenges of a creative life

It’s March 2010 and so far this year I’ve not played one gig. What the f***?
Life and especially the creative life is sure interesting, filled with challenges but also ripe with positive experiences and influences. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even security.

The challenge has been to combine commerce and creativity. It seems like we mostly have to finance our creativity with outside income. I always believed that if I was one of the most accomplished, then work would come and for the most part this has proven correct. I have enjoyed a varied and sustained career as a trombonist, composer and conductor. I followed the old saying: “Build a House and they will come”. Well, I’ve been building a house, not a literal house, of course, although that would be nice too.

I’ve been doggedly working on my “art” and craft as a composer, improviser and trombonist for more than 35 years. My focus has been to create an individual and unique, sound/style. I believe that I’ve been successful with that. I’m commonly referred to as a virtuoso trombonist with a unique sound and harmonic and intervallic sophistication. My plunger playing is unequaled, they say.

I’ve reached many artistic goals, especially as a trombonist. I can play what I hear and then some. Highly respected by my peers. Out, standing in the field. A legend in my own mind. And…. I can’t hardly get a gig. Build a house and they will come?

In addition to ongoing and never ending studies as a musician, composer, improviser etc,. I have spent a great deal of time studying marketing and promotion in order to make the most of my career and any income possibilities.

Boy, have I made some mistakes though. But that’s how we learn, isn’t it?
For example, for my new website project and the release of my latest CDs. In order to “do it right”, I hired two publicists, one for Radio and the other for print etc, plus a lawyer to make sure all the ducks were in a row and to help with the contracts and other business. The result was that I spent thousands of dollars of borrowed money to release and publicize my work with zero return. Nice!!

The Radio publicist did a good job getting radio airplay. With many spins in the US and Canada and the CD on the “Charts”. This translated into exactly zero sales, really….. zero, not one, zip, nada, nichts….. Ah, the music-business. Is that an Oxymoron?

There are many comments on my video performances on YouTube. The Solo Improvisation for Trombone, Voice & Plunger has received the most attention, over 180,000 viewings. It’s admittedly quite modern, kind of a sound sculpture really. It is also quite controversial with some rather negative feedback sprinkled in between the mostly positive comments. Certainly, not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t mind being controversial, though. Quite enjoy it actually. I keep the negative comments up on YouTube except for some of the more obscene ones. Will the 300,000 viewings translate into some commerce? Will this encourage people to pick up my videos? Time will tell.

As it relates to be a trombone soloist, history has shown that creative jazz trombonists have had to earn their primary living either in the freelance commercial world (Carl Fontana, Frank Rosolino) or teaching or jobs outside music (Jay Jay Johnson in his earlier career worked at a blue print factory). Jay Jay later moved to Los Angeles to pursue composing for TV and film along with other New York Jazz musicians like Oliver Nelson, Benny Golson, Bob Brookmeyer, Quincy Jones etc,. Most of them did quite well in Hollywood, especially Quincy who has reached an almost God like status in the music industry. But, Jay Jay complained in his book that he/they (African American Composers) were not taken seriously, and worked primarily on “Black” projects and he, at least, never felt he was accepted into the mainstream (white) TV and film music production. Jay Jay, Benny Golson and Brookmeyer came back to jazz performing and composing later after varying degrees of success in Hollywood. Oliver Nelson didn’t survive, as I understand it, that he worked himself to death. Even today, one can see that people of color are few and far between in the commercial film and TV industries. There are exceptions of course but this pattern seems to be continuing.

Of course, as a white jazz musician, I’ve had to deal with some other perceptions. Jazz was created, early on, mostly (or entirely depending on who you talk to) by African American musicians, so therefore you need to be African American to “really” play. Of course this is not true, but that is often the perception, unfortunately. The opposite of “Black Musicians can’t play classical music”, which is also ludicrous. Of course, there are social economic explanations for these perceptions. If the majority of “our” poor people are people with color, then it stands to reason that “they” won’t be able to afford music lessons as youngsters. These perceptions are changing albeit ever so slowly.

A true story: When asked about hiring me to come play at his jazz club in Paris, the booker waxed prolifically about how he loved my music and my playing. Only to end his flowering compliments with: “But, a 1. white 2. trombone player 3. with a German name….. I can’t use him”.

At least the Italians don’t have this prejudice so I’ve had some wonderful tours there. I don’t work much in Germany either compared to Italy, Scandinavia, Holland, Spain and Portugal, so go figure….

Last year I played two gigs in Los Angeles with a Jazz quartet. Nobody came. You would think, with the reputation I have in the music world, that some of the cats would come out to hear me. If for nothing else to hope I make a mistake or play something “wrong”. Of course, wrong is my specialty. But, not one trombone player come out to hear me play. I found this strange. At least when I played in New York, musicians and some (well known) trombonists came out to hear me. Of course the clubs where I played are not begging me to come back. Another club in LA where a lot of the studio guys play mostly mainstream jazz said to me when asked if they would like to bring my band in that: “Your music is not right for this club”. What does that mean?

Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, ENJO (Ed Neumeister Jazz Orchestra) was formed. One of the things I love about the musicians of LA and NY is that they love to play music, so therefore there is a culture of “Rehearsal Bands”. You don’t find that in Europe. Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Big Band was originally a rehearsal band, before their one night engagement at the Village Vanguard back in 1967. The band is still playing there. I was fortunate to be in the band from 1981 -1999 when I moved to Europe.

ENJO rehearsed and played two concerts at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City. The downside of not being able to pay guys for rehearsing is that there are always subs at rehearsals. I think the only time we actually played with the whole band together was at the gigs.

The first concert in December 2008 had an almost respectable size audience. On the second concert in April 2009 there were about 13 people in the audience. Luckily there were some jazz luminaries, such as Bill Holman, so that helped make up for the fact there were more people on stage than in the audience. At least I could individually thank each of the audience members for coming.

The good news was that I recorded both gigs, audio and video. They were completely different programs and the recordings came out great! You can listen to some of it on the radio on my web site. Now shopping for a label to release it.

Living in Europe has not helped my presence in the states, which I’m trying to remedy now with my move to Los Angeles. I moved to LA primarily to find work as a composer and arranger. This takes time and I feel confident that the work will come. I’ve scored a small film and done some orchestration work and have several projects hovering. Hopefully some of them will land and then take off at some point.

As a player, I’ve been pretty much ignored in Los Angeles. The only guys that have hired me as a player are people I knew from New York. I heard a rumor that when a famous trombone player moved from New York to LA where most of the studio work moved, the trombone players in LA got together, chipped in and bought him a ticket back to NY. Don’t know if this rumor is true. The reality is that the studio business is not what it used to be and there is less and less work available. Therefore the people who are still able get that work are protective of “their turf”. This is completely understandable. I saw the same thing happen in New York in the 90s as studio work dried up. There were many players in New York whose income went from a solid 6 figures to just scraping by in a matter of a couple years.

I think that’s what is happening in LA now, so the players are scrambling to get what they can get and keep what they got. I hear a lot of grumbling and complaining, especially from the players who are not able to get much work any more. It’s becoming more and more elite.

A friend described the scene in New York when the studio scene was diminishing as: “It’s like a bunch of rats fighting over a bone with no meat on it”. That’s what’s happening in LA now. The players who are able to adjust and reinvent themselves will always do ok. It forced many great studio players who by the nature of the business need to be musical Chameleons so that they can play any style as needed to bring back and hone their own unique voices as soloists and go out and continue to expand their careers as soloists and clinicians etc. Others have gone into music production and, of course, teaching. There are more and more music teachers these days that actually can do what they teach about. What a concept……

The other issue I’ve run into is the fact that my music is very challenging and therefore not easily categorize-able. When I was shopping my CDs to labels the response I got, if I got a response at all, from the avant-garde labels was “we love your music but it is too straight-ahead (mainstream) for us”. The straight-ahead labels would say: “We love your music but it is too avant-garde for us”.

Someone said, “If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room.” I can dig it. I’ve lived on the edge so long, after realizing that my fingernails would actually hold, that anything else seems…..bland. And when the fingernails didn’t quite hold, I found the fall wasn’t really that far and I could get up, brush myself off and continue on with a thicker, but bruised, skin a little wiser and a lot better.

What has kept me going all along is the encouragement and recognition from my peers. The feedback I get from artists, that I highly respect, has always been very positive, encouraging. This has been my fuel, through the apparent lack of any sort of recognition from the public or the press. All the reviews I’ve received have been very positive. Thanks to those who have noticed and written about it.

I’ve spent a great deal of time stretching the envelope, taking chances, “going for it”. Of course when one doesn’t play it safe we stand the chance to fail. But, what does fail mean? Nothing ventured, nothing gained etc. In order to succeed we need to fail a few times in order to get it right, so in actuality there is no failure, just work to be done. Experiments to be made. Places to explore.

In time, I found that I was able to achieve what I heard in my head or what intellectual experiment I conceived with more and more success. All those experiments paid off, at least creatively and technically. I feel one with my instrument and it is a good feeling. I love to play the trombone as much as I love to compose. I love to compose in the moment (improvise) as much as I love to take my time and compose on paper, ponder, revise, refine etc.

The trick is to find an audience. Maybe you can help with that?

Thanks for listening, reading, supporting.



Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Perfect Day..... almost

up at 4AM

Beautifully calm - quiet....... Pre-dawn, A great time of day.

Composing till 9:30 with a break to talk to my son.

On the bicycle at 9:30 down the river into the woods, back home at 11:30. Much slower coming back.

Cooking lunch, take a shower at 11:30,

12:15- email from accountant arrives saying I missed a tax payment. So much for a perfect day.... Thought I paid it, need to check into it. Never mind for now. Time for lunch......... ummmm. will take care of that tax stuff later.....

12:45 time to practice, but need to put a load of laundry in first. Ah, Laundry Meditation, let the mind wander or, think of nothing.......

12:50-3:50PM Practice, avoid thinking about money and tax bills etc,..... Practice. Such a luxury, having three hours straight to Practice. The sun is shining, what a beautiful day!

- take periodic breaks to move laundry along "Laundry Meditation" more Practicing - fun..... creative.... practical.....

4 - 5:30 Some more composing......

5:30 - 6:30 Some web site update and GB (General Business) emails etc,. some organization......

7:00 Meet friends for dinner and they're paying.... Almost Perfect Day!!!

Not too late, to sleep, to get up early again..... for another Perfect Day