Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For Further Reading

I've already met the blogging requirement, so I just wanted to throw in a few more groups that fit into my theme in case someone is interested in furthering their knowledge of non-traditional tuba playing.

Tuba Gooding, Jr. plays sousaphone in The Roots.

Sotto Voce is the world's foremost professional touring tuba quartet. They have recorded multiple albums and established themselves as premier chamber musicians. Euphoniums: Demondrae Thurmon, Mark Carlson. Tubas: Nat McIntosh, Mike Forbes.

Boom Pan is an Israeli surf-rock band, applying tuba sensibilities to the style of The Chantays.

Other groups are out there. Keep searching!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Side Show Tim

After I literally blew my competition away with Horsepower, I totally weirded them out by bringing in Cerberus - our class' weirdest brass ensemble and a prime example of eccentric tuba playing.

Cerberus is a UI faculty brass trio (trumpet, horn, and tuba) that specializes in improvised music - soundpainting, free idiom, jazz, and everything else. Cerberus regularly collaborates with other musicians, as well as poets and dancers. Cerberus' proteges comprise Latitude - a motley assortment of student improvisers on a wide range of instruments. John Manning handles the tuba chores with Cerberus and has also composed pieces for the group.

If I Hit the Lottery

Bebop trombonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader JJ Johnson has a list of musical accomplishments a mile long and his biography is a who's who of jazz music. On my in-class listening, I regretted that I did not have time to include one of Johnson's most under-rated projects, the Brass Orchestra. Johnson's Brass Orchestra was a transfigured big band with trumpet, horn, trombone, euphonium, and tuba sections. In addition, the band had an enlarged rhythm section including harp and timpani. The group only recorded one album (to my knowledge) that included compositions and arrangements by Johnson, Miles Davis, Robin Eubanks, conductor Slide Hampton, and others. Beyond Johnson, the band included some heavy hitters: Jon Faddis, Eubanks, Jim Pugh, Steve Turre, Dave Taylor, Joe Alessi, Doug Purvivance, Rufus Reid, Freddie Santiago, and others.

Bruce Bonvissuto and Alan Raph played euphonium, joining Howard Johnson and Andy Rodgers on tuba.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, one of the best-known Dixieland bands in the world, was founded by Preservation Hall Jazz band owner/proprietor and tubist Alan Jaffe. Since his death, his big-haired son Ben Jaffe has operated the hall and both tuba and bass with the band. Ben has wisely ditched his father's helicon in favor of a custom-painted sousaphone, seen below.

The band's line-up seems to be perpetually changing, but the average age of the band members somehow remains around 70. Check out a great video of what I consider to be the best combination of players (including my personal favorite, Sing Miller) in the middle of an outrageous dance party.

Opa Cupa

American fans of Eastern European tuba playing need not fret if they are unable to fly to Bucharest to catch a Fanfare Ciocarlia show, as NYC's own Slavic Soul Party! is suitably fantastic. The band has released four albums, tours occasionally, and has a standing gig at Barbes every Tuesday. Ron Caswell plays tuba in the band alongside trumpets, trombones, saxophone/clarinet, drums, and a truly gifted accordion player. Brass enthusiasts would also be interested to know that the band often incorporates trubas of varying tessituras in their music. Check out their site for some wild photos of excursions and fill your ears with glorious American-made Balkan goodness.

Kan Marau La

Fanfare Ciocarlia (roughly, Skylark Band) is a Romanian Roma band that is beautiful total chaos. They are best known for a very fast (200+ bpm), high-energy sound, with complex, rapid rhythms and solos. They are also known for using no sheet music in their performances, randomly blasting their horns in the middle of songs, and for playing old, battered instruments onstage.

Since being convinced to leave their village of Zece Prajini in 1996, the twelve-man assemblage of brass, woodwinds, and percussion have played over 1000 concerts in over 50 countries. The majority of their lyrics are in Romanian, but the group borrows musical elements from Roma, Balkan, Muslim, Slavic, and Indian music (also, a fabulous cover of the James Bond theme). Western audiences might recognize them from their contribution of "Born to Be Wild" in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan or their collaboration with electronica-dance artist [dunkelbunt].

FC is interesting from a tuba stand-point in that the group uses a two-tuba system: a BBb helicon and an F helicon playing separate parts for maximum tuba density and intensity. I particularly enjoy their album Queens and Kings, which includes interesting collaborations with people who I can only assume are popular Eastern European musicians that happen to have singing voices modeled after Western cartoon characters. Either way, this band is awesome.