The Cinnamon Club ………………………..written by russell gilmour
Bold as Brass – 2006
It was Allen Vizzutti’s amazing musicianship which really struck me. He is world renowned for being a technician, but what really comes across, and what I enjoyed most in his performance, was his amazing sound and his lyrical musical interpretations. That, and the jaw-dropping way he screams high Cs and beyond, which he seemed to be able to do effortlessly!
It was an early rise this morning, to get to Altrincham for the start of the “Bold as Brass” day. I had been recommended to go by Peter Pollard who was actually the organiser, and reason the day went so smoothly and was such a success!
When I arrived, the first class had already started (as it took a while for myself and Sam (trombonist from college and fellow octet member) to find the venue from the tram station). The first class was a demonstration of Taylor Trumpets given by Bryan Corbett. This was good, and it was especially interesting as the maker and designer of Taylor Trumpets (Andy Taylor) was there, and sat just in front of me! He was able to explain why this particular choice of horn was suitable for Bryan and the story of its inception and how Bryan came to buy it. There were lots of questions asked by the audience and a few jazz pieces played with accompaniment from the Rhythm section of students from the Chetham’s School of Music, in Manchester, who were excellent.
After Taylor had finished their talk, there was a brief interval (which gave me the chance to hit the trade stands) and the first instrument I picked up of the day was the Edwards Trumpet, in silver plate. From the moment I put my mouthpiece into it and played the first notes, I really liked it, and as I continued to play, I liked it even more especially as I could do lip flexibilities with ease. I can’t quite put my finger on why this trumpet felt so great to me, perhaps it was the imitation Bach lead-pipe and interchangeable bell just suited me, or perhaps it was a combination of things, but I really liked the way this instrument responded to subtle movements in my chops and I especially liked the range of sounds I seemed to be able to produce on it. Given, also, that this was the first instrument I had played all day, I decided, to make it a fair test, to have a quick blow on my trumpet to warm me up and remind me of what I am measuring perspective new instruments against. I did this and went back to the Edwards trumpet a couple of minutes later, it felt just as good, if not better!
After the short interlude, the BBC Philharmonic trumpet section (Jamie Prophet, Mark Mosley and Elaine Close) were on, and playing some trios, orchestral excerpts and later quartets (with an added member of the audience). This group were good and I was just happy listening. Jamie Prophet still recognises me from the Isle of Man (Manx Youth Orchestra) and subsequent meetings, and he saw that I was sat near the front, and my trumpet was in its case under my seat. He asked the audience if anyone would like to come up and try the piece they had just done, there was an under-whelming reply which followed. He then asked “has anyone got their trumpet?”, which blatantly I had. I still kept quiet. He then looked towards me and said, “have you got your trumpet?”, which when I replied and said yes, he took this as meaning, yes I want to play! Anyway, I went up and played the orchestral excerpt with Mark and Elaine (without Jamie as I was landed on first!) I managed quite well and Sam kindly took a photo of me in action!
After the BBC Phil, there was a lunch break, when I hit the Yamaha stands. I really liked the Yamaha Eb Trumpet they had. They had the same model that I had been playing until this year (provided by the Isle of Man Department of Education – the one that I played the Hummel Trumpet Concerto on) and they had the next model up. The next model up was really, really free blowing and I could easily hit a top C. It was also really good to have four valves (and a beautifully positioned off-set fourth valve at that). This was ten times the trumpet I had to do the Hummel on, for starters the valves moved properly and the triggers moved!) I moved through the stands and played a rotary yamaha, various Xeno trumpets, Xeno cornets and eventually had a go on the 4-valve Piccolo Trumpet. I had never played Piccolo Trumpet in my life up until this point, and when I got the pitching sorted, I loved it, although it was really hard work still. Most people (including me, until I tried it) think that the Piccolo is an instrument which makes the notes sound high, that somehow you play a bottom C on Bb trumpet into a Piccolo trumpet and out pops a Super C. No. Unfortunately not, it is just as hard work, it’s just more accurate and in-tune using a Piccolo!). I then reverted to the 4-valve Eb Yamaha and I could really play that after having been so constricted on the Picc! After playing that Piccolo, I could get higher on Eb and later Bb!
I was talking to some of the Manxies (people from the Isle of Man) from Chetham’s and I was introduced to a teacher Adrian Horn, who is the administrator on the Brass-forum which I have been using and loving for some time now! It was great to finally meet him and put a face to the name!
When I was on the Yamaha stand, I heard an American voice, enquiring about the lowest model of trumpet Yamaha do, and he had a play of it, I turned around and saw it was Allen Vizzutti. I carried on playing (probably the Piccolo or Eb) and made a bit of a split, to which he patted me on the shoulder and said something along the lines of “that happens to me too”, which I found highly amusing – I didn’t hear him split a note all day!
I made my way around the other stands and tried every trumpet there, as I’d never been to an event with so many trumpets to try . I had a go on some Taylors, which I liked, but I know that I would not be able to live with at this point of my playing. They are also a very expensive tool for just Jazz playing, as it is not really an orchestral instrument. They are also very heavy, even the ones without the trimmings are incredibly heavy! It was nice to play them, but I do not get a true impression on these instruments because I tried to avoid using my mouthpiece. The Taylor mouthpieces are weighted to balance the horn and metal is added to the mouthpiece in ratio to the rest of the instrument to keep it balanced. This being the case, it felt weird when I used my (non Taylor-balanced) mouthpiece, and it felt equally weird using their alien mouthpieces, as it was not the size or shape I am used to.
After lunch, Chris Houlding was doing a clinic for trombonists and promoting the Edwards instruments. He had a very interesting way of approaching this, and basically gave four students from Chetham’s a short lesson (and played some unaccompanied pieces in-between to show off both himself and the (Edwards) instrument). At the end he explained why he uses Edwards. “I’m happy with this instrument now, and I don’t want to use the Edwards theory of swapping and changing individual parts…[I use this option more as]…my insurance policy” – Chris Holding. I liked this idea of finding a combination that works, then sticking to it, but not being tied down to it permanently.
I decided to get my Vizzutti book signed, and I also wanted my photograph taking to go on my trumpet playing wall of fame. The mission is, to get photographs of me and famous or acclaimed trumpet players. There are now at least two I can think of in the collection: This one and the one of me and Digby Fairweather.
Allen Vizzutti had now started doing rehearsals for the evening concert with Chets’ brass players. The rehearsals were intriguing to watch, especially as he must have been sight-reading or playing it by ear. It was brilliant and the evening concert was even better! It was especially nice as I got the pleasure of hearing Allen play the Flügel Horn as well as the Piccolo and Bb Trumpets. This was a great variation and showed his versatility of sounds and tone.
The evening concert was also excellent with performances from the “Music for Life Big Band” and “Chetham’s Brass Band” as well as “Chetham’s Jazz Sextet with special guest Allen Vizzutti”
Before Peter Pollard packed away all the instruments (having previously seen or heard me playing the Yamaha Piccolo) he asked me to try his prototype “Pollard” Piccolo Trumpet, which he has built himself. It was really good, and really free blowing and could give the Yamaha some competition. It would be interesting to see what a more seasoned Piccolo player than myself though of it, but I gave Peter a rough idea, as he said he doesn’t get to play much these days.
I stayed until about 10:30 (when I had been there for approaching 13 hours!) and decided I’d better make my way back to Altrincham, where I could get the tram back. I would have loved to stay longer, and I dragged it out as long as possible as it was!
Quotes from Vizzutti:
“If you don’t miss a note, you’re not playing Trumpet!” – Allen Vizzutti (18/11/2006)
“Chop time!” – Allen Vizzutti (18/11/2006) (This refers to the time when you let your chops have a work-out)
“You have your fresh moments and your shot moments, and you play most of it in the middle” Allen Vizzutti (18/11/2006)
“I’ve got a gun-rack on the back of my Mercedes, but I don’t put a gun in it, I put a trombone in it, that scares them off!” – Allen Vizzutti (18/11/2006) (He was a great comedian as well)
“Try not to use the ‘Octave Key’ ‘” Allen Vizzutti (20/11/06) at RNCM master class (in reference to the pressure used when you ‘press’ by pulling on the right hand valve hook)
Many Thanks to Peter Pollard, The Cinnamon Club and The ITG (International Trumpet Guild) for recommending this blog entry on their website.
Watch out for BOLD AS BRASS 2009.