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Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Scooby Tuba » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:21 pm

Is it possible? Is the tuba a jazz instrument? Can it used effectively in straight-ahead modern jazz?

I'm not talking about the fitting of a square peg in a round hole like tuba players always try to do. I'm sure people will list off several names that we all have heard...

None of these names stand up to those of Coltrane, Parker, Davis, or even Getz, Rosolino, or Fontana... Not in sales or regard by jazzers.

I have a lot of friends that are commercial players. Hardcore jazzers. The school I went through bred them. You either were or you weren't...

When is that last time you heard a straight-head jazz (would you know it if you heard it?) tuba player blow through some bebop changes? And not sound like the band's uncoordinated cousin?

Tell me now...
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby chipster55 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:42 pm

Check out this link:
http://www.bassethoundmusic.com/store.html" target="_blank" target="_blank This is Jim Self's website.

I've got a couple of the jazz recordings and they're very good. IMHO, the tuba is a great jazz instrument. I'm attempting to learn some jazz pieces. It's a lot more than just reading notes on the page.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby eupher61 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:45 pm

Howard Johnson. 'nuff said. It's just too bad he hasn't done more recording as a lead horn.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Bob1062 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:53 pm

I sat in with an excellent jazz trio on my old Eb last fall (string bass, drums, guitar). I met them through a trumpet playing friend who was going to write a jazz suite and was interested in having some low brass in it. The group seemed to be mostly into Monk, Mingus,... (I really don't know anything "who's who" in jazz! :D) but were incredible at improv, though oddly one or two of them didn't like it.

I could not read concert pitch treble at ALL then, so I started off playing long notes, chords, and the like. Towards the end, I was feeling much more confident and was playing variations on bass lines the bassist was doing. It was a lot of fun, and the trio all really liked how it worked out. The trumpeter moved so we never ended up doing the suite, and I haven't played with them since (I don't attribute that to my playing :D). I also sat in with some new jazz/improv guys on bass trombone and that went really well. So, any lack of tubas in jazz can't be a low instrument thing.
I think tuba with a small combo has a lot of potential.

I have been interested in starting a jazz/fusion/noise/ambient metal/prog/whatever group for a while, and it'll definitely have at least one tuba in it.

Bari sax and bass trombone are fairly popular in jazz (there was an article in the Tribune about a quartet led by a bass trombone, but I wasn't able to see the show; Ryan something...). Why not tuba?

Tuba in a jazz/big band (especially a small horn) is for sure a good idea. A guy on here and the bass trombone forum plays bass trombone, cimbasso, and tuba in a European big band and I know he's not the only one.
I played it on part of the Music Man (bass trombone on the rest), and everyone loved it. Not really jazz, but in some parts I almost felt like a contrabass flugelhorn (Wells Fargo).



I remember hearing about a jazz tuba major a few years ago, but do not remember which school it was at.



The biggest thing is the whole "this is how you play jazz" aspect. I saw the MYA big band (though there was no tuba) a few days ago and they played quite well, but it was more jazz than music. Everything was swung and off-beat. I am not too hot at expressing myself often, but there seems to be as much of that in jazz as in classical.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Scooby Tuba » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:17 pm

eupher61 wrote:Howard Johnson. 'nuff said. It's just too bad he hasn't done more recording as a lead horn.


Isn't "'nuff said."

Go up to a jazzer and say "Howard Johnson" and they'll say, "nah, Motel 6." If you push them they may come up with "is he a tuba guy...?"

HJ is a great, BTW... on many levels...
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby The Jackson » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:29 pm

I think I see the point you are trying to make here, ST. The tuba as a jazz instrument is kind of in a league of its own for the most part, but I think it could work in mainstream jazz. I'd probably go more specific and say a small bass tuba. A contrabass tuba, even a small one (I think) would simply be too "hokey", and become muddled up with the bass line and piano (or treble guitar).

I played some tuba in middle school jazz band, but it was mainly to back up the bass guitarist. (I did bust a few solos though! :tuba: )
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby ken k » Sun Aug 03, 2008 10:00 pm

Unfortunately, John Q. Public has a preconcieved notion or opinion that tuba is not a solo or lead instrument in any musical idiom, not just jazz.

The question should be more like, "Are there any jazz musicians who play tuba?"

Obviously if you listen to HoJo or Dave Bargeron on any of HJ Gravity albums you have to say of course it can or yes there are.

side note: I remember back in college I was having trouble on a lick in jazz band on an arrangement Frank Lacy wrote. (Frank just happened to be at Rutgers at the same time I was.) So he proceeds to pick up my tuba and blow a chorus of Confirmation that would make anyone take notice. It most certainly was a jazz instrument that day!

In the New Orleans idiom of music tuba is integral. I am not talking about just Dixieland, but also second line type stuff like Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Bonerama, or Rebirth Brass Band. All one has to do is listen to Matt Perrine or Nat McIntosh.

But outside of that I think most people in the general music consuming public would not consider it a jazz instrument.

However to counter your question, I would also ask, "Who else, on any instrument today, is equal to a Coltrane, Parker, Davis, or even Getz, Rosolino, or Fontana in terms of changing the way their instrument is perceived or played?" I would say no one, let alone a tuba player.

I understand where you are coming from with your question however. As much as I love to listen to Sam Pilafian for example, he certainly is not a mainstream jazz musician nor a household name as it were. Even though I doubt anyone would argue that he doesn't have "chops". Again mostly due to the bias most listeners would have to the tuba as a lead instrument.

Perhaps this bias is due to the idea of the tuba being thought of as a background instrument rather than a solo instrument.

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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Bob1062 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 10:40 pm

Stefan Kac has some cool stuff (I kept misspelling his name, so it took me forever to find his profile!)-

memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=363
http://www.panmetropolitantrio.com/homemain.html
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Greg » Mon Aug 04, 2008 1:15 am

A second plug for Jim Self. "Tricky Lix" would be a cd that fits your description. Not a novelty tuba cd but a jazz cd with tuba as an instrument in the combo.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Donn » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:03 am

Scooby Tuba wrote:Is it possible? Is the tuba a jazz instrument? Can it used effectively in straight-ahead modern jazz?


I'm sure you're right, it's ill suited to replace a saxophone etc. in that format. Maybe that's so obvious it isn't very interesting, but then maybe that role isn't a very interesting one any more, anyway. I mean, would a Coltrane of the tuba be sweating over whether he was `straight-ahead' enough?

If there are no tuba playing giants of jazz, it's because
  • tuba players characteristically are not up to it?
  • the tuba has a somewhat limited range of expressive potential?
  • contrabass instruments aren't heard well by most listeners?
  • jazz players fear the tuba and won't have anything to do with you?
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Scooby Tuba » Mon Aug 04, 2008 7:02 am

Donn wrote:
Scooby Tuba wrote:Is it possible? Is the tuba a jazz instrument? Can it used effectively in straight-ahead modern jazz?


I'm sure you're right, it's ill suited to replace a saxophone etc. in that format. Maybe that's so obvious it isn't very interesting, but then maybe that role isn't a very interesting one any more, anyway. I mean, would a Coltrane of the tuba be sweating over whether he was `straight-ahead' enough?

If there are no tuba playing giants of jazz, it's because
  • tuba players characteristically are not up to it?
  • the tuba has a somewhat limited range of expressive potential?
  • contrabass instruments aren't heard well by most listeners?
  • jazz players fear the tuba and won't have anything to do with you?


Donn gets it.

Will there ever be a Coltrane of the tuba? Will they run with the pack?

Are his bullet points true? Not up to it? Limited expressive potential? Are we pariahs?
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby dwaskew » Mon Aug 04, 2008 7:43 am

well, I'm not sure about the "not up to it" side of things as an argument. I think it's more of a "coming out of the cocoon" process. in my years of observation, we, as a tuba family, only recently have had young "prodigies" in the classical music side of things--Roland Szentpali and Carol Jantsch coming first and most recently to mind, but there are others, too (Bobo, for instance). This idea of prodigy-on-tuba relates to the jazz question at hand, in that it just takes time. The concept of a musically advanced young person "wasting" their talent on tuba is one we still have to fight, and the idea of a "jazz star" on tuba is similar. To some degree or another, we have to wait for the right person. Who knows when/where, etc. but it likely will happen. Self/Sass/Carolino/Kac/Murphy/Exley and others are doing a great job-- for now we can just sit back and enjoy listening to them (and all of the euphoniumists, too--Ball/Dickman/Yamaoka, et al)
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Donn » Mon Aug 04, 2008 11:50 am

Scooby Tuba wrote:Are his bullet points true? Not up to it? Limited expressive potential? Are we pariahs?


Maybe it would help to consider the euphonium's role in jazz.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby UncleBeer » Mon Aug 04, 2008 11:50 am

Scooby Tuba wrote:None of these names stand up to those of Coltrane, Parker, Davis, or even Getz, Rosolino, or Fontana...

Gosh. I wouldn't even try to talk you out of a silly opinion like that. Don't know who you've been listening to, but they're not the guys that are out there truly doing it. Is it possible you have the same "that's OK...for a TUBA" thing the rest of the world has? :?

Truth told, the fact that you equate "commercial players" with "hardcore jazzers" says a whole lot. Jingles and club dates do not equal "hardcore jazz".
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby ArnoldGottlieb » Mon Aug 04, 2008 12:40 pm

Scooby Tuba wrote:Is it possible? Is the tuba a jazz instrument? Can it used effectively in straight-ahead modern jazz?

I'm not talking about the fitting of a square peg in a round hole like tuba players always try to do. I'm sure people will list off several names that we all have heard...

None of these names stand up to those of Coltrane, Parker, Davis, or even Getz, Rosolino, or Fontana... Not in sales or regard by jazzers.

I have a lot of friends that are commercial players. Hardcore jazzers. The school I went through bred them. You either were or you weren't...

When is that last time you heard a straight-head jazz (would you know it if you heard it?) tuba player blow through some bebop changes? And not sound like the band's uncoordinated cousin?

Tell me now...


Funny!!!!
Bebop, the jazz of the late 40's and early 50's is 60 years old and nothing about it is modern. Is it great? Sure! Tuba players of that era were not included in the classic ensembles (save one), and they are not included in the ensembles of today that try to authentically recreate 60 year old music.
Rosolino? Fontana? Half the people on this board don't know who they are, they are held in high esteem in their niche market, I'd have a hard time believing their record sales made a blip on anyone's radar. As far as players playing modern jazz. Define it, and I'm sure you'll find a slew of players.

Davis playing over changes? What tune are you talking about specifically?

Coltrane playing over changes? Sure, til it became boring for him and he moved on to his career defining work.
I've never heard anybody else on any instrument play bebop like Charlie Parker. No one, not even close.
As the (jazz) music has moved forward, the tuba has joined in. I've heard Matt Perrine, Jon Sass, and Bob Stewart playing jazz over changes. It seems that the "changes" have changed and the modern players have adapted. Stephan Kac sounds awesome on his online stuff with the "Stick" player, though I can't imagine they can recreate a bebop ensemble with those instruments.
Bob Stewart's record tries to (re)create what would have happened if the string bass hadn't replaced the tuba in jazz, Sam Pilafian's records certainly demonsrate a command of the 'changes', and he puts himself in the midst of players who are amazingly able to accompany him. Perhaps we haven't had the right band to play in until these modern times.
What is it you hope to prove with your questions or the answers you receive?
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and as an edit: Coltrane is one of my top 10 favorite musicians ever
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Scooby Tuba » Mon Aug 04, 2008 1:56 pm

UncleBeer wrote:
Scooby Tuba wrote:None of these names stand up to those of Coltrane, Parker, Davis, or even Getz, Rosolino, or Fontana...

Gosh. I wouldn't even try to talk you out of a silly opinion like that. Don't know who you've been listening to, but they're not the guys that are out there truly doing it. Is it possible you have the same "that's OK...for a TUBA" thing the rest of the world has? :?

Truth told, the fact that you equate "commercial players" with "hardcore jazzers" says a whole lot. Jingles and club dates do not equal "hardcore jazz".


No, no, no! Get your head out of the sand! You're trying get off course by making some silly judgement about me when you don't know me at all or why I posted what I posted. Commercial does not equal hardcore jazzer. BUT, these folk are... They can be BOTH. Can the TUBA PLAYERS???

Uncle Beer is out... :twisted:
Last edited by Scooby Tuba on Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Scooby Tuba » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:01 pm

ArnoldGottlieb wrote:What is it you hope to prove with your questions or the answers you receive?


and as an edit: Coltrane is one of my top 10 favorite musicians ever


I hope to prove that there are thoughts occurring in the minds of the Tubenet masses other than "horn of the month, mouthpiece of the month, silver or lacquer..."

ASG with Coltrane on the brain. Cool...
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Doc » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:06 pm

I have to agree that no one plays bebop like Charlie Parker, and I'd bet a dollar to a dog turd that no one ever does. And topping Frank and Carl would be difficult, methinks. Nevertheless, there are tremendously talented and accomplished tubists trying to find their niche in the jazz world.

Just because they aren't talked about in the same breath with Parker and Coltrane, that doesn't mean they aren't at the top of the game. The question becomes, "Who gives a **** about this game besides tuba players?" (Nod to Donn) The public doesn't really care. They already have the notion of what tuba is and does firmly planted in their minds. Talented players like Self, Johnson, Pilafian, etc., while appreciated for their talent, are looked upon by the average moron music consumer as a no more than a novelty. The mentality of the average music consumer is, "I didn't know the tuba could do all that. Can we hear some low notes?"

It's not a sin to take our craft seriously, and it's not a sin to pursue that craft with zeal and great effort. It is a mistake, however, to take our medium (tuba) so seriously in terms of public legitimacy that we forget where we really are on the evolutionary spectrum. Add to that the fact that lyrical tuba is not as appealing to public ears as sax, guitar or trumpet. Add to that the fact that people are shallow and think tuba has little, if any, cool factor as a lead instrument. Few people want to hear lead tuba. If they did, tuba recitals would be overflowing with attendees. Reaching the public through conventional channels won't work, especially when most people don't care to hear tuba as a bass voice, much less a lead voice. Add to that the fact that tuba is not marketed to young students as a lead instrument, and opportunities for young students to play lead only exist for typical lead instruments. (solo contests don't count - you need daily reinforcement). Also, kids never see famous people playing tuba, just trumpet, sax, and guitar.

If the tuba community wants the public to see the tuba in the same way they see sax and trumpet, despite everyone's hard work and worthy efforts, I suggest no one hold their breath. IF it happens at all, we will all be long gone. Don't give up, but understand the REAL reality outside of our comfortable little tuba bubble. Tubby the Tuba will lament his fate a while longer before he shares equal footing with everyone else.
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby Scooby Tuba » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:13 pm

Doc wrote:Talented players like Self, Johnson, Pilafian, etc., while appreciated for their talent, are looked upon by the average moron music consumer as a no more than a novelty. The mentality of the average music consumer is, "I didn't know the tuba could do all that. Can we hear some low notes?"

It's not a sin to take our craft seriously, and it's not a sin to pursue that craft with zeal and great effort. It is a mistake, however, to take our medium (tuba) so seriously in terms of public legitimacy that we forget where we really are on the evolutionary spectrum. Add to that the fact that lyrical tuba is not as appealing to public ears as sax, guitar or trumpet. Add to that the fact that people are shallow and think tuba has little, if any, cool factor as a lead instrument. Few people want to hear lead tuba. If they did, tuba recitals would be overflowing with attendees. Reaching the public through conventional channels won't work, especially when most people don't care to hear tuba as a bass voice, much less a lead voice. Add to that the fact that tuba is not marketed to young students as a lead instrument, and opportunities for young students to play lead only exist for typical lead instruments. (solo contests don't count - you need daily reinforcement). Also, kids never see famous people playing tuba, just trumpet, sax, and guitar.

If the tuba community wants the public to see the tuba in the same way they see sax and trumpet, despite everyone's hard work and worthy efforts, I suggest no one hold their breath. IF it happens at all, we will all be long gone. Don't give up, but understand the REAL reality outside of our comfortable little tuba bubble. Tubby the Tuba will lament his fate a while longer before he shares equal footing with everyone else.


There it is... Doc is speaking the painful truth... :(

Do you care about this public of which Doc speaks???

Or do you like your warm, cozy bubble???
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Re: Tuba as a jazz instrument?

Postby NDSPTuba » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:30 pm

I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of Jazz. Mostly because it is hard to tell one song from the next. A lot of chord changes with someone noodling over the top of them. Usually without much musical direction and made up of phrases lasting as long as they have breath. Big breath, noodle noodle noodle, Big breath, noodle noodle noodle, etc ....... I realize my take might offend and has some origin in my lack of education on the genre, and I've probably not listened to the "right" artists to truly understand what it can be. But I have tried to learn an appreciation for Jazz and outside of Big Band stuff, I just don't have much use for it. Now when it comes to a tuba being a Jazz solo instrument it becomes Really Big Breath, noodle, Really Big Breath, noodle. It just doesn't flow and has even less musical direction. JMHO
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