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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...
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.
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! ) 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 ). 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.
There is no escape from the fortress of the moles!!!!
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...
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! )
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.
B&H Imperial Eb tuba
1919 Pan American BBb Helicon
1924 Buescher BBb tuba
1990 Honda GL1500 Goldwing
http://www.notonthetest.com" target="_blank" target="_blank
Stefan Kac has some cool stuff (I kept misspelling his name, so it took me forever to find his profile!)-
There is no escape from the fortress of the moles!!!!
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.
Witty signature line.
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
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?
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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