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Honestly, Scoob, I don't understand the point.
I can play the crap out of Parker heads, even hold my own improvising over bebop changes. I do find that the nature of the beast (tuba) keeps me from playing the same kind of angular lines I use on, say, piano. The only time I ever played "out front" of a combo was the ITEC jazz competition, and that was fun but felt really weird.
That being said, I wouldn't particularly expect more than a very, very small percentage of the population in general to "get" a lead jazz tubist any more that I would expect them to "get" a tuba soloist in any other genre. Face it, it ain't gonna be popular with the folks, no matter how good the player is. Was that the point?
Good thinking and well said.
The point really is to think about changing perceptions.
If we don't, jazz is dead and so are we...
Excellent post, Scoob, and questions that I've been asking on my own for a while.
Much as I enjoy listening to Bob Stewart or Sam Pilafian, I don't think of them as jazz leads in the same way I think of the many icons mentioned (plus younger (or at least living) players like Greg Osby, Chris Potter, Charnette Moffet, Roy Hargrove, etc.).
I don't think a lead-jazz tubist has appeared yet.
Let's face it, even string bass players don't get the leads like their sax, piano, trumpet playing counterparts. This isn't about household-name status or some other type of market-driven recognition; it's about these two things (I think):
1. Very low note playing instruments are just not as nimble. It takes more time for low notes to sound. It's hard to be very dazzling, as a result.
2. I'm not sure whether it's cultural or biological, but the music listening public isn't attuned to listening in that low range.
And I completely agree with the article above that rails at tubists who 'cheat' by playing in the high range and on smaller instruments. That doesn't cut it for me. Might as well play trombone--which has been only moderately more successful in the jazz idiom.
To me, the main component of jazz is improvisation. Where are the great tuba improvisors?
I've sometimes fancied myself as someone who'd figure out how to find the new, jazz sound on a tuba. Hasn't happened.
It's certainly not straight-ahead jazz, but if you haven't yet given a listen to William Roper or Oren Marshall, I'd recommend it.
I was very interested to come across this thread having just released a jazz tuba album (entitled Buckhorn Morning) where I do a lot of lead playing and improv. I would certainly agree that the tuba is not as nimble as some of our smaller counterparts. Sometimes I felt like a Hercules transport plane trying to do barrel rolls with a squadron of F18's. However, the tuba has a uniquely beautiful sound that deserves to be heard in a jazz setting.
I also think that you make an interesting point about players "cheating" by playing in the high register on a small instrument. I guess my main concern there is that while you gain dexterity you lose some of the characteristic fullness of the tuba's sound if you are playing on a peashooter. In my case I do a fair bit of high register playing but using a larger CC tuba (a B&S 606P) so I'll leave it to others to decide if I'm cheating or not.
B&S 606P CC
cd: Buckhorn Morning
I've spent the last few days listening to your CD. Thanks so much for that!
I've been playing it for several of my musician friends (a couple of jazzers in the mix) and they are all in agreement - you're a phenomenal jazz musician! There's such a natural feel to your lines and fluency in your melodic choices that there's no question as to whether you're a just tuba player who plays jazz or a jazz musician who happens to play tuba. You are certainly the latter! While I love your tuba playing, of course, you're a true jazz musician.
I urge everyone to get a copy of Doug's CD. Not just because we wanna hear a great tubist, but because it's truly a wonderful jazz CD.
By the way, if you are to look at the members of the band on the CD and you're familiar with the 'who's who' in the scene in and around Toronto, you'll see proof that our upper crust jazz artists take Doug seriously as a jazz musician as well.
nice to see this old thread again with a new jazz tuba album announced. I hope it will be available in Europe too?
Another question about "cheating with small instruments": Is Oystein "cheating" because he plays a smaller Eb-tuba?
Tubas are different from small to big, and anyone can choose what he or she likes and suites best for the musical context, be it classic or jazz.
Happy Christmas to everyone!
The cheating comment bothers me because if it is a tuba no matter it's size or key than that's it end of discussion. Is it cheating when Coltrane plays soprano sax instead of tenor? No to suggest that the size or key of the tuba matters is incorrect. I think the main focus should be to get more tuba players to play jazz and in jazz ensembles. I did through high school and college on BBb and a CC, did solo's at concerts and jazz festivals won jazz awards at the berklee HS jazz festival for my solo's.
What needs to change is peoples stuffiness about what is a jazz instrument and what is not. Jazz as a musical style is about trying new things and change. If we waited for the audience to tell us what they want to hear half of the jazz styles never would have been created, did Parker ask if anyone wanted bebop, did Miles ask if anyone wanted cool or modal, no they were inovators. As a matter of fact on the birth of the cool album Miles uses tuba on the whole album.
Adjunct Professor of Tuba and Euphonium
Sacred Heart University
Miraphone 184 CC
Kalison DS CC
Northern Low Brass
To Al. thanks for your kind words!
Thanks for your interest in my cd! It should be available worldwide through iTunes and CDBaby. I have links on my website at http://www.dougburrell.ca.
Re: Oystein "cheating" I say absolutely not. Oystein makes no musical compromises in his playing at all with no sacrifice of tone for velocity and taking maximum advantage of the capabilities of his instrument. The results are stunningly beautiful.
Re: Tubajason's comment
I couldn't agree more. We need to stop letting others define what musical roles the tuba can or cannot play.
Merry Christmas to All!
B&S 606P CC
cd: Buckhorn Morning
well i just did a research paper on jazz and
tuba was used in early jazz because of its POWERFUL volume.
so yeah you could play tuba in modern jazz if you want it will just sound a little different
- Sparkman HS Tuba (co)-Section Leader
The Be Bop vocabulary was developed by an alto saxophone player and trumpeter, and is ideally suited to those instruments. However it does not really suit the guitar of piano as well, even though there are great Be Bop players on those instruments.
As someone who used to be interested in jazz, I have noticed that Be Bop seems to be the benchmark for jazz playing, however I prefer non-Be Bop styles over Be Bop; and I must add, so do most listeners.
So to answer your question, the wonderful tuba parts in Ernie Wilkins' big band arrangements, or the two tubas in the arrangements of Gil Evans show that the tuba is an indispensable jazz instrument, even if it can't play John Coltrane transcriptions as well as a saxophone. Styles are often defined by great players: Parker on alto saxophone; Garbarek on tenor saxophone, Errol Garner on piano et al. All it needs is a tuba player to define a style unique to tuba and everyone will be imitating the tuba.
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