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A Question for Trombonists Who Played in Big Bands/ Jazz Orchestras


Teasing the Korean
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Not quite the same thing but what about large-ish groups on small club stages?  On a trip to NYC in the early 2000s, my wife and I went up to Smoke to see the George Coleman Octet. What I remember most is how tall Harold Mabern was, folded over his piano, and how Gary Smulyan was placed right next to Jim Rotundi and when they both played, Smulyan did it one-handed due to that piercing tone of Rotundi's right next to his ear.

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47 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

Yes, I am that person, and that's how and why I started wearing earplugs.

Yeah, I got some custom musicians earplugs too within my first year in the KC Symphony Chorus (custom earmolds, with inserts for 15db and 25db reduction, and of course you didn’t have to use the same inserts in both ears at the same time).

My mom was an audiologist, and taught audiology at the masters-degree level — and she insisted I get a pair.

And I’ve been wearing them to rock concerts for over 25 years. They weren’t cheap, but they were worth every penny.

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I keep going off topic but as long as hearing aids have to be sold thru licensed professionals, like audiologists, it ought to be a great field to go into.  How long has it been since you first pulled up to someone at a stoplight whose music made the body of your car shake, rattle and hum?  The number of old people needing hearing aids is probably constant (as a percentage) but then think about all the people who wreck/are wrecking/have wrecked their hearing because of their car stereo system.

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1 hour ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Yeah, I got some custom musicians earplugs too within my first year in the KC Symphony Chorus (custom earmolds, with inserts for 15db and 25db reduction, and of course you didn’t have to use the same inserts in both ears at the same time).

My mom was an audiologist, and taught audiology at the masters-degree level — and she insisted I get a pair.

And I’ve been wearing them to rock concerts for over 25 years. They weren’t cheap, but they were worth every penny.

I never could get into the musician earplugs.  I just use the foam rubber ones that reduce the treble.  Considering that I'm nearly 60 and I'm generally having to turn the treble down on the stereo, I guess I did something right!

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A ride cymbal can certainly rob you of hearing. Art Blakey lost a lot of his hearing over the years.

I have not sat in a big band much (playing tenor saxophone and accessories), but I don't remember the trumpets being a problem.

i would hate to have been in Kenton's band. He was an idiot. Diz certainly didn't like him, and I have a quote (in his bio) to prove it. However, Kenton had some fine players in his groups.

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  • 2 months later...

Without hesitation, I confess that OTHER ISSUES as a player were more bothersome than trumpet section placement.  My early experience in a youth symphony established a fondness for sitting directly behind the trumpet section. It seemed to musicalize the trombone parts better than in concert band in high school where trumpets were separated by baritones and low brass all on top row of risers. This always had a battle of the bands effect to my ear.  My preference for big band listening and playing is to stack the band w/ saxes on ground level, trombones on middle platform (seated) and trumpets standing on top riser.  Maybe should be adapted in more settings?  I always liked Buddy Rich Big Band (60s era) and the Mingus Big Band was a musical feast in more recent appearances.  My hearing may have suffered to some extent due to some of this history, but I lasted this long w/o intervention most of the time.  I at all costs deplore too much bass in live (Bob Dylan last tour) or many electric shows (BB King in Las Vegas early 2000s)  and in many digital recordings — what a sad way to balance otherwise musical material. Bring back my all-AR system.  I love treble and highs, trumpets and ride cymbals especially.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Jon King said:

Without hesitation, I confess that OTHER ISSUES as a player were more bothersome than trumpet section placement.  My early experience in a youth symphony established a fondness for sitting directly behind the trumpet section. It seemed to musicalize the trombone parts better than in concert band in high school where trumpets were separated by baritones and low brass all on top row of risers. This always had a battle of the bands effect to my ear.  My preference for big band listening and playing is to stack the band w/ saxes on ground level, trombones on middle platform (seated) and trumpets standing on top riser.  Maybe should be adapted in more settings?  I always liked Buddy Rich Big Band (60s era) and the Mingus Big Band was a musical feast in more recent appearances.  My hearing may have suffered to some extent due to some of this history, but I lasted this long w/o intervention most of the time.  I at all costs deplore too much bass in live (Bob Dylan last tour) or many electric shows (BB King in Las Vegas early 2000s)  and in many digital recordings — what a sad way to balance otherwise musical material. Bring back my all-AR system.  I love treble and highs, trumpets and ride cymbals especially.

Thanks for sharing, and welcome to the forum!  

The stacked configuration you describe is typical, but another typical setting was rhythm in the center, reeds on one side, brass on the other.  Did that present challenges with syncing the reeds and brass properly?

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37 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

Thanks for sharing, and welcome to the forum!  

The stacked configuration you describe is typical, but another typical setting was rhythm in the center, reeds on one side, brass on the other.  Did that present challenges with syncing the reeds and brass properly?

That's the Kenton "Flying V". No other pro band that I can recall used it.

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Kenton didn't necessarily "invent the "stage band", but once he partnered with NTSU and started having clinics (for both students and educators, two on the whole very easily-influenced types of people, imo), it was game over for more than a little bit.

It was funny, our little school, we rehearsed in stacked formation, but for concerts, always Flying V, especially for a contest, because that was a visual signifier how "modern" we were.

And all things considered, we were, especially for such a small town. But that Flying V cracks me up to this day because I don't think I saw any pro band use it other than Kenton.

But to be fair, it worked for Kenton because of the size of the band and the instrumentation to go with it. That band was loud, but it always was a balanced loud. They went equally high and wide.

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19 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Kenton didn't necessarily "invent the "stage band", but once he partnered with NTSU and started having clinics (for both students and educators, two on the whole very easily-influenced types of people, imo), it was game over for more than a little bit.

Understood.

I wonder about the recording studio, though.  As early as the 1950s it was common to hear a stereo big band/jazz orchestra record with the rhythm centered, the brass off to one side, and the reeds off to the other.  Was this a common studio setup to achieve stereo?  And then did Kenton apply that to live settings?

Edited by Teasing the Korean
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I'm not putting money on this, but I seem to remember the first iteration of the flying V being made for the mellophonium band, The mellophoniums were behind the saxophones. And then when the mellophoniums went, the saxes stayed where they were. Like I said, I'm not putting money on this.

As far as recordings, all I know is what I see in the pictures.

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17 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I'm not putting money on this, but I seem to remember the first iteration of the flying V being made for the mellophonium band, The mellophoniums were behind the saxophones. And then when the mellophoniums went, the saxes stayed where they were. Like I said, I'm not putting money on this.

As far as recordings, all I know is what I see in the pictures.

Thanks.  I'm just wondering about the relationship between configurations for stereo recording sessions and those for live settings.  Do you know when the Mellophonium Band began recording? 

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Oh, I remember attending a Kenton concert, the only one his band did in my young midwestern orbit.  The mellophonium section was the big “hook” in that show. 
The overall concert was the loudest event I had personally experienced until going through jet travel at airports!

The building, an old college fieldhouse, was echoing at deafening range that night in the early Sixties.  Acoustic heavy metal?  

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