Higher-Register Education

The end of summer at JT means a mad dash to assemble the two books you just received in the time allotted for one. Not the best conditions, yet every year I’m pleased with the results, and think you’ll be too. The October brass-themed issue is packed with truly lucid features, as is the bonus 2008-2009 Jazz Education Guide. You don’t need to know Jamey Aebersold personally to enjoy this supplement: Pieces on jazz programs at historically black colleges and universities, the intersection of conservatory training and jazz instruction, and the apprenticeship tradition could just as well exist in one of our regular editions. And for young Berklee or Juilliard hopefuls, we’ve even got a freshman year survival guide and a clip on making the perfect audition recording. (Please pass those on to the first-chair trumpeter in your nearest high-school combo.)

The impending school season also signifies the unfortunate end of summertime festivals. I made it to San Sebastian, Spain, for the Heineken Jazzaldia events, where the only thing more sublime than the performances was the scenery. Hopefully you got a chance to check out a fest or two: If you didn’t, or if you want to know what JT’s critics thought of the event you did attend, flip to page 26 for a quick excerpt and then log on to jazztimes.com for full coverage.

But you don’t have to bring a lawn chair every time you want to hear a lot of jazz in a short stretch, and one of jazz’s most incisively programmed soirees is—if you’re a subscriber—happening right now. The Dave Douglas-directed Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) commands Manhattan and Brooklyn venues from Sept. 14-28 with the full spectrum of attitudes and approaches to jazz (and anti-jazz) trumpet, from the muscular to the meditative to the just plain out.

Two pieces in our October brass issue cover the extremes of that gamut: Nate Chinen’s Gig installment, “Of Horns & Hard Drives,” delves into the use of electronics as conceptual instigators for trumpeters. Many of Chinen’s electro-savvy subjects, among them Cuong Vu and Shane Endsley, have a jones for new sonic landscapes that obscures the trumpet’s history of cutting contests and high-register squeals. (In the Ed Guide cover story on Jon Faddis, the former Dizzy protégé of matchless technique is revealed as a surprisingly art-minded teacher, stressing personality, emotion and performance. Who says you can’t have it both ways?)

If you need a refresher course on how physically (and mentally) taxing the trumpet can be, read Geoffrey Himes’ October cover profile on brass god Freddie Hubbard. Hubbard’s embouchure ills stretch back to a lip blister that burst over 15 years ago, and, compounded with additional health woes, he hasn’t yet achieved anything you’d consider rehabilitation. But the piece isn’t a eulogy or even a cautionary tale, as Hubbard’s limited physical resources have assigned new value to his composition work—an angle of Hubbard’s genius previously eclipsed by his heroic chops. If you’re looking for them, his story also brims with lessons—complicated ones, full of unexpected triumphs and strange shortcomings. How’s that for jazz education?

Originally published in October 2008

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