An extreme solo

In 2012, one of my big projects was to work on and perform the Luciano Berio Sequenza X for trumpet and piano resonance. It’s basically an unaccompanied, avant-garde trumpet solo, but there is a piano to help resonate what the trumpet is doing. The piano uses various combinations of pedaling and depressing keys (but never sounding notes with the hammers).

Meg Owens, who ran the contemporary music ensemble at George Mason University, invited me to perform this piece on one of their concerts. I prepared for about six months, which, in my opinion, is not enough. I believe the piece probably needs about nine to 12 months of solid practice to start really sounding good.

One of the features of the Sequenza X is its use of “doodle tongue.”  Berio was inspired by jazz trumpeter Clark Terry’s doodle tonguing. In order to successfully play the doodle passages in the Berio, however, the performer has to get the doodle tongue a lot crisper.

Some notable performers of this piece have been Thomas Stevens, the former principal of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who commissioned and premiered it. As to premiering it, Gabriele Cassone, famed Italian soloist, also makes this claim. As I understand it, Cassone actually worked with Berio to help shape the composition of the piece. William Forman, an American-born trumpeter teaching in Berlin, made a notable recording. Chris Gekker told me that he performed the East Coast premier of the Berio. He also related to me that the piece benefits from using a microphone to pick up the delicate resonation of the piano. When I performed it at GMU, this is what I did also, and I heartily recommend it for anyone else.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a recording of this performance, but I encourage you to listen to one of the commercial recordings this extreme piece of our literature.

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Black History Month presentation with the Navy Band Brass Quartet

In 2011 and 2012, the Navy Band Brass Quartet did a couple of presentations focusing on the diversity in the U.S. Navy and in the Navy Band program. We presented a program about our Hispanic heritage at a local school. This was the music we prepared:

  • Ritchie Valens, La Bamba
  • Robert Russell Bennett, Farragut
  • Joseíto Fernández, Guantanamera
  • Antonio Romero Monge, Macarena
  • Cayetano Alberto Silva, San Lorenzo March
  • Jaime Teixidor, Amparito roca

We had teachers and students all dancing the Macarena at the end of this program–it was so fun to get that reaction, because brass quartets don’t usually get people dancing.

On February 17, 2012, we collaborated with Cory Parker to present a Black History Month program. This was a big challenge for all of us, but it was a meaningful project.

Our program was the following:

  • Alton Adams, Spirit of the USN and The Governor’s Own
  • William Grant Still, The Negro Speaks of Rivers
  • Wade in the Water
  • Clark Terry, One Foot in the Gutter
  • John Coltrane, Impressions

Here’s a video presentation the U.S. Navy Band did summarize this program.

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