Phil Slater solo on Broadway + Thoughts on Reading
Ah, the perils of WordPress…
Firstly, apologies for the lack of new material on the site the past two months. I’ve been transcribing don’t you worry, but nothing up till now has seemed worthy of being posted in the public domain of the W W W. Also, I was eager to write another ‘What I Know About’ article, but realised that, well, I don’t really know that much more about ‘stuff’. But fear not, I’ve decided to start dipping my toes into concepts slightly more abstract. Stay tuned.
You know, I think writing, even as unavailing as this collection of garbage, is a great process to commit to every so often. It was until recently that I started to think that way. What stimulated it all was a re-kindling of the pleasure of leisurely reading. Like a lot of us I loved my books when I was in the junior years of high school but as reading became more of a chore I let it go and only really read mandatory texts that were assigned by school. Only early this year I hopped back on the leisure horse and it’s weirdly fulfilling. I really believe their are un-said benefits from committing to a large body of text. I like to think I’m fairly well read in terms of a current affairs and online articles etc. but reading a book is an entirely different kettle of chips. In a way I sense younger demographics view physical books are so sort archaic, I guess partly thanks to tablets and e-readers that give a technological twist to an art form that has been around since the bronze age of Mesopotamia [Don’t know where that is? Read about it!] and really this day an-age there is a nearly limitless abundance of casual reading available to us at the click of a mouse that committing to a novel can sometimes seem nearly unnecessary. But to those of you who are not currently reading a book, go out and buy one. You’ll get that weird, indescribable satisfaction of buying a physical book.
I’m currently eye-crawling through Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’ . I say eye-crawling because I’ve recommended the book to friends and they have finished it before me. My pace is no reflection of the book itself, just my lack of commitment to read outside designated reading times [e.g. on public transport] coupled with a sudden urge to learn Japanese. The novel is basically this beautiful concoction of one part anecdotal recollection of a motorcycle journey across U.S. and one part philosophical musings on the greater details of it all, intertwined and interconnected through the course of the novel. I believe it was a bit of a cult classic in the 70’s when first published. Really a top book. Especially if you want a light, or quasi-philosophical read.
Interestingly, this book was recommend to me by none other than trumpet guru and subject of this very article: Phil Slater. Now, I could write a entire article on how awesome Phil is but I’m going to try my best to refrain from desultory compliments. Most of you reading this blog will be well acquainted with Phil, but for those not so connected with the Sydney jazz/improvised music scene, Phil is, in short, arguably Australia’s best improvising trumpeter. He also happens to be my teacher, mentor and favourite earth-bound trumpeter.
I think it fitting to mention that Phil has recently gained some international attention after a trip to the states where he and Melbourne-based trumpet-freak Scott Tinkler [who is equally deserving of the title of Australia’s best improvising trumpeter] visited Dave Monette’s Trumpet Factory in Portland, Oregon.
A quick aside. Dave Monette is a semi-controversial trumpet-maker who has built a reputation for subverting traditional trumpet design and construction. He and his horns have gained a sort of pop-culture status in the trumpet-sphere as the creme-de-la-creme of trumpet hardware. Beware, his horns will set you back five figures. But many say his they are worth every cent. Some very heavy cats swear by or have sworn by his horns including Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Art Farmer, Ingrid Jensen plus the late Maynard Ferguson to name only a few. Two other important names that also play Monette trumpets are Phil Slater and Scott Tinkler. Aside over.
Both Phil and Scott have being playing their Monette trumpets for over a decade or so and thought it time to go over and get their horn serviced, grab some new gear [or in the case of Scott, a new horn-hey there big spender]. It just so happened their trip coincided with Monette’s celebration of 30 years of trumpet-making. In classic Monette fashion, to celebrate he organised a three day trumpet-fuelled extravaganza/festival, with performances from some of the top Monette-playing trumpeters including the likes of Adam Rapa, Ingrid Jensen, Scotty Barnhart, plus some classical cats. Phil and Scott were asked to come and play at the festival also, although as you can imagine, they were virtually unknown to those attending.
But that all swiftly changed. In the weeks after their visit, Phil and Scott have both had an outstanding response from social media on their playing; most of all by none other than Dave Monette, who by the sounds of things was genuinely blown away by the conceptual originality and technical facility of these two Aussie guys.
For the non-trumpet players out there, I should add Dave Monette loves to take videos of visiting guests. It’s basically his one-step marketing strategy. His facebook page is riddled with clips of high-profile vistors playing his horns [and noticably enjoying/raving about them]
In the days after the festival, the first videos Monette uploaded were of the two Australian guys- before Scotty Barnhart and Ingrid Jensen, even before Monette’s poster-boy Adam Rapa- and in each clip he uploaded of the two Aussies, Dave seemed genuinely in awe the sounds and concepts coming out of their horns. [Check out the videos here]
EDIT: Now, I should add that I had written another thousand or so words accompanying the above body of text, but good ol’ mate WordPress, let me down after I clicked to save it came up with a connection area, aka bye bye hard work. So below is an abridged version as my level of bother to re-think and re-type it all doesn’t span that far. I guess a word of warning to WordPress users, draft your posts and pages on a word-processing application that isn’t connected to the internet!!!!!
In my eyes, that is not only an exceptional wrap for Phil and Scott, but an equally exceptional wrap for Australian improvised music and possibly even the ‘Australian Sound’- if such a thing exists. I think it shows that our disconnect both geographically and culturally to the groove of New Orleans and the general mind-fuck of New York, has produced something sonically unique.
Although Phil and Scott are only two examples, and extreme example at that, I could nearly guarantee that if they grew up in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, they would be very different players to the two guys who grew up in the ‘burbs of Australia’s east coast.
The product of their contextual upbringing is two of the most original trumpeters on the planet, good on you Australia, keep producing gems.
I feel obligated to share some of Phil thoughts on the whole conceptual/originality thing. The first point he made was that he deems sound the most important factor as both a performer and listener. I think if you’ve ever heard Phil play that is no surprise.The other point he made was that to forge and ‘original’ voice [or I should probably say, one way to forge and original voice] is to gather 2-3 concepts and shed the shit out of them and make them your own. Originality isn’t about being an all-rounder, its about having your stylistic niche.
Although trivial and trumpet-focused I feel I should add two pieces of advice Scott Tinkler once after a gig he did at the Red Rattler. The first was that you should practise the trumpet for 5 hours a day for a year, and after that you will be technically sound. On a lighter note, he also told me to ‘practise before you take a shit in the morning’, or words to that affect. Deep.
So anyway, how bout these dots and lines! This transcriptions is from Abel Cross’ Neo Bop quintet’s self titled album, released on Rufus Records early this year. The name says it all. Five Sydney guys [picture above] playing in the style of the early 40’s and 50’s. What makes it so much more than that is everyone’s little spin on it all- especially Phil. For those that don’t know, Phil studied the tradition heavily during his formative years. I think thats a great lesson for everyone, that there is nothing wrong with understanding the tradition before forging your own path. Scott did it too and he doesn’t even consider himself a ‘jazz’ musician these days. [#whatisjazz?]
All the tracks from this album are stellar, but I chose Broadway for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s the only standard on the album [an seemingly obscure one though]and I wanted get the progression down. I also thought it best represented the dichotomy in Phil’s approach to these tunes. The first side is his bop orientated and stylistic accurate approach, where he pulls out a lick or two [especially the first A section] The other side of it is when he decides to pull out all his phil-isms- those concepts that make Phil sound like Phil.
For example, he loves the chromatic thirds run and utilises it a lot in his general playing [eg bar 13 and 15] Although it’s by no means an original harmonic concept, he has undoubtedly made it his own, especially when coupled with his tone and articulation.
This one was a bit of an enharmonic nightmare, sorry if it confuses anyone. I tried to spell it out in a way I could most easily read. Also beware of bar 55, I gave up after beat 2 but basically he plays something wacky till beat 1 of the next bar, it was too fast for me to hear. Otherwise enjoy.
Bb PDF: Phil Slater solo on Broadway
Just incase you missed the link, I implore you to visit the Monette facebook page and check out his videos of the guys. https://www.facebook.com/monettetrumpets
[But seriously if Phil or Scott are reading this, please do one of those dual trumpet gigs again like that time at 505!]