Monday, April 21, 2014

Chick’ a’ Bone Checkout

Christan Lindberg’s “Chick’ a’ Bone Checkout” for alto, tenor & bass trombone was premiered by Charlie Vernon ( bass trombone - CSO ) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2006.  Lindberg, a living legend among trombonists, has been commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Association to compose a piece for Charlie, and the collaboration between two of the greatest trombonists of all time begin. The result was exactly as expected, beautiful melodies combined with rhythmic interludes and an excellent orchestration make this composition a great addition to the trombone solo repertoire.
At the premiere, in Orchestra Hall, the performance received an instant standing ovation, an extremely rare occurrence for a new composition.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New Trombone Collective

The New Trombone Collective consists of 8 world class trombonists from The Netherlands. The members of the group are graduates of the Rotterdam Conservatory and besides their work with the NTC, they are some of the leading orchestral players and soloists from Europe.
Musicality, creativity and a wonderful team spirit are key words when describing the New Trombone Collective. Working closely with composers, the ensemble has commissioned and presented many new works, greatly contributing to the ever needed expansion of the trombone chamber music repertoire. 
In 2005 the first Slide Factory trombone festival took place in Rotterdam under the name “Dutch Trombone Festival”. An initiative of the NTC, the Slide Factory had four more editions since, becoming one of the greatest trombone festivals from around the world.

Warm up routines in the BSO

Trumpet player in the Boston Symphony, Michael Martin created a short video demonstrating the best ways to warm up on the brass instruments. With the collaborations of his colleagues from BSO, Mike presents several extremely (for real) efficient ways to pre-concert warm ups. This video was produced as a promo for the National Brass Symposium, an event created by Mike and  his brother Chris Martin, from the Chicago Symphony, featuring some of the most renowned players in the world.
It is my hope that, especially young students will quickly start incorporating these techniques in their daily routines :)) Enjoy and learn !!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The music of James Stephenson

If you are not familiar with composer James Stephenson's music, you should look him up and get to know his works. A Chicago area composer, his works have been performed by leading American orchestras and around the world. James has been hailed by critics as having “straightforward, unabashedly beautiful sounds” and “Stephenson deserves to be heard again and again!” (Boston Herald).
His compositions range from concertos and sonatas for nearly every wind instrument to the violin and piano. Commissions for solo works have come from principal players in the the symphonies of Chicago, Boston, NY Phil, Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestra, Washington DC (National), Oregon, Dallas, among others.
Also active as a highly sought-after arranger, Stephenson’s arrangements have been performed/recorded/broadcast by virtually every major orchestra in the country, including the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, NY Pops and more.
Before moving to Lake Forest as a full-time composer/conductor, Stephenson spent 17 seasons with the Naples (FL) Philharmonic as a trumpeter, a position he won immediately upon graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music.
Stephenson is currently enjoying a position of Composer-in-Residence with the Lake Forest Symphony. 

Being a brass player himself, James greatly contributed already to the brass repertoire, composing many solo and chamber group pieces for brass instruments. Looking forward to many more new compositions !

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Axiom Brass Quintet

Chicago based Axiom Brass Quintet is one of the great chamber groups representing Chicago and United States around the world today. Winners of multiple national and international awards, such as the prestigious Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition, the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau in Germany (both in 2012), the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize-winners of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea, the Axiom Brass is dedicated to enhancing the musical life of communities across the globe and educating the next generation of musicians.
Besides their busy performing schedule, Axiom Brass is committed to the educating of future audiences. For their efforts in the field of education the ensemble was recognized in 2011 with the Fischoff Educator Award.
Axiom is Ensemble-in-Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and Rush Hour Concerts’ Back of the Yards program. The group performs exclusively on Mutec Mutes and on S. E. Shires trumpets and trombones.

Jay Friedman talking about the CSO Brass Style

Priceless information right here !!!!! I have heard so many opinions about why the CSO Brass sounds the way they are, about Arnold Jacobs and Bud Herseth's playing style back in the days when they were in the orchestra... There is quite a bit of confusion out there, at least from what I have experienced, especially about the "loudness" of the CSO Brass. In the following interview, Jay will explain exactly the core ideas and approach of the unique CSO brass section and the legacy they are carrying on after all these years. Highly recommended !

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Maniacal 4

The Maniacal 4 Trombone Quartet quickly gained worldwide recognition after their immensely successful YouTube video performing an arrangement of the "Carry On Wayward Son" single, which was originally released in 1976 by the progressive rock band Kansas. Since their initial success the quartet have toured and played concerts on three continents, entertaining audiences with a wide range of styles and time periods. According to their website, "Carry On is Maniacal 4's trombone quartet tribute to the classic rock legends of the 1970s." 
They have been recording and releasing other arrangements of rock singles, from groups such as Queen, Toto, Styx etc. 
Looking forward for more exciting and innovating projects from this great ensemble.

London Trombone Sound

  The London based, Cala Records is known for its creative programming and high quality recorded sound. From 1990, the year when it was formed, the label has released over 100 CD's. Perhaps the most innovative project the label has started, was the "London Sound" series. The first CD released under this new series was The London Cello Sound, including 40 players from professional London based orchestras. The recording quickly become a best seller, so the company started producing more CD's in the series using other instruments of the orchestra, such as the violins, violas, double basses, horns, trumpets, trombones and harps.
 Former conductor of The University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra, Geoffrey Simon is the Artistic Director of Cala Records, Ltd. and the conductor for The London Trombone Sound recording. With the music arrangements by Eric Crees, principal trombone of the London Symphony Orchestra, and with the participation of 16 professional orchestral players from London, this recording represents the ultimate showcase for the trombone. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thoughts about a masterclass...

Yesterday, Professor Gusztav Hona from the "Liszt Ferenc" Music Academy in Budapest, Hungary and the Corpus Trombone Quartet were the guests of The University of Iowa Trombone Studio. In the afternoon preceding the guest recital, selected members from the trombone studio had an opportunity to perform for Prof. Hona. Excerpts form Mozart to Mahler were heard, as well as solos.
It is quite interesting to hear the slightly different style, or approach if you will (the so called "European" style) to some technical and stylistic aspects of trombone playing. Even if certain concepts might be more or less different at times, the elements of basic musicianship are always the biggest problem when students perform. It is always the small details which constitute the problem. Intonation and rhythm deficiencies are the most common issue !!!
Great musicians  are always very sensitive to those elements regardless of where they trained and which "trombone playing school" they belong to.
It's always a well invested and extraordinary important time to check on tuning, rhythm accuracy and variety of articulations when we practice...just to name a few important basics.
Quality over quantity !

Thursday, March 27, 2014

CSO Brass Concerts

In my first post I mentioned briefly the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass. I would like to expand this topic a little bit...
Known for the unique, brilliant and powerful sound they produce, the brass players of the CSO have gained worldwide admiration for their performances with the orchestra, and for their chamber music adventures as well.
The CSO Brass started giving occasional concerts independently in the 1970's. Today the group performs in Orchestra Hall, usually during the month of December.
Besides the priceless benefits of their highly inspirational concerts, the group has been performing many original pieces and arrangements, therefore enriching the brass ensemble repertoire.
Members of the brass section are horn players Daniel Gingrich, James Smelser, David Griffin, Oto Carrillo and Susanna Drake; trumpets Christopher Martin, Mark Ridenour, John Hagstrom and Tage Larsen; trombones Jay Friedman, Michael Mulcahy and Charles Vernon; and tuba Gene Pokorny.

Hidas, a great composer of brass music

Hidas Frigyes was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1928. After finishing his studies in composition at the "Ferenc Liszt" Music Academy, he became the Music Director of the National Theatre (1951 - 1966) and between 1974 and 1979 he held the same position at the Budapest Municipal Operetta Theatre.
Hidas was a highly prolific composer, especially known around the world for
his woodwind and brass chamber music and for his works for wind-orchestra instruments and chamber music. His compositions reflect his belief in tunes and harmonies in a traditional sense of those terms. The music is challenging, yet accessible.  Throughout his career, Hidas received numerous commissions by Ballet Companies, the Hungarian State Opera House, Radio stations, Universities and various musical societies.

Slokar Trombone Quartet

One of the most successful trombone quartets in the world for the last 35 years was founded in Europe by the great trombone soloist and teacher, Branimir Slokar. 
Born in Maribor, Slovenia, Slokar decided to dedicate his life to music when he won the first prize as a trombonist at the 7th Yugoslav music contest in Zagreb.
In 1969 he finished his sudies with excellent results at the Music Academy in Ljubjana and then he went to Paris to continue his studies at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique. He won several prizes, among others he won the prestigious International ARD Music Competition in Munich.

The Slokar Quartet has toured all over the world and since they started performing together the group has released eleven recordings including a very broad repertoire which ranges from arrangements of early baroque music to first performances of contemporary works.
Many important contemporary composers have been inspired to collaborate intensively with the Slokar Quartet, which has led to a significant expansion of present-day trombone literature.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Eliot Carter - Brass Quintet

Composed in 1974 for the American Brass Quintet, the Eliot Carter Brass Quintet is truly a unique challenge for the performers and the audience alike. For the performers, it is an incredible task to overcome mainly the technical and rhythmical challenges. For the audience the sound-world created by Carter could be something completely new, unusual rather, especially coming from the instruments of a brass quintet.
The composition leaves very little room for the listener to anchor his/her ears on harmonic or melodic segments. The complex rhythms are the real driving force here, thus creating an interesting sonic world.
The work was premiered by the ABQ in London at the Charles Ives Festival and about a month later received its US debut. It is recorded on the ABQ album titled "Classic American Brass."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

ITA Interviews

Last year I got involved with a project initiated by the International Trombone Association to conduct video interviews with important trombone players and teachers around. I became the "midwest representative" for this project, and soon after a first interview took place with Pete Ellefson, trombone soloist and professor at Indiana University. The plan is to continue this project with players from the Chicago area and continuing with as many interviews as possible. Having no previous experience at all in this kind of endeavours, I wasn't sure what to expect. The interview turned out to be a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to have an in depth and multifaceted conversation about trombone playing, teaching and life as a trombonist in general.
Please check out the members section on the ITA website for the interview with Pete and other ones as well. Enjoy !

Corpus Trombone Quartet

 In 2001 four graduates of the "Liszt Ferenc" Music Academy in Budapest, Hungary decided to form a trombone quartet. The CTQ was born shortly after and the group quickly emerged as one of the leading trombone quartets in Hungary by winning the special prize of the jury at the 7th International Brass Chamber Competition in Passau, Germany, only three months into their existence as a quartet. This initial success was followed by many international distinctions such as: 2001. International Brass Competition, Passau, Germany, Special Prize; 2003. ITA Trombone Quartet Competition, Helsinki, Finnland, 1. Prize; 2003. Philip Jones Brass Competition, Guebwiller, France, 1. Prize; 2004. International Brass Competititon, Passau, Germany, 4. Prize; 2004. Jan Koetsier Trombone Quartet Competition, Munich, Germany, 1. Prize; 2006. Special Prize of The Best Chamber Group in Hungary Special Prize of Hungarian Stars; 2008. Artisjus Prize; 2010. 11th International Brass Competition Passau, Germany 1st Prize; 2011. Artisjus Prize.
All these successes propelled the group to an international recognition. CTQ has travelled all over the world playing recitals and giving masterclasses. 
Corpus is sponsored by Michael Rath Trombones. Please check out their website for tour dates and other info.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gaudete Brass Quintet

Recently I had a chance to sit down and have a long discussion followed by lunch with Scott Tegge the tuba player from the Chicago based Gaudete Brass Quintet. This young and energetic group is quickly emerging as one of the great brass ensembles in the Chicago area and they are on the fast track to become one of the most respected brass quintets around.
Having commissioned roughly about 40 new pieces for brass quintet, the goal of the GBQ is to "present serious brass chamber music through compelling concerts, to commission new works and release adventurous recordings."
Please check out their recordings ( three so far ) and support them as they are actively contributing to the ever needed brass quintet repertoire.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Les Sacqueboutiers

Les Sacqueboutiers is an ensemble from the city of  Toulouse in the southwestern part of France. Formed more than 30 years ago, the group performs exclusively on early brass instruments and they are regarded today as one of the finest ensembles of this kind in the world. Led by artistic directors and Toulouse Music Conservatory professors Jean-Pierre Canihac on cornett and Daniel Lasalle on sackbut, Les Sacqueboutiers are considered a leading authority in the interpretation of the 17th century instrumental music. The ensemble can be heard on over 20 award winning recordings as well as live performances at major music festivals around the world.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Giovanni Gabrieli - Sacrae Symphoniae

The great Italian composer and organist Giovanni Gabrieli composed his sacred concerto titled "Sacrae Symphoniae" in 1597. In Venice, where Gabrielli worked as organist of the St. Mark Cathedral, it was in practice in the late 16th century to combine instrumental groups, mainly winds, with voices.
 In the recording below, we can hear a great rendition of Gabrielli's sound world, especially because the piece is performed on period instruments. "Les Saqboutieres", an ensemble based in Toulouse, France performs exclusively on period brass instruments. (more about them in a future post). Enjoy !

Friday, February 21, 2014

Vuvuzela and the Berlin Philharmonic Brass

In 2010 South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup, being the first African nation in the history to win the bid for this great event. Organized every 4 years, this tournament brings together the best national football (soccer) teams form around the world.
One of the most memorable aspects of this event, was the sound created during the games by local fans by using a horn, called Vuvuzela. Made from plastic and about 2 ft long, the Vuvuzela produces a loud monotone note. When used by thousands of fans simultaneously, it is easy to imagine the effect created.
 During the month long tournament the Vuvuzela gained worldwide popularity, reaching the peak of it's meteoric rise to stardom by making it into one of the top symphony orchestras in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic.
Watch the video below, and decide if the Vuvuzela ( even if it's plastic!) should be included as an equal member of the brass family.

Bach 2000

2000 was a Bach memorial year, so more than 70,000 visitors poured into the German town of Leipzig to celebrate and enjoy over over 90 concerts. A lot of renowned artists from all over the world performed there, each of them honouring Bach in their own personal way. Leipzig was the centre of the music world that year !

German Brass, the amazing brass ensemble from Germany, was among the many artists who were invited to perform in Leipzig that year. For this occasion the group, including members from top German orchestras,  prepared a whole program of Bach arrangements which they performed and recorded live in the St. Thomas church.
It turned out to be an absolutely amazing recording, a must have item in any musicians library :) Enjoy !

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Casbah of Tetouan

Tetouan is one of the two major port cities in Morocco, situated on the north side of the country, close to the strait of Gibraltar. Composer/horn player Kerry Turner visited the city in 1988 and during this visit he was inspired to compose this work. Later, the composer recalled his impressions upon entering the city :
 "As we crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and first laid eyes on the North African coast, I knew we were in store for an adventure! The city of Tetouan was our destination; we were soon standing before its main gates. As we entered the city, our senses were overrun by the many exotic new sights, complementing the wild sounds and smells of the bustling ancient city. After proceeding only a few feet past hobbled live chickens, we found ourselves immersed completely in the endless, tiny alleys of the Casbah. It was a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways, lined with vendors and shops the size of walk-in closets. Anything could be had, including copperware, sacks of spices and grains, and silk. Street butchers displayed slaughtered lambs, goats and pigs, and a snake charmer with his cobra unnerved the unwary passerby. Somewhere around the urine-treated leather goods things began to swim before my eyes. After I informed the guide that I was ill, a young boy was sent to escort me to a quiet place. The boy knew every secret passage and shortcut in the Casbah. He led me through even tinier streets and tunnels, across nomad camps, and even through a kitchen! We sailed through the back door of a mosque, and out the other side. Finally we entered a large, dark and cool house, which seemed to be some sort of palace. The boy led me to a back room and laid me down upon a bed of large pillows. I passed out. I awoke thoroughly disoriented. The first things I saw were six elaborately cloaked elderly men, wildly discussing in Arabic what could possibly be wrong with me, I heard exotic music and aromatic food assailed my senses. After closer observation I discovered I was in a fancy restaurant, being entertained by a belly dancer. Somehow my wife and brother found me and we resumed our inspection of Tetouan. I still felt lightheaded and rather doped by the "therapeutic" tea; my impressions of the city were somewhat hallucinogenic" (

Originally composed for 5 horns, this great piece of music filled with rich sonorities, challenging technical passages and unusual sound effects, was later rearranged for brass quintet in 1993 by Turner himself. Other arrangements such as a trombone quintet version and a tuba quartet version have found their way into the brass chamber repertoire. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Playing fast balkan style

Many of you may be familiar with eastern European brass bands playing Balkan gypsy music. It is quite a site listening and watching these musicians play, especially in live concert.
I had several opportunities to witness these groups performing, mostly on county fair like events around my hometown growing up. What's fascinating about these bands is the real fun these musicians are having while playing everything by memory, most of the time in warp speeds. It's unusual to see brass players perform without the slightest worry of equipment, embouchure, airflow, high-low register approach etc., and these guys are doing it just like that. 
Some of the representative bands for this style are Fanfara Ciocarlia, Goran Bregovic and his band, Fanfara 10 prajini and many others.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mnozil Brass

      Recently, it came to my attention that some brass players have not yet been introduced to the great Mnozil Brass. The group originates from Vienna, Austria (more info here : and they are an innovative ensemble combining fantastic playing with acting and singing thus creating a refreshing and quite engaging show for the audience.
The 7 member group has toured all over the world in the past years. I had the chance to hear them in Chicago a couple years ago. Their performance was outstanding, hopefully they will return to the US soon for another tour.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Here we go

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. The goal of this blog is to write about music, musicians, brass players, brass teachers, ensembles, soloist, orchestras as well as to provide information about events, festivals, auditions, masterclasses and many other topics related to music.
There is no better way to start this blog then to offer you a short sample of an amazing recording by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass. The unique ensemble sound these phenomenal artists produce on their instruments is second to none ! I would highly recommend this recording to any musician, brass player or not, amateur or professional.

PS. If you are a young student aspiring to become a professional and you don't own this recording you should order it immediately ! I'm not joking...