Today I attended a free master class hosted by Randy Brecker, who happens to be in town for a concert with Orchestra Atlanta.
Randy discussed a wide range of topics, covering everything from his warm-up routine, to what it felt like to quit Blood Sweat & Tears after they recorded their first album… right BEFORE they'd achieve phenomenal success!
For those interested, here are some notes from the class:
WARM-UP & PRACTICE
Randy varies his daily warm-up, switching between the Caruso 6-notes and a Bill Adam-inspired version, where he uses spreading intervals (starting on G or E -- at the bottom of the staff) instead of the standard 6 notes. Randy played quite a bit of both variations for us, as he hadn't yet warmed up for the day.
I've been curious about the Caruso method for some time, but I've never seen or heard anyone do it. So, it was great to get a brief demonstration from somebody who learned it directly from the master --Randy studied with Caruso after moving to New York.
After the calisthenics portion of his warm-up, Randy does a variety of exercises including Schlossberg slurs, Clarke studies, and descending and ascending slurs. After that, he'll throw in Charlier or Top Tones etudes. I've never heard of Top Tones, but after hearing him play a couple examples, I think I'll check them out. Randy also mentioned a recent book called "Flexus," by Laurie Frink and John McNeil, which he's been incorporating into his daily routine.
Randy stressed the importance of taking a break when he feels fatigued or sore. I guess this is something most of have learned (the hard way) by now, but it's probably worth mentioning anyway.
It's only been a few of months since I wrote my fast articulation journal entry. In that post, I wondered how the great players manage to articulate each note in fast passages. Well, Randy confirmed one theory: doodle tonguing. Randy began doodle tonguing early in his trumpet playing career and has been doing it ever since. He gave a few examples of slow and fast doodle tonguing and recommended a book called "Forward Motion," by Hal Galper for more exercises.
Most jazzers wouldn't come right out and admit that they practice licks, but Randy had no qualms about doing just that. He openly admitted to transcribing solos of other players and picking out bits that he really likes. He then practices the licks until they become a part of his repertoire. Surprisingly, he also does this with his own playing. That's right, he transcribes Randy Brecker solos to learn his own licks!
I brought my horn to the clinic, thinking that this would be my first time playing in public since the comeback. Towards the end of the clinic Randy asked people to join him for a brief jam session. I'm embarrassed to report that nerves got the best of me, and I chickened out on the first two tunes. I kept telling myself that I'd get up there on the next tune, but after two tunes the jam session ended. I wasn't alone in my cowardice, though, as there were 10-15 people who brought their instruments and only three were brave enough to sit in (besides the rhythm section).
I have to admit that I wasn't much of Randy Brecker fan before today. I've always known he's a phenomenal player, but a lot of his recordings don't do anything for me (3/24/05 update: to be fair, until this date I was mostly familiar with his R&B/Pop-sounding recordings. I've since listened to more of his great hard-bop-style recordings with Horace Silver and others). So, it wasn't personal, but rather a dislike of (some of) his musical tastes --perhaps that is personal. Anyway, after learning more about him and the hard work he puts into his music, I have a newfound appreciation for the man. He's also a really unassuming and friendly guy. If he ever hosts a master class in your town, be sure to check it out.
I'd also like to add how humbling it is to be in the same room with such a gifted trumpet player and musician. The reality set in real quick: I'd be fortunate if I could someday play just half of what he can play...