New sound clips: Faculty woodwinds recital, Sep. 13, 2012

Here are some sound clips from my faculty recital last month. I try to make a point of keeping myself challenged, and mission accomplished on this one.

The repertoire, selected collaboratively with my outstanding pianist colleague Dr. Kumiko Shimizu, was all pieces with some connection to jazz music. First up on the program was selected movements from Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano. Flute isn’t part of my teaching assignment at Delta State, but this piece was too fun to pass up and my flutist colleague Dr. Shelley Collins is extraordinarily supportive of my flute playing. Since I spend most of my work week living in reed land, however, my flute chops don’t get the attention I would like, and I’m a bit self-conscious about my sound and my control of the instrument. I hear a number of things on the recording that I am less than satisfied with, but overall I think it went okay, and it was well received by the audience (even the part of the audience whose grade doesn’t depend on keeping me happy).

Next was a new-ish piece by young composer Alyssa Morris, a fellow BYU alum. I had heard her Four Personalities for oboe and piano performed by Nancy Ambrose King a few years back at an IDRS conference, and it immediately sprang to mind when I started brainstorming jazz-influenced oboe pieces. We performed the first two movements (second, then first), which, to our ears, had the strongest jazz elements. The first movement (performed second) in particular has characteristic swing rhythms and figures, and it was strange but fun to tackle those things on the oboe.

At the John Mack Oboe Camp over the summer, I heard a fine performance of this piece by the Oregon Symphony’s principal oboist, Martin Hebert. I also got some reed help from Linda Strommen (of Indiana University), which has greatly improved the pitch stability of my reeds. I’m pleased with the improvement over last year’s recital. I’m not sure I have entirely adapted tone-wise to the change, however, and I was a little surprised by my sound on the recording—to me, I don’t quite sound like me.

I stumbled through Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for clarinet, a piece that, in terms of technique, has eluded me for years. Overall there were some decent moments, but also some brief but disappointing crashings-and-burnings. I do think my tone, which I commented on in last year’s blog post, has improved a bit.

I’m presenting in its entirety my interpretation of Coltrane’s Naimafor solo bassoon and looper pedal. Everything you hear is performed live, with electronic layering of parts. I was pleased with how the “arrangement” turned out; there are some minor adaptations of the original to make it work with the looper. I worked hard at my high E-flat, which was mostly present in performance but not exactly graceful. The piece seemed to be a crowd favorite.

Next my esteemed colleague played a breathtaking transcription of Bill Evans’s Peace Piece for solo piano, which, in all seriousness, was probably my favorite moment of the program.

The climax of the program was the Yoshimatsu Fuzzy Bird Sonata for alto saxophone and piano, a piece I had wanted for years to do but hadn’t worked up the courage. My personal preparations included finally making a serious attempt to master slap tonguing, which I think was basically a success. (I found Rachel Yoder’s video to be the most clear and useful explanation out of the dozens of print and online sources I looked at.) I also brushed up my altissimo register, including some trills and other challenges.

Like I think many musicians are, I am my own worst critic, and it’s sometimes painful to listen to recordings of myself. I waited until a month after the recital to listen to it, mostly because of this piece. For sure, there are some spots that make me cringe. But this was a piece that I needed to tackle to push and challenge myself, and I’m proud of the achievement even though it was a less-than-perfect performance.

As a sort of after-dinner mint, we finished Keri Degg‘s appealing Ballade for saxophone and piano. I used my jazz setup for this piece, and went for what I thought was a Sanborn-esque sound. It didn’t come through on the recording the way I expected; listening back, I think I need an even brighter mouthpiece/reed combination to really get that effect across. The up-close brightness was enough that I was concerned about being sharp, and you can hear me overcompensating in places. Oops.

Thanks for listening!


3 responses to “New sound clips: Faculty woodwinds recital, Sep. 13, 2012”

  1. Hi Bret, I’ve been enjoying reading your blog for some time – thanks and do keep it up! I was wondering if I could get a copy of your arrangement of the Coltrane? Sounds lovely

    1. Thanks Joe—
      There is no “arrangement” per se on paper. It was partly in my head and partly improvised. Keep your eyes peeled, as I may do a more detailed blog post about it.

  2. Steven Hugley Avatar
    Steven Hugley

    I greatly enjoyed listening to the clips. Wish I could’ve made it in person, but I greatly enjoyed listening. Fuzzy Bird Sonata is my “unicorn” piece now. Fantastic program! I look forward to your next recital/set of recordings.

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