Mario Rivera (1939-2007): Latin saxophone and flute

I recently got a copy of the 1984 Tito Puente disc El Rey. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t familiar with the names of any of the other musicians on the album—everyone sounds absolutely incredible—but I was blown away by the flute and tenor playing of Mario Rivera.

A quick Google search later and I can see that the late Mr. Rivera ranks among the heavies of Latin Jazz, and I have been missing out on his playing before now. Pick up a copy of El Rey and check out his virtuosic charanga-style flute playing (on Puente’s Oye Como Va, for examplethat’s right, Tito Puente wrote it, not Carlos Santana) and some really tasty tenor sounds, too (check out the Latin cover of Giant Steps).

Or, surf on over to YouTube for some videos from a Bern Jazz Festival appearance. Hear some breathtaking baritone  playing, some really nice flute duets (not to mention piccolos, timbales, and scat) with Dave Valentin, and, if that’s not enough, Rivera on vibes and even trumpet(!).

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Pedro Eustache: ethnic woodwinds

If you’re interested in ethnic woodwinds, you ought to check out virtuoso flutist Pedro Eustache. I like that on his website he refers to himself as a “multidirectional flute soloist.”

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Recital 11/3/2008

I perform my final doctoral recital on Monday. It is my third recital on my “major” instruments (flute, oboe, and saxophone); I also performed one “minor” recital (clarinet and bassoon). The major/minor instruments are somewhat arbitrary, since I’m trying to play them all equally well.

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Recommended: Jennifer Cluff’s flute blog

If you aren’t reading Jennifer Cluff’s blog, I highly recommend surfing on over and spending a few hours: www.jennifercluff.com/blog/

Ms. Cluff’s blog gets my vote for being the most useful woodwind-related blog currently on the web, with long and in-depth posts about flute playing, including, sometimes, answers to readers’ questions. There is really excellent stuff here for beginners and very advanced flutists alike. I just finished reading her latest post, on excess movement in flute playing. Ms. Cluff’s posts are sporadic but always worthwhile, so subscribe to the RSS feed if you’re cool like that.

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Flutist/flautist

“Flautist” is a pet peeve of mine. I just encountered it again in a message board thread.

These are worth a read:
Am I a Flutist, or a Flautist?
Is it Flutist or Flautist?

To summarize: there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for English-speaking people to say “flautist.”

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New Grove on flute materials

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is widely used by college music students and is regarded by most (for better or for worse) as the unimpeachable source of all musical knowledge. In my studies for upcoming doctoral comprehensive exams, I ran across this in the “Flute” article:

Materials used for the tube and mechanism include nickel-silver, sterling silver, gold and platinum, while the springs are usually of tempered steel or phosphor bronze, occasionally of gold or another metal. The choice of material, especially for the head joint, influences the flute’s tone: wooden flutes produce a rich tone with a very full fortissimo in the lower register; metal flutes produce a limpid, flexible tone with great carrying power and also allow the player very sensitive control over the tone-colour; gold produces a mellow sound while silver is more brilliant. To achieve a combination of these qualities a head joint of wood or gold is sometimes fitted to a tube of silver.

The idea of different materials having different sounds is, of course, seen as conventional wisdom by flutists (and indeed by wind players in general), but it flies in the face of 100 years of acoustical science.

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Public domain woodwind clip art

Artist Karen Hatzigeorgiou has posted some charming public domain images of woodwind instruments at her website, like this lovely clarinet. The others are in a similar pen-and-ink (or is it some kind of etching?) style.

clarinet

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Woodwinds in Art

Here are some paintings and drawings by significant artists that feature woodwind instruments. Click the images to buy posters from Art.com!

Know of another work that should be included here? Email me.

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Buying woodwind instruments

General advice

The information on this page is intended for beginning and intermediate players, including woodwind doublers who already play another instrument. Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Get the advice of a good teacher, preferably one that doesn’t get a sales commission from a music store. It’s okay to ask advice before starting lessons. A good teacher wants you to have a good, working instrument.
  • In fact, be very skeptical of anything you are told by music store salespeople. My students frequently begin lessons with poor, non-working woodwind instruments that were highly recommended by the guitar player working behind the counter. Ask the salesperson to demonstrate the instrument. If they can’t do it, there’s little reason to take their recommendations.
  • The most important consideration for a beginner’s instrument is its condition. Woodwind instruments use pads made of leather, skin, or cork that MUST seal properly. Poorly adjusted instruments are one of the top causes of frustration in beginning players. Don’t waste your time fighting with a leaking instrument. Cosmetic flaws like worn or scratched finish or small dents (except in vital spots such as a flute’s headjoint or saxophone’s neck) do not necessarily affect an instrument’s playability, but may be warning signs of larger problems. It is possible to buy a non-working instrument and have a good technician restore it to playable condition, but it would be a good idea to get their appraisal of the instrument before you buy it.
  • Don’t buy musical instruments from department stores, megastores, or warehouse stores. These temptingly cheap instruments are made from inferior materials and are almost always in poor adjustment. Good repair shops won’t even work on them because they tend to break under the normal strains of routine maintenance.

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