Hello! Here we are, 8 weeks in, and things remain largely unchanged. Without much to say, here is a reminder to everyone young and old, rich and poor, lovers, likers, toleraters of jazz – BE REALLY CAREFUL. WEAR A MASK, and TAKE MORE PRECAUTIONS THAN YOU THINK ARE NECESSARY.
This week, Phil reminds all of us of some important things, guest writer Seth Alexander interviews Bob Breithaupt about the phenomenon known as Jazz Percussion Ensemble, we meet Trumpeter/Photographer Tim Perdue, and Alex offers a CHALLENEGE.
As Phil Sees It // Phil Maneri
Virus musings – Week 6.
It’s become pretty clear to me that before this Pandemic is in the rear view mirror, myself and most of my musician friends are going to be quite broke, massively indebted, bankrupt and certainly in danger of losing homes, prized instruments, and god knows what else. It’s a conundrum I thought I had prepared for when I was a young man, by diversifying my energies in hopes to weather economic turbulence. Didn’t work.
Long ago when I was in music school I took a sharp turn away from music education to get another, more practical degree. Then I set about a dual course parallel to music that would pay more money than I knew I’d get given my skill set as a professional musician. Meanwhile, because my attention was diverted between dual professions, my progress as a musician suffered. That was a practical tradeoff I made to position myself to not struggle in life so much.
Bad choice. As it turns out I ended up in the same place if not worse. So it goes.
Here’s what I learned though, and this is the point. I should have stayed focused on music all in. At best I would have been a better more productive musician, more skilled and more prolific. At worst I’d have ended up exactly where I am now. Fiscal toast.
If you are early in your career as a musician, or artist , or damn near anything don’t make the choice of safety based on fear. The hedged bet. It doesn’t work. Follow your muse. Manifest the things you know you were made to do. Only in doing so will you have the possibility of fully realizing your gifts. Go all in, don’t stop short.
In a lecture by composer Eric Whitacre I attended several years ago, he said he also recommends never having a fall back plan. If you have one, you’ll fall back. When he was a young composer, he kept writing and shopping and collecting rejection notices without telling himself too much about it. He didn’t think to himself “I suck, I should quit”. Instead he told himself this wasn’t a good fit, or the right time, or the right deal. He always thought, “my compositions are good and worth it and someday somebody will figure that out”. And they did.
He was right. Never quit. Never fall back.
I Love The Way You See Us // Tim Perdue, trumpet/photographer
This is the third spotlight of the many on the photographers who make up the scene here in Columbus. Let’s give thanks this week to our friend, Tim Perdue.
Tim is a great photographer. His photos win the kinds of awards non-photographers expect all photographers to win. He would call himself an amateur photographer – whatever that means. His photos are intimate and full of energy and often from very close proximity. It’s his connection to the music, physically and emotionally, that I think gives him such a beautiful and unique vision.
“I’ve been taking photos off and on for as long as I’ve been playing music, but started to get into it more seriously about ten years ago.”
I could list Tim’s credits, and the list of bands he plays with (New Basics Brass Band, Honk, Wail & Moan, Scarlet Fever, Kelly McLennan PLUS, (to name only a few)) or the bands he’s played with (Yumbambe, Soul Kitch’n, Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra (to name even fewer)) or the places he’s played beautiful solos (most every venue in town, alive or defunct), but it’d be a long list and I’d leave out more than I put in.
“Many people have a “day gig” and music is their hobby. For me, playing and teaching music is largely my job, so photography has become my main hobby, as well as an alternative creative outlet. Though in the past couple years, it’s started to become a bit of a “side hustle” as well.”
I went looking for a photo of Tim holding a camera. Lots of photographers have self-portraits in their rolls. I love the way they see themselves just as much as I love the way they see musicians. But that’s the thing with Tim – there aren’t any. He’s holding a camera or a trumpet (or occasionally a beer and a conversation).
I think that’s the secret of Tim’s photography; photos that are taken from places that most people can’t/won’t/aren’t able to reach. They’re taken from on stage or from an angle that only a sideman could get away with. And a lifetime of looking at a drummers hands, or a saxophonists fingers has given him a unique perspective.
“I think being a working musician sometimes gives me a different perspective than most general concert photographers, and knowing many musicians personally often allows me greater access to rehearsals, backstage, etc. I usually have my camera with me, so I’m usually shooting before or after gigs, and often even onstage (for better or worse).”
Tim is the perfect sideman. He’s prepared to take a beautiful and melodic solo on any tune at any time – telling a beautiful story and crafting one well-rendered idea after another. But he’s also taking his perspective on stage, and capturing the moment in a photo.
“Once things get back to normal, you can hopefully find me around town frequently with trumpet and/or camera in hand!”
A History of the Capital University Jazz Percussion Ensemble // Seth M. Alexander
I sat down (over the phone) with Capital University Professor or Percussion Bob Breithaupt for an interview on one of the most unique ensembles that exists at the Capital Conservatory of Music.
It is 1978 and Bob Breithaupt arrives on Capital University’s campus to begin as Professor of Percussion, then a part-time position. He begins with just three students and it is up to him to build a larger teaching studio and expand the reaches of his program musically and in size. The Jazz Program began at the university just two years prior, to which Professor Breithaupt saw as an opportunity to begin his own ensemble.
For most percussionists, the only chance they have to improvise and play in the style of jazz music is on the drum set, and occasionally playing the metallic mallet instrument known as the vibraphone. Around this time, jazz fusion and latin jazz music had moved more into the spotlight and a modern jazz mallet duo “Double Image” had gained popularity. Breithaupt also looked to other collegiate ensembles for influence- one in particular was friend and colleague Guy Remonko, who was professor at the nearby Ohio University (Remonko recently passed away at age 78). The two had built a relationship by organizing collaborative drum set workshops together for their students and communities through the 1980s.
“In those days it was easier to come up with an idea and start an ensemble,” so in 1984, the first official Jazz Percussion Ensemble began rehearsing. In its inception, Breithaupt recalled that the ensemble maintained strong student leadership in order to get on its feet- and still does so today. While there are many names he brought up, and the list goes on and on, one name especially stands out- Columbus’ own, Eric Paton. Paton is still today an integral part of the ensemble, as he became a staff member in the 1990s after finishing his degree- and is currently the instructor of record for the JPE. Over the years, Breithaupt has been fortunate to have several students participate and stand out as a leader- Jim Ed Cobbs, Nate Anders, Matt Billingsly, Jeff Jones, Brian Kushmaul, Jeremy Bradstreet, Zach Compston, Max Marsillo, Noah Shaye, and Chad Loughrige, just to name a few.
The “JPE” rehearses twice a week at the Conservatory of Music- playing primarily student arrangements. “One of the things that we initiated from the beginning was the opportunity or requirement to build the library for this ensemble out of student arrangements.” It was difficult at that time to find any commercially produced music for an ensemble as specific as this- and therefore it remains a grade requirement for each student to compose or arrange at least one chart for the ensemble. Some of Breithaupt’s favorite arrangements that have been brought in are those of popular artists, such as Stevie Wonder, and those that are influenced by Brazilian and Argentinian music, among others. The best arrangements, he said, “are usually of a straight-eighth note or Latin feel”- the ‘spang-a-lang’ of a swinging jazz ensemble can be “a little corny for mallet instruments.”
JPE music most commonly has been performed using up to three marimbas, two vibraphones, other mallet instruments such as the xylophone, one steel drum, several “auxiliary” percussion instruments, hand drums, and drum set. A major part of the rhythm section continues to be electric guitar and bass, thanks to the guitar and bass majors -which caps the ensemble out at approximately ten students. Today, the ensemble experiments with electronics, thanks to the successful Music Tech program at Capital University, such as the Pearl “MalletStation”.
Students are encouraged to join the ensemble if they are a Jazz Studies major or if they show an interest in such a group. But, Breithaupt has always maintained the seriousness of the JPE, which “almost never has a freshman… only upperclassmen percussion majors” who are ready for the opportunity and responsibility not to be taken lightly. Professor Breithaupt’s teaching philosophy has always been influenced heavily by the hard work demonstrated with the drum set and by the practice of improvisation. The JPE is a cornerstone of this philosophy because for years, it has been serving students to learn leadership skills, compose and arrange music, learn to improvise on any percussion instrument, and perform a new brand of music for the jazz community. This has made it a true staple of the music program at Capital University.
Check out the great jazz percussion records below!
What’re You Spinning // Alex Burgoyne
I thought since we’re all here together, we’d try something new. Let’s listen to this album together.
I bought this album last fall on a gig with the Billy Wolfe Octet on Jazz Night In America at NPR Studios. – we were on a SHARED BILL with this great band. I was completely knocked by every part of this gig – but not shockingly, most of all by Linda’s compositions and the performance of them by this stellar band. Just listen to this:
But 9 months have gone by, and I haven’t listened to the dang album yet. So this week, let’s do it together.
Listen to this album and share your thoughts – maybe it’ll spark something new, a conversation or a poem or a piece of music or a new project. Let’s chat about it!
I wanna hear from you – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – or on facebook.com/jazzcolumbus
Love ya – Alex