This week at The Jazz Gallery, we’ll be presenting three concerts in conjunction with the Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT). The first performance features Douglas Detrick, an Oregon-bred trumpeter whose music occupies the nexus between jazz improvisation and chamber ensemble precision.
Douglas currently resides in New Rochelle, NY, and has been active on the NYC music scene since his arrival in 2010. In addition to performing with his flagship ensembe, AnyWhen, Douglas has also worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and leads or co-leads three other groups. He is on the curatorial board of FONT and is slated to perform at FONT events in Portland, Chicago, and New York with support from Chamber Music America‘s “Presenting Jazz” program. As a composer, Douglas has been commissioned by the new music outfit Beta Collide and Grammy-winning flutist Molly Barth (formerly of eighth blackbird), among others. His performance at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday will feature the world premiere of a CMA commissioned 10-movement work, The Bright and Rushing World: Suite for Five Musicians.
Each of our featured FONT performers took the time to answer a set of questions from our House Manager and resident trumpeter, Russell Moore. Douglas speaks:
How does your relationship to the trumpet inform your approach to composition?
I like to hear the trumpet played throughout its whole range: from top to bottom, loud to soft, and from the brightest sounds to the warmest, darkest, fuzziest whispers of which it is capable. My music has taken on a lot of these qualities, but I can’t say which came first, my sensibility for music, or my natural inclinations on the instrument. They have developed together as I try to learn to play as much of the trumpet as possible, and to create music that is interesting to me both as a composer and as a player. I’ve always been inspired by a mix of classical and jazz trumpet players, and so this has had a direct effect on my composing as well. AnyWhen Ensemble is founded on the idea of collaboration between classical and jazz musicians, where we improvise with the freedom of a jazz band, and play written music with the precision and flexibility of a chamber ensemble. So, techniques from both classical and jazz playing are part of my usual practice and have been for years.
How do the physical demands of your instrument affect your daily life?
The trumpet can be a difficult instrument on which to maintain your level of performance, and continuing to improve is even more difficult when you add in a job and a personal life, so most of the time I practice with a mute at night and then I binge on the weekends. I’m also a composer, so I practice less when I’m on a deadline to finish a piece, and more when I actually need to learn the piece and play it for an audience. So, there is a bit of a cycle in my relationship to the instrument: not quite “boom and bust” but more of a functional, practical relationship where I prepare specifically to perform my compositions. I prepare specifically for each piece that I write, and I like to write pieces that are all very different, so the preparation can also be quite different. For instance, the new piece we will be premiering at The Jazz Gallery on September 13th is a 10-movement suite composed all on a single theme. Since I improvised this theme six months ago, it has been a part of my practice, so that when I perform the piece, the written parts are completely integrated with my improvisation. But, endurance and regular technique issues are also a concern, so my practice has focused on preparation for those challenges as well.
Because I focus nearly exclusively on my own music, and much of it is very involved on the writing side, I’m not quite the versatile, do-everything player that some trumpeters are and that I sometimes wish I could be. That has been hard to accept, but I’m proud to say that when an audience hears me play with AnyWhen Ensemble, they will hear not just the same old sounds that lay well under my fingers in a slightly different context, but a unique experience which I’ve devoted a great deal of time to constructing, in both from the written and improvised parts. The new piece contains a lot of new language for me as a player, and for all the members of my group, so the audience will experience a group of musicians that have been confronted with some new challenges, and have worked to solve them both as individuals and as a group in rehearsal. All the music for this group is conceived as an audible process of discovery, for each player and for all of us collectively as an ensemble.
Have you been mentored by trumpet players? If so, tell us about your relationship to them and what you learned.
Brian McWhorter was my trumpet teacher at the University of Oregon, where I did a Master’s in Jazz Composition. Studying with him turned out to be one of the most important periods of my life. His teaching method really worked for me, and his aesthetic concept really helped me to open up my perception of my own work and to focus my efforts on what I really wanted to do, not what anyone else expected of me, or what a trumpet player or a jazz musician or a composer is supposed to do. He also found a way to help me finally figure out the fundamental issues of trumpet playing which has helped me to really build my own sound on a more solid physical foundation. His new-music chamber ensemble Beta Collide is a really inspirational model for what the future, in both jazz and classical music, can be like.
Nate Wooley has also been incredibly important to me as a friend and as a musical mentor. Though most of my music is very different from Nate’s, I’m still inspired by his commitment to his own music, and the sheer force of his vision that comes across every time he plays.
Name some “desert island” picks of recordings featuring the trumpet.
Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, Norwegian composer Trygve Seim’s Sangam featuring Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, Arve Henriksen’s Chiaroscuro, Miles Davis’ Complete 1964 Concert: My Funny Valentine and Four and More, Nate Wooley’s Seven Storey Mountain, Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song.