I’m back from visiting Starkville, MS and playing with the Starkville Symphony Big Band. Starkville is almost a 9 hour drive from where I live, but the trip was worth it to back up the great trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.
Wycliffe was a consumate professional, amazing player, and all around great guy. He sent his charts ahead of time, which was good as some of them were very challenging. As I was practicing my parts (I helped split lead and second, mostly) I noted that several of the parts had solos to play (both written out and improvised). I assumed that Wycliffe would be playing the solos in the performance, but went ahead and shed them for the practice anyway. It was good that I did, as Wycliffe was very generous with solo space for the concert. I got to play two fairly extended solos and traded on a couple more with the rest of the trombone section (from left to right, myself, Richard Human, Wycliffe Gordon, Clifton Taylor, and Jason Beghtol).
One thing I was curious about was to confirm my guess about Wycliffe’s embouchure type. He was kind enough to briefly play on a transparent mouthpiece for me and I can confirm that both his embouchure motion (down to ascend, up to descend) and his air stream direction (just a bit more top lip inside, but definitely downstream) make his embouchure the Medium High Placement type.
While he was at Mississippi State University for the concert, Wycliffe stopped by the MSU Trombone Choir and gave them a workshop. The Trombone Choir, under the direction of my friend Richard Human, sounded very good on three jazz numbers, Slide Hampton’s My Way, the Theme from the Pink Panther from the London Trombone Sound, and Michael Davis’s Brewmeister. As with the SSO Big Band, Wycliffe brought the student group up to the level he wanted while maintaining a relaxed and positive vibe. He makes an excellent clinician as well as an exciting performer, a combination that you don’t always see.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention another guest at this concert, pianist Ehud Asherie. Ehud frequently plays with Wycliffe and was brought down from New York specifically to play this show. He’s a fantastic player and I recommend everyone go check out Ehud’s web site and listen to his playing there. Buy one of his CDs or get to one of his shows and you won’t be disappointed.
All in all, it was a fun couple of days. Hanging with Wycliffe and Ehud have given me some ideas for some new posts, so hopefully I can get some of them squeezed out before too long. Check back in the next couple of weeks for some of these.