Tag Archives: euphonium

HOWARD MIYATA AND HIS MAGIC HORN (Jan. 7, 2012)

When the eminent brass player, teacher, and historian Howard Miyata and his wife Susan (she plays the French horn among other instruments) came to visit us this afternoon in Sonoma, California, I didn’t expect that there would be an impromptu concert-demonstration . . .but I am so delighted to be proven wrong!

For those of you who don’t know Howard, he is famous for playing with many bands — beginning with the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra and continuing up through the Zinfandel Stompers, the New Eldorado Stompers, Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, and the High Sierra Jazz Band — which is where I first met him.  Howard studied at San Jose State University and directed bands for the Gilroy Unified School District. He also directs the Pacific Brass Band — one of only three authentic British style brass bands in California.  You might have encountered him on a JazzDagen cruise or at a jazz party; brass players will know him through his work as a tuba / trombone / euphonium artist and clinician for Kanstul (http://www.kanstul.com).  He is also a superb singer – vaudevillian (I’ve posted his performance of THE YAMA YAMA MAN here

and, more recently, A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON here.)

And before I had ever heard Mr. Miyata play, I had known of him as “Uncle How,” the man behind Gordon, Brandon, and Justin Au — and no doubt hundreds of grateful younger players.  (He is a superb teacher — but more about that in another post sometime.)  Most recently, I’ve posted videos of the Au Brothers Jazz Band with Uncle How, Katie Cavera, and Danny Coots in the rhythm section.

Howard had two horns in his car — a huge tuba and his Conn double-bell euphonium.  And when I said I had only heard of the latter horn in the lyrics to SEVENTY-SIX TROMBONES, he was more than happy to bring it in to show off how it sounded.  About ten seconds into his cheerful presentation, I asked him to hold everything, and I brought my video camera — thinking that this was too good not to share:

Even without a double-bell euphonium, Howard Miyata makes music wherever he goes.  We are very lucky to have him!

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MIGHTY DREAMS: EMIL VIKLICKY / SCOTT ROBINSON (Jan. 5, 2010)

I’ve always thought of the multi-instrumentalist and improviser Scott Robinson as a great explorer.  He is sweet-natured and mild-mannered, so it might be difficult to imagine him at the helm of a ship five hundred years ago, sighting a new land . . . I have less trouble imagining him as galactic traveler, coming and going in between gigs. 

Scott is also exceedingly loyal to his friends, musical colleagues, and family . . . so he was extremely excited that the Czech composer-pianist Emil Viklicky was coming to New York City for a brief visit and that they would have a chance to perform together in concert. 

I had heard Emil and Scott on their 2003 compact disc, SUMMERTIME, so I looked forward to what they would create in tandem.  I knew that Emil would have a few of his own compositions, as would Scott, and that they would offer a few jazz standards.

Here’s what I captured that night, in the informal setting of the Czech National Center on East 73rd Street — stirring music by not one but two bold explorers — and dear friends who go back to 1977. 

Emil’s approach mixes the lyrical with the percussive: he is rhythmically strong, although choosing not to emphasize a regular 4 / 4 in his left hand.  He didn’t need a bassist or drummer.  And his compositions, some of them based on traditional melodies, never bogged down in a self-conscious sentimentality: he built his own glistening structures on these “simple melodies”.

Scott brought only three instruments (two saxophones and a euphonium) and captivated everyone.  He, too, is a great “singer,” although he refused to vocalize at one point in the concert, but he loves the entire range of whatever horn or reed he is playing, sometimes pushing the sound to its outer limits but never losing an essential beauty.  But if you closed your eyes and listened to his saxophone playing, for instance, and forgot that it was coming from a metal tube, you would hear the cries of a solitary seabird; you would hear opera as well as rhythm and blues.

Here are nine performances from that mighty, dreamlike performance.

EAST OF THE SUN, tender yet intense:

Scott’s THE MIGHTY ONES, which certainly lives up to its title:

Emil’s evocative PORTHCAWL (and a dark story of a theft):

FANOSHU (OH, FRANKIE), composed and explained by Emil:

Scott’s lovely new-yet-old invitation, STEP INTO MY DREAMS:

Emil’s BAZALICKA (SWEET BASIL), which begins assertively and then turns pensive:

Something familiar, although Scott said he “tinkered with it,” Louis’s SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, explored in a mellow way:

Emil’s composition, based on a Moravian folk song, BEZI, VODA BEZI (GONE WITH WATER:

And an encore: TOUHA (DESIRE) — a fitting conclusion to a concert of sweet explorations of realms both familiar and new:

Eloquence, bravura playing, and rare intimacy throughout!

To hear more of Scott and Emil, check out THE MAGIC EYE here: http://home.earthlink.net/~smoulden/scott/magiceye.html#getthecd.  SUMMERTIME is harder — but not impossible — to find online.  And well worth the search.

TIMES THREE: JIM FRYER at Birdland (Dec. 1, 2010)

The Beloved and I braved the ominous weather last Wednesday night to see David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland.  Onstage with David were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Block, clarinet, alto, and vocal; Jim Fryer, trombone, euphonium, and vocal; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Kevin Dorn, drums.

High-powered indeed! 

Early in the evening, David asked Jim to take a solo feature.  Trombonists in such settings often think of their hero, Jack Teagarden, and rely on BASIN STREET BLUES or STARS FELL ON ALABAMA, but although Jim admires Big T, he has other things in mind.  And the song he chose was THE GYPSY, famous in some circles as one of the few pop songs that both Louis Armstong and Charlie Parker immortalized. 

In a very few minutes, Jim showed off — casually and modestly — every facet of his considerable talents: his smooth and elegant playing of the possibly-ungraceful euphonium, then his sleek and suave approach to the trombone. 

In between his two instrumental selves, he sang both verse and chorus in the most convincing yet understated way.  Clearly he understands that each song is its own story, its own drama, and he invites the audience into the world of that song, without “dramatizing” it or copying anyone.  There’s something of the great crooners in his approach, but nothing’s “nostalgic” or mannered. 

It was a quietly masterful performance, but those of us who have observed Jim at close range expect no less.  In fact, when we see he’s at a gig, or notice him coming through the door to sit in, we get comfortable and eagerly expectant: something good is going to happen!  As it does here:

And watching this video performance again, it struck me that Jim (like so many of his colleagues) is someone who, in another decade, would have been a star of popular television, with a large, enthralled audience.  Those of my readers who recall THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW . . . can’t you see Jim on it?  Alas that such a thing is no longer possible: we will have to content ourselves with seeing Jim in person, not a bad consolation at all.