The Little-Known Voice in Jazz

Jazz Resources

Jazz Resources

Are you looking for interesting ways to keep your students interested in practicing over the summer?  With the school year drawing to a close and the heat of summer already upon some of us, we’ve all noticed our students becoming a little restless.

I suspect that high school and college horn students frequently live a life of musical schizophrenia.  Religiously studying and performing classical orchestral literature – while listening to or wishing to play in a jazz ensemble.  When one pictures  jazz ensemble instrumentation, saxophones, trombones, drum set, trumpets, and double bass easily come to mind.  An instrument rarely included in this list is the horn — an unfortunate oversight.  Too often high school horn players are excluded from their jazz ensembles, or worse, persuaded to participate on trumpet!  Utilizing the horn in the jazz medium is rare but was practiced as early as the 1940s with the inclusion of  the instrument in scores for Claude Thornhill and later trumpeter Miles Davis.  Willie Ruff, Julius Watkins, John Graas, Tom Varner, Adam Unsworth are just a few on the growing list of noteworthy American horn players devoted to the genre.

Horn player, teacher and composer Lowell Shaw composed Fripperies (horn quartet) in order to teach his students at the University of Buffalo how to play in commercial styles including jazz, barbershop, and funk.  He has since increased the number of Fripperies to 40 and has also added Quipperies (horn quintet),  Tripperies (horn trio), and Just Desserts (solo horn with optional string bass).

For beginning players, the Essential Elements – Jazz series is a useful introduction to jazz notation.  In addition to horn, instrumentation also includes the less conventional  flute and tuba.  We’ll keep you posted as more jazz horn music becomes available in easy, intermediate, and advanced levels.  Maybe this is the summer your horn students spend some time playing jazz!

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  2 comments for “The Little-Known Voice in Jazz

  1. Mickey Jianniney
    April 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    YES! I I agree 100%. Horn players are often overlooked or excluded from performing in jazz ensembles. In high school I was “encouraged” to play the trumpet or the dreaded valve trombone! Of course I played both just to get the experience of performing in jazz band. But I always wished I could play horn in the jazz band, but there isn’t much written to include us. But in college I had a very cool experience. I got to play horn with the top jazz band twice. We played a bunch of Stan Kenton Christmas charts which featured the horn section! To be seated front and center of a jazz band and to be featured was really awesome and is one of greatest memories I have of performing at West Chester. I wished they could have done Kenton tunes every year just to get another chance to play.

  2. September 9, 2010 at 3:56 am

    Nice Post! I was rcently talking about Coleman Hawkins vs. Earl Hines. This will be helpful in the conversation.

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