Sunday, August 2, 2020

Killer 49 Seconds of Classical Trombone

This is my favorite classical trombonist, Norman Bolter, crushing Ravel's Bolero. It's just 49 seconds, and well worth it:

I previously wrote a whole comic opera about the apocalyptic level of anxiety provoked in trombonists by this piece, and the time it blew up real bad once for Norman's Boston Symphony colleague Ron Barron. In that article, I related that disaster to a stupendous blunder I'd made while going a bit apeshit eating cowboy food in Grapevine, TX (near Dallas).
Watching this video, my first thought was, wow. Every note, every beat, every nuance, every vibration of this is exactly, precisely how I think it ought to be played. That's the ideal I'd shoot for, right there! And my second thought was that since Norman was my teacher for a short (but meaningful) while, this should not be in any way surprising.

I was boggled by how my dog had been wagged by all this. My preference had been implanted by the guy whose preference had struck me as strikingly right-on. Loopy loopy! So Christopher Nolan, y'know?
This may be the fulfillment of my greatest fear: that my stuff here isn't the least bit fresh or insightful, and I'm just a retard slowly cluing himself in to the patently obvious (the prototypical example, as always, being "Breaking Free of the Adhesion Mafia", wherein I laboriously rediscover the value of glue). When I reread old Slog postings and find that some actually are as inventive as I'd dared to imagine, it's a drastic relief. But I suspect this isn't one of those.
My other association, listening to this, was to the video of me playing in a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1992 which I keep linking to (because it was a good night, and musicians huddle for warmth around recordings of their good nights so they can pretend they always sounded like that). I suddenly realize that, among other things, I was thinking Bolero in that performance. And I was using what I'd picked up from Norman Bolter. And that's one reason the performance is unique. There aren't many bohemian jazzers in smokey nightclubs channeling highbrows like Norman frickin' Bolter. It's like the fry cook at your local Wendy's sneaking some demi-glace into the onion ring dipping sauce. all comes together.

As a special bonus (and please don't pass the link around; this is just for Slog readers), here's Norman's legendary euphonium soloing from the first movement of Mahler's 7th with the Boston Symphony. You can't miss him, he's featured nearly throughout the movement. I highly recommend the whole recording.

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