Sunday, October 23, 2011

Conrad Gozzo King of Lead Trumpet

I found this through the help of a student. Great article on lead trumpet players and especially about Conrad Gozzo....the "GOZ"!

joesblues- 04-08-2007
It's impossible to imagine any of our finest jazz orchestras, from Duke Ellington to Toshiko Akiyoshi or others, past or present, without recalling the overwhelming contributions of the "workhorses" and strongmen of jazz, the lead trumpeters!

Many jazz fans won't recognize the names of Snooky Young, with Count Basie, Buddy Childers or Bud Brisbois, with Stan Kenton, Bill Chase, with Woody Herman, or Bobby Shew with Toshiko, but nearly everyone who loves the music has heard them and been moved and impressed by their work.

A lead trumpeter is an ultimate musical interpreter who must produce constantly and maturely. His primary responsibility is to interpret the music with consistency and elan, with maturity and depth of feeling to produce the required body of sound to project and provide the ensemble with the immediate impact of the jazz orchestra in general. In addition to his training and study, his experience, he must possess immense physical strength. Stan Kenton referred to his lead trumpets as "work-horses" and with good cause. A true master of technique, sound, articulation, phrasing and range this player, this lead trumpeter, more than any other musician, must travel through the physical to arrive at the musical.

Bud Brisbois, of Stan Kenton fame as well as years in the Los Angeles studios, urged his students to engage in physical training saying to Roger Ingram, "...remember, you can't build a skyscraper until you have a strong foundation. Do plenty of sit-ups, so you don't get hurt in the process." Bud wasn't exaggerating.

Recently I ran into a local San Diego trumpet player and we launched into the usual discussion between two jazz fans as to who likes whom, etc. But, as we're both trumpet players we soon left talk of Miles, Chet Baker and Dizzy to discuss Conrad Gozzo, Lin Biviano, Uan Rasey, Bobby Shew, Ray Triscari, Roger Ingram, Buddy Childers, Bill Chase, Steve Campos, Mike Vax, Mannie Klein, Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal, Ollie Mitchell, Victor Paz and many others. We talked about the type of horns they each played, the style and make of their mouthpieces, their resumes, etc. This was important to us and should be to all jazz fans because these men matter. They made a difference the in the music we love and listen to and often, have grown up with (and in some!...are growing old with.).

Important because we, as fans or musicians can take much from these men and their legacies. Kenton's legendary lead player Buddy Childers remarked:

"Something is being lost in music that shouldn't be lost. I"m talking about basic phrasing...if you get into eighth notes, the phrasing of them, determines what kind of music you're playing. If it's rock you've got a certain way of straight eight/eight playing; certain kinds of jazz are twelve/eight; your shuffle goes along at a real twelve/eight. But there are other things that sort of fall in between. Like, the Benny Goodman phrasing three eights would be straight, and then there would be the twelve/eight on the fourth one...little delay. Where you put that last note determines what style of music you're playing...that's one of the things that have been lost...the other is the use of dynamics." Dynamics were much on my mind last evening as I listened to Stan Kenton from a live in Ohio album as I realized. yet again for the millionth time, how great his orchestra's use of sound was, from soft, caressing sounds to screaming, crashing dissonances.

So what does this have to do with me unless I'm a musician? A lot of us want to understand what we're listening it works and why it works, and you don't have to be a musician to grasp these fairly easy concepts. Count the beats...the bars and see...after all, your records, your CDs are not unlike textbooks...listening is learning (Emphasis on "listening"). Play some big band and pay attention to the lead trumpet. In rhythm focus on specific needs for a chart...playing a ballad or playing a tune's "head." The lead trumpet should provide a natural feel and jazz expression and should NOT just be playing the notes. The very best leads sound as if that incrediblely difficult arrangement is being played sort of "off the top," or just "off his head." That trumpet should improvise and then be able to transfer the feeling to the part, and he's gotta know "the style." This interpretive level requires a vast amount of study and practical application. This is why lead trumpeters have an entire fraternity of other lead players...the elite, if you will.

Last year Capitol Records released the "Essential Bobby Darin" and it's a killer collection, Bobby was the real deal. But, my attention was drawn almost at once to the excellent lead trumpet on track one. The guy was awesome. The style of playing that we love so much was inspired by the work of musicians such as Snooky Young with Count Basie and later became the fixture of style in the Vegas casinos and lounges all over the world. You know the sound...the in-your-face, up front, trumpet sound swinging like crazy with shakes, drops and sustained high notes. Not an accident but an art form unto its self.

Perhaps the most revered lead trumpeter of all-time is, and was, the master of lead, Conrad Gozzo. I read recently that Goz, as he was known, shaped the concept of the lead trumpet in the swing era, characterized as a "broad and beautiful tone that leads the big band and blankets it with a powerful sound."
Goz's lead concept remained the standard to which all others were compared until leads such as Lin Biviano (Stan Kenton, etc.) revamped the style to a more exciting approach..."in your face."

Not to imply that Conrad Gozzo had something special going on, in the recording studio, but none other than Frank Sinatra would actually work his schedule to fit with Goz's to insure their working together on recording dates whether with Nelson Riddle or Billy May.

Gozzo's instructor was his father, Charlie Gozzo, a teacher of much reknown who trained many well known players. But, his son, by age eight was already winning trumpet contests beating out much more mature students. Over the years he helped to shape such orchestras as Woody Herman, Isham Jones, Benny Goodman, Claude Thornhill and Red Norvo to name a few. Woody Herman once said that Goz was the "...finest lead trumpet player (I) ever worked with." ("Back Talk" Woody Herman). This brilliant player is heard on so many recordings by so many artists and on so many soundtracks that you'll find his work easy to find by checking out sites such as Verve Record's musician's pages. He only did one album under his own name and it's a beauty: "Goz the Great" on RCA from 1955 and this is a must for all aspiring trumpeters as well as fans of big bands. He performs with a sextet, big band and with strings (it's available on CD), but Goz was a vastly under-used jazz soloist as this one proves. Fine set!

For me though, the greatest Gozzo is to be found on the landmark set, originally on Disneyland Records, in the fifties, "Tutti's Trumpets" arranged and conducted by Tutti Camarata famed Hollywood pop and studio man. I first heard this one in high school and it was love at first note. Goz played lead and what a secton he led...Shorty Sherock, Mannie Klein, Uan Rasey, Pete Candoli, Ray Triscari...trumpet heaven, man!
The guys cook through a unison string version of "I Can't Get Started" the Bunny Berigan classic with Bunny's solos arranged for the section and it's simply
lovely...really stirring..."Louis" a tribute to Mr. Armstrong and some great jazz. The highlight for me though is the Tutti Camarat composition, "A Trumpeter's Prayer." I've read about the session that produced the one-take version of "...Prayer" and have talked to a couple of men on the session and it tells us a lot about Gozzo. Camarata conducted and Goz stood and played the solo. Three or four minutes later it ended and the entire orchestra gave Gozzo a standing ovation which is virtually unheard of in recording history. I believe the story. Today virtually all young trumpet students are given this chart to attempt to master. Good luck. I know, as my parents shelled the money for the arrangement and I was fortunate enough to play it for a school assembly. A-Major...five sharps! With most of the notes written above the staff...not for the faint of heart...which I was but my love of the horn and the song overcame my fear...trumpeters will understand my feelings.

The International Trumpet Society called Goz, "...the seminal lead trumpet of the Twentieth Century. Not bad, uh? He was the lead chair with the NBC, Hollywood Studio Orchestra from 1955 until 1964 and played lead on recordings with, to name only a few, Harry James, Glen Gray, Nelson Riddle, Shorty Rogers, Jerry Fielding and Ray Conniff (who played trombone with Bunny Berigan let's not forget.)

Another incident that illustrates the complete mastery of the trumpet enjoyed by Conrad Gozzo was the story told, often, by lead man Bobby Shew. Bobby was fairly new in the studios when he played a job with Goz on lead. Gozzo was so phenomenal that Bobby was convinced that something was wrong with his trumpet...after a short break he was convinced that he still had a few things to learn. And, Bobby Shew is one of the greatest.

Goz played an old French Besson trumpet, for most of his career, and this is important to trumpet fans...if you're still learning, ask your teacher about that trumpet and you'll be amazed how quickly he/she warms to the subject...also find out who used what brands of mouthpieces...(Bud Brisbois was a "mouthpiece junky" while amateur me used a Rudy Muck #9...not recommended...and a King Concert Master trumpet, highly recommended.) Sadly, Gozzo died much too early at age 42 a victim of alcohol abuse, a story all too common in music and jazz history. Goz was truly the Great Gozzo.

This post has gone on much too long already but I love this music so much I feel compelled to share some different views of it's history and some of the players who have shaped it. Someone should do a book on the wonderful lead trumpets of history and hopefully they will. In the meantime perhaps we'll have enough interest to allow me to share some information about Bud Brisbois, who I was fortunate enough to know from my time at Westlake College of Modern American Music in Hollywood and later while he was with Kenton. Great player and great stories. Also, Bobby Pratt, the Conrad Gozzo of Britian, Buddy Childers, the sixteen year old whiz kid who stayed with Kenton for eleven years before owning the studios, Bill Chase, the dream horn player who could arrange as well as play the jazz solos and explosive first-chair man. What a world of music!