Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Previous segments have highlighted musical instruments like pianos, guitars, saxophones, electric basses. This week, the flugelhorn, and it’s more than just a weird looking trumpet.
The trumpet is a musical instrument in the brass family that is tuned to the key of B-flat in general. It is commonly used in jazz and classical ensembles, and it is the most popular member of the brass instrument family.
The flugelhorn is also a brass instrument that resembles a cornet, but it has a wider conical bore. It comes with three valves and produces B-flat tones just like the trumpet. It is derived from a German word meaning wing horn or flank horn. The major difference is that the conical bore in the flugelhorn is wider than that of the trumpet.
Musicians consider the flugelhorn to be the ‘go to’ instrument when it comes to making warm as opposed to bright tones.
We’ve got examples so let’s get started.
The goal is always get going with a rollicking number. In the mid-70’s Kool & the Gang began straying away from their jazz-oriented beginnings to a more contemporary R & B funk sound. On this 1976 album track from a concert in London at the Rainbow Theatre there’s a flugelhorn solo in the bridge, or that section of the song, usually the middle, that’s intended to provide contrast to the rest of the composition. A song doesn’t end on its bridge, so there’s an opportunity to steer the composition back to its main themes once the bridge has concluded.
Larry Gitten is credited on the album for playing flugelhorn.
This was the band’s biggest and most popular recording…that is, until “Celebration.”
This open gives me the chance to tell an old Kool & the Gang story.
Back in the 90’s I moonlighted working security backstage. I got hooked into the job when I had press credentials, and some of the backstage people whom I’d known for a long, long time asked if I would put on a bright yellow Security shirt and give them a hand.
On the night Kool & the Gang were the headliners I was given clear instructions to keep an eye on their dressing room. Thousands of dollars worth of jewelry had been stolen from their dressing room the night before, I believe in Pittsburgh, so once the show started, no one, absolutely no one except band members were allowed in.
Shortly after the concert started, a young man started walking towards me and the dressing room, wanting in. I stopped him and informed him he couldn’t enter the dressing room. The man had every Kool & the Gang credential and pass ever created. I wouldn’t let him in. He was nice but was obviously in total disbelief that I was standing my ground, started to walk away and said he’d be back.
About 10 or 15 minutes went by when a figure comes walking off the stage with a bass guitar slung around his neck: Robert “Kool” Bell, the founder and leader of Kool and the Gang. With him, the young man I refused entry to.
Bell asked me if it was true that I wouldn’t let the young man into the dressing room. I said yes because……and proceeded to explain why.
In front of the other man, Bell thanked me for doing my job and doing what I was instructed to. Then he gave his permission to let the young man into the dressing room.
No jewelry or any other item was stolen from Kool & the Gang that night.
The band is still performing, with tour stops in France and Belgium this year.
Like Kool & the Gang the Oakland-based “Tower of Power” was a popular horn band. One of the founding members was trumpeter Greg Adams who wrote multiple arrangements for the ensemble. He went solo in the mid-90’s. During his career Adams has played on over 2000 recordings.
Though the trumpet was Adams’ instrument of choice he often picked up a flugelhorn. From a 1995 album, a composition Adams wrote.
Adams has arranged, performed and recorded with numerous artists including Rod Stewart, Eurythmics, Lyle Lovett, Heart, Linda Ronstadt, Luther Vandross, Aaron Neville, The Brothers Johnson, Phish, Little Feat, Wilson Pickett, Huey Lewis and the News, Raphael Saadiq, Al Green, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Everclear, Chicago, Bonnie Raitt, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Peter Frampton, Billy Preston, Terrence Trent D’Arby, Josh Groban Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Celine Dion.
I love his answer during a 2013 interview when asked, What would you tell folks just starting out in the game?
“Don’t smoke. And as you make your way up the music ladder, be nice to people because you may meet them on the way down. It doesn’t last forever but people remember you. I’ve always tried to be a nice guy and do everything with sincerity – and hope you will be recognized for it.”
Next…trumpeter, composer, and producer Rick Braun. He has produced No. 1 hits for David Benoit, Marc Antoine, and former Rod Stewart band sidekick, Jeff Golub. More flugelhorn…
Braun offers this 2022 rude awakening:
“Look, the CD is over. It’s just another medium that’s come and gone, like the eight-track, reel-to-reel, cassettes. Convenience will always win out. It’s really all about playlists now, ones that you don’t necessarily have any control over whatsoever.”
Can’t do a flugelhorn blog without a nod to Chuck Mangione.
When I was an usher at what was once called The Performing Arts Center in downtown Milwaukee I got to see Mangione. As always he wore his signature felt hat, given to him as a Christmas gift by Bill and Marie Tedeschi in 1965. They often came to clubs to see Mangione play. He never forgot them, even dedicating an album to the couple in the liner notes.
At Mangione’s shows, like the one at the Milwaukee Pac, his father would sell merchandise in the lobby.
Mangione’s mother’s maiden name is Bellavia.
“Bellavia is a song I found in me that feels like my mother. It’s my Mother’s Day gift to her. In fact, all the music in this album is seasoned with a spirit much like the festive feelings that have touched everyone who has known my parents. Since I find it impossible (although they wouldn’t) to have you travel to their home for Mom’s spaghetti sauce and Dad’s home-made Italian sausage, I offer instead this music as a way of introducing them to you. Perhaps, as you listen, your own carousel or gondola will take you on a ride that stops at their doorstep. It’s the nicest place I know.”
“Bellavia” was Mangione’s first Grammy win for the album’s title cut in the category of Best Instrumental Composition.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
As I thought about putting this week’s segment together I wrestled with which Mangione piece to include. I wanted “Bellavia” but how about another? But then that would be two.
Finally after some needless handwringing I thought Hell, it’s my blog. I can do what I want!
Mangione caught grief from critics in the 70’s when he steered more commercial, wanting to reach a wider audience. So he decided to move to the A&M label.
Crirtic Herb Nolan of Down Beat liked Mangione’s style, but observed it had “been dismissed by some as something like ‘bubblegum jazz’ with the content of a Bazooka [Gum] wrapper cartoon.”
One critic after seeing Mangione in concert remarked “His sexuality has all of the rage and passion of a Continental breakfast. Let’s face it: Chuck Mangione’s audience came to be lulled and caressed, to be held close to mama’s breast, to be lovingly patted all over with Johnson’s Musical Baby Powder. He picks up his horn and spills out Cream of Wheat laced with dollar signs.”
“It seems there is always something wrong, maybe from a critic’s or musician’s point of view, when the public begins to accept something. They think it must be ‘commercial;’ it must be ‘watered down;’ it must be this or that. To me the musician who’s performing is usually the guy who can best evaluate whether it is good or bad.” (About critics) “It’s like spaghetti sauce. You get twenty Italian mothers to cook a sauce and each sauce is going to taste different. However, you can have a good time with all of them.
“Once you have something happen as huge as ‘Feels So Good,’ then everything changes. You are now a pop artist, so all the jazz people who loved you, hate you. You know, ‘Oh, boy, he sold out.’ Yeah, I sold out the Hollywood Bowl, sold out all the places I played.”
When Liberace was criticized he had a famous comeback, that he was “crying all the way to the bank.”
This single by Mangione sold 2 million copies.