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Meet Marvin Stamm

By Published: March 25, 2005
Trumpet playing

I've been involved with this music almost from the time I picked up the horn. My older brother Gordon had a nice Jazz record collection, and I got taken by this music, listening and learning from so many over the years. I have many heroes, not only trumpet players, but on all the instruments. Like every other Jazz musician, I'm a product of all of the things I've listened to and ingested. There are things I heard from many players that have been absorbed into my own playing, and there are things that don't apply that I have put aside. Eventually—over time—I came to develop my own voice.

At this point in my playing, I listen for the music. My ability to play the instrument and my technique are not things I really think about when I perform. But I continue to practice one to two hours every day depending on my schedule. I focus on much of the same type of things I've done since my early years—a lot of fundamental materials to help me continue to develop and grow; it is a never-ending process. I practice as I learned—in the classical manner. I still work out of the Arban book, Herbert L. Clarke Technical Studies, many of the studies from my years with Carmine Caruso and John Haynie, my teacher at North Texas. (I see John once or twice a year when in Texas and still take lessons from him) There are things that I still work on that Perry Wilson, my trumpet teacher in Memphis, gave me. I still play etudes by Charlier, Bozza, and others that I was playing during my years at North Texas. I'm a great lover of classical music, particularly orchestral music. I listen to as much orchestral music as Jazz these days—probably more. This also influences me greatly as it pertains to sound and personal expression.

In my Jazz playing, I am the sum of all my parts. I do not approach the instrument as a technical tool to demonstrate how flashy I can be. Rather—on stage playing with my compatriots—I try to feel everything in the environment that they're giving to me and become part of it all. When I play I let the music dictate where I go. Depending on the piece we play, the tempo and style, it can vary from an approach of bravado to something that's very soft and sensitive. I use vibrato where I feel it, and I use a lot of dynamics in my playing—I learned this from listening to Dizzy who had a tremendous sense of tension and release. Today you hear a lot of trumpet players who are technically wonderful—they do things I can't do—or at least I don't think I can do them. But everything is the same volume, basically loud. They use little or no dynamic variance. Many of them also don't pay any attention to the quality of sound, and their playing stays on the same emotional level all the time. When you hear them play a ballad, there's no feeling of warmth, that they are playing a love song. When people speak of my music, I hope some of the things said are that I am musical, I swing, and I play with taste and a lot of sensitivity. Saying these things is a compliment of the highest order.

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Lead trumpet

My lead playing began to develop somewhat during my years in Memphis and later at North Texas and in between the stints with Stan and Woody, doing shows in Reno Nevada. But this area really developed after I came to New York. Working closely for many years with Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal, and Snooky Young was like learning at the feet of the masters. I was always taught to be a good section player, and to do this, one must become an astute listener. So as I played next to these great players and worked and listened to them day after day, my own lead playing developed.

I played lead trumpet for several years with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra after Snooky Young left to move to California. I also played lead in the American Jazz Orchestra led by John Lewis, and for about 13 years, I played lead with the Bob Mintzer Band. During my many years in the studios, all of us played lead and section. Everyone was a versatile player and could wear many hats. Since leaving the studios around 1990, I've concentrated on being a Jazz soloist. Now I only play lead for George Gruntz when he puts together his Concert Jazz Band for recordings and tours in Europe and abroad.

Other than George's band, I no longer play with many big bands because this isn't where my interest lies. The exception is the Westchester Jazz Orchestra (WJO) based in the area I live, Westchester County, New York—just north of NYC. The band is made up of some of the finest Jazz musicians in the area, and most are also members of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Vanguard Orchestra, the Bob Mintzer Band, and others. It is an excellent group, and we all enjoy playing together. The WJO is led by saxophonist Joey Berkley and includes trumpets: Tony Kadleck, Craig Johnson, Jim Rotundi and myself; trombones: Keith O'Quinn, Larry Farrell, George Flynn; saxophones: Jay Brandford, David Brandom, Ralph Lalama, Eddie Xiques, and Berkley; pianist Ted Rosenthal; bassist Harvey S; and drummer Tony Jefferson.

There is great mutual respect throughout the band. Jim Rotundi and I split the Jazz trumpet solos on the band, Tony Kadleck plays lead, and Craig Johnson plays split lead. These are young guys in their early 40s. I've been there and done that, and I'm happy to let them have it. If there's something I want to play I'll lean over and ask Tony, "Hey, do you mind if I play that? But I'm not very interested in playing lead anymore; I prefer playing a lower part and being in the role of soloist.

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