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Catching Up With

Trent Austin: Pulling an Ace from the Musical Deck

By Published: October 8, 2013
AAJ: I had the distinct pleasure of writing the liner notes to your highly-acclaimed CD last year, Trumpet 102—your fourth CD. Thank you for that privilege. For those not familiar with that CD, can you tell us its genesis?

TA: I can't begin to tell you how many people love your notes on that disk. It really is a lost art to write wonderful liner notes on an album. I think that Trumpet 102 was a response to my first CD, Trumpet 101, which I recorded in 2001. Trumpet 101 was more of a "statement" to my university students where I was teaching. Most of those students were into very modern music. I felt that Trumpet 101 helped open their ears to more traditional jazz playing. It's very important to know your history, no matter where the music came from.

Trumpet 102 was a 10 year anniversary of that first disc. The material covered selections linked with other trumpeters such as New England's legendary Lou Colombo with "Stardust," Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
's "Serenade to a Bus Seat," and Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
' "Delfaeyo's Dilemma," et al. I was putting my own playing "take" on such wonderful and influential musicians.

AAJ: Ever done classical recordings?

TA: I have been on some classical recordings as a sideman, but never my own. I still dream to record the Second Brandenburg Concerto while I still can attempt to play it! I have recorded three other solo jazz CDs, with one of them a disc of solo trumpet improvisations.

AAJ: Your jazz playing seems to be an energized, endless flow of originality and creativity. What's your playing and improv approach and how did you come to it.

TA: I try to play with a simple mind and often think only of shapes while soloing. Often my students ask me if I know scales, modes, chords and other general structural ideas. While I have been very lucky to have worked with some amazingly gifted improv teachers, I don't particularly try to think in a traditional chord-scale-mode way anymore. I really try to play compositionally and motivically. I feel the more cohesive my ideas are, the clearer the overall picture of the music will be.

AAJ: Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
tells me he loves your playing.

TA: That's because I slipped him a $50 to say that! In all seriousness, Clark is definitely my biggest influence. Not only because he's the best trumpet player I have ever met and performed with, but he plays with such originality and inspiration. You can always tell it is CT in one or two notes. His humor and joy of music are always prominent. That's critically important for me, as well. I always want people leaving my performances with a huge smile. The power of music to brighten one's day is one of the main reasons I absolutely love performing. In addition to his playing ability and amazing talent, Clark is also perhaps the kindest, sweetest, most giving, and warmest person I've ever met. He has set the standard to the absolute highest level. Every day I strive to be 1% of the man Clark is.

AAJ: Who influences you artistically?

TA: The list is endless and covers all genres: Hendrix, Zappa, Mahler, Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
b.1945
guitar
, Prince, Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry
b.1926
guitar, electric
, Beethoven, Renee Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
, Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
b.1970
guitar
, Hal Crook, Jerry Bergonzi
Jerry Bergonzi
Jerry Bergonzi
b.1947
saxophone
, Stravinsky and on and on. I am influenced by every piece of music I hear! In terms of trumpeters these days I am really moved by the playing of Jason Palmer
Jason Palmer
Jason Palmer
b.1979
trumpet
, Ambrose Akinmusire
Ambrose Akinmusire
Ambrose Akinmusire
b.1982
trumpet
, Taylor Haskins
Taylor Haskins
Taylor Haskins
b.1971
trumpet
, Mike Rodriguez, Dave Ballou, Christian Atunde Adjuah, Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
b.1962
trumpet
, Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
, Ryan Kisor
Ryan Kisor
Ryan Kisor
b.1973
trumpet
, Till Bronner
Till Bronner
Till Bronner

trumpet
, Cuong Vu
Cuong Vu
Cuong Vu
b.1969
trumpet
, Phil Grenadier
Phil Grenadier
Phil Grenadier

trumpet
and countless others.

AAJ: Do you compose or arrange?

TA: I have done a lot of composing in the past and was fortunate to study with the great Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
. I really wish I had more time in the day to compose, but right now that time is being spent on maintaining my chops.

AAJ: How are you able to keep chops up with all you do?

TA: It's very challenging given the workload that I have during the day. I think right now I'm maintaining my chops and not really pushing my technique any further. I hope that as the shop gets more self-sustaining that I'll be able to push my playing more in terms of expanding my technique. The basic fundamentals always work for us trumpet players—lots of solid technique from the Arban's and Clarke books. I also use the late Laurie Frink's great book, "Flexus" often. I also do a lot of moving long tone Jimmy Stamp exercises. I call these my "Trumpet "Vegetables." There's much more that I do, but these are my day-to-day fundamentals. They keep the "Chop Doc" away.

AAJ: Are you teaching? Doing clinics?

TA: Yes, I teach out of my shop and also online via Skype or FaceTime. I am also doing more clinics recently, especially after Trumpet 102 was released. Some clinic presentations are trumpet-playing and improv only. Others are about instrument design. or musical entrepreneurship. Ideally, I want to work with young musicians and hopefully help them as my heroes helped me.


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