Meet Marvin Stamm

Craig Jolley By

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The Stamm/Soph Project—Live at Birdland

CDs as a leader

Bill Mays

Tours combining concerts and Jazz education

Teaching philosophy

IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education)

Trumpet playing

Lead trumpet

Role of lead trumpet in big bands

Inspirational musicians

Soloing with symphony orchestras

Trumpet designing


Upcoming events

Soloist, bandleader, lead trumpeter, cultural activist, educator, website maintainer, and southern gentleman Marvin Stamm functions on the highest plane in all his capacities. Like most musicians who succeed these days he communicates with his audience and brings them into his music. A sensitive yet extroverted player Stamm has a new CD by his working quartet with guest artist John Abercrombie.

The Stamm/Soph Project—Live at Birdland

My present quartet—Bill Mays, piano, Ed Soph, drums, and Rufus Reid, bass—has been together for eight or nine years. Five years ago, Ed Soph and I decided to team up to do a CD with the quartet that we entitled The Stamm/Soph Project. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman was a guest artist on three tracks. The CD enjoyed nice reviews and was well received. Since that time, Ed and I talked quite a bit about doing a live album. In the studio, you can be very well prepared and probably produce a more perfect CD, but it is difficult to capture that magic that happens in front of a live audience.

In September 2003, the group was booked for a private concert in Connecticut, the COTA Festival in the Delaware Water Gap, and a four-day stint in Birdland—all within eight days. This seemed like the perfect time to do a live album because we would be playing together a lot during that period, and Birdland is one of the really nice clubs to play in New York City. Birdland provides an excellent listening environment for the customer and also has excellent recording equipment installed.

I asked engineer Jim Anderson to record these Birdland sets because he is one of the best at live recording. Jim has engineered projects for so many people, and I have known and worked with him for many years. He has also recorded many live concerts for NPR including Jazz at the Kennedy Center with Billy Taylor and others. Jim has great ears, knows how to record acoustic instruments, and is a pleasure to work with.

We invited guitarist John Abercrombie to do the Birdland gig with us. John is a very sensitive musician with whom we have worked in concert before, and he fits right into what we do. John guests on four tunes and sounds wonderful as always. We recorded two of the four nights in Birdland and came out with a lot of material. Ed and I, of course, narrowed it down to the eight tracks—about sixty-five minutes—that we felt really reflect how this group works.

About the music, it just so happened that all eight tracks we selected are originals. There are two tunes each by Bill, Rufus, and me, and one each by saxophonist Ted Nash and Swedish pianist Lars Jansson. To my ear, most Jazz composers' originals seem to come out naturally sounding like "Jazz lines. But when I was listening to these tunes closely during the "mixing sessions with Jim Anderson, I was struck by how melodic all of them are—how much like "standards they sounded to me.

What can I say? I love this group! The quartet musically operates almost of its own accord. I generally choose the tunes for each set, but any one of us is free to offer his input. Depending upon the piece we may have just finished, the selections can change at will, on the spur of the moment. This can come from any one of us who feels that the music should go in a different direction. The group plays, and the music just flows freely, the only constraints being an innate sensitivity and musical respect for one another and for the music. Beyond that, anything goes. We seldom discuss any of this; it is just implicit in our understanding of the way I—or rather we—want this group to function, and it does so beautifully. While I may be the protagonist of the group in a certain sense, we contribute musically as equals. This might not work so well in other group situations because egos many times come into play. None of this takes place in this quartet. We are all old and dear friends, and our personal rapport is as strong as our musical one. We come together because we love being together and making music together. It's as simple as that. It seems that wherever we perform, people are able to sense this rapport and grasp how special this is on many levels, feeling included in the music and in the process.

This new CD—The Stamm/Soph Project Live at Birdland—has just been released this month on the Jazzed Media label, and we're very happy with it. So far the critics have liked it very much, and we've gotten only good comment from the people who have bought it. Phil Woods, Carl Saunders, Phil Urso, and several other artists are also with Jazzed Media. Graham Carter, the guy who owns it, is a terrific guy to work with.

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