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Bass Meets Tuba - Tubaist Ralph Hepola Records With Legendary Bassist Bob Bowman

Bass Meets Tuba - Tubaist Ralph Hepola Records With Legendary Bassist Bob Bowman

Courtesy Gambles Photography


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The tuba is one of the most powerful and prominent instruments in the symphony orchestra. Tubaist Ralph Hepola has played on outstanding classical recordings (see selected discography below), but this summer he’s recording with world-class jazz musicians including a giant among bass players: legendary bassist Bob Bowman has toured and recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Carmen McRae, Bud Shank, Karrin Allyson, Bobby Watson, Steve Houghton, John Stowell, Bob Sheppard, Steve Allee, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band.

Pianist Kyle Aho has played concerts in Japan and Taiwan, and performed with Jeri Brown, Avery Sharpe, George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzi and Bob Brookmeyer. He has appeared at The Kennedy Center, Chicago’s Green Mill, the Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, plus the Blue Note and Jazz Standard in New York City. Seattle's Origin Records just released Aho’s latest album entitled Rituals.

In June of this year, drummer Marty Morrison played at Jazz St. Louis with none other than Wynton Marsalis. Morrison has performed with Marcus Roberts and Bobby Watson. He appears regularly at The Jewell in Omaha with Hammond B3 organist Mitch Towne and guitarist Dan Wilson.

Hepola called these jazz veterans together to record a wide variety of material:

“Limehouse Blues" from 1921 in a laid-back rendition inspired by an Art Pepper recording and emphasizing the “bluesy-ness” of the song rather than its vaudeville origins.

“Stella by Starlight" was written for the 1944 movie The Uninvited. The song originally had no lyrics, but the copyright owners knew the song to be a masterpiece. Two years later they had lyrics written for it. Many famous musicians have since recorded “Stella” in a wide range of styles.

Musicians have been fusing jazz with rock and other musical styles since the 1970s. Many of their composition titles refer to outer space: “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy;" “Shadow of Io;" “Space Circus." Consequently, Hepola wrote “Rocket Science" for the session.

Bassist Bob Bowman contributed his driving shuffle tune “Kalarama Rex" named after a renowned American Saddlebred horse born 100 years ago this year. Bob grew up on a farm in Kansas and in 1963 his mother bought a descendant of “Kalarama Rex," named “Dr. Sea." Bowman explains: “We had his family tree. I saw that name and thought, 'There’s a song in there!'”

Selected Ralph Hepola discography

  • The world premiere recording of Kurt Weill's Die Buergschaft with Spoleto Festival USA on EMI
  • New York composer Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath
  • The production of Silent Night for which composer Kevin Puts was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music
  • The Minnesota Orchestra Stravinsky Rite of Spring which was a 1997 Grammy Award Nominee for Best Engineered Classical Recording, and when re-issued on vinyl garnered the 2016 Rocky Mountain International Hi Fi Press Award for Best Audiophile Recording – Analogue
  • The recording and video of A Year with Frog and Toad from The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis—“the country’s largest theatre for children and their families” which received three 2003 Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. The Children’s Theatre won the 2003 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
  • Dominick Argento’s Te Deum—one of five nominees in the 34th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Composition
  • Libby Larsen’s Coming Forth Into Day Choral Symphony which made her a Pulitzer Prize Finalist back in 1987

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