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Take Five With Earl McIntyre


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Meet Earl McIntyre

World renowned musician, arranger and composer Earl McIntyre has played with legends such as Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, Lester Bowie, The Band, Stevie Wonder, McCoy Tyner, Carla Bley, Lou Rawls, Jeffrey Osborne, Aretha Franklin, Cedar Walton, Levon Helm, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Ellington Orchestra, the The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra (with whom he was associated for over 20 years) Slide Hampton, George Gruntz, the Mingus Big Band, Cecil Taylor, the Carnegie Hall Jazz band, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Chico O'Farrill, The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Fred Ho, Renee Manning and many others.

Known as an established bass trombone and tuba player, he is also a respected conductor and arranger. Earl has served as a guest conductor for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, wrote large ensemble compositions for (and directed) the Musicians of Brooklyn Initiative Big Band (an organization founded by Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake, and others). He was also the musical director for Town Hall's "Ragtime to Broadway" featuring music from 1900-1909.

Earl's arranging and orchestrating credits include Roberta Flack, Luther Vandross, the "Saturday Night Live " band, Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, Johnny Copeland, Cedar Walton, Renée Manning, the Mel Lewis Orchestra, The Mingus Big Band, Elvis Costello, Steve Turre, Bob Stewart, Jon Faddis, J.J. Johnson, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, as well as, Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Earl is currently co-founder and music director of Excelsior Music Studio, a new music school in Brooklyn, NY.


Bass trombone, euphonium, tuba.

Teachers and/or influences?

Slide Hampton, Howard Johnson, Alan Raph, Jack Jeffers, Bob Brookmeyer and Carmine Caruso.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

A doctor diagnosed me with asthma. He said "you'll never be a musician or an athlete."

Your sound and approach to music.

Make it personal and get involved. As Duke Ellington said, there's only two kinds of music: "Good music and bad music"

Your teaching approach

Teach the students to teach themselves. Teach them to listen all the time and learn the history.

Your dream band

Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Howard Johnson, Julius Watkins, J.J. Johnson, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, and Elvin Jones.

Road story: Your best or worst experience

While on tour with Gil Evans, We played Uncle Po's which was a club in Hamburg Germany. We finished around 4am and had a 6 or 7am train to catch for our engagement at the North Sea Jazz Festival. This was my first tour by train. When we got on the train there were very few open seats, and of course I wanted to sleep. One of Gil's sons suggested I try one of the other train cars. A few hours later, a conductor woke me up. He asked for my passport and Eu-rail pass. I told him it was in the next car. He gave me a strange look and rattled off a volley of German. When I went to go to the next car, I realized the train had separated. My side was on the way to Cologne not The North Sea Jazz Festival! Fortunately, Steve Lacy, the great soprano saxophonist was with the band and on board. He realized what happened and in fluent German explained the problem to the German conductors. They routed me using five conductors and as many trains. All I missed was the sound check. It was amazing!

Favorite venue

It no longer exists, but a club called Rosie's in New Orleans. The musicians were treated well, the sound was great, the food was great and the people even better.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Taj Mahal's The Real Thing and Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra's New Life both had a strong impact on my career and how I think about music.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

For many musical situations, I connect the historical dots. This enables us to bring more depth to the music. Since I'm rather versatile, I wear the hats others can't fill.

Did you know...

I grew up in the Salvation Army. My family comes from a town on the end of the underground railroad.

The first jazz album I bought was:

Candido In Indigo.

Music you are listening to now:

Chicago Symphony Orchestra The Firebird (Deutsche Grammophon); Duke Ellington 3 Suites (Columbia).

Desert Island picks:

Charles Mingus,Mingus Ah Um (Columbia)
King Sunny Ade' feat. Stevie Wonder, Ase (Island Records)
Thelonious Monk, Thelonious Monk Big Band At Townhall (Riverside Records)
Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Consummation (Solid State)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Too eclectic, with a lack of a community feeling. Too many projects, not enough bands.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Change. If it doesn't work, don't be afraid to throw it out.

What is in the near future?

We just had an incredible concert this past Friday, February 11th at the Brooklyn Conservatory, called "A Night of Tribute II."

The concert featured a collection of musical portraits capturing some of the most influential people in African-American history. These portraits ranged from musical to political to personal figures, highlighting those who are seldom discussed. Included in this concert were tributes to Father Divine, Satchel Paige, Marcus Garvey, Otis Redding, Otis Blackwell, Howard Johnson, Sojourner Truth and others.

Concert performers included Earl McIntyre, Renee Manning, Jim Seeley, Alejandro Aviles, Patience Higgins, Ron Jackson, Jerome Harris, Carlos "Carly" Maldonado and Buddy Williams.

I'm already working on the next installment for the A Night of Tribute series and we have a few projects/performances coming for Renee Manning as well. If you would like to hear more about the series or my work at Excelsior Music Studio.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

In the words of Lester Bowie, "If the audience isn't screaming and standing on their seats, or riding me out of town on a rail, I feel I've failed."

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone." It was my Dad's favorite.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

I don't do it because everybody in the house sings better than me.

By Day:

Father & husband

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Classical musician.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Leonardo da Vinci. His interests were so wide.

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