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Tim Hagans: Trumpet and Musical Elegance

R.J. DeLuke By

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His ideas about guitar surfaced at this point in the '60s, when the guitar was the emblem of rock music. "I wanted to be the Jeff Beck of the trumpet. I didn't have a guitar. The trumpet was an approved instrument in my household, so I tried to play the trumpet like the guitar players I was hearing with rock bands," explains Hagans. "Then I heard Coltrane and said I want to play the trumpet like that, as well as like Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. I was infatuated and knocked out with the trumpet sound and all the trumpet players. Then I saw it as an instrument that I can take influences from other instruments to try to play it a little differently."

Hagans listened to all kinds of music as a kid. On a family vacation to New Orleans in 1970, he heard Ray Maldonado with Mongo Santamaria. Maldonado became a hero, and Hagans soaked up the albums he purchased of that band. Big bands of the day—Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman and more—came through Ohio, and the trumpeters in those bands were also an influence. Miles' live recordings In Person: Friday Night at the Blackhawk and Saturday Night at the Blackhawk (Columbia, 1961) brought new ideas. But a more modern sound tilted the scales for the budding musician. Never much of a transcriber of solos by his heroes, Hagans preferred to listen and extract qualities, particularly emotional qualities, from artists he heard.

"When I was 14, that's about the time Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) came out," he says. "That was maybe the first jazz record I bought that was a new release. I bought records from earlier '60s later. But when Bitches Brew came out, I bought it. It was life changing. That's when I really started listening to jazz."

He adds with a chortle, "I also wanted to be an ice hockey player and played for five or six years in youth leagues, but I had an eye accident when I was 15 and decided it might be safer to be a trumpet player."

Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw became big influences. "Freddie is probably the guy who knocks me out consistently every time. I was lucky to know Freddie and play with him. We did a record for Blue Note, Hubsongs (Blue Note, 1998). Marcus Printup and I were the two trumpet players. Freddie was the producer on that record, in the studio. He was an amazing person and the ultimate trumpet player."

Hagans attended Bowling Green State University in 1972, but in a couple years, that was left behind. His education would continue, but on the road. "I was 19 when I started with Stan Kenton, and that was an incredible thrill. I'd heard all of the big bands up in Ohio. There are lots of colleges and clubs in the cities, so I heard all of the big bands. They were all still traveling. Ellington, Basie, Woody Herman, Maynard, Buddy Rich. Even Don Ellis. But Stan was always my favorite, and when I got the call, that was an incredible thrill. We did one-nighters for 50 weeks a year. That was a great experience."

After leaving Kenton, he joined the Woody Herman Orchestra, but soon moved to Malmo, Sweden, playing in a variety of settings, including with the Swedish Radio Jazz Group, Orjan Falhstrom and the jazz/funk group White Orange. His association with Thad Jones began when he played with the Danish Radio Band and, later, Eclipse. He was a member of the Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band for a time, and gigged with musicians including Sahib Shihab, Kenny Drew, Horace Parlan, Ed Thigpen and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen.

Returning to the States, he got involved in teaching, including at Berklee College of Music, where he also benefited from playing in that heavy music scene. Eventually, the New York scene summoned him, and Hagans was involved with the likes of Joe Lovano, Schneider and others.

"I'm very fortunate and lucky and thankful for all my opportunities. I feel, even though I'm not 19 anymore, I still feel I'm 19 for my desire for hearing new sounds and creating things and being influenced by others," says Hagans. "I feel like there's a lot more to come. I'm trying to get back on the New York scene a little more, sitting in, and playing with my own band. Hopefully, that will lead to more opportunities."

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