Two Trumpets Floored at the Deer Head Inn

Gloria Krolak BY

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Playing with another trumpet always makes me play better... although you always try to play your best.
—Alan Gaumer
The stage of the legendary Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA, straddles the dark brown barroom and the red dining room, dividing it smack in the middle. It's big enough for a quartet if one of them plays piano. On this night in late April, trumpeter Alan Gaumer invited Chris Persad , also a trumpeter, to join him, bassist Paul Rostock, and drummer Gary Rissmiller to the gig. Rissmiller, the 2015 PA Jazz Collective artist of the year, and Rostock took up most of the space, leaving Gaumer and Persad on the floor directly in front of the stage. Not to worry, though. Wherever the trumpeters stood in front of and around the half-red, half brown platform, they were all in. They sounded true and clear and as relaxed as if they were home practicing.

While ceiling fans rotated lazily at 33 1/3 rpm, the foursome was all in on "Green Dolphin Street," with an intro by Rissmiller; "Body and Soul," with Rostock's deep solo, the kind that incites a gut response, and then Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring," because the season had, finally, sprung. Before the break Gaumer surprised some by singing—not everyone knew he sang so well—a tune of his own about financial distress called "Ode To A Bank." All the while a photograph of pianist Mulgrew Miller beamed down approvingly, as if the fifth member of the band. Gaumer, also a percussionist of note, handles the drums and a bag of percussive toys as well as he does the trumpet, though this night was all about the horns.

Says Gaumer, "Playing with another trumpet always makes me play better—maybe it's the competitive thing." Although the dynamics are slightly different for each combination of horns playing together, the key is communication and signaling. " Although you always try to play your best, there always seems to be a little extra when you're going toe to toe with someone you admire and respect, particularly when it's the same instrument." When both trumpets—sometimes flugelhorns—played together they were in perfect sync, exponentially increasing the pleasure. When they played solos or off each other, they were a great match. No cutting session here!

Alan Gaumer is artistic director of the PA Jazz Collective, a non-profit that was incorporated in 2010 to foster jazz appreciation in the Lehigh Valley. PAJC sponsors a regular series of educational initiatives, public performances, and special programs, like the annual PA Jazz Idol held April 29th in Bethlehem. The organization partners with Moravian College where the connection is strong—Gaumer, Rostock and Rissmiller teach there. Newcomer Persad, from Auburn, NY, has recorded with Phil Woods, and plays with the Deer Head/COTA Festival Orchestra, where he and Gaumer met.

The second set included an up-tempo "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise," with the young Dan Wilkins joining on saxophone; "I'll Remember April," with vocalist Pam Purvis popping up out of the audience to sing, and Bob Ackerman taking his turn at the saxophone, another surprise audience member. The quartet laid out Miles Davis's "Solo," giving the trumpets their chance to solo together, then handing it over to the bass and drums before closing with Freddie Hubbard's "Blues For Duane." Rissmiller got a cool beatnik thing going, playing hands on the snare, before letting loose on a full-out drum solo for the finale.

Michael, my partner in all things, and I relished dinner. The appetizer dip was very tasty with bits of artichoke hearts, the chicken and rice soup was tasty too, especially since one of us does not ordinarily like rice in soup. We both ordered the appealing special; scallops, bow ties, and asparagus in a cream sauce lightly applied. Drinks and dessert were just as good, a raspberry pudding and an apple roll with ice cream served warm for Michael, lover of all things apple. Owners Bob Mancuso and sister and brother Mary and Denny Carrig were in and about while volunteer Diane served as hostess.

There is a free parking lot next to the hotel and reservations are suggested. Hotel rooms have recently been renovated, each with its own bathroom, relates Mary Carrig. Based on photos on their website, the rooms look very inviting. While you're there, check out the art and photographs of some of the musicians who have played there. Then catch the music as late as you want and spend the night in the scenic Water Gap. Perfect together!

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