FB: You're through Berklee, you're out gigging, you've done Diva, and what about -- let's back up and talk about Syncopation: how it gets started. Is that a student band before anything else? CF: You know where it came from? Syncopation started with Lee (Abe), Japanese dude, he was in a band that Cheryl Bentine, of Manhattan Transfer at Berklee, was directing. It was the Manhattan Transfer Ensemble. So, he and Christie Bloom, the soprano, decided, "Hey, let's have a band like this outside of this." So they took the members of the class to start the band and they called it Syncopation. Pretty soon the alto wanted to not be in it, and the tenor, you know, so. Lee, I was just finishing up at Berklee, he was still a student, he must’ve heard me or he asked people who should we, you know, ask. I was a jazz person, right? So, he looked for me, he found me on the street one day and he said, “Hey! I want you to audition for Syncopation.” So, it was me and another girl who auditioned and, we basically, part of the audition was putting on a concert. We prepared a few tunes each so I would learn the alto parts for a few tunes and we did a show in the BPC. That was the audition, so after the show they decided who it was, so I got the gig and, ever since then it's, I became, I started a bank account for the band, I became the band, you know, accountant basically. So I mean. FB: Ha ha. CF: So, from there it became a more professional thing because we were like, ok we're in this, I auditioned, let's do this, you know. FB: This is 2002! Or something, and you guys had been going for 9-10 years. CF: Yah, man you know, it's a lot. We've been to Japan several times, through the States playing festivals and stuff. But, it's still, uh, it's hard work keepin' it goin', you know? We're the ones, we're our own management.Through the years we've had some management in Japan, we had some people help bring us over some management, recorded and album in Tokyo and, uh, things like that. We did a lot of things but we're keepin' it goin' ourselves, you know? FB: You've got 2 or 3 albums out? CF: Yeah, 3. FB: And you keep your book refreshed, keep polishing things, re-arranging stuff? CF: Yeah, yeah, we just started playing big bands this year, so there's a great big band up in New Hampshire, the Capital Center Big Band. They bring, I mean Ross plays lead in there, you know. They bring in these cats, professionals: Jeff Galindo's in the band, Mark Pinto, you know. These, all the cats. So it's nice playing with guys who can play. And we did a thing with Phil’s band last month so you know we're getting some more big band stuff, we've done some orchestra things a couple years ago where we play with The Pops. FB: The Boston Pops. CF: Yeah. FB: Boy, Pops gigs must be popping up elsewhere in places that really like that kinda sound. CF: Yep, it's yeah, we're playing with smaller orchestras, you know, around. But the only thing is, it costs more money to put on that kinda show than it does say, a cappella or just with a trio, you know so. We do a lot of a cappella work because it's easier to travel that way [laughs]. FB: Who plays horn besides you in the group? CF: Well, now I play horn mostly, but Dave Scott, the tenor, plays trumpet, Lee plays trombone and our new singer, Aubrey Johnson, she’s... FB: Aw yeah, she's terrific. CF: She, um, see, we just got a new one. I don't know if you've heard us with her. She teaches over hear in the vocal department. FB: Yup. CF: She's happenin' man. She studied with Dominique Eade over at NEC. FB: Mmm, I heard her sing somewhere. CF: I don't know if it's the same on, really? You know. FB: Yeah, Aubrey Johnson. [CF: OK.] Yeah, she sang at something Berklee Performance Center. CF: Cool, OK, probably, yeah. Yeah, she's smokin so... FB: And she, is she a horn player too? [CF: No.] OK. CF: The other soprano used to be, Aubrey Logan, played trombone. FB: Oh, that's it! Aubrey Logan! [CF: Exactly.] OK. CF: Yeah so, they have the same first name, that's kinda weird. But yeah, so we're doin' it. This summer some gigs planned, um, traveling a little bit. Not as much as we really wanna be, but it's a balancing act because we all play with other bands. [FB: Mm hm.] So, I'm booked a lot, you know, every Friday, Saturday through January I'm booked, right now. So it's hard to book things, you know. And they are too, everyone's busy doin’ their own thing. [FB: Wow. that's cool.] Yeah. FB: Uh, you talked the other day about getting, having students develop the toughness factor. CF: Mmm. FB: Being able to get gritty and hard with yourself when, or testing yourself, challenging yourself, whether it be in the classroom or out on the gig. Um, could you explain that a little bit? CF: Yeah, definitely, you know, it's a tough one because nowadays I'm finding. Sometimes I look at students and I think, “God! I would never even think that way! I mean I just don't understand, I can't relate as much as I want to where they're coming from. For instance, a vocalist will come and, “Hey, where's your mic?” “Uh, I don't have it.” “Well, go get it!” “Well, I left it in the bla-bla-bla.” It's like, “Go find one!” You know, I'm like, I'm not… When I was in school, if the teacher said bring this, do this, I would go buy it, some how I'd find a way to make it happen. So I think I'm kinda actually a hard-ass because I see them slacking and so I don't know if this is what you were talking about. FB: This is certainly leading up to it -- go ahead. CF: So basically I mean, I expect a lot of students and not even the musical stuff -- that stuff's the easy stuff -- I mean like: Be there. Be prepared. Be cool. You know, this kinda stuff. Be hard on yourself, man. Because when you're out in the world no one's gonna be telling you, you know? FB: Yeah, yeah. CF: You're just not going to get called. You're not going to know why. FB: You won't know why. CF: No one's going to tell you. Sometimes you might be lucky, they might, "You're not getting called because of this." I mean now is the time to really raise the bar for yourself and get your stuff together at Berklee. FB: How do you get yourself together? What are the ways, on a daily basis, of challenging yourself as a young musician? We talked about being curious. CF: Absolutely. Being open, curious, and humble. When I was a student, I remember, I was always in the practice room when they opened at 7am, and most nights, I was taking the last train home, because I'm not one to look and say, "Wow, why is he in that band?" No, no, no I never asked that. I said, "I want to be in that band." It's never like, "Why does he have that gig?" No, no, no, forget about that. To me, that's not productive. Not at all. Cats still do it. Cats I work with: "Why is that guy on this gig?" "You know why? I don't know why, but I know why you're not. 'Cause of that attitude.” This to me is common sense. And jazz musicians are the worst. We're bitter. I run into a lot bitter cats who are just like, "Man, there's no gigs." "Yeah, there are. There's gigs, man." And there certainly aren't going to be anymore with that attitude. FB: Yeah, yeah. So it's like getting a really good work ethic together, practicing all the time, if you stop to tie your shoes, you're saying, "That's 20 seconds I'm not playing my horn." CF: I remember those times in the practice rooms, I'd be eating my food like between doing this, rinse my mouth, practice. I mean, this is it. And honestly, things haven't changed that much. This is the life. This is what we live for! FB: If you're not burning when you're 18 or 20, you're not going to burn when you're 30. CF: And burn here [points to heart.] FB: The incandescence starts young and stays with you. CF: Yeah, and some students are more talented than me, by far, but they don't have that, man. FB: The fire in the belly is really a big, big factor. CF: It's huge. FB: That's how Dustin Pedroia got to play second base. CF: Totally, I love sports. I love the analogies. It's awesome. It's like music. It's nothing personal, if the guy's not pitching right, if he's not pitching enough strikes or whatever. You take him out of the game. It's the same thing, cat's not making it, take him out of the game. It's nothing personal. That's how I look at it. And the biggest thing, though, is, always look here. It's never, "Well, she--well, I--well, I should--" No, man. It's always here. Always starts with this: [points to heart.] And that to me, that's the most positive way, anyway. Why do you want to live, "Why don't I have that gig?" I never ask questions. Guys ask me, "How did you get that gig? How much does it pay?" You know what, you'll know when you get it. I sound a little tough when I'm saying this, but it's true. FB: But you gotta be tough. CF: Yeah, it's like: no bullshit. There's no attitude. It's just like, "Hey, I'm just trying to get better and I don't have those gigs because I'm not the one for the job. I'm going to get these gigs and hopefully keep them and just do them better." FB: Yeah. How does--this is switching gears here a little bit--playing the trumpet reflect on your singing and and vice versa? Does one inform the other? How do they complement each other, and are you singing more now than you did when you started out or...? CF: Yeah, because it should be all the same, right? And guys say that. But I am not going to lie, singing and playing trumpet to me growing up was separate. I learned to read on the trumpet and my ears are good as a singer so I maybe was a little better on trumpet naturally because of that. But I wish, now, growing up, that I would have connected the two. God I wish I could play everything on the trumpet that I can sing. I am still working on it, 'til I die, man. FB: You can sing anything but you can't play anything. FB: Right, because I've been singing since ya know [motions to mark the height of a child]. So that comes naturally. FB: You mean you haven't caught up yet? CF: Yeah, I'm still working. It's hard. But that's what keeps me waking up. But it should be connected, now I have a class at Berklee called 'singing for brass players'. It's my class. FB: OK: tell us about the class. CF: It's hot. It's full every semester 'cause all these cats want to sing, right? FB: This is not Solfege. CF: No, we barely scat. We're singing melodies. Fred, this class rocks! We have a rhythm section, we have a bass player and a drummer. No! We have a bass player and a piano player. Every week, learn a tune. Each week it's a different composer, they're all dead. Rodgers and Hart, we'll do Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, maybe we'll do an Ellington week. It depends on what's going on. We do Hoagy Carmichael. Okay, all these old school cats. FB: “Up a Lazy River.” CF: Yeah, man. So every week they come in. This is the assignment: right out a lead-sheet in the key you sing it in for the band; learn the melody on your trumpet or trombone in the key you sing it in; and, memorize the lyrics; and if you want to blow a solo, cool. Most of them are performance majors; they're really into this. I can't tell you how valuable this class is. They're playing melodies, man, 'cause I make 'em. I make them play the melody. If they start messing around, improvising, "No, play the melody." You know? So, we're doing tunes like “Night and Day” with the phrasing, these kinds of things. And also most of these guys can sing because they play. Trumpet players can sing, man. I think, like you're saying, it's connected, even if we don't realize it, it's connected. Brass playing, to get that note, in general, you have to be able to hear it, at least close to where it is before it comes out. Any guy will tell you this, right? So, singing goes hand in hand with that. So, this class is really fun 'cause we get to jam out and we're singing like Chet Baker. Yeah. FB: Always thinking: the trumpet player plays the lead, so the trumpet player knows the melody, whether it be Louis Armstrong or Nick Payton. I mean, the melody is embedded in the head, and most of these guys, even if they mess around a little bit, they've got the melody. CF: Absolutely, always. If you go back in history and you hear, like I said, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan play a melody. Forget about it! Freddie Hubbard. These cats can phrase. And this is one of these things a lot -- sometimes these guys come in, they don't know the tunes, first of all, but they can't even play a phrase. FB: Did you make up this class? CF: Yeah. FB: Wow. Why did nobody think of it before? CF: Maybe no one's singing and playing. There used to be a Chet Baker Ensemble here, I don't know if there still is, but I am gonna do that too, I'm gonna have one. Yeah, I mean this is something--I remember Tiger Okoshi and I were talking and he said you should do something that incorporates singing, so I came up with this class. FB: Brilliant. CF: So he should get some credit for that. FB: Absolutely. CF: And it's popular. It used to be a one-hour class. This semester it is, next semester it's turning into a two-hour ensemble because I'm pushing for it, 'cause there's not enough time to cover everything I want to cover. FB: Rock out. CF: I want to get into more history with Ella. FB: Put Chet in there. [CF: Yes.] Who's some other singing trumpet players? CF: Well, Dizzy, man, and Louis. Louis knew all the words to all these songs he played. FB: The best. Even make up new words and sing. And then Teagarden. CF: Teagarden sang, totally. And you know what? There's a great record, Frank Rosolino and Conte Candoli -- 'Conversation'. And [sings melody] they're singing. And they take scat solos and then they take solos. It's hot. I play that for my class every year, you know. And it gets them going 'cause these are guy who blow. Now, who sing. That's cool. You know what's funny? The brass department shares the floor with the vocal department over there at 1140. So, I know the singers hate us because we're over here singing, and we can sing. FB: And they can't play! CF: (Chuckles) So, you know? It's always one of those things. But, it's a lot of fun.