FB: Lets talk about your arrival in Boston and the beginning of your distinguished career at Harvard.
TE: I was teaching public school in Worchester New York in 1971 and I was gigging, I was freelancing, I played some with the Buffalo Symphony and Lucas Hoss was the conductor at that time. And was playing GB gigs on weekends local moose clubs and I was taking lessons up at the Eastman school of music with Emory Remington, a wonderful inspirational teacher. And I got a letter in the mail saying there was an opening for the position of director of bands at harvard University, Your name has been recommended do you have interest in coming up for an interview? And at that time I had been a public school teacher for five years, and I wasn't doing the variety of playing I wanted to do. I was gigging on weekends and playing for dances. In fact, I was frustrated in not having enough playing that I started in the public schools playing solo recitals for bass trombone, which nobody was doing. And I really had to think about playing original literature for bass trombone, not basoon literature, not tuba literature, although they would fit the instrument, not tenor trombone music down an octave. And after about two recitals, I played all the literaute I knew about. And so I started doing research finding works that weren't published, I started commissioning works to develop a literature. I mean we can come back to that, umm.
FB: No this is as good a time as any to do it.
FB: I mean I saw the big long list of at least sixty works that you personally either commissioned or requested or were given as a git. And something off the page were three really good black composers. T.G. Anderson, Neil Smith, and Ulysses K. Wow!
TE: All wonderful composers. T.G. Anderson wrote a wonderful piece called minstrel Man where the trombonist plays trombone, bass drum with a bass drum pedal, and a hihat all at the same time. The Minstrel Man. And, in it there's a quote where the trombone plays a rag and your going boom chick, boom chick, boom chick. Later it slips into a little bit of a cadenza with the Tommy Dorsey theme. Its a wonderful peice and Ulysses K wrote an unaccompanied piece for the bass trombone. There's a program I worked with in Boston called meet the composer, and we had Ulysses K in here for a week where he did things at Boston University, Berklee College, Harvard, Northeastern, sometimes Tufts. And umm, he'd come in town for a week and we'd feature his music. We'd honor him for a week and he would lecture and each school would play some of his works. I think as a token of appreciation after organizing that week. He had a very good time. About six months later in the mail I got this piece, and it was called umm, Everett Suite. So uhh, I've been very fortunate having some wonderful connections with composers and them following through writing music. The bass trombone was an instrument that was basically an ensemble music in the sixties. There weren't any jazz bass trombone solos. There was very little literature, classical literature, European literature written for the bass trombone as a solo instrument. There was some wonderful examples of bass trombone writing and playing in the big bands, but there was no bass trombone leader. No bass trombones were taking improvised solos. Umm...
FB: Who were some of the guys? Doug Purviance?
FB: The guys that were on the scene when I started listening was my musical mentor, though I didn't meet him till years later, George Roberts. He's a bass trombone player from the hollywood studios. You hear that bass trombone on fifties Nelson Real albums or behind Frank Sinatra. Thats right, and its so relaxing, such a beautiful sound, not highly embellished. Its as far away from technical umm, ya know, fireworks as you can get And its just a basic melody timed beautifully which this fat senorus tambor and sound. I mean when you heard Geaorge play, and his got some features, where he had some features playing a little ya know, two bar diddy behind Sinatra, but he would the get melody with Nelson Riddle and with Stan Kenton.
FB: Get You Under My Skin.
TE: Thats right, exactly umm... Laura, Stella By Starlight, Get Out of Town. He's featured on the Stan Kenton prologue, Twenty-Three Degrees West, Thirty-Four...
FB: Oh, Bill Russo?
FB: Yeah the Bill Russo thing, and Bill Russo wrote some wonderful parts. Exactly.(sings part) And umm, that was my first experience hearing a bass trombone featured, and the sound knocked me out. I heard a recording of George Roberts play in 1963 and the next day I looked for a bass trombone, and by the end of the month I traded some of my tenor trombone for they're bass trombone. And I was just so taken by that sound, and I think its a very unique sound. As I started playing solo literature and playing more, I realized people weren't writing for that sound. They were writing a tenor trombone, maybe in the lower register. But there were unique. There was a unique beauty to the bass trombone and I wanted to play that. I loved playing Baroque bassoon music ya know, by Telemann or classical music or contemporary tenor trombone music down an octave and all, but thats not the same as playing something specifically written for your instrument and that sound.
FB: Where the composer is taking it into account the resonance, the senorities.
TE: Absolutely. So the way to go was to commission composers, and go up to them and say hey look ya know, I'd like to play for you and see if your interested in writing a piece and I'd have to say at the time in the mid-sixties there weren't an awful lot of people doing that and so composers were saying you want me to write a piece and your gonna play it? Ya know uhh, a lot of composers were quete taken by that, that someone wanted them them to write a particular piece. Commissioning was not as big a thing as it is now. And, I was very fortunate in having some very fine composers that I was alble to persuade. I did get a few grants to commission works. I got some grants from the American Music Society, also another one from the Society for Commissioning New Music and recieved a couple of other grants that helped me with those big item commissions.