FB: Good morning, Christine!
CF: Hey, Fred.
FB: Nice to have you aboard!
CF: Thank you! Thank you for having me.
FB: You're one of the youngest people we've had in this series, over since 2005, and ah, that kind of gives you a different kind of perspective on ah, your career at Berklee and out in the musical world. Um it should be kind of an exciting point of view that you bring to the Oral History project. Um there aren't too many women trumpet players out there. How did you get a horn in your hands for the first time?
CF: Good question! and you're right about that, there aren't too many -- still -- there aren't too many women trumpet players. Um, when I was a kid I was a tomboy; I played with all the boys. I played sports. I think I wanted to be a boy. You know, I was the youngest of five: I had one brother, I was surrounded by sisters, very girly sisters, so I think I was rebelling against that, and I played with my brother a lot in the dirt, you know. So you know I was attracted to what the boys were attracted to, came from a musical family, we sang a lot growing up, we played instruments -- guitar, piano, these things -- and then it comes time to join the band, sixth grade, so in my family you go pick an instrument. So I just, for some reason, picked the trumpet. I don't remember ever having a specific influence why I chose the trumpet -- but it stuck as soon as I picked it.
FB: You picked it. That means there was a trumpet around the house or you went to the music store.
CF: No, went to the pawn shop, and we must have decided before. I've never talked to my parents about this; we must have decided before. My brother played the trombone, maybe that was some sort of influence. Hey, brass! I wanna play the trumpet! And of course trumpet was smaller, so we bought a cornet, a Yamaha cornet at the pawn shop.
FB: And... so you fit into the band? The family band -- the trombone, the trumpet, everybody else was playing rhythm?
CF: Yeah, my sister played clarinet, and our band was more like a vocal group, really.
CF: My mom played piano, and guitar,and we were a vocal group -- we were singing. I remember being in the living room, or sitting around the campfire outside, and telling everyone what parts to sing, you know: “Sing this part! Sing this part! Oh no no, you're singin’ the wrong note! Sing this part!”
FB: Like thirds and sixths kind of stuff.
CF: Easy stuff, you know, we grew up singing hymns in church and that kind of harmony, you know.
FB: Right. So you took this brass instrument up at an early age. When'd you pick it up? eight or nine?
CF: Yeah, I was ten in the sixth grade.
FB: You took it to school with you.
CF: Yeah man, and I loved it. I didn't have any lessons, I didn't have anyone tellin’ me what to do. I just couldn't stop playing it, that kind of thing, you know? And then finally when I got to high school, I realized “hey, this is serious,” and some teachers said, “You know, you should get a teacher, you know, private teacher, to help steer you.”
FB: You mean you learned it on your own?
CF: Well in the band. You know, yeah, but I remember I just wouldn't put the thing down. I'd be up in my bedroom playing tunes just by ear. My parents would say "Okay, Chris! put it away, it's time to go to bed!"
CF: You know -- haha! So I didn't really need to be prodded.
FB: What did you -- I mean, were you listening to any records?
CF: Yeah, you know my mom loved The Beatles, but you know as a kid I was listening to Michael Jackson. I mean, you know I loved pop music as a kid. I would write stupid songs in my bedroom with my little tape recorder, and I would sing, and I was singin’ all the time, so mostly, vocal records. But I'll never forget the time when I discovered Frank Sinatra. My mom had these great records and nobody ever listened to ‘em.
FB: Who -- Nelson Riddle? The guy who played Brass Tracks, the trombones and ...ooh.
CF: Yes, exactly. Exactly, and I mean the string arrangements, I mean I was sitting there, my mom was in the kitchen and I was a kid, putting those records in, figuring out how the record player worked, and I was sitting on the floor listening to Frank. I think my mom was pretty taken aback but hey, I was into that.
FB: Yeah, those blue label Capitols.
CF: Exactly, the Capitols. Yup.
FB: And Bobby Hackett takin’ a couple of sweet solos in the background.
CF: Yes absolutely, and at the time I didn't know anything. you know I just liked Frank's voice, and I didn't know that those were standard Cole Porter tunes, all those tunes he's singing.
FB: You're still using “I Love You" in ensemble, right?
CF: Totally, always, yeah.
FB: Awesome. Ha ha.
CF: Yeah, man!
FB: Ha ha. So how did it go down in high school? Were you in marching band or concert band or what?
CF: Yeah, thank goodness I had a great high school band director, he brought in a jazz band when I was a sophomore in high school, and before that I played in the jazz band in middle school. But I was just -- I didn't really know anything, you know? I was just readin’ the music and I was a good reader, and you know so, just read or whatever, but I didn't really know the concept of jazz, right? So, high school, great band director came in, actually he went to New England Conservatory, just ran, you know happened to, but this is in California, so, great sax player, you know? And he hipped me to a lot of stuff, man. He hipped me to you know, I didn't know who John Coltrane was before him. All these cats he told me who to listen to, you know? So, thanks to him, he basically started my jazz, my love for jazz.
FB: Were there any swinging charts in the ensemble?
CF: Always definitely.
FB: Like what big band charts?
CF: Big band charts, we did a lot of Sammy Nestico stuff.
FB: Oh my gosh, for Basie!
CF: Yeah, but also Sammy Nestico writes stuff that, easier stuff that was for younger bands, so [FB: Right] We did a lot of that stuff. Mark Taylor was another arranger that I remember doing, he writes a lot of high school charts.
FB: So he got the kids swingin’ on bass and drum. [CF: Oh yeah.] and some hip voicings, you know good harmonies and.
CF: The whole big band we got it all, and [FB: wooo…] we had a good music pro, there were actually two jazz bands at my high school.
FB: Were you in Ukiah or Utah now?
CF: In Ukiah. [FB: Okay.] Oh yeah, my parents moved to Utah after I left.
FB: Okay, so, California, there's always something fairly hip going on, even upstate, right?
CF: Yeah, yeah I grew up in a small town, Yukaia, and you know now when I go back it's like man, what's goin.. there's nothing going on here. you know ..for what I do .. music. wha.. but it was a great place to grow up. [FB: Um hm.] Lotta country music, which I wasn't really into. But there is a little culture there, you know?
FB: Yeah, so how'd you make the transition from high school to Berklee? Well, actually I went to a small liberal arts college first, out in Hawaii, for two years. This was a religious school; I was raised religiously, so It was a religious college, so I went there for two years on scholarship playing trumpet, and that was great, I actually got to travel quite a bit and play with some good musicians.
FB: Where is this school? On the big island or -- ?
CF: On Oahu, the north shore, Liae. [FB: Okay.] Yeah, it was a great experience and to this day.
FB: Good leader too there?
CF: Oh, absolutely, I had a great teacher, Michael Sigurd, great trumpet teacher, and um he, excellent, actually when I was there, I was still doing more classical things, and part of the deal was a concerto competition at school, you know for the music majors, and the winners... [FB: Uh huh.] get to play with the Honolulu Symphony. So I got to play the Hummel Concerto with the Honolulu Symphony.
FB: Oh yeah.
CF: Tika tut tika tut tika tut, you know, the double ...
FB: I've heard Wynton or somebody play it.
CF: Yeah so, as a student that was a big plus over there, you know?
FB: Was it tough keeping up your classical and jazz chops simultaneously?
CF: You know, it's funny cause at the time I was so upset at my teacher for givin’ me all this classical stuff. I just wanted to swing, I just wanted to play jazz, and he would laugh and you know you give me all this stuff every week and I just wanna play jazz, now. I do the same thing with my students and they, you know, ‘cause I realized how important that is to keep that up?
FB: Keep their chops up.
CF: That's all I practiced man, you know, tonguing.
FB: Classical exercises.
CF: Yeah, etudes.
FB: Who, what are some of the classical trumpet books?
CF: Oh, there's so many.
FB: Which was the best one?
CF: Arban's is the big one -- it's the Bible for trumpet -- but the ones that I used with Charley, those are beautiful etudes. [FB: uh huh.] Um, Walter Smith top tones, Brent etudes, Herbert Clark? Anything.
FB: Brant? Henry Brant?
CF: No, Vasily -- it's a different guy. [FB: OK.] Yeah, so you know a lot of tonguing, just technical stuff. [FB: Yup.] You know I have a routine I do, and just to keep up the chops, you know?
FB: One of the things that troubles me about ah, running into students at Berklee, is that they are into their "indy" songwriter thing, and they don't look left, they don't look right? They don't look up, they don't look down. They've just focused on their little laptop and their little tiny genres. So, I throw classical music at them in the Music Journalism class just to try to get them to open up their ears and appreciate a little bit -- some of them have been there, and get it. Some of them it's like a whole new world: they think it's film scoring.
CF: Yeah, right, right.
FB: You know? so it's not just a matter of appreciation, of a broad spectrum of music but an actual ability to play anything. On your instrument.
CF: Mm, hmm.
FB: Am I right? I mean you gotta be ready for anything that comes your way.
CF: Absolutely, it's amazing.
FB: Learn the repertoire.
CF: Totally, and the history, it’s a good point, because, you know, I remember growing up even in band class, the music the teacher would play -- classical music, we'd have a learning period, okay. [FB: Great.] Here: this is so and so: write a paper! We’d have to write papers, all this stuff, I don't know if they're doing that so much now. It seems like I know some of the funding into lower schools, and high schools, and things are disappearing, so that could be the reason. Or maybe it's what people are listening to on the radio. I don't know, but I definitely notice it, and I think one of my favorite things to do is to hip these students into this stuff. Whether it's classical stuff or, well we’re, I'm not really in the vein really at Berklee to teach that, but you know but, in the trumpet world, definitely, but in the broad perspective not really, you know but...
FB: Yup, and then of course there are other worlds: there's world music, there's the Latin world, there's Chocolate Armenteros, there’s Arturo Sandoval. [CF: mm hmm.] There's another whole area of trumpet playing that, most kids don’t hear, unless they're from Latin countries, have never heard it.
CF: Me too! You know I have a student this semester from Colombia, but he studied in Cuba, he got a music degree in Cuba. [FB: Oh.] He's hippin’ me to all this stuff. [FB: Ah.] He's givin’ me all this stuff: “Christine, do you know this guy? Check this out!” This is the guy we just ran into in the hall, he's like, “Christine, did you get that Youtube video I sent you?” It's like ... all these cats playing. Irakere, when they first started .. he studied with these guys you know?
FB: Chucho [Valdes] is getting a PhD on Saturday, I gotta go backstage and say hello to him… I interviewed him Cuba in 1996.
FB: He was the man -- what a player!
CF: He's as heavy as it comes.
FB: The Cubans: like, they have no walls in their musical experience.
CF: Yeah, yeah.
FB: They'll play lounge gigs, jazz gigs, classical gigs, it's all pop! It's all one big happy entity, it’s like the cloud, you know, the cloud -- out there. Everything floats in the cloud, most of us are so grounded in our own little, you know, thing, that we don't see the....the sky.
CF: You know as a trumpet player, it's -- you have to have that, If you gotta make money, you gotta be open. I mean, I have colleagues here at the school who have told me “Oh, I'm not gonna ever play a GB gig” you know, a general business pop gig, and as for me! I mean, man! I love it because I, you know, it's different! It's not [mimics playing jazz ride/hi-hat] we're going [mimics R&B/pop groove] You know we're groovin, you know. What's wrong with grooving? But I like it all, I do.
FB: The other side of that -- and we'll move on from here -- is that being a horn player puts you in a very small minority: there aren't very many of you, but there also aren't many gigs. If you're a bassist or guitarist, you're working night and day, at all kinds of stuff. [CF: Yeah.] But the horn players it's like, you really gotta seek it out and be ready to double and triple if you're a reed player. You know.
CF: Read too! I'm makin more money readin' than anything, you know.
FB: There you go, out there! Are you listening, guys?
FB: So, okay, we're in Hawaii and you're having a great time with the band.
CF: Yeah, but not good enough. I remember my parents came to visit me, my second year there, and I said, "Man, I gotta get out of here." I mean, I wasn't as good as I thought I was probably, but I was one of the star players. And Hawaii, I mean, there's nothing going on.
FB: Pineapples and leis and good pork sandwiches.
CF: Yeah, the best. I remember on campus they would dig pit pork -- put the pig in the -- right on campus.
FB: Like Phil Wilson's yard in Belmont.
CF: I know. Woooo. But anyway, I had to get out of there and I always had my sights set on Berklee. Always. When I was in high school, I remember.
FB: What was the buzz on Berklee?
CF: You know what? DownBeat magazine had all these great ads. And it looked appealing and I knew so and so had gone there, and so and so, and it was like, "I gotta go, man. This is the happening place." They got me. I knew it was the biggest music school, you know, contemporary thing. And I had a, finally in high school when I got a trumpet teacher, Max Kramer, he just passed away a couple of years ago. He was a great trumpet teacher, and he played jazz and classical. And I remember when I told him I wanted to go to Berklee, he said to me, "Oh, do you like rock 'n roll?" That's what he thought Berklee was. "Hey man, sure. I don't care, I just want to go where it's happening." My parents were not into that. They didn't want me to come into the big city and lose my way. So they said, "Okay, if you do it yourself, if you get a full scholarship." But basically they said, "Well, if you can do it, go for it, but we're not gonna..." So I bought the ticket--I remember at the time, man, I had a job in Hawaii and I saved up money, I was very good with money. So I saved up money, I bought a ticket. $600 airplane ticket. That to me, I was like, "That's the biggest!" and I didn't care I just paid for it, I got it. I went, flew to Boston from Hawaii, made the audition. Then I remember I was back in Hawaii and I got the letter, man. You know, "Congratulations, you've received a full tuition scholarship to go to Berklee." And I remember I called my mom, I told her. Silence on the other end of the line. Finally, "That's great, honey. So what are you gonna do?" [laughs] I mean, I was on the next flight out.
FB: You did it.
CF: I did it, man. I had to do to it, man.
FB: Who was on your audition team?
CF: Tom Plsek, and I don't remember who else. But I remember Tom -- so, he's the reason.
FB: You wowed them.
CF: He's the reason I'm here. And I, to this day, thank Tom for this, for giving me all these opportunities.
CF: That was just the beginning, being a student at Berklee was just the beginning of being a part of the whole vibe, the whole scene.
FB: It was '99 when you got here?
FB: And what happened in Boston? How did you adapt yourself from Ukiah and upstate Hawaii to the big, bad city of Boston? What was it like then?
CF: You know, it was cool. I remember crying a lot, actually, the first semester I was here.
CF: 'Cause I was freaked out. These cats can play, man. And it was like--
FB: You were a little fish in a big pond.
CF: I'm thinking, "Can I do this, man?" And plus, I was shy then and so--
FB: I can hardly imagine you as shy.
CF: I know, right? I was, I just like [shy face]. So, any attitude I got from dudes I was freaked out, and so I was intimidated, you know? But I just kept working. I knew I had it. I knew I just had to keep going. So I remember then, my second or third year at Berklee was just like, I couldn't get enough.
FB: Were there -- in the the first year, in your acclimatization period -- were there tough classes, tough ensembles, you're saying, "I don't know if I can handle it."
CF: No, it wasn't the classes. Those were cool. I mean, 'cause I was into it. That was why I was here.
FB: So you were focused and disciplined, scholarly.
CF: Definitely. I think I must have gotten straight A's most of the time that I was here, except my last year, I got a D in Counterpoint 2.
FB: But the socializing was a little more difficult 'cause you were shy?
CF: Yeah. Well, I was shy, but--I thought I was shy until I got to know somebody, but more than anything I was intimidated and I didn't think I was good enough. And that can really eat away at you. But I just kept practicing, kept getting into it, and I played in the good bands and, you know, just stay focused.
FB: What were some of the good bands?
CF: My favorite was probably Phil Wilson's Rainbow Band, because those charts are so swinging. And he was such a great teacher to me. I still to this day follow his example as a bandleader, because the way he talks to people, he's in charge, but it's not -- to me, at that stage -- it wasn't an arrogant thing. “Cats, this is how it goes.” Man, he would sit down at the drumset and play for this cat. This old school, this big dude, Deon Harrison, this guy, big black dude, gospel, killing, but there was one thing he wasn't getting one day. Phil Wilson goes and takes-- "Now, move." He takes the brushes, gives him exactly what we're looking for and the bass player is grooving. I mean it's Phil, this cat. Nobody does--
FB: Music coming out of his fingertips.
CF: Yeah, and then he sits down at the piano and tells the guy how to be more simple. It's old school.
FB: He's a Basie fan.
FB: Herb was the Ellingtonian, but Phil loved Basie.
CF: Right. That's right.
FB: Wow. Phil could talk to people. He didn't intimidate. He was in charge, as you say, but relaxed, personable.
CF: Yeah, he's one of the--he's ordinary folk. He's a cat walking down the street.
FB: And funny.
FB: Great sense of humor.
CF: The best. And I remember the first time I was in the band, he heard me at a recital, he heard me sing something. Every semester I would have a recital, 'cause I was always playing. Every night I was playing with the band. I had my own bands all of the time, just doing stuff. He came to a recital and he heard me sing, so that's why he invited me to play with the band. I remember, I'm playing third trumpet, or fourth -- something, you know, an inner part -- after the first rehearsal. "Okay, babe, rehearsal's over." He points at me, "Babe, you've got to get your breathing together." You know, in front of everyone. Of course I was like [acts embarrassed]. But I got it together. But he was hearing me from third trumpet.
FB: Yeah. He had those kind of antennae.
CF: Yeah, man.
FB: Shotgun-like ears. What was some of the other cool bands, other than Phil's?
CF: Greg Hopkins Jazz Orchestra. Only was in that for a while. That was a tough one 'cause they rehearsed twice a week. I think that by the time I was done, I was playing in eight ensembles a semester.
CF: This one here. This one there. This one here. All this. Everything.
FB: You were all over the place.
CF: Big bands. I just loved it. I had to. I wanted to. Plus my own thing. I had an all-female big band when I was at Berklee.
FB: What? Before Diva?
CF: Yeah, because there's a woman's show, right? So I said, "Hey, I'm gonna get an all-female big band." That was crazy. See, it only lasted one year, 'cause I couldn't keep it going. I had to play lead trumpet, I'm not a lead player. There are no chicks around who could...
FB: We're talking about a fifteen-woman band?
CF: Oh yeah. Yes, Aiko Fukushima was the writer. I think I got her last name right. She wrote tunes for us, a jazz comp major. Carey Harris was the lead trombone player, we were in school together. She's in LA now, teaching at USC, I think. Damn, who else? There was a chick from Germany, a drummer, Sonja. Ayla Davila, who I went to high school with, played bass.
FB: She was in Hawaii?
CF: No, high school, Ukiah. So I got all these cats to play, man. Hey, that was cool.
FB: Is the proper term 'kittens'?
[both laugh with all their heart]
FB: So that's a gas. So that’s a lot of organization and determination to pull that together.
CF: I was crazy, man. I wouldn't do that now. I mean it's tough to get it together.
FB: So there was Phil's band, Greg's band, your band.
CF: And I had a quintet, I had my own.
FB: A few other small ensembles. Who were some of your hip teachers? Or the hip trumpeters around?
CF: Yeah, man. You know, I studied actually with Ken Cervenka my first year. He is so old school. He's so cool.
FB: He's the Miles-y thing.
CF: He's got it. This cat. He's cool.
FB: A lot of flugelhorn.
CF: Yeah, sure. He's got that sound, he's got that mellow sound. But I wanted to keep my classical stuff strong. I knew that was important. So I switched to study with Charlie Lewis, and I studied with him for the duration, as well as Tiger Okoshi. And those cats were great. It was what I needed. Tiger was...
FB: Is it a matter of discipline, or harder, different kinds of exercises or...?
CF: Yeah, good point. You know, Charlie, he really, really changed my stuff around, chop-wise. Before I studied with Charlie I would wake up, "Oh, it's working. Glad it's working. Cool." Or the next day, "Why isn't it working? I don't know, feels bad."
FB: Like the mechanics of a pitcher. Some days you've got it, some days you don't.
CF: Right, but with Charlie, I realized you can make it more consistent. It's not always going to be perfect, but there are ways to make, like, you know it's going to work. And he's like one of these guys, like, he'll say it like this [gestures like a prophet], rather than like this [points finger].
CF: Yeah, man. So I dug that a lot. Because he'll never really say something literally, it's like, "Ah, I see what you're saying." And maybe I wouldn't realize what he was saying until I'm practicing what he meant, or things like that.
FB: Oblique, analogous kind of thing.
CF: And just very cool. He was the best teacher I had, seriously, for trumpet. Yeah, exercises, he gave me all sorts of etudes, but also how to use them. 'Cause that's a big thing I noticed with teachers through my life: "Here, do this." Well, how? why? You know, right? "Here's a book. Play this book." When? Why? Trumpet players, man. If you're not resting, you can mess things up a lot, if you don't know how to practice. Charlie really helped me with that stuff.
FB: Great. Speaking of resting, when did you start singing?
CF: Oh man, singing. You know, it's funny, 'cause I grew up singing. So I was in the womb, I know. So, when wasn't I singing? But, professionally, I guess, I got some confidence here at Berklee, because people heard me and, "Hey, you're good come sing with the band." So I realized, "Hey, I could do this too." So, now, if I'm not playing I'm singing. Or now, all my gigs, I take both, I play trumpet and I sing, mostly. I've always been singing.
FB: But singing professionally, it emerged at the same time as the horn playing? Were you singing in any of those three bands that you mentioned? It never came up?
CF: Phil's band, I sang some solos, you know. But no, otherwise, I was a trumpet player. And a lot of time, people didn't even know that I sang, which is kind of how I wanted it. I wanted to be a trumpet player, but now I realise I make good money singing, so I'm doing it, you know?
FB: This may seem like a dumb question, did you ever study scatting? Did you ever practice it or work with anybody about the syllabification? [CF: No.] Or translating the notes on the horn to the notes out of your voice?
CF: Not at all. Never. In fact, when I give master classes, vocal clinics and things like this, people -- that's the number one question: "What syllables do I?" I say, "Here, listen to Art Farmer. Go. Use these syllables right here." These are the syllables that I am using.
FB: Art Farmer. Wow.
CF: These are the cats. When you scat -- you don't want to sound like a singer when you're scatting. That's horrible. Ella, she sounds like a cat, man. And that's why those cats respected her, 'cause her ears were amazing and her style, her time. "What syllables are you using, Ella?" "These ones: wee-do-doola-do-dah." You're not going to be reading that from a book. See, but that's my perspective. People do teach it. But for me, man, you just try to sound like a horn player.
FB: Good, good. Let's see. Classmates, who were some of the folks that you were playing with, hanging out with for your undergraduate years here?
CF: You know, the piano player who I always had in my band, my quartet -- whatever I was doing: recitals, gigs around town -- Daniela Schachter. Great.
FB: Really good.
CF: Yeah, man. I remember she had me over to her apartment in Allston, cooked the best lasagna I've ever had in my life. Italian, soaked in olive oil. Ah, God that was so good!
FB: Is she Italian?
CF: Yeah, she's Italian. Yeah, she's here now. She teaches over in the voice department.
FB: So I'm told.
CF: She wasn't really--I didn't know her as a singer, but we played a lot. Who else? Rebecca Cline I knew but we weren't really in the same circles at that time. Since we've graduated we have been, but ...
FB: And now you're both on the faculty.
CF: And so we're like hip to each other.
FB: You mentioned something about the Bruno Mars brass ensemble.
CF: Oh yeah, so dig this: the other day I'm watching this TV special, Bruno Mars is on there. There's a horn section, I know all three guys! I went to school with all of them. They played in Phil's band with me: Kevin, the ‘bone player, Leon, the alto player, and Shaun the trumpet player. So I texted them, I called them up, "Hey, guys, you sound great. It's so nice to see you." You know, that's Kevin, the trombone player, he's from I think the South Shore, here. He had it in his mind--he had his mind set up before he got to Berklee, he was going to move out to L.A. and play with hip-hop producers -- you know, be in that scene. He did it. It's like, I know, if you wanna do something, you can do it. Like, if you have the right attitude and you're cool enough, you know. You gotta be cool. And he's cool. It was so nice to see that, they're making it, you know?
FB: That's great. Anybody else come up off the top of your head?
CF: Some of the people that I've worked with have since moved to L.A. to be working studios. I know a couple of guys I went to school with who were film scoring, who are now assistants in the film scoring area in L.A. Man, you know what? Since then, I've met a lot of guys that went to Berklee--Anat Cohen, we played in Diva for years, but we weren't at school at the same time, she was here before I was.
FB: She did a thing with her brothers, a clinic at 939 a couple of weeks ago.
CF: Yeah, it's great that they've got a family thing going. That's huge. Rashawn Ross was here. He's the trumpet player who plays with Dave Matthews. He just came and did a lecture in one of my classes a couple of weeks ago. Awesome! He's playing with Dave Matthews. He was here. He was the guy everyone was afraid of. He was the cat, you know.
FB: Dave Matthews. Wow.
CF: Oh, man. It's a good gig that he's got.
FB: Very good.
CF: It's great to see these guys are out there doing it.
FB: So, you graduated after your third year, 'cause you did a couple of summers, and then it was hit-the-road.
CF: Yeah, man. I was ready to get out. I wasn't making much money. I remember living with--I had a nice apartment in South Boston, right on the water in Carson Beach, fifteenth floor. Beautiful view. So that was a nice place to live, had a couple roommates, Berklee students and one who wasn't. I remember I thought, "Well--I was going to move to New York or L.A., or somewhere, but I started making some money doing gigs. I always was while I was a student, so I just didn't, there was no reason to go yet. Plus, I started playing with Diva. So that was good, travelling all over the world, Europe quite a bit with them, and just playing a lot of great gigs with them. I just thought, "Well, I don't need to move to New York when they can just fly me wherever the gigs are, I'll stay in Boston, keep the gigs." And the teaching opportunity came up, so I thought, "Oh, I might as well do it."
FB: So Diva was on your books from 2004-2007 or thereabouts?
CF: Yeah, and I still play with them.
FB: They still go out.
CF: Well, they do. I quit the band as a full-time member because it was conflicting with other things that I was doing. But just a couple of weeks ago I was in DC playing Blues Alley with them.
FB: Wow. They still got their core members?
CF: Yeah, Sherrie Maricle, she's the leader, Jami Dauber is the trumpet player who is the manager in the band, basically, she runs the band. And then always there's people going in and out.
FB: Who are some of the professional women that you met when you were in Diva? What were some of your great with that ensemble?
CF: You know what? That, honestly, women, that's funny, like I said, Anat, she's great. I met Ingrid Jensen when I was a student here. She had played in the band but she had left the band before I joined, so we weren't in the same ... so, I looked up to her, obviously, as a female trumpet player. Jami Dauber, really, to me, she's one of the best female trumpet players in jazz, she's great.
FB: Does she play lead in that band?
CF: No, although she can, the lead player is Lisa Whitaker, she plays in the Army Blues Band, hot stuff, and Tanya Derby also plays lead in that band. Barbara Luranga is another one who lives in LA now, hot stuff. These cats can blow. Now, the funny thing is with women, and you have to be careful going here because you have to use it when you can, but a lot of times, even in jazz, you'll see a woman who's out there being the star, who maybe can't play as good as the next chick who might be uglier than she is. I mean, that's just the way that it is, you know. To me, it's like even the superstars that might be out there I didn't respect as much as these cats that nobody knows, because they're blowing there in the trenches, they're reading their asses off, and they're playing great jazz, and they're not out there putting their face everywhere. You know, I respected those cats. The cats who were blowing. But Diva, that band, I'm not going to lie, at first when I thought, "Okay, play with this all chick band." I knew who they were because of DownBeat, I saw, I heard the records and stuff. I wanna play in that band. I got there and I was like, "Wow, this band is better than I thought." You can't play in the band unless you can read your ass off. Period. Plain and simple. It's one of the hardest books I've seen. Charts by John McNeil, Mike Abene. Tommy Newsom writes all this great stuff. We just did a record at Dizzy's with Johnny Mandel, he wrote all the music, all his originals and his arrangements.
FB: He charted them for big band?
CF: Yeah, and he was there directing. It was hot, man.
FB: How old's he? He must be damn near eighty.
CF: I know he's in his eighties.
CF: I know, man.
FB: And Abene, what a great writer he is.
CF: Yes, so those charts are happening. They get all the cats to write these charts [air-blows 'tough charts'] It's like, if you can't read, you're not in the band. So, they would bring in guys to sub, men, if they couldn't find a lead player to sub, they're not gonna just get a chick, 'cause she's a chick. So I have a lot of respect for Sherrie and what she's doing -- definitely.
FB: That's cool. Bring a few ringers in. Wow. And with them you played Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theatre, Lincoln Center and backed a lot of great people -- I'm just reading from your resumé here: Anne Hampton Callaway, John Pizzarelli, a few others.
CF: Yes, these old school singers they bring in. Who's the tap dancer?
CF: Yeah! His brother. Maurice. We did this thing at the Apollo Theatre once, it was a tribute.
FB: To Gregory?
CF: Man, if you could have been there. They did this scene where they danced together. It was Gregory was up there on the projector, it was like his shadow and his brother danced with him. Everyone was -- there was not a dry eye in the place. I mean, it was like. We played the music, argh, nah, man. Deep. That happening. It's nice because, you know what, Stanley Kay, right, who just passed away a few months ago, he was the founder of the band, he played with, he was Buddy Rich's manager, he played drums way back in the day. Phil knew him, that's how I got hooked up with the band, 'cause he calls Phil one day, "Hey, do you have any trumpet players?" I happen to be in Phil's office, "Hey, talk to Christine." So, that's how I got hooked up with the band 'cause Phil and Stanley were friends.
FB: With the Diva band?
CF: Yeah, man.
FB: A guy founded Diva?
CF: Yeah, absolutely.
CF: 'Cause he believed, he heard Sherrie. She's a chick drummer. "Hey, let's do this." He was as liberal as it comes for an old-school cat. So this guy, he was so old-school that's why the vision, that's why the band is as hip as it is, because he and Sherry got together. Yeah. That's my little connection to the old-school world. These cats, these students in the improv labs, or in the classes in the brass department, they don't know tunes. They learn these tunes. Listen to all these dead guys, man. That's our connection.
FB: Yeah, there is a big gap between what students are listening to and what they might be catching up on. It happened long back in music history. That's the way it is. You've got to kind of scratch your way down from the surface to get down layers further and further to really broaden your perspectives in your career. You have to listen out, but you also have to listen back.
CF: Yeah, absolutely.
FB: And that seems to be harder and harder in some respects.
CF: I think it helps that I'm younger, because, see, if I'm not an old fart and I'm going, "Listen to these records. Hey, cats, this is hip. Check it out. C'mon play." Then it's like, "Oh she's doing it -- okay."
FB: She's only eight years older than me.
CF: Yeah. Well, whatever, man.
FB: It's a generation gap. It's true.
CF: So I think it helps, 'cause all my -- the guys I still listen to, they're all dead cats, and transcribing.
FB: I mean, you named Art Farmer, one of my gods, one of my all-time favorite players, but there are lots of guys who played trumpet who were just so creative and so cutting edge, I mean, Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie.
CF: My favorites are cats like Clifford Brown, because his articulation is so clean, and he's so meticulous, this cat.
CF: You hear those practice tapes, Clifford Brown practice tapes. They're online. It's like him practicing with a mute, same thing over and over, playing changes, practicing.
CF: I love him. I play that stuff for my students. "Listen, this is how Clifford practiced." Except I say you gotta rest more than he's resting. He never takes it off his face, you know. Ah, those are grating, hearing that stuff.
FB: In one sense, YouTube and the great wealth of things that are now online, is a blessing, but you have to know where to go. You know, if you get tied up in video games and the latest tweets and Rebecca Black and all these other one second wonders, you get lost in the fray. You need people to kind of steer. "Check that one out." "Check this one out." And why.
CF: Honestly. And you know what, I'm at the point now when I'm making my students buy CDs, because, like, liner notes, you know, who's on the record, you gotta know what's going on.
FB: You need the context.
CF: And you read about the history. I'm learning every time I read the liner notes. "Okay, in 1952, this cat was doing this. Oh, ok." It's the history.
FB: But, the sad thing is that there are no liner notes on anything except jazz and classical records. The rock and roll things you've gotta go to Rock's Back Pages [site] and see the commentaries by the pundits, the critics to get any of that stuff, 'cause rock and roll never had any notes. You get some splashy art, but never any back story.
CF: Yeah, I'm talking about jazz records.
FB: Me too, that's what I really care about. I'll be calling Cedar Walton this afternoon.
CF: Yeah, man. That's cool.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
CF: So he should get some credit for that.
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.
FB: Um, I'm almost embarrassed to bring this up at this point but, have you ever run into any stuff about being a girl horn player? I mean on the gigs or, you know.
CF: Almost weekly.
FB: Oh, um... it seems like it should be very old.
FB: But maybe it's still not as old as we think it is. Prejudices run deep.
FB: What's the, what's the source of it? Where are you running into it and how are you dealing with it?
CF: Yeah, that's a good one. I ran into it a lot on gigs, here's why: OK, I'll play an R&B gig, ten-piece band, three horns, I'm one of the horns. People who are there maybe if it's a wedding or a private party or something, they're not out listening to horn bands. So, they're not seeing horns probably in the first place, these days as much as they used to.
FB: What they're seeing is a DJ! Are you kidding?! Oof!
CF: Right, and hearing no melodies, I mean it's beats right?
FB: Yeah: chica-chica....
CF: yeah, there's no recognizable melody. Ok, so there's that. Then they go, "Wow, it's nice to see a woman horn player. There aren't very many of you are there?" It's like [yawn] “Anyway i'm gonna get back to…” I mean, yeah, it's like fine, yeah I go along with it, Fred, I do. I'm just like, "Yeah, I know! Isn't it great!"
FB: “I'm the chick singer, too!”
CF: Yeah, you know it's like that, yeah. But so I don't really get bothered by it. I mean, I used to be defensive about it. Now I, you know, push my boobs together and go, “I mean, you know, what're you gonna do?” It's like honestly, I use it when I can. I know I get hired for gigs because I'm a woman trumpet player. I'm not, I know I do. So, I put makeup on and go and I swing man -- you know?
FB: And you're not gonna lose any because you're a woman trumpet player.
CF: I don't think so... Because I can play.
FB: Yeah, and there's no reverse discrimination? "Oh, she's a chick, forget her!"
CF: I don't think so: I think it's the opposite. I think right now white males are the ones who are discriminated against in what I do. [FB: Yup.] You know? so hey, I'm not gonna take advantage of it to the point where I wanna look better than I sound. [FB: Yeah.] You know, kinda thing? [FB: Yeah.] But you kinda have to use it when you can. I do, and I don't mind -- Diva, man! They have gigs.
FB: Oh sure.
CF: It paid my rent for a couple years, so you know?
FB: Was there anything that you learned as a student here, in the classes, that you had to kind of unlearn out in the professional world? I mean we think that Berklee would be really good grounding for a musical career, but like any attitudes or information or myths that you found got blown out of the water once you really started working?
CF: Yes, thank goodness that I just wanna play, 'cause I'll play anything and I grew up loving pop, the popular music that I listened to as a kid. So, I did have teachers at Berklee who would I didn't even know what GB meant. And I know I had some teachers, whether I didn't have them, maybe in passing or something, "Oh, those GB gigs -- pshht!" You know, they're just pooh-poohing. Those are the best gigs in town man, I mean hip, and if you get with a good band, you travel. You know I travel with these bands, making good money, you know? So I'm glad I never developed an attitude about those. Even though some people portrayed the attitude, it didn't rub off on me 'cause I like money, you know? And listen I'm not doing this for money, but you gotta make it. And if I'm gonna play a gig -- I don't take all the gigs that I get called for thankfully I don't have to, right? -- but, if it pays good and the cats are playing I'll do it, I don't care what it is. You know?
FB: And it doesn't pay good, but it's a really fascinating ensemble, you grab it?
CF: Always, always, any day! I'm always doing stuff, sessions with guys. Last night get together with a guitar player friend of mine we're writing tunes, sessions, no-one's getting paid, we're just playing. you know?
FB: Yeah, yeah.
CF: So of course, club gigs, I mean I've payed, been in the hole $700 on a gig because I wanted to get the best guys and play some music, you know? You can't do that too much 'cause you go broke. But you know, these kinds of things, right?
FB: There's a trade off, yeah.
CF: And there's a trade off and I do these gigs that pay better money so that I can do my art, you know and write music and...
FB: Yeah, you don't want to lose perspective on that.
CF: No, and I don't feel...
FB: Then it becomes drudgery, you know?
CF: Totally! There's an article in the Musician Union paper about selling out. This cat I think he's from LA and he's a session cat he's just wrote about what is selling out as an artist? when Shawn Ross came and talked to my singing class, he said exactly.
FB: Tell 'em about Ross.
CF: Ok, he said exactly what I wanted him to say. He said "man!" He said this: "Some jazzers look down on me because I'm playing this music, right?" And he said: "I started feeling bad about it then I realized, I'm the open-minded one! I'm playing this kind of music and I'm making good money. Why should I feel bad about that?" You know?
CF: So this kind of attitude is what I try to tell my students: "Guys, don't get a job -- get a gig. Go get a gig, you know? And gigs lead to more gigs. If what you want to do is play."
FB: Yeah, Yeah. How do you inculcate into a 17 or 18 year old newbie who's only listened to one kind of music, a desire to expand his repertoire? How do you? Do you just throw everything at them, or do you ever try to listen to critically to things?
CF: Yeah, good question. In the avenues that I have at Berklee, I don't really deal with that. Like, for instance we're teaching improv labs in the brass department and private lessons. So mostly we're dealing with technique, things like that.
CF: But, I do try to spill in the real world perspective. Reading labs are a great way to do it, for example I'll bring in Earth Wind & Fire charts. I'll bring in charts from Rick James, you know? Horn stuff, like hot. And I'll say, "Guys, I just played this over the weekend I had to sight-read it. Here we go, ready?" You know? and can you play it? If you have attitude then you should be able to play the piss out of this music. And most of 'em can't, you know? The ticka-det-det-da-det. Sight reading, right?
CF: So if they have attitude before I give them the music, well it's gone afterwards, because it's eaten them up... you know? So this is one way to do it. It’s like if...
FB: Rub their nose in it.
CF: if you're so much better than this, play it. you know?
FB: Yeah, yeah yeah. Or there's tricky latin charts.
CF: Oh, man! Those are good, yeah! Anything syncopated, sixteenth notes, you know? [FB: Yup.] Yeah, and that's the biggest thing I learned is when students come in especially if they get "high numbers" at Berklee. You know those numbers? It's like attitude, man. And I call 'em out on it, no problem, I been teaching here 7 maybe, this is my eighth year? Man -- goes fast!
CF: But these, you know at first I was like I didn't kick anyone out of class, whatever. Now I'm like, no no no, you know? and it's cool. You establish -- they want rules. They want a standard, you know? So.
FB: Don't come back until you... practice.
CF: Like, get rid of the attitude, is basically the thing. One time I had this student he was on a full tuition scholarship, trombone player. And, he was obviously the best one in the class, you know? Came in first semester. Somebody after class asked him, "Hey man, what do you practice?" He said, "Pshht, I never practice!" Man, I took him aside and tsk tsk tsk! [makes slapping motion] It's like, what kind of example are you? You're on a full ride. Be cool, man!
CF: It's something, you might not practice now, but at some point you did and you know -- attitude. What is that?
FB: He's just showing off, or trying to.
CF: Yeah, exactly. And these kinds of things where it's an ego thing, it's not really maybe who they are. It's like insecurity, you know, these kind of things.
FB: It's a little bravado.
FB: To try to flaunt it over.
CF: And so I said, "That's not cool, man. I’ve got no place for that. Trumpet players are jerks, I mean sorry, I'm just trying to make ‘em. Right now if you're under my influence, don't be a jerk.”
FB: Why are trumpet players jerks?
CF: Well, there's a lot of theories about that. One of them is that trumpet is hard, heh, really! you know trumpet is harder, George Garzone, I didn't hear this from him but somebody told me that he said, "Saxophone is the easiest instrument to play." Right? so that makes me feel good coming from him 'cause I've had arguments with sax players about the same thing.
FB: It's easier than clarinet.
FB: That’s for sure.
CF: Right, heh heh! So trumpet is hard, right? You gotta keep it on your face like... like... It's like an athlete, you know? These are our muscles these are our core muscles. When Ray Allen's not playing a game, he's in the gym working out. Same thing, right? So that, I think it's like I've worked hard for this so I have to protect it kind of thing. And I'm better, I'm good. I know I'm good, you know? This kind of attitude?
CF: I dunno, man.
FB: It also comes from playing loud and high and usually getting the melody and being in the front of the band where the second liners are in back.
CF: There you go!
FB: I mean that's probably all part of the… mystique.
CF: Absolutely! My husband is also a trumpet player and we always talk about this -- how, say an athlete, professional athletes go out and play, all of them were most likely superstars in highschool and college. Same goes for what we do. When we were in high school and college we were the stars, and we play on stage with the cats who were. So, who’s better? Doesn't matter! We're all better, we're all superstars, you know? [FB: Yeah.] When we get there you gotta, you go, check, play, you know?
CF: So you just gotta keep it in perspective, really.
FB: Yeah and some do and some don't.
CF: And even some don't and they’re still workin' 'cause they're so good. But, you know I choose to be with the cats who are cool, man.
FB: Hahaha. Check your ego at the door, please.
CF: I mean, come on! I have ego but mostly it comes from insecurity but you know it's like we all have to have it. [FB: Yeah.] But as long as it doesn't override everything else.
FB: Yeah, we've covered a lot of ground. Let's see, what else can we talk about? Umm... talk about Bean Town?
CF: Bean Town... oh yeah that's a good band. Bean Town that's the ten-piece band, R&B band, that's cool. I mean, honestly it's funny because musicians go, like people talk down about these kinds of bands in Boston, right? Because it's like a local band that plays private corporate functions these kinds of things, right?
CF: But, man this is a great gig, it's a great money gig. It's paying my mortgage, and we travel quite a bit and, you know, get to go places and play fun music. And always we're learning new music, always, and reading new horn stuff, so really it's a good gig for chops. My chops always feel good playing in the gig, you know? and just different styles, I mean we sing Michael Jackson and Earth Wind and Fire -- there's a lot of that, Chicago, you know? Old, old fun stuff. As well as new stuff, this ehh… [winces] you know. I have to sing some of that stuff, it's OK, I mean hey it's a gig, you know?
FB: Yeah, look um, let's talk about favorites. Who are your favorite trumpet players and why? Just one or two.
CF: Yeah, man. It's hard.
FB: I know!
CF: Yeah all those cats we talked about, honestly Miles Davis. I have more records, probably because he made more, but I have a lot of records of Miles probably more than any other trumpet player and I didn't realize that I was obsessed with him in college but I remember I had an alarm clock that I could set to a CD player and I would wake up for like one year in college to “Round About Midnight”, you know? with the Harmon mute-- “‘Round about Midnight.” This is what I woke up to. ]
FB: So few notes, so well placed.
CF: Ahh, oohh... his time is amazing. His time, man. And see some... even now some trumpet players put him down like, you know, he's not technically det da det da det... psshh! forget it, man.
FB: That's like saying that about Billie Holliday.
CF: Right. It's like saying that about anyone, all those cats I respect. I mean other than Clifford Brown, I mean you know? I mean there's a bunch of trumpet players that are technically that are monsters. Freddie Hubbard man, doesn't get any better than that -- Superman. In fact, Ken Cervenka made me transcribe some of his solos, changed my life really, playing with Freddie. Blast the speakers, play along with it man. That's hot.
FB: Transcribe and then play along with Freddie Hubbard, yeah.
CF: That's what I do. I'm always working on a solo, transcribing. Right now I am doing this Wynton Marsalis solo. Have you seen it? He's with Sarah Vaughan, this must have been in the 80s.
FB: She died in '90.
CF: Yes. It was when he was just on the scene -- “Autumn Leaves” -- burning. It was like [mouths swinging ride cymbals] -- burning. Anyway, so I am working on that one, transcribing. I was trying to just work on this, man. But, nobody does it for me like Miles. There's an aura about him.
FB: What if he hadn't had that throat operation? What if he had been a singer, too? You ever think about that?
CF: Yeah, but I think about this. Those cats who sang, Chet, he needed to sing. Miles didn't need to sing. He sang [mimes playing trumpet]. You know?
CF: He sang, man. He didn't need his voice, he had a voice. I mean, he was so deep it's like, just the sound, the time. I am telling you, the time, I can dig that time so much. I still put on these records, I sing along. Man, I don't need to listen to new. It's crazy how much into Miles I am. And even lately I am having this, I am revisiting all these records that I fell in love with when I was younger.
FB: The early stuff?
FB: The ‘50s Miles, not the ‘60s Miles.
CF: But the other stuff, too. I love all of it.
FB: Not the electronic Miles?
CF: No, not so much. I mean “Nefertiti,” that stuff. Oh yeah!
FB: Some bad charts by [Wayne] Shorter.
CF: Miles never played so in tune, as playing those lines with Wayne.
FB: He had to. “Isis”, “Pinocchio.”
CF: And he could. To me that's deep. I mean it's so deep. Also the stuff with Paul Chambers and Coltrane. That stuff, those are the records that I am making my students buy. Please don't download anything. Go buy it. Buy it off half.com. Go to the web, whatever, and buy it.
FB: And you can read Ralph Gleason's liner notes.
FB: Hear from Nat Hentoff, or Teo Macero, you know comments, whatever. Yeah. And also Miles as a leader was so cosmic, so laissez-faire. Hired the best guys.
CF: But not. He appeared that way. And that's why he hired those guys, right. I mean this is my perception of stuff I've read, and stuff I've seen, you know, that he hired those cats, but he had a clear direction. There was a DVD that Herbie Hancock said (a friend of mine told me this) that he saw Herbie Hancock say this. Somebody asked, "Why did Miles turn his back to the audience?" And Herbie said, "I never saw him turn his back to the audience. What I did see, was a guy who knew how to lead a band." That was his way of -- hey! I mean, Miles was a jerk, c'mon. You read his autobiography and you're like, if you have any sense. How he treated women, I mean c'mon, this guy was jerk. Just like after I saw that Chet Baker documentary, where his mom cries. What is it called? Let's Get Lost.
FB: Let's Get Lost.
CF: That's sad. I couldn't listen to Chet for a while, right? I mean, that's like he's such a jerk. But, you get over that.
FB: A dependant personality.
FB: But Chet played like he sang. And they were both beautiful. Even late in life when he had that kind of haunted, hollow sound, and even with his horn it was like a ghost. It still had an eerie beauty. He accomplished a lot with very, very few notes.
CF: And his melodic sense was amazing.
CF: Totally. I mean, he could play... I don't even know if he knew exactly what he was doing. Like he used his ears so well.
FB: Do you have any favorite singers?
CF: Ella takes them all. I like Sarah, though. I mean, you gotta love 'em. But Ella, man, I'm not -- it's like, she swings so hard.
FB: Even when she was 18, 19 with Chick Webb.
CF: She was humble. That's nice knowing that. It makes me like her more. She wasn't so much of a diva.
FB: No, very humble, always. I remember seeing her with the Retina Foundation here in Boston, even when she was 65, 70, hobbling and didn't have a lot of voice left. She was so sweet and innocent and giving and appreciative of everybody. Wow. Do you have any words of wisdom for anybody tuning in on this tape? Any of the kids that are watching this...
CF: You know, I am going to say, I don't think a day goes by that I don't think about what I do and think how lucky I am to be doing it. We're all so lucky, man. That's why anytime I see a disgruntled dude on a gig or anything, I am like, "What?! We could be digging ditches, man, you know?" We're so lucky to be doing what we do, making music, playing, you know, and, the best thing is just keep on it. I don't take it for granted.
FB: Yeah. It's a high art and yet it's a practical art. And those of us at Berklee are among the fortunate few. Give it your best and keep working hard.
CF: That's it. And be grateful for it, you know? Don't take it for granted. The world doesn't need it, really. I mean, I need them to need me, the world doesn't this [air trumpet playing]. I mean, I think it does, but they don't, right?
FB: People need three squares a day and a roof over their head before they can appreciate art.
CF: That's it. So we're lucky to be doing it.
FB: Thanks, Christine.
CF: Yeah, thank you.
FB: It was a ball.