It was one of those long grueling slug fest weeks of 24/7 pops. Doc Severinsen was the soloist for one those marathon Telarc recording weeks. Doc owned the entire week, and he provided us memories to last us a life time. I arrived at rehearsals extra early just to hang around, hoping to catch some warm up tips. Maybe something would rub off just by being in the vicinity! As the start time of the rehearsal approached we heard what we expected: fireworks, high, fast, loud and louder! No one was disappointed. Doc was here! And he would deliver as he always does.
The strangest thing however was what I heard that was almost as memorable for me as the fireworks. An hour or more before the rehearsal there emanated from his dressing room very soft muffled groaning sub tones below the staff, like Clarke's first studies but with no great tone intended. He was just "massaging his chops" as he told me be later. Sensitivity and responsiveness was the goal for those early morning sessions. It was almost like the mouthpiece was barely touching his lips. Nerve endings were being coaxed into action a little at a time. No one would have guessed who was in that dressing room. I say it respectfully, but it could have been a grade school beginner!
He took his time, rested, and then resumed his work gradually extending his range. Adequate time was being spent slowly preparing his embouchure for the fierce battles just ahead. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he could care less what listeners thought of his playing an hour and a half before the rehearsal.
Before long he was beginning to sound like himself. His air was totally under control and the lips were flexible, responsive and ready for air travel at supersonic speeds as well as whispering soft volumes. No doubt the slow soft regimen is one of his secrets. It's easy to hurry onto the stage having neglected the soft therapy necessary for engaging our lips in combat! And then we get felled by the first barrage of high and loud demands.
The rehearsals were long. The week was long. The concerts were long. The recording sessions were even longer. And the amazing thing about it all was that it appeared to be all fun for Doc, and it was! His drive, passion and stamina were something to behold. No doubt his love for what he was doing sustained him. But only a few of us noticed the painstaking drudgery of soft preparation that played that vital part in his music-making and his longevity.
Each of us must discover what secret weapons work best for us. Usually it will involve some careful soft therapy in doses we learn to prescribe for ourselves. It's probably wise to keep a supply of soft medication handy, and take it regularly.