Thursday, October 25, 2007

Horn Player Adam Unsworth at CCM

With orchestra requirements today including ever growing amounts of pops repertoire, the skills of Adam Unsworth are treasures for any orchestra looking for someone who can do it all. As hard as it often is to get us stiff classical trumpeters to swing, even more rare is the swinging horn player. The mold was shattered, however, and the bar raised this week as Adam lectured, demonstrated and performed in concert and masterclass at CCM.

His impressive credentials include several major orchestras and now teaching responsibilities at Michigan. His double major on theory has proven practical as it forms the foundation for his jazz improv and secure technique. Scales of all kinds matter, as do arpeggios and chords of all sorts.

Most notable for me was his relaxed almost cool approach to the horn. Jazz or non jazz, it was effortless. As soon as air was released into the instrument, style emerged. Jazz is that creative, spontaneous, and freeing element that can be just the therapy we need, sort of like dessert after way too much broccoli! Someone once challenged Adam to end each day's practice with 20 minutes of fun. (Oh that we knew how to make that the agenda for the whole day!) Fun, that illusive ingredient for success and satisfaction! It's the fun part of playing that can open up sound, help flexibility, and free up one's approach. It also demands the kind of thinking and listening skills that can often be neglected by classical players.

I liked Adam's purpose-driven phrasing. Jazz has a way of demanding that of us, whereas it is easy just to plow into some excerpt or etude hoping to discover what we are supposed to do with it before we're done.

A teacher, Doug Hill, once asked Adam if he planned to "make a living or just have fun (with his jazz)." I'm thinking, "Why not both?" Obviously so was Adam.

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