During the past two years, Tony D’Aveni has been working on perfecting thousands of musical details that are necessary to create a solo trumpet recording. The album will be based on tunes penned by the great Duke Ellington.
The concept for the album is unique. And some may say it is historical. Every song will have a different approach from a past or present great jazz musician, with the unifying force of Ellington as the foundation.
For example, D’Aveni said he thought it would be cool to hear Clifford Brown play a duet with himself on “Take the A Train” (which was written by Billy Strayhorn) as a bebop tune.
Or hear William Alonzo “Cat” Anderson, a trumpeter with Ellington’s band from portions of the 1940s to the 1970s, scream on one tune with a big band sound. And then hear how Woody Shaw, an American virtuoso trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and band leader, would approach another song in the Ellington collection.
In essence, the project will draw from D’Aveni’s classical studies of theory and approach learned in college and his practical artistic performance art he learned on his own, and then phrase it as his jazz musical mentors might have interpreted when they were playing in their respective eras.
“The other thing that I did was to use every possible sound from the instruments. I used every mute there is – straight, harmon, cup, plunger, derby – as well as playing flugelhorn and every trumpet that I own, and all in different mixes. You won’t hear the same timbre or sound that you may expect.
“And it won’t be boring to a listener. If you don’t like one, wait for the next tune because it’s going to be completely different.”
To help accomplish this, D’Aveni has taken to Indiegogo. He had raised $536 of his $2,700 goal as of late Saturday, Dec. 26, with 14 days left on his campaign.
“Most of the money,” D’Aveni said, “is going toward paying for the production of the CDs ($1,591), which includes the artwork and jewel cases. There are also mastering and edit fees, as well as shipping and promotion.
“If we reach our goal, any extra money will go toward more promotion and getting the CDs to reviewers and radio stations.”
D’Aveni has produced four other albums: “Winter Wonderland,” a traditional Christmas record, “Broken Hip,” “Hip Replacement” and “Live.” Contributors of $5 will receive the new solo trumpet CD with free shipping. Contributors of $15 or more will get the new CD plus the choice one of his other CDs. Other tiers of giving and thank you gifts are outlined on D’Aveni’s Facebook page.
“My hope is to get the CD to as many trumpet players, band directors and anyone who enjoys jazz as possible,” he added. “That’s why I’m offering it for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Of course if one wishes to donate more that would be much appreciated. But if you have five students that might enjoy or learn from this please just send me $25 and I’ll send five CDs when they are completed. Passing this on is just as important as donating.”
Listen to some of Tony D’Aveni’s music here
D’Aveni said he chose to emulate Ellington’s work because it spans works from the 1920s to the 1970s. One song features a trumpet solo with a plunger, based on James “Bubber” Miley’s trademark sound when he played in Duke’s band from 1924 to 1929.
Songs that feature the harmon mute will likely remind listeners of Miles Davis, while others are more “athletic” feats (ranging from super high to super low phrasings and running changes in between the melody) such as “In a Sentimental Mood.”
Certainly there is nothing static or boring about the selections. In fact some songs are purposely played not in traditional time and by using different mutes and different instruments. It mysteriously works.
While it’s still a work in progress – about 90 percent complete – D’Aveni said there will likely be about 16 to 18 songs on the finished product, probably averaging about three to four minutes each.
During the day, D’Aveni gives trumpet lessons to students in Weston, Concord and Belmont. He also teaches out of his home in Worcester.
During this project, he has studied with three other jazz musicians (Dave Liebman, a saxophonist and flautist, and trumpeters Tim Hagans and Randy Brecker), to get more ideas on how to structure the songs.
Some of the assigned homework for D’Aveni was to perfect very unusual physical and musical techniques that took months to master. But it had to be done, even if it was for only a few bars for one song. For example, “I’d have to practice playing high notes for a while before I could play properly because it is a different way in how you spin the air (inside the trumpet), a different way of sound, and a different way of thinking as a musician,” he said.
“Liebman and Hagans are more intervallic players, meaning that their songs are not based off traditional harmony,” D’Aveni explained. “It’s based on different intervals stacked on top of one each other, which gives it an ambiguous sound. It doesn’t really have a tonality to it. So there are a couple of songs on the album that are more Picasso-like instead of reality-based.
“The other thing that I wanted to express was the traditional trumpet sound, sort of like ‘The Godfather’ theme with a solo trumpet in the distance. So I approached ‘Mood Indigo’ with that eeriness in mind, with atonal sounds in the background,” he said.
“I haven’t done the final mixing and editing, and I still have two more songs to record, which I should be able to do in January,” D’Aveni said.
He’s done practically all of the prep work on his digital recorder at home. If it were recorded and arranged in a studio, costs would likely exceed $10,000, he said.
In a few weeks, he’ll be able to take a finished product to a studio, where a sound engineer will professionally master and EQ – equalize the recording, meaning the sound will be adjusted through filtering and amplification – the different frequency components of the sound.
D’Aveni, 52, grew up in Arlington and attended North Texas State University in Denton, Texas, where he concentrated on big band and jazz studies. In high school he was named an all-state trumpeter.
There were some incredible musicians at North Texas State in both jazz and in classically trained arts, he said. “When I walked onto campus for the first time in 1981 we had 120 trumpet players from all different countries.”
Many are still working in the music business today. “For example, in my second year I was in a band with Frank Greene, who went on to play trumpet on the David Letterman show and who was lead trumpet for Maynard Ferguson and several other bands.”
Another North Texas State grad, David Weiss, went on to collaborate with the great Freddie Hubbard and is currently the trumpet player with The Cookers, a super-group of seven talented musicians: Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Donald Harrison, George Cables, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart and Weiss.
In 2014, The Cookers released their latest record, “Time and Time Again,” which iTunes named “Jazz Album of the Year.”
At the time, Andrew Gilbert of The Boston Globe wrote, “Player for player, there’s no better working band in jazz than The Cookers.”
D’Aveni said Weiss also had a recording of John McNeil, who is known as a creative innovator on the instrument, playing solo trumpet. “So that’s where I initially got the idea – 30-plus years ago – of doing a solo trumpet record.”
Now it’s almost here – with a little help from his friends and, hopefully, lots of jazz aficionados.