Speckles, Sparkles and Movement: Chris Pasin’s New CD, “Ornettiquette”

Chris Pasin 1

Trumpet player Chris Pasin reaches into the kernel of it all with simplicity. In his relationship with the horn, he shows respect and expressiveness using bold lines, spare phrasing and clear messages.

Inspired by the longtime collaborations that paired the great sax player Ornette Coleman with trumpet player Don Cherry, the Hudson Valley’s Chris Pasin has come out with a new CD called “Ornettiquette” that is melodically rich and delivers on the notion that jazz should be fun.

The track titled “Tomorrow is the Question” is a jaunty piece. Its ebullient harmonies and devilish beat scoop you up and drop you off in a feel-great place. “Jayne” has a deep, warm backbeat with a sparkling layer of trumpet from Pasin, who shortly is joined by an amazing groove on the vibes that add a beguiling dimension. “Ghosts” surprises with ethereal vocals whose pacing evokes the right amount of mood…Pasin comes in with a great little melody he riffs off of. And when he tells a lush and mournful tale in “Just for You,” it is a melt-worthy experience.  

Nine was pretty young to start the trumpet. How long to be comfortable with the mechanics of it, finding your embouchure, etc.?

Actually, a lot of kids started the year before. That was the first year we lived in New York. My folks knew I’d be behind so I started taking private lessons.

As to being comfortable with the trumpet and my embouchure, I still have a lot of growing to do, and practice constantly. It’s endless! Pablo Casals, when asked at 95 why he still practiced for hours every day, said, “I’m making progress!”

Why do you feel the trumpet, above all instruments, best allows you to speak what’s inside?

The trumpet is a very vocal instrument which sings more than any other. I also can elicit a broad range of colors and moods, from soft and melancholy to brassy and strident. 

What inspired the new CD “Ornettiquette”?  

I’d been thinking of playing more of his music, and had written OCDC, so I started thinking about having a band that would play that and improvise freely. 

This CD has sweet, swinging, musical positivity. What do you like most about it?       

Most of the tunes selected were of his earlier recordings, which I first discovered as a teenager. This music is very melodic and accessible. I thought this would be appropriate to introduce to listeners who might be uninitiated. 

Chris Pasin CD cover

Talk about the contrast in sound yet why they go so well together: vibes and trumpet?  

The timbres of the two instruments are complementary and although the vibes are technically a percussion instrument, the sound is warm as can be the trumpet. 

When you compose do you start with a rhythm or melody?  

Actually the two ways I compose is either starting with a melody or harmony, depending upon whether I’m composing on the trumpet or the piano. The melody implies the rhythm. 

The most coveted audience reaction for you is _____

“Rapt wonderment, complete immersion in what is happening between the musicians.” 

Do you like to explore pushing the boundaries of an instrument’s range?                                                

Indeed I do, and also to explore the different sounds the instrument is capable of making.

How did “Detour Ahead” help you develop into who you are today as a writer and an instrumentalist?           

That album had some of my earliest writing, and proved that music I wrote could be made into pieces that stand the test of time by great musicians. I had to be at my best to play with those cats! Some of the same harmonic vocabulary in those tunes comes up in what I write today.

As a studio trumpet player, how do you continue to get good gigs?      

I practice to keep my command of the instrument in top shape so I can execute whatever the demands of the music. 

What’s your funniest story about a performance?       

One night a few years ago I was having trouble playing my trumpet so I played the second set on flugelhorn. After the gig I looked into my lead pipe (the tube that you blow into), and I couldn’t see through it, as dirty as it was!

What do you like most about playing festivals?         

Playing in front of large crowds is always inspiring. 

Where would you most like to play (venue or location) that you have not yet?

Symphony Hall in Boston.

Do you see a bright future for emerging jazz musicians today?     

The state of jazz education is as high as it has ever been. Sadly, the old masters are dying off and the opportunities for young musicians to play with them are few.

That being said, young musicians are creating their own opportunities. And they have a chance to play and learn from those of us who DID play with the masters.

Most of the folks I play with have played with the giants! And I’m fortunate to have on this CD one of those giants, Karl Berger.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?   

To be humble, work hard, and be welcoming to other musicians.

Are there new ideas and approaches you want to explore in writing new music?

I’d like to work with some of the Brazilian musicians I know and have played with. I’ve always loved that music. I’d like to incorporate some of my harmony with those rhythms.

Talk about your current personnel and how they made this CD a beautiful reality.

Each of the musicians has been critical. Adam, Karl, Michael, Harvey, and Ingrid each bring a unique voice to the interplay and improvisation.

Other comments? 

It’s my privilege to play this music with these wonderfully talented musical voices. I only regret that we could record only a small sampling. Perhaps this band will endure and expand! 

For more information, visit www.chrispasin.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Chris Pasin.
© Debbie Burke 2018

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