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Trumpet Player Bryan Davis of Cleethorpes, England

Cleethorpes, England Trumpet Player Bryan Davis

Trumpet Player Bryan Davis

Trumpet Player Bryan Davis grew up in a seaside resort called Cleethorpes, on the east coast of England. Bryan Davis began playing the trumpet when he was 7 years old at school. Bryan's first choice was actually the clarinet; however, the woodwind teacher said Bryan wasn't tall enough! Bryan was given a trumpet instead. Rather than beginning in a Band program, Bryan started out with instrumental lessons instead. Bryan's first teacher was J. Brian Brown, who was also the local Salvation Army bandmaster. Bryan quickly switched to playing the cornet rather than the trumpet, as it was smaller to hold. Early ensemble playing experience came in a local youth brass band, also directed by Mr Brown, which Bryan joined at around age 10. In addition to his brass studies, Bryan also took singing lessons and was a member of the boy's choir at a local church.

During secondary school (the UK equivalent to High School; attended from age 11-18), Bryan continued lessons with Brian Brown. Bryan also took general music classes as a specialty for GCSE (in 11th Grade) and A-Level (in 13th Grade) qualifications (the equivalents to earning a high school diploma). Outside school, Bryan was fortunate that the area had a thriving local youth orchestra organization, the Grimsby, Cleethorpes and District Youth Orchestra (GCDYO). By the age of 15/16, Bryan was to be found playing with different sections most nights of the week - ranging from Concert Wind Band to Big Band to Symphony Orchestra. Bryan's first introduction to Jazz came in the form of a TV broadcast of Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nations Orchestra - Live at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Bryan's Dad had videotaped this for Bryan late one evening when he was 16. Featured alongside Dizzy were Claudio Roditi and Arturo Sandoval. Needless to say, it completely changed Bryan's view of what was possible with the trumpet. Bryan started checking out other favorite trumpet players, including Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis. Bryan also started to become aware of Lead Trumpeters including Roger Ingram, Snooky Young, Derek Watkins and others.

While in 12th Grade, Bryan started to attend the weekly rehearsals of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain, every Saturday morning in London. This was a tremendous opportunity to play alongside College-age students from most of the London music colleges, as well as younger pro players on the London scene. Bryan played a couple of NYJO concerts between summer of 92 and late 93 and also became a regular performer with their "feeder" band - NYJO 2. NYJO 2 was run by a wonderful trumpet player named Paul Eshelby who was, at that time, a regular member of the BBC Radio Big Band trumpet section. Bryan is grateful to Paul for the guidance and encouragement he gave.

In 1993, following High School, Bryan moved to Leeds to attend the Leeds College of Music on their undergraduate Jazz degree course. While at Leeds, Bryan studied Trumpet with Richard Iles - a wonderful Jazz trumpet player and great teacher who's best known for his work with Kenny Wheeler and Tim Garland amongst many others. Bryan also studied briefly with Dick Hawdon before his retirement. Dick was a stalwart of John Dankworth's groups in the 1950s and 60s. While at college, Bryan played in all the "flagship" big bands they presented; the LCM Big Band led by Al Wood (a remarkable multi-instrumentalist and alum. of Maynard Ferguson's UK band), and The Duke Ellington Repertory Orchestra (DERO) and LCM Jazz Orchestra; both directed by Tony Faulkner. (NOTE: Tony is a great drummer and remarkable composer/arranger. For the DERO, he had singlehandedly transcribed over 300 original Ellington charts - he is considered one of the world's foremost experts on Ellington's music.) The Jazz Orchestra included a lot of Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer music alongside Tony Faulkner's own compositions. By the end of his time at LCM, Bryan was Lead Trumpet with all these groups.

While at Leeds College, Bryan performed with a number of renowned Guest Artists, including: Phil Woods, Rob McConnell, Diane Schuur, Derek Watkins, Bill Berry, Norris Turney and Jimmy Woode.

Bryan's professional playing career started a few weeks after starting at Leeds College. Bryan joined a nightclub band called "Jazz Amiga" (previously sponsored by Commodore Computers!). They played soul and funk music and toured all over the UK - usually working 3 or 4 nights a week. Bryan played with them from October 1993 - May 1998, all through his College years. Bryan considers this to be one of the most important parts of his education.

In 1996, Bryan got a call to rejoin the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. His first gigs, as a regular section member, were on a tour of Portugal that summer. Bryan played split-Lead and was a featured soloist with the band until 2002. During this time, aside from the regular concert schedule, they played a number of Radio and TV broadcasts, performed at Ronnie Scott's Club in London and recorded 5 CDs and 1 DVD. The DVD was from a performance in the BBC Proms season in 2000 from the Royal Albert Hall in London.

In regards to learning the trumpet, Bryan Davis relates: "Mr Brown got me off to a good start with regards to trumpet technique - he had me work from the Arban and Clarke books, and also introduced me to a few Claude Gordon routines. Richard Iles opened my eyes to many things about the Trumpet and music in general. I learned a lot about jazz playing from him; not only improvisation but also different stylistic approaches to phrasing and articulation. I also learned a lot about the art of being a good teacher; if I didn't understand something we worked on, Richard could always find a different way to explain it to make it clear. He was also musically broadminded enough to work on things I was interested in as well the types of music he enjoyed. He encouraged me to be as musically versatile as possible. I owe him a lot. Dick Hawdon was fascinating; he was already close to 70 years old when I studied with him. Dick was a great storyteller and every story had a point; I learned as much about life as trumpet-playing from him. Unfortunately, Dick retired about 6 weeks into the semester I was with him. I'm pleased that I had the opportunity, albeit briefly, to know him and learn from him.

I've had 2 more teachers in recent years that have been tremendous influences on me. Brian Lynch has been one of my favorite Jazz trumpet players for many years, ever since I saw him live in Grimsby, UK in 1992 with Phil Woods. On one of my early visits to New York, around 2001, I tracked him down and persuaded him to give me a lesson. It's been a few years since I visited him; however, now I'm in New York, I shall definitely be studying further with him. His Jazz vocabulary is virtually inexhaustible and, no matter how good I feel about my playing when I go to see him, he can always play rings around me; in the best and most inspiring way, of course!

Perhaps my most significant teacher has been Roger Ingram. I'm a fairly recent student of Roger's ... my first lesson with him being around Thanksgiving 2006. At that time, my chops were in really bad shape. In the previous several years I'd spent a lot of time on tour without ever really taking a step back and seeing what bad habits I'd gotten myself into - I was mostly doing maintenance rather than ever really practicing. Through a succession of equipment changes, I had finished up playing a very large bore Selmer trumpet and a very wide Monette mouthpiece, just trying to keep up sound-wise with how I perceived other players around me. When I took on the Lead trumpet chair on the Rat Pack show, in early 2006, it didn't take more than a few months for everything to start going wrong. When I first met Roger, I had developed a weak spot on my upper lip which manifested as a recurring split. In just a two-hour session, he was able to diagnose where I was going wrong and set me a plan to get me on the road to recovery. I was able to change almost my whole approach to playing, discover how to be efficient and, as a happy by-product, add about a 5th to my workable range! Not only that, but I did it in just a few months while holding down an 8-show-a-week Lead trumpet gig! Had I not taken the opportunity for a lesson with Roger Ingram when I did, I may well not be playing today; at least not professionally. I've studied further with Roger since and his insight never ceases to amaze me. I wholeheartedly recommend that every trumpet player take a lesson with him!

In terms of recommended literature for the aspiring trumpet player, you can't go wrong with the classics: Arban's Complete Conservatory Method For Trumpet, Herbert L. Clarke Technical Studies, Saint Jacome Grand Method, Schlossberg's Daily Drills, Charlier and Bitsch etudes, etc. When I was at college, I worked from the Allen Vizzutti books a lot. More recently, I have been enjoying working from the "Flexus" system by Laurie Frink and John McNeil; there is a lifetime of challenging material there and it is extremely well written and explained. Whatever method(s) you use, I can't overstate the importance of seeking the guidance of a qualified teacher. I know from painful, personal experience how far off the right road you can find yourself if you're not careful.

If you have any interest in a Lead or commercial trumpet player, I recommend finding a teacher from whom you can learn the Yoga or "Wedge" breath. I learned it from Roger Ingram, he learned it from Bobby Shew and Lynn Nicholson. There are many players out there who use this method of breathing and, in my opinion, it is one of the best ways to learn proper air support and control air speed for playing in the upper register. In terms of practicing range, I recommend practicing regularly and at a soft dynamic, and approaching the unfamiliar higher notes from a familiar standpoint - using arpeggios or octave glissandos. This will help train your ear to recognize the notes so you can better hear the notes before you play them, when reading music. Soft playing will help discourage overblowing - one of the main enemies to endurance and accuracy in any register.

I think of learning to "improvise" jazz in the same way as learning to play virtually any kind of music. It starts with listening. To know how music is supposed to sound, you need to have heard a good example of something similar. When I'm not practicing, I almost always have music playing, even if I'm not really listening. When it comes time to really listen, be sure to really concentrate on the music and try to ignore outside distractions.

I am always available to teach trumpet lessons - whether at home or on the road. Full details are available on my website - I also offer online lessons via webcam - a service that I'm pleased to say is becoming quite popular.

Other notable groups trumpet player Bryan Davis has performed with include a salsa group called "Casa Latina Allstars." This group played support to Tito Puente, Isaac Delgado and Tania Maria and also led to Bryan subbing with various Afro-Cuban groups/artists including Jesus Alemany, Sierra Maestra, Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, Ray Barretto, Roberto Pla, Robin Jones and many others. Bryan has also done the requisite amount of freelancing over the years and has played with all kinds of groups including: The Three Degrees, The Supremes, The Andy Prior Big Band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra UK, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, the BBC Big Band, among numerous others.

Since 1999, Bryan has spent most of his time touring with musical theatre shows. Bryan has completed European tours of shows including 42nd Street, "Cabaret" and The Official Tribute to The Blues Brothers, with which he also performed on the UK Tour and in London's West End. Bryan has also subbed a number of UK touring shows including West Side Story and Dancing In the Streets. In 2004, Bryan joined the European tour of The Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas. Since October 2006, they've also toured in the United States under the revised title of "The Rat Pack - Live at the Sands." The US tour, in particular, has been tremendous fun for Bryan. Whereas on the European Tour, they carry the whole band, in the United States, Bryan never knows who's going to be on the band until they arrive at the theatre on the opening morning in a new city. Says Bryan, "We've played with alumni of all the great big bands and many other remarkable musicians - including a few who are profiled on! I find it strange to be "the traveling guy" on a tribute show and to then meet musicians who worked for the real Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.; I wish I could have experienced the real thing too, back in the day!"

In the past couple of years, Bryan has also been a frequent visitor to Austria. Says Bryan, "I've been working with a wonderful Austrian trumpet player - Thomas Gansch - in his group "Gansch & Roses." Also, in 2008 I was appointed as Lead Trumpet to the State-funded Lower Austrian Concert Jazz Orchestra. Both bands are wonderful and it's always great to perform in Austria; the people there have such a love of music, and culture in general, of all sorts."

In October 2009, Bryan made the big move to New York! Says Bryan, "My wife is American and she likes me to live in the same place as her! I'm new in town right now and just starting to get to know some musicians but I'm hopeful of getting involved in the music scene here before too long. There are a few weeks of touring with the Rat Pack coming up so I'm not going to be completely idle!"

Trumpet Player Bryan Davis currently plays a Yamaha 8335LA Bergeron Model Bb trumpet for the majority of his work. Says Bryan, "I favour it for it's versatility - the sound can remain quite dark or really light up with minimal effort required to make the change. Importantly, it's not too large a bore - tight enough to offer some resistance upfront, but opens up if you blow through a bit more." Bryan also has a Schilke B7 as backup and a 1960 Conn Connstellation 38B which he plays on special occasions!

Bryan plays a few different trumpet mouthpieces. Says Bryan, "My main, all-round piece is by Karl Hammond Design; a custom model known as the "Haas." (Augie Haas Mouthpiece). I play a reasonably narrow diameter on all my mouthpieces - somewhere in the region of Bach 7 - 10.5 rims. It's not too shallow but has a tight #28 drill throat. For the rare occasions in which I play orchestral music, or need to play more delicately, I use a stock Hammond 7MLX - the cup diameter is just a little wider and the throat is a #24 drill; it's similar to a Bach 7B. For really constant Upper register pounding, I keep a few others in reserve including a Schilke 6A4a and a Marcinkiewicz E12.4* Roger Ingram Model." Sometimes, those slightly narrower diameters can give the help I need in times of trouble!

My Flugelhorn is a B&S Challenger II - a modern German copy of a Couesnon. I don't play it as much as I'd like. I haven't needed it too much in the past few years. My flugel mouthpiece is a Bob Reeves 40FE.

I use La Tromba T2 valve oil for the modern horns - doesn't seem to work so well on the Conn. For that, I use Snake Oil regular by Will Spencer; a great brass tech in the UK. I use Spacefiller slide lubricant on all my horns.

To contact Bryan Davis ... you can visit Bryan's website at or his page at

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