May 22, 2024

Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Rich Pulin: Between intellect and soul, I choose a third … Video

Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if tromboneist, guitarist and arangerist Rich Pulin. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Rich Pulin: – I was born and raised in New York City (1941-49) (The Bronx) and Long Island (Bethpage) 1949-59…..

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the trombone? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz trombone?

RP: – I began playing the Baritone Horn (a smaller version of the Tuba) in 1953, and about a year later, switched to the Trombone, after seeing “The Glenn Miller Story”, starring Jimmy Stewart, as Glenn! Although my wonderful teacher, Paul Willeman, instructed me on the Baritone, I was on my own with the Trombone…my great and loving Dad, came ’to my rescue’, by bringing home a stack of jazz, and big band records, every Friday! It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I played those records on my phonograph, that I could play along with them … so, there I went….I played along with the records of Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, and a band (that was soon to become my first employer, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, which at the age of 18, I was hired to play with! Playing with those records turned out to become the foundation of my quickly developing professional career!!

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

RP: – My sound, on the trombone, came from a combination of elements … First, Paul Willeman was a BIG believer in developing a big, rich tone and worked closely with me to develop that awesome tone … but, again, listening to the records brought me in contact with some of the great trombonists of that period … musicians like Miff Mole, Jack Teagarden and Tommy Dorsey initially … later on I listened to a LOT of J. J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Carl Fontana and Wayne Andre…plus a host of other players!

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

RP: – I wasn’t keen on practicing all of the ‘required’ material like scales and lip strengthening exercises, but I begrudgingly worked on them….all the while, I augmented my practice regimen by including playing along with the records, and learning a LOT of songs! Once I learned several songs, I started going to the local park, and playing on weekends! Much to my amazement, people would stop, listen, and drop money in my instrument case! It wasn’t unusual, in the mid-1950’s to make 5-10 dollars on a Saturday & Sunday! By today’s standards, that would be 50-100 dollars….this meant that I was earning more money than my Dad!!

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

RP: – My harmonic preference was built on the ‘Be-Bop’ era and style …. when I discovered Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie, I found a harmonic structure that I LOVED! I adopted those harmonies to my jazz playing, and shortly thereafter I adopted this harmonic structure to my song writing, arranging and orchestration!

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

RP: – Between intellect and soul, I choose a third, but I feel, MOST important component that makes a GREAT player and/or writer, that being a musicians EAR! Without being able to hear the entire periphery of  music, to its fullest extent, all of the soul and intellect would not be a factor … BUT, assuming a musician has a magnificent ear, than all other factors add to the overall success that they experience!

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

RP: – Some of my most memorable gigs happened (in no particular order) as trombone soloist with Tito Puente at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival (available on Concord Records…and also on youtube!
Soloist with the Dusko Goykevich Big Band in major concerts at the ‘Opera Houses’ of Budapest, Hungary & Bucharest Rumania…being selected, in 1967 to be the very first 1st Trombonist on Clark Terry’s newly formed big band, at the infamous Half Note, in Manhattan … perhaps the biggest event of all, was being asked, in 1977, by La Rue Brown, widow of trumpet legend Clifford Brown, to write lyrics to  a love ballad that Clifford wrote for her in 1954, when they were engaged to be married…. 39 years later, I arranged that piece for Joe Grandson and his 17 piece big band, and they Premiered it at the BLUE NOTE Jazz Club in New York City! (See Youtube, under “Its You LaRue”). My studio highlights are too NUMEROUS to mention…

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

RP: – The AGE of a song is irrelevant…as long as there are musicians such as my esteemed colleagues and myself, the GREAT music will always be re-introduced…which ties to your next question.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

RP: – One thing that I am personally endeavoring to change, every day, is introducing the best music to audiences throughout the world (particularly, the students,which we have done in the Las Vegas School District,  beginning in 1993…. and also via our internet worldwide jazz radio station, which is broadcast 24/7 to an audience in 196 countries, in hi-fi-stereo!

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

RP: – There is a great Big Band based in Atlanta, Georgia, Joe Gransden and his 17 piece big band….they, as I stated are playing my music, in part, and are truly one of the great bands on the scene, currently…there is also a trumpet player in New York, Jonathan Saraga, who, I feel, stands head and shoulders above the rest….both Jonathan and Joe have been frequent guests for those interested in listening to about 150 archived shows.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

RP: – Being a BIG follower of The Big Bands, 1940 was the last BIG year of the Big Band Era … when WW2 started in 1941, a year later, the interest in big bands diminished! Thank You for your interest in my music and myself….

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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