Tribute to two trumpeters, Doug Sax and Chuck Brady

Discussion in 'Trumpet Pedagogy' started by vphtptm, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. vphtptm

    vphtptm New Friend

    Jul 15, 2007
    I think it would be very nice for us users of Trumpetmaster to create a dedicated space for tributes to fine, venerable trumpeters who are aging or who have already left town, as the old jazzers used to say. I'm familiar with quite a few influential California trumpeters, but would love to hear testimonials from others, say in Minneapolis, Saint Augustine, or Las Vegas, who have enjoyed their inspirational teacher and sidekicks on the stand. And don't forget, small lives matter. Not every great trumpeter is named Maynard Ferguson or Harry James. Who are the unheralded "locals?" I hope other posters will enjoy doing their own mini-bios of worthy trumpeters.

    Elsewhere (see the posts on Dwight "Red" Hall), I discussed not only Red Hall, but his coterie, which included Leo Demers and Cliff Meese, all of Oakland. I then got the idea to go head and chat on two trumpeting buddies from Southern California who have left town ahead of me, but whose memories are still vivid: Doug Sax and Chuck Brady.

    Doug Sax, Herb Alpert, Malcolm McNab
    About five to ten years ago, I made an email friend, a fellow named L.D. "Doug Sax," who lived in Ojai California, a swank and pleasant town near Santa Barbara, amid orange trees and avocado orchards. I happened to buy a nice used Kanstul-Besson from him on this very website or a similar one. I sent Sax the money, got the horn, and told him--by email and phone--how much I loved the horn. It turned out as we chatted that we were just the same age, had been in Army bands in the same years (I was in Fort Ord and Fort Hood bands and he in the 7th Army symphony orchestra in Germany), liked the same kinds of music and brands of instruments, and further, we both had a predilection for strong bourbons (I was a devotee of Wild Turkey 101 and he the more elegant Jefferson Presidential. . The more we talked over the net, the stronger our friendship became.

    One day Dougie let it slip that he had sold me his nice Besson because his buddy "Herbie" (Alpert) had just given him a lightweight Bach that he liked a lot and he was going to go with the Bach. And he also surprised me by a kidding admission that, "Hey, I'm pretty rich, but Herbie, well he's probably got maybe a couple billion." Here were more connections, for I had played in USC bands just after Alpert, whom I knew by mostly by reputation, and that brought more pleasant conversation, and I began to sense that Doug was someone special. I researched Doug on the net and found out who he was really was.

    Doug was one of the biggest studio technicians in Hollywood, having a studio first at Hollywood and Vine and later, in semi-retirement in Ojai, where his one-of-a-kind, home-made equipment was put to work in a lab next to his house. Doug was famous in musical crowds, having "mastered" recordings of people like Ray Charles, Pink Floyd, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, and hundreds of other big names, not least of whom were fellow-trumpeters Herbie Alpert and the fantastic Malcolm McNab. He would send me recent recordings of McNab that he was working on, and he proudly announced one day that he and Malcolm had spent a few hours playing duets. Doug was a fine trumpeter, his training and predilection being for classical music. To "master a recording" means of course to order the songs, put the spaces between them, and to do some fine-tuning of the sound.

    Alas, Doug called me one day--at my home in Oregon then--and said, "Valdo, we're going to have one last shot of Bourbon together. I've got cancer and it has gone to my liver and they say I've only got a few days." We had a nice chat, as he was quite lucid still, and that was of the end of a beautiful friendship," as a certain song goes. I think of Doug nearly every day since he died about three years ago. I sent a friend of mine by the Ojai studio to visit with the two employees, who were still devastated and uncertain of their future. Not long after, the equipment was bought up--by a foreign enterprise, if I remember right. I worried for his widow and daughter and wished I had known Mrs. Sax well enough to call. Doug was handsome, well-liked by all, and was a trumpeter's trumpeter. He had quit playing just a year or so before he died, announcing to me, "At last! I'm free of the brass devil!" (We all know the feeling.) Ultimately, I think Doug enjoyed my company in large part because I knew little about him and was not part of his adulatory Hollywood crowd.

    Chuck Brady.
    I first met the great trumpeter, Charles (Chuck) Brady in the practice barracks at USC, which was a humble school in 1956. No giant donors, many wooden buildings, and band uniforms that were probably reworked hand-me-downs from some movie like "The Captain from Castille." Fake Trojan stuff. Tuition was about $15 a unit.

    I was new to school, and Chuck had been there a year, maybe two. He was playing one night in a practice room above me, working on the trills from the Haydn Concerto. For fun, I pulled out my horn and parroted his trills, continuing his trill when he'd leave off, other times playing the trill right with him, but in a harmonious third. He came down to see who this crazy guy was, and in minutes we were friends. He invited me to join the bands and orchestras, which I did. Chuck was a better player than me by far, and was on a full scholarship at USC. Throughout his years there, he studied music with noted L.A. symphony mentors and had the run of the School of Music. Eventually Chuck would do the highlighted trumpeting on a famous Stravinsky recording, star with the Los Angeles Symphony and at the Hollywood bowl, and would hold down first chair in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, as well as in (I think it was) the Minneapolis Symphony.

    Several years after we were both out of college, I again crossed paths with Chuck, by sheer coincidence, when in 1961 we both entered the Army at about the same time. After basic training, I tried out for the Fort Ord Army Musical Training school, and lo and behold, it was Sergeant Chuck, who auditioned me. I passed the reunion-and-audition and played a while with him at Fort Ord, before being called to help fill out a new band that was forming in Fort Hood, Texas. All the guys in the Fort Ord band--Carl Schnabel, James Klecker, Bob Saravia, Pete Henderson, Danny Acenas, were fine musicians, many having had to abandon gigs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas to "do their Army." As he was at USC, Chuck was the stalwart in the program at Fort Ord. He was kind and respectful to all, and he dazzled listeners with his big tone and impeccable technique.

    Having exhausted nearly all the adventures of trumpeting all over the United States, Charles settled in later life into the quiet life of teaching trumpet in a town near Bakersfield, his "ville natale." His students loved him, all the more as he had found a religious inner peace toward the end of his life. Like those of L.D. "Doug Sax," Charles Brady's many accomplishments and plaudits are easily found on the internet. Like me, Chuck believed that trumpeting joins us all in a sort of holy "confrérie." Though he knew my name well, and those of his students, he preferred to greet us with no other salutation than "Hi, Trumpeter! How ya doing?" That was the highest compliment he could pay--to call you "Trumpeter."
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
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