OK, I'm going to stick my neck out here. This is just my opinion - and you know what they say about opinions: they're like (a certain body cavity best left unsaid in a pubic forum); everyone has one. So feel free to disagree (as I'm sure many of you would) and please accept that I'm not trolling; I simply want to know whether I'm the only one who holds this opinion (in which case perhaps I should re-examine it).
I am a bit of a newbie to Rafael Mendez, but I've listened to a number of his recordings recently and I have to say: I don't like the way he plays. The man obviously has great technique (and I kind of like the fact that he was said to have been Pancho Villa's cornetist) but it seems to me that he is always trying to show off that technique at the expense, sometimes, of the music. And his tone comes across as thin and strained, like he's pushing those high notes (even when he's playing the low notes). He often sounds, well, tinny. I realize that may have something to do with the recordings, but I don't believe that could always be the case. Compare, for example, this recording of Mendez playing the Zigeunerweizen with Timofei Dokshizer doing the same, both recorded in around the same era:
To me, there is no comparison. Dokshizer uses his considerable technique in aid of the music, producing a dynamic range and flexibility of tone that is absent in the other. I simply don't hear the musicality that Mendez is revered for. I'd say the same for the Arban recording posted above. Yes, he has a fast tongue. But where is the tone?
There, I've said it - now I'm ducking my head!
It's cool. I love his tone and style! It's almost inhuman, kinda like listening to a keyboard with a badass keyboard player. I'm no fan of Maynard so to each his own
Mainly a 1958 Holton B47 Symphony for band
and a Bach cr310 for Brass band
Fair enough. You documented all the points. It is hard to disagree! I would perhaps interject:
1) the recordings are old, Hollywood and thus no real judge of Mendez's true sound
2) times were different in the 50s and 60s. Mendez's legacy WAS impeccable technique. The comparisons of the time were Al Hirt, Harry James and the like, not symphony players.
3) Mendez was a Hollywood trumpeter. It was his job to put his salsa on everything that he did. Maurice André also put his sauce on all of his "baroque" recordings. They had NOTHING to do with historically informed either.
4) Dokschitzer is kind of an "anti" Hollywood trumpeter. He was solo trumpeter of the Bolshoi where solo recordings were the extreme exception to the rule. His goals as an instrumentalist were simply different.
That all being said, we can compare Al Vizzutti to Tom Stevens/Charlie Schlueter/Armondo Ghitalla/Bud Herseth and come up with a similar comparison. Perhaps not quite as extreme, but in the same direction.
It is really hard to sort out why things are the way they are. Many wish that Maynard would have never left his jazz roots, others wish that Herseth would have performed more as a soloist. I guess we have to just develop our preferences on what we hear and go with that.
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
Thank you, Rowuk.
Those who heard Mendez live said his sound was utter beauty and nothing like you heard on the recordings. As Rowuk said, the recordings are second rate and do not do justice to his sound.
There was no one in the world who could do what Mendez did when he did it. (Some, like his friend Harry James, were close). Back then, the trumpet was not considered a true "solo" instrument and he set about changing it by arranging and writing many virtuoso showpiece.
Keep in mind he suffered a horrific injury to his lip in his twenties and he could not make a sound for over a year. Only a very risky procedure solved the problem with his upper lip. He never got the incredible upper register he had back and that bothered him.
Many great players still say he was the greatest of all.
The Arban exercises were recorded at 78 RPM and in monophonic.
You make a very good point, Rowuk. My mention of Dokshizer wasn't really intended as a direct comparison between two players with different styles, just to point out how recordings from that era could project a trumpet - and to underscore my feeling that Mendez's sound is what it is, not a result of patchy recording only. But yes, I agree that it is pointless comparing different styles or arguing about who is more ``musically correct''. I guess I just don't like Mendez' style (niether do I like Al Hirt much, though I quite enjoy Harry James).
Superlatives just aren't. Some like ketchup, some like salsa, tomato, tomahto, etc. I think we can all agree that what these guys had in common was that they worked their butts off to attain the virtuosity they displayed.
Wow, I just listened to the Arban recording and it's amazing to me how much of a salsa flavor there is - almost to the point of sounding like different music. Anyway, the point's already been made, but you can't really compare a classical player's sound to someone like Mendez. One's not better than the other, they are just different.
The moral of this story is that the mariachi, jazz, classical, commercial and Hollywood trumpeters ALL need Arban at conservatory quality. Mendez is a legend for other reasons but made a point of "back to the roots".
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
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