Jazz Professional               

Itís a great life ó say

The meeting chaired by LES TOMKINS in 1974
Parts 1 2 3  

Would you say there are any essential differences in character make-up between American and British musicians?

LUSHER: Yes ó weíve had discussions about this, and it is a very positive thing. I found in America, amongst the musicians, no brashness of, shall we say, the type we associate with the American tourist in London. But what I did find was a beautiful, outgoing, free-and-easy attitude, with absolutely no inhibitions, no class distinctions of: ďHeís a bandleader, heís an A & R man, Iím a musician.Ē Nothing of this at all. My wife and I became aware of the feeling that everyone, whether he was a trombone player, a car park attendant or a record executive, was doing his jobó and there were no barriers in between.

This outgoing way is shown in the tremendous confidence that can come through in solo playing, or in playing in general. That, I think, is one of the big differences between there and here. In Britain, we like to be as confident as possible, and to give out all we can in solo playing, but the American make-up has a definite edge on us, I think.

You think itís our natural reserve which holds us back?

LUSHER: Yes, it is, undoubtedly, to my way of thinking. Weíll have to do something about that.

NASH: What you say is not necessarily true of all the States. See, Los Angeles is a newer community, younger in its attitude. Being from New England, I know also about tradition and that kind of characteristic, which you break away from by living in some place like L.A., where itís more amalgamated. But I think little by little that will break down, too. There seems to be a tradition here, in all of Europe; just passing quickly through various countries, you can see that there are very distinct characteristics. Music is a great language, though, for overcoming any of this. Here we are, Don and I, able to play Bach inventions together and be so close, and yet weíre supposedly worlds apart. When we can blend like this, visiting each other, sitting in, talking and so forth, the music speaks for itself and we find out that there is another world out there; so we can become elasticised, adjust to those things, and not have to adhere to our bordered traditions.

What about the working conditions, and the financial rewards, in Hollywood as compared to here?

NASH: Financial reward ó I like that phrase. Don and I talk about this. There are people, naturally, who are high pressure businessmen.†† When they go into this thing, they want to make a killing, and the show-off status symbol kind of thing comes into play.† And we both hate that kind of attitude, you know. What I like about what Iím doing is the fact that Iíve been blessed with a certain amount of talent, Iím able to use it, and whatever reward thereof, after Iíve done what Iím doing ó thatís fine.†† To be able to make a nice living ó I appreciate that very much. As to where it goes from there . . . Iím forty-six now, and maybe another ten years or so on the horn, and Iíll be thinking about something else. Right now, we all have to make the future the way, because if you live another thirty or forty years, what are you going to be doing?

I will say, itís good money.† The scales in the United States are possibly a little higher.†† And I think Don probably works more actual hours than I do. I try not to work weekends at all, to have some time at home; Iím studying composition, and trying to work on a few things like that. So I may have just a little more free time, I think.† But, of course, you do take more holidays than I do.

LUSHER: At weekends, particularly, I ó and a lot of my colleagues, I know ó would like to take the time off that youíre able to do. However, itís very difficult; weekends are a big two days for television, and you canít really turn down a series of thirteen, if youíre used to working for an MD, and that sort of thing. Yes, we could do with more money all the way round on a lot of things . . . but, I must say, at the end of each year I sort of make a check-up, looking around at my home, our cars, the good holidays we have, and so on ó and I marvel, really, at my luck, because I wasnít brought up this way at all. I have some talent, but I consider myself fortunate to have been able to channel it this way.

The other luck is that we can go out and do a job which we like very much indeed, and get good rewards, not only of money, but in working daily with people that you get on well with. We know so many people who crave for their weekends off; they have secure jobs, good pensions, but theyíre unhappy people, and at forty theyíre well into a dull, middle-aged existence. And weíre not like that, I hope. Iím very glad Iím a musician; Iíd like to remain one for a long, long time yet.

NASH: Bravo! †Sure, itís great. Thereís a new challenge coming up every time.

LUSHER: Another thing is this musical international bond that exists. When my wife Eileen and I went to L.A., I canít say enough about the way we were accepted. In Holland, Germany and other places, I find this bond straight away. Now, Dick and his wife Barbara have just come out of the States for the first time, and they had a wonderful time with the musicians in Holland. Itís a wonderful thing to be like this. And itís no put-on act; you strike up warm, lasting friendships.

The four of us went to the Talk Of The Town for a night out, and thoroughly enjoyed it; Burt Rhodesí band and the Phil Phillips Quartet were excellent. Burt and trombonist Stu Parker came round to see Dick; they asked us into the bandroom, and with Dickís outgoingness, everyone was friends right away.† And Dick did something which Iíve never seen before: Stu showed Dick his trombone, somebody said: ďPlay somethingĒ, and he played the whole of ďAirportĒ by himself, just like that, on a strange mouthpiece, strange trombone. Perfect, delightful. And the whole bandroom went into absolute silence, and then they all applauded. That takes a lot of doing ójust to play to musicians, like that. It was wonderful; it choked me.

NASH: Well ó Iím glad it worked out all right. But I used to play the same kind of horn as Stu was using, a Bach 12; so it wasnít all that unfamiliar.†† I just blew a couple of notes to see what it felt like; then the tune was asked for, and I said: ďOkay, sure.Ē

What sort of feeling do you have when you go to see a film and hear yourself on the soundtrack? Does it detract from the film at all?

NASH: No ó generally, you should pull yourself apart from that situation. If youíve done something in a picture, and it comes off, leave well enough alone and enjoy the total picture. Although, letís face it, we all have the ego thing, and if you do a big solo on a main title, youíre gonna listen. Not necessarily just to yourself; youíre watching the titles, the mood of the picture as it comes in. If what you did works, thatís the fulfillment, and youíre glad to be a part of it.†† You have to become objective to the point that youíre just fitting the picture ó itís not your life story.

Is there now a levelling out going on, with musicians from what have been thought to be quite disparate areas of playing able to function effectively together?

NASH: Yes, I think so.† Over the years, symphonic players have had a prejudice against the dance band players; Don probably feels that, too. But in L.A. now weíve got a pretty loose symphony, especially the brass section.†† The first trumpet player, Bob De Vol, was previously a dance band player, who just did shows and things like that. The first trombone player, Dennis Smith, was with a thing called Symphonic Metamorphosis in the Detroit Symphony, which was out-and-out rock. Like, the first oboe player would sing some real funky, way-out blues, and they formed this group.† Bob Marstellard, who has played first trombone for the L.A. Philharmonic ó I used to work with him a lot on the regular sessions. So youíre right, they are flexible, and there is a blending. Although sometimes you do have an out-and-out jazz player who would not necessarily be able to handle a first chair in a symphony. That still is a problemó if it is a problem. I donít think the jazz player would even want to, unless that was something he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime. Then heíd possibly turn off a lot of his own personalised things and go into a total blending situation.

LUSHER:† The† same† thing has happened here, tremendously. Thereís been a big blending over the past few years, on all types of instruments, among regular symphony orchestras and, shall we say, studio musicians. You know, so many of those guys are very keen on listening to bands, and they seem to know all about trombone players more on our side of the business throughout the world. Also we work together closer now; there are so many of the legitimate guys from the regular symphony orchestras who now come in and play on pop or film sessions, and we go in and play with them on various dates.

Also, another thing in our country which has happened is with Andre Previn being so popular here now, and having made such an enormous impact on the public and on the musiciansó in his work with the LSO, particularly.†† Knowing his background ó because he was a so-called jazzer ó I think this has helped things tremendously, as regards breaking down the barriers. Iím greatly in favour of this.

Has your association with Dick been of some benefit from the technical point of view?

LUSHER: Oh ó no end. The education he gave me in L.A., free of charge, was really invaluable, and Iíve been able to work on those things he told me ó and itís paying off. That is one reason why, without boasting, I feel that I can play better now than ever before.

NASH: The kind of slide technique that we were talking about ó itís no big deal that I showed you; Iím just passing on what was presented to me by John Coughey, and someone before him, too. You see, historically, people have considered the trombone kind of a rougher instrument to play, as far as matching up with the likes of buttons on the saxophone and valves on the trumpet.†† That has pretty much been licked by such great jazz-men as J. J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana. But when you apply a technique of imitating the valve sound for the trombone, it requires a couple of different things that, if you had never been instructed along those lines, you just never would know. Youíd come close, but thereís a certain combination of the use of the air, the tongue, and the slide moving freely instead of jerkily, that makes the trombone become much smoother. I made this observation when Don and I were playing these pure, valve-phrased things ó Bachís Piano Inventions, rewritten for two trombones.†† And Don ó incredible talent that he is ó turned it right on: ďOkay ó fineĒ; we went right at it, and there it was.

Weíve been analysing horns, too, going back and forth, playing each otherís instruments. Heís made some observations about me, as far as sound and centre and so forth, comparing my horn with his, and itís very close. Thereís been some valuable things, but of most value of all, I think, is that we feel deeply, and appreciate each other as people, too. That was an instant thing ó Iíll never forget it.