Jim Manley Interview
Jim Manley Interview
As an avid Maynard
Ferguson fan, I get frequent recommendations from other trumpet enthusiasts.
I often hear about Jon Faddis, Cat Anderson, Arturo Sandoval, etc... I
have enjoyed most, but none have generated as much excitement for me as
Jim Manley. I purchased a couple of his albums when I was in college,
and I was hooked. My appreciation only grew more when I would see quotes
from Jim praising Maynard's influence. This was my kind of trumpet player!
Jim was kind enough to answer a few questions for my site recently.
- Let's start
with your musical background. Can you tell us about your musical education?
I started playing trumpet in the 7th grade after the band director
at my grade school came around to each class asking if anyone wanted
to sign up
for band. No one on my family played any instruments and I found out
at a young age I couldn't hit a whiffle ball with even the large red
bat-so it seemed natural at the time to try a cornet. That was in 1967
and Herb Alpert was the real deal. I fell in love with music that very
first year and was so into it I formed my first band by 1968 and played
at several libraries and school concerts-I only can imagine how those
things sounded! I had a great band director in high school who really
turned me onto to the jazz trumpet greats. I continued playing in groups
through high school and college. I was always putting groups together
and trying out things I had written.
- In the liner
notes from your newest CD, Splendor in the Brass, you mention that Maynard's
music was very influential to your playing and enthusiasm for music.
Can you elaborate on this, and also discuss what other musicians have
been inspirations for you?
Maynard has been
a great influence on me as I am know he has been to many, many trumpet
players. I heard "Ole" from Maynard 61 when I was a junior
in high school. I had never heard MF and could not believe what my ears
where being assaulted with! I can vividly remember walking out of the
band room in a daze. I started collecting everything I could by this
guy named Maynard. I found a few of the great Roulette LPs and then
of course all the MF 1,2 etc. started coming out. I was relentless in
my search and have collected everything he is on. I have to say he is
my major influence. His sound is so pure and open and exciting and he
always swings! You'd be very hard pressed to name a trumpet player I
don't have something by. I am crazy when it comes to hearing trumpet
players. My collection is huge and keeps growing everyday. I was an
avid Don Ellis fan and of course Doc-but then I started getting into
the straight ahead jazz guys-Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford,Chet
and I love all that stuff to. As a matter of fact I love all the trumpet
stuff I can get my hands on.
My list of favorites would take up an entire website!
- You are known
for your amazing range on the trumpet. Who blows your mind in terms
There are so many guys out there with the range thing happening
it is mind boggling. Mf is still and will always be number one on my
list-not just because of his upper register-but his sound and the way
he uses his upper register musically. You have to remember high notes
by themselves are pretty meaningless. In a musical context they can
sure add a lot of excitement.
- When did you
decide to play trumpet for a living? And how did you break into the
I played in bar bands all through college and then after I left school
I played in a few bands and started putting group together for fun.
I did odd jobs and the longest one I had was running printing presses
at a brokerage firm for about four years. My boss use to crack up because
I'd bring in my horn and practice during my lunch hour in the storerooms.
In the summer of 1983 my girlfriend's parents had a pool at their house
and I decide to quit my day job hang out by the pool and join a local
group called Fantasy that played pop/dance/funk music in the bars here.
I am still in that group and we averaged twenty nights a month from
around 85 to 95. It was insane! We now do private parties, wedding receptions
and a few clubs. I also got into putting different groups together so
I wouldn't get too bored just playing the same stuff all the time. I
was always recording groups and writing (some of this stuff is plain
awful) but I knew each time I did a project that I was learning something.
I now have several different groups here in St. Louis and they keep
me fairly busy. I might be playing lead on night and then doing a trio
gig the next-it just depends on what is needed. The only thing I do
not attempt is the classical stuff. I leave that for my buddies here
that can do that much better then me.
- I've had "Splendor
in the Brass" for a few weeks now, and I really enjoy it. I've
noticed that while you do frequent the upper register on this album,
you spend considerably less time there than you do on your first couple
of albums. In other words, your high register playing on the newest
album seems to be one of many tools that you use, instead of your primary
tool. Have you made a conscious effort to avoid becoming classified
as a high note artist?
I haven't made a conscious effort-but I think my playing in constantly
changing. When I was younger all I wanted to do was play as high as
possible- (Some Assembly) and then when Scott and I did Lip Trip we
really wanted to try and put out the ultimate modern high note trumpet
CD. We had a blast writing the tunes and recording the stuff. I was
in LA in 94 right after the big earthquake and we would be recording
and there would be these huge aftershocks that would shake the whole
studio up in Laurel Canyon-it was really something to see us all running
between takes everytime the building shook-I wish I had some videos
of that! I still love the upper register stuff-but I can also dig playing
a chorus like Freddie Hubbard (I wish I could swing that hard!) My heart
will always be with the big band thing and this new CD was a dream project
for me. We are so lucky to have MF still out on the road playing his
ass off. It is really unbelievable to think about the playing this man
has done and continues to do. I just saw the band a little while back
and MF was tearing it up.
- Which brings
us to commercialism. Is it frustrating for you as an artist that has
obviously had to put in countless hours of practice and effort to see
N Sync sell over 1,000,000 albums in their first week of release when
jazz artists go largely unrecognized by the record-buying public?
I don't think jazz
will ever be as popular as pop or country or whatever. It is just how
it is. The difference I guess is the people that do dig jazz really
love it. As a musician you have to do a lot to make ends meet. Producing
a CD is an expensive venture and you are usually lucky to break even.
I feel committed to keeping trumpet music alive and well-and I'll probably
continue to put out CD's until it is just not possible anymore. I support
jazz by going out and buying CD's, going to as many concerts as I can.
I feel very lucky to have been able to hear some of the greatest trumpet
- Let's get technical
for a moment. What equipment do you use and why?
I play the Yamaha Z with a custom made Bob Reeves mouthpiece. I like
the Z because it is so responsive and it can purr and bite at the same
time. I also have several Mark Curry mouthpieces that he has made and
I also use them on occasions I am a horn junkie-I am always buying and
selling different horns just to to try them. I also have a Don Ellis
quarter-tone trumpet, a bass trumpet, a Cuesonon Monopole Flugel and
a new acquired Firebird.
- Do you have
any tips for our trumpet playing readers regarding range?
I was voted by my
college teacher "the worst student he ever had" He was right.
I was a very poor student at college and it really wasn't until later
that I started to figure a few things out about how the trumpet works.
I was lucky enough along the way to get some advice from Lin Biviano,
Cat Anderson, Roger Ingram and the teacher that really put a light on
things, Bobby Shew. If you ever get a chance to hear him play make the
trip. If you ever get a chance to take a lesson with him-do it! Some
players have a natural ability to play the trumpet easily - the are
few and far between. The rest of us fall into the category of having
to learn to play. The best advice I can give is to play as relaxed as
you can and don't fight the resistance of your horn (or the notes).
Open up and let the air do the work. Of the player I have seen who come
through St. Louis to take a lesson there is usually way too much tension
in their playing and they overblow the horn. There is a fine balance
between the air you use and the resistance of any given note.
- Tell us a little
bit about your current CD, Splendor in the Brass. What approach did
you take with this album that you haven't taken with previous albums?
What are your favorite tracks, and why?
When the chance came
along to record a big band CD (twelve people) I knew right away I wanted
to pay tribute to the recordings I heard in high school.
The Command Doc stuff-Shorty Rogers, and of course MF . I picked tunes
form various recordings I had and narrowed the list down to what is
on the CD. We really had a blast re-arranging these thing for this ensemble.
It is hard for me to pick and favorite tracks because they all have
very close ties to me and my experiences growing up. I can tell you
it was quite a challenge for me, as all my other recording have been
in the jazz/fusion category.
- Do you have
a favorite recording of your own?
one! They all represent a growing process and I have no idea what the
next experience will bring. I'd really like to do Lip Trip 2 with Scott
and we are already talking about Splendor 2. We had a sold out CD release
party in St. Louis with the band that is on the recording. It really
was amazing to see the turn out we had and know that the support is
out there. The label I am on (for Splendor) was blown away by the response
and the turnout.
- You are now
on the internet at http://www.jimmanley.net.
What caused you to create an Internet presence?
I wanted to try and
get my music out there-that is the most difficult thing letting the
public know you exist. I record these CD for my love of music-if I really
wanted to make the big bucks I'd get a jumpsuit and apply at Jiffy-Lube.
Please everyone get out and support your local players and groups! We
need to keep this music live! (alive!)
I want to thank Jim
for taking time to answer my questions. I was thrilled to discover that
Jim is just as enthusiastic about this kind of music as we are! Let's
support him by visiting www.jimmanley.net
and buying his music! He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.