Gemini - featuring Jeff Nelsen and Adam Frey July 29 2015, 0 Comments

Jeff Nelsen, horn, a Siegfried’s Call Artist and founder of Fearless Performance LLC, has collaborated with Adam Frey, euphonium, on the newest release on the Siegfried’s Call Artist Label.
They are accompanied by the amazing University of Utah Wind Ensemble, conducted by Scott Hagen. Their release, Gemini, is a fabulous mix of the familiar and the new. Everyone should have a copy in their music library! The album will be released on August 1st, 2015.

I had the chance to preview the recording and interview these two fabulous artists under the Siegfried's Call Artist label. After listening to the music and stories being told, I felt compelled to play the pieces myself, take my horn to the practice room, and negotiate the right notes.... ha.  I hope you enjoy reading this interview with Adam and Jeff, as it was a pure pleasure getting their insights.

 "we have a kindred spirit for education, inspiring students, and engaging audiences" - Frey

So, Gemini. The word has several meanings; twins (mythological and astronomical), a sign in astrology and the US Apollo missions. How did you decide on it as a title? Was the CD named after the track, or vice versa?

JN:   Great question!  We thought that a godly tale for 2 adventurous heroes would work well in Gemini.  Tony had not settled on a title at first, but quickly did. That magical tale is well spun (best told…lots of great stuff..)  in the liner notes of the CD. 

AF:   The CD was named after the track.  When we decided to commission a new work for euphonium, horn, and piano, Tony produced a master work that audiences and performers will enjoy for a long time.  So we felt it was incredibly deserving of the title of the CD, but also the first track that will engage the listeners immediately.

Speaking of the title track (which is awesome; I loved it!), how did you become affiliated with Anthony DiLorenzo?

JN:   For me, I met his as a friend of a friend, Canadian Brass colleague Ryan Anthony.  They worked together on many projects, and then I recorded some movie soundtracks together over the years…  I’d heard his writing and loved everything he’d written, especially a special horn melody he wrote for a Russian Bear in a circus for a piece he wrote for Burning River Brass.

AF:   I meet him a few years ago when I featured his work, Little Buckaroo, on another duo CD project with Scott Hartmann.  His work, Little Buckaroo, impressed me and so though that track and finishing up the recording lead me to commission him in the future.  He also used to like in Salt Lake City, so the connection with brass as well as the University of Utah fit perfectly.

How did you two (Jeff & Adam) meet? Was it love at first sight?

JN:   It truly was!  We were both Yamaha artists, and we’d see each other at events, and would always lovingly say we should do a project together.  Then one day, Adam wrote me to tell me, “It’s On!”

AF:   I think it was at a Music for All Concert Band Festival event, but we have worked together at many brass festivals and we have a kindred spirit for education, inspiring students, and engaging audiences.  So we line up incredibly well with our mentality.  It also works out very well that Jeff’s skills on the horn are uber impressive (obviously) and the chance to share the stage together generates a lot of energy and pushes me to play my best.

"this was a perfect excuse to work together.  He is a dear friend." -Nelsen

Have you performed together before?

JN:   During our 2009 recording sessions in Salt Lake, we performed much of this music with the Wind Ensemble and Scott conducting.  Adam had performed his solos in 2007 during his recording sessions.  At the 2009 concert I performed Glass Bead Game, we did Gemini, and encored with Czardas.

AF:   We played a few times in brass ensembles, National Brass Symposium, and on chamber concerts at the International Euphonium Tuba Festival, and then of course when we recorded and performed Gemini at the University of Utah.

What inspired your collaboration to create this CD / project?

JN:   One of the exciting factors for us was the unique quality of horn and euphonium together.  There was not much repertoire, if any that celebrated this unique sound combination, so we fearlessly dove into creating some.  I have always loved Adam’s playing as well, so this was a perfect excuse to work together.  He is a dear friend.

AF:   I think one of my main goals is to record new music as well and connect with other great artists.  Having the chance to connect with Scott Hagen as well as commission a unique new work and get to spend time collaborating with a great artist fits all the great opportunities.

The selections on the CD are a mix of new and old; how did you choose what to include?

JN:    We each selected our solo pieces on our own (as far as I remember?) and then we shared our ideas with each other.  Tony DiLorenzo was a very easy choice for a composer to commission…we both love his work so much.  And The Glass Bead Game is one of my favorite “new” concerti for horn and I’d been performing it for years.  There were only a few recordings out there, and I believe it is well on its way to becoming an important work that features the horn.  Jim’s writing celebrates all the power and majesty of the horn one moment, and brings the audience into an intimate mood the next.  The first time I heard The Glass Bead Game I was teaching at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.  A student performed the first movement for me, and I was blown away.  I said, “Ok well first of all, wow!  You play beautifully.  I’m impressed.  And secondly, where did you get this piece?!”  The student casually responded, “Ohhhh, it’s just something my dad wrote.” Her name is Julie Beckel, and she’s now playing second horn in the Indianapolis Symphony, where her composer father plays principal trombone.  I’ve had a close relationship with the impressive Beckel family ever since.

AF:   It was mainly just some great music that we both enjoyed.  For me, it was about picking some things that I haven’t recorded yet.  I have a few discs (sorry no way to say that without it sounding bad, but 9 solo discs to be exact)!

The Czardas is one of my all time favorites; when I was an orchestra director, I had a violinist perform it. Then as a coach for skating and gymnastics, I had competitive athletes that used it for their routines. It is crazy fast! I’ve never attempted it on horn myself - how hard was it to ready for the project?

JN:   I think it was probably 9.4 hard.  :)  (out of 10)  Yes, that’s one that you just have to drive through it to well selected goal notes at the ends of the phrases…and hold on til the end!  And also play with a calm “Weeeeeeee!!!” In my lead-up to the recordings, I often performed it for students. One comment sticks out, from Julia Filson (Assistant Principal in the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra now).  She said I needed more potatoes in my performance.  I’m still not sure what she meant, but I think I did add a few more.  I believe that comment sums up the essence of my approach to performing a convincing Czardas.

AF:   I had performed it as a soloist, but I think having it arranged as a duet is even more challenging and rewarding.  You obiviously have the virtuoso parts, but you have to ebb and flow with the other soloist AND take his energy and use that to maybe take some different musical chances.  It was incredible fun to perform and record this one because there are so many different nuances and playful moments. 


"we both have the spirit of music and taking chances" -Frey

The University of Utah Wind Ensemble is fabulous - how did you arrange for them to accompany you?

JN:   Adam’s area…he set that up.

AF:   I have known Scott Hagen for more than 10 years and goes all the way back to my introduction to him by my friend Brian Sproul.  Scott and I immediately connected and always talked about amazing projects.  When he worked with Jeff at a music festival in Montana, all the stars aligned and we made it happen.  It took some time and pushing but we got it done!!

Many concertos / solos use piano or orchestral accompaniment - why a wind ensemble? Not complaining, just curious - it was great!

JN:   We love the sound palate.

AF:   Orchestral accompaniment is certainly nice, but euphonium actually gets featured a lot more with wind ensemble.  There are a large number of wind bands in the US. It is often times much easier to find a wind band that plays at a high level, and, has a great interest in new music like Scott Hagen and the University of Utah Wind Ensemble. 

You are both such phenomenal players; were there ever any Diva moments, ego trips / battles?

JN:   Ha. No.  Well, Adam did do that one Diva thing he does…but we like it.  I’ll let him explain.  You know what I’m talking about Adam…come on.   Admit it!

AF:   Firstly, I don’t know what diva moment you are talking about Jeff.  BUT, Jeff did take a long time to pick out his takes…so that MIGHT qualify as a diva moment, but I am glad we finished it and that it is an AMAZING project all the way around!

If yes, how did you resolve things? Are you Facebook friends now?

JN:   We are not Facebook friends. We are letting the lawyers fight it out, and then we will discuss reconciliation once the CD is released.  Wish us luck.

AF:   We are Facebook friends, although I have a policy to not ever Like his posts!!  The good thing is that we both have the spirit of music and taking chances, so that resolves things pretty easily.

(author's note: there seems to be a discrepancy here - we might need to stalk their pages to find out the truth!)

What was the hardest part of this collaboration?

JN:   HAAAAAAA!!!!!!  For me, it was sitting down and listening to the takes, and writing down some editing ideas.  That took, ohhhhh…7 years!  I am horrible with, er…I mean I could be way better at finishing things that do not have a clear deadline.  I have about 50 deadlined things going on at any time, so making time for non-deadlined-urgent things, even if they are urgent, is hard for me.  I have a wonderful wife and son, so I put time to them first, and then my students, then some practicing, and then the deadlines…  That reminds me I have to go finish building that pirate ship in the back yard.  And yes, I have another CD I recorded a year and a half ago that I’m unsuccessfully getting to every day.  But seriously, it’s a fantastic pirate ship!!

AF:   I think the hardest thing is just making decisions and having TOO MANY options.  Where you have so many good takes on a particular part, lots of music to choose from, too many great jobs that keep you too busy.  In the end, it is like the 31 flavors of ice cream…it is easier just to have 3 choices.

If you had a do-over on this project, or for your next endeavor, is there anything you would do differently?

JN:   Yes, I’d get to the edits sooner!? :)

AF:   Just finish it up sooner.  Really I have played the samples for friends and they are mad they didn’t have it sooner!  Other than that, it was really an incredible process and end product.

Any hints on upcoming projects?

JN:   The CD I recorded a year and a half ago is horn, tuba, and piano.  It’s an exciting recording, and we’re called “Conical Brass”.  My wife is a stunning mezzo-soprano.  We perform together in recital and with orchestras.  We’re going to record together soon as well!

AF:   I also have just released a new CD of South American music for euphonium and tuba with my good friend Patricio Cosentino.  It is all new stuff from Argentina and Brazil.  Very cool and refreshing stuff.  

Anything else you would like to share regarding the Gemini project, performing in general, secrets about each other, etc… ?

JN:   I don’t think so.  Great questions Barbara!!!

AF:   Nope, I appreciate your time and the opportunity to work with Jeff on things.


Go get this recording! You will love it, I promise.

Interview by Barbara Van Pelt, MM Music (horn) Hartt ('87)