Tributes for Two New York Tuba Legends
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Part I: Bill Barber
Bill Barber, Tuba by Harvey Phillips
Bill Barber, tuba, should be known and acknowledged by everyone interested in the evolution and deployment of the tuba in American Jazz; from ragtime, to Dixieland, to swing, to bebop, to wherever it is going. Today’s tuba players and those of the future should be grateful that in the mid-1940s when Claude Thornhill added two horns and tuba to enhance the sound of his orchestra. Bill Barber was there as was arranger Gil Evans. Miles Davis liked the sound of that orchestra.
Bill Barber has been one of my tuba heroes since we first met in 1950. It was my first year in New York to attend Juilliard, and it was the year that the LP Birth of the Cool, featuring the Miles Davis Nonet, was released. Like every other tuba player who heard this recording, I was knocked out by the tuba playing of Bill Barber. His tone, style, blend, balance, and ensemble playing were terrific. I was mesmerized by the sounds made by the group and the music it played. I was determined to learn those tuba parts, especially Move and Israel. Each member of the ensemble seemed perfect for the parts they played.
Don Butterfield, Harvey Phillips, and Bill Barber. On June 23, 2002 Harvey Phillips was honored by the Goldman Memorial Band at Lincoln Center, NYC. He was the first recipient of The Goldman Memorial Band Legion of Honor, acknowledging those who have made enduring contributions to the band world and in particular to the Goldman Band. A special tuba/euphonium ensemble of Harvey Phillips’ friends was assembled by Michael Salzman. The HARVEY PHILLIPS TUBACOMPANY then surprised and delighted the audience at intermission with 20 minutes of music from classical to modern jazz. The personnel included euphoniums John Palatucci, Terry Pierce, Wayne Andre, Alan Raph, Tony Studd, Moe Snyder, Walter Barrett, and James Decker and tubas Scott Mendoker, Ron Caswell, Bill Barber, Don Butterfield, Michael Salzman, Bill Troiano, Steve Johns, Todd Nix, and Ed Goldstein.
Over the next two years, as I established myself as a freelance tuba player, Bill Barber was very helpful. He recommended me as his substitute for several freelance engagements. He even recommended me for half an LP, New Bottle, Old Wine , featuring Cannonball Adderley, with arrangements by Gil Evans. Bill also recommended me to Ed Sauter and Bill Finegan for their first American tour (1953) of the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. Though we were freelance colleagues for my 21 years in New York City, I regret we never had an opportunity to play together on the same gig. For my two years of service with the United States Army Field Band, I recommended that Bill cover my position with the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Also incorporated in the music career of Bill Barber are 25 distinguished years teaching music in the schools of Long Island.
Bill Barber is a legend to me and many others for having pioneered the interpretive styles and phrasing of the tuba in modern American jazz and for helping define the variety of roles the tuba can play in other music disciplines. Freelancing professionally while teaching full time requires commitment and endurance. Throughout his multifarious career Bill always put his family first, making him very special to me. I urge every member of ITEA to read, study, and digest the accompanying tributes to Bill Barber.