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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Some innovative musical artists labor in semi-obscurity for much of their lives, yet are still able to invent a fresh, individual, innovative approach to their instruments. Such was the case with Baritone Sax and low reed master, Kurt McGettrick. Kurt was a real artist who was uncompromising and fearless in all musical situations. Kurt McGettrick passed away last Sunday night (5/6/07) due to an aggressive cancer condition.

Kurt was a specialist on the low woodwinds. His advanced techniques on Bari Sax, Bass Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, ContraBass Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute, and Piccolo were astounding. His sound on Bari Sax was HUGE! He regularly employed double and triple tonguing, an amazing mastery of multiphonics, and a very impressive command of the extreme altissimo of the Bari Sax. Kurt played the bass clarinet very beautifully, with an amazing fluency in the delicate upper range. On tenor, Kurt's favorite influence was Gene Ammons. He had absolutely zero interest in cloning Mike Brecker or any of the other favorites of the moment. Kurt was not a bebop player. Instead, he developed his own style of thematic improvisation which incorporated techniques which he developed himself. McGettrick was also a fine arranger and composer. Kurt was all about creativity and taking chances in music. He was somewhat of an odd duck in L.A., where precision and stylistic adaptability reign supreme. Kurt was uncompromising when it came to music, and he didn't work as much as he could have because he stood his ground when it came to selling out.

Tim Price knows about Kurt McGettrick. Tim vividly remembers Kurt's playing from 30 years ago at the Berklee school. Tim told me today that Kurt struck him as being like an American John Surman. My former roommate on the Lyle Lovett Band, Bobby Eldridge (another monster Bari player), also clearly remembers how incredible Kurt was back when they were playing at Berklee so many years ago.

Kurt was perhaps most notorious for being a member of Frank Zappa's 1988 touring horn section, which spawned the albums "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life", "Make A Jazz Noise Here", and "Broadway the Hard Way". During his career, Kurt toured and recorded with Graham Parker, and toured with the "Prez Conference" band. Kurt also recorded with B.B. King, Tom Petty, Patti LaBelle, The Meters, Phoebe Snow, and the Ladd McIntosh Big Band. He played on many movie soundtracks, including The Lion King, and Matchstick Men.

Good places to hear McGettrick's work are on Ladd McIntosh's CD's "Temptation", and "Ride the Night Beast". The is the way to play Bari Sax in a modern big band! Kurt's tremendous Bari Sax sound is heard and felt on every song throughout these discs. Kurt's presence in Ladd's band was much like the way in which Harry Carney was such an integral part of the Ellington band's sound. Kurt went to Berklee many years ago to study arranging and composition, but he said that the faculty kept pushing him to play Bari with all the big bands. Kurt generally didn't like to play Bari with big bands because he said so few big band writers wrote good parts for Bari Sax. He made an exception for Ladd McIntosh and he played in Ladd's band for 30 years. Ladd writes exeptional bari sax parts!

You can hear excerpts of the Ladd McIntosh Big Band recordings at the CDBaby.com website. Kurt is featured on "Steak and Beans" on the Ride the Night Beast CD". And on "I Got It Bad' on the "Temptation" CD.
http://cdbaby.com/cd/laddmcintosh1
http://cdbaby.com/cd/laddmcintosh2

To hear fine examples of Kurt's more 'outside' playing in which he really excelled, check out Andre Caporaso's CD, "Avenue 5". Yours truly also played on this CD.

http://www.amazon.com/Avenue-5-Andr...8661648?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1178647498&sr=1-1

There are many example of Kurt's Bari Sax and Bass Clarinet artistry on Caporaso's CD. McGettrick was really in his element when dealing with a harmonically open ended setting.

On a personal note, I spent many enjoyable hours over the past 17 years playing alongside Kurt in the Andre Caporaso band, in Steve Spiegl's big band, and in Billy Mintz's Two Bass Band. Kurt's playing was a constant inspiration. He brought a ton of musical energy to every situation. Musically, he was his own man. His style was strictly of his own invention. I admired Kurt's fearless, ferocious flights into the stratosphere. His improvisations were completely unpredictable. You were always going to be surprised and amused by what he played, and you weren't going to hear any stock licks - ever! His playing made me reach deeper - in an effort to keep up with his tremendous intensity.
Kurt was a real funny guy. His hard boiled outlook was shaped by a career of observing the ridiculousness of the music industry and the recent decline of the studio scene in L.A.. His stories about touring with Zappa were hilarious. Kurt was cynical about many aspects of the business, but he balanced that with his great sense of humor. Kurt McGettrick will be very much missed out here in Los Angeles. Check out the work of this important musician.


For a photo of Kurt playing his Bass Sax and a partial list of his album credits, go to:
http://www.united-mutations.com/m/kurt_mcgettrick.htm

(I think the date on the first BB.King session must be incorrect.)

Peace everybody,
Steve Marsh
Los Angeles
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
more on McGettrick

McGettrick never changed away from the Lawton mouthpieces on Bari. Perhaps a lesson to those who change mouthpieces every season…. I don't know the opening, but he used Plasticover reeds.

On tenor he played an open metal Berg with Plasticover. Kurt's tenor was LOUD!!!! He pumped the same amount of air into a tenor that he used on his Bass Sax! I often heard Kurt's tenor warmup routine at the Steve Spiegl big band. He first notes were Triple Fortisimmo and then he went on from there!

Yeah, Kurt would have been great in Elvin's band! Can you imagine what they could have done? Too bad that combination never happened...

But as aggressive and loud as Kurt could be, he was also capable of playing very sensitive things. We used to play some ballad type tunes together that featured Kurt on standard Bass Clarinet. I've never heard prettier bass clarinet playing. If I was playing tenor on the song, I'd have to play super soft, so as not to overwhelm the nice sounds he was making on bass clarinet. We usually got a nice blend between the bass clar. and tenor. Kurt had a great high range on the Bass Clarinet.

Then there was Kurt's old LeBlanc metal ContraBass Clarinet of the "Hairpin" wraparound design. I believe it was the Bb key Contra. Kurt was awesome on this instrument. And when that axe didn't go low enough wasn't low enough for him, to get an extra hlaf step of low range, Kurt would sometimes insert a cardboard tube from the inside of a roll of paper towels into the bell, and sure enough, he'd get that additional half step into the depths. Check out Kurt's outstanding ContraBass solo on the song "Gator" from Andre Caporaso's "Avenue 5" CD. It would have been great if Braxton and McGettrick had ever dueled on ContraBass Clarinets. Brax would have had to work hard to keep up with 'ol K

Zappa's "Make A Jazz Noise Here" CD from the 1988 tour features Kurt on a tremendous Bari solo. The track is "King Kong".

On You-Tube there are some videos of Zappa's '88 band with the horns. A favorite moment on that tour was when the horn section played Jimmy Page's guitar solo on "Stairway to Heaven."

McGettrick can also be heard playing tenor on several CDs by the Steve Spiegl Big Band. "Enigma" features Kurt alongside the great Pete Christlieb.
Several Zappa alumni (including the Fowler Brothers and Albert Wing) formed a band called "Banned (or Band) From Utopia". Kurt can be heard on that band's recordings.

One thing is for sure, we will miss this man's unique instrumental voices in the years to come. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to spend many hours playing alongside Kurt in some creative situations. Bruce Fowler has some tapes we made a few years ago with the L.A. version of Billy Mintz's "Two Bass Band". Kurt was a member of the group. Hopefully the CDs will come out some day soon.

A lot of the top studio musicians here look down there noses at someone like McGettrick. They just didn't know what to make of him. Like he was from another planet. Maybe he was!

Steve
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
McGettrick on You-Tube

this YouTube video where Kurt McGettrick is seen playing contrabass clarinet parts with the Zappa alumni ensemble, "Band From Utopia". Also seen and heard on trombone is Bruce Fowler, one of the baddest bone players around.

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
more Zappa horn video

Clip of the Zappa horns playing a whacked out Ravel's "Bolero":


Kurt McGettrick: Bari Sax and Piccolo
Albert Wing: Tenor
Paul Carmen: Alto
Bruce Fowler: Trombone and Paso Doble Dancer
Walt Fowler: Trumpet

Kurt gets a nice piccolo sound and intonation for a guy who had two bars to switch from Bari to Pic. (!!!) Big bari sound near the end of the piece ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
"king Kong"

I found the Zappa cut that I was thinking of...

All of you - need to hear Kurt McGettrick's crazy solo on the song "King Kong" from Frank Zappa's 1988, "Make A Jazz Noise Here".
Kurt's extended solo on "King Kong" displays many of his stylistic traits. Melodic and thematic development, upward leaps of several octaves, very fast doubling tonguing, huge reverberating multiphonics. insanely high altissimo, real fast runs that are precisely articulated. And always swinging.

Kurt also gets a short taste on "Stevie's Spanking".
And his Bari and other horns are heard throughout. Dig how tight this band was on these very difficult arrangements! Great soloing from Bruce and Walt Fowler. Albert Wing solos energetically in several spots. Very Brecker-ish. Check Kurt's horn chart on "Strickly Genteel". Very tricky stuff! Kurt told me that Zappa rehearsed them 5 nights a week for a period of almost 6 months before going out on the tour.

- S. Marsh
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Good Kurt stories, Dave and chedoggy. Great to read that stuff.

Kurt's experiences with Tower of Power caused him to never miss an opportunity to refer to them as the "Tower Of Jello". Ha Ha!

Kurt always had bad memories about Zappa's Synclavier and the non-human music and notation that spewed out of that machine.
Nice to read about Kurt's early days in D.C.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Thanks for reviving this thread. And thanks for adding the photo. Kurt was a killer musician, and it's good to be reminded of his incredible skills and prowess.
I miss playing with him.

Kurt never called it a "Bari" or a "Sax". He always said, "baritone saxophone".

BTW, Andre Caporaso is preparing a new CD. Kurt used to play in this group. Some of the new songs were built in the studio around unreleased tracks of Kurt's playing. I'll give a shout out when the CD becomes available. Meanwhile, go find Andre Caporaso's "5th Avenue" CD, which has tons of Kurt McGettrick's playing all over it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Thank for adding to this valuable Kurt McGettrick thread, Tim.

I thought of something else the other day. About 15 years ago I was rehearsing some music with Kurt. Someone pointed out that Gerry Mulligan had once again won the DownBeat Poll on Bari Sax for like the 25th year in a row. Kurt snorted derisively, "I can't believe it. Gerry's like some kind of Dixieland player these days ! " You had to know Kurt to dig his ever present cynical edge. I think that on some level Kurt appreciated Mulligan, but Kurt found it ridiculous that in the 90's, such an old style player as Mulligan was still winning all the polls by a wide margin, over everybody who was trying to do something new and different on the instrument.

I have told of some unreleased McGettrick music, but so far none of it has surfaced.

A note or two about Bobby Eldridge, who Tim mentioned. Bobby is another guy who gets a really great sound on Baritone Saxophone. Bobby was recruited to take Harry Carney's place in Mercer Ellington's band. Bobby can play in the Carney style very convincingly. On the other side of the style spectrum, some people might remember witnessing Bobby Eldridge play the Baritone chair in Muhal Richard Abrams band in the late 80's, and DOMINATE the sax section - playing on an old Selmer E rubber mouthpiece.
Bobby toured with Stevie Wonder in the 70s (Billy Pierce was also in the section at that time). And Bobby orchestrated "Do I Do" for the recording by Stevie, after recording sessions in both NYC and LA had failed to give Stevie the exact sound that he was looking for. Bobby's orchestration was the winning ticket.
Bobby Eldridge has played on many Broadway shows - he and Frank Wess were some of the first Black woodwind players to do that circuit. Eldridge has done a lot of other significant work in the music world. There must be a listing of his musical accomplishments somewhere.
Bobby and I were roommates for several years on Lyle Lovett's tours, and I can tell you that Bobby is one hell of a funny dude, and a great friend.
 
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