Tim Hagans Blindfold Test


Tim Hagans takes the DownBeat Blindfold Test. His new album, A Conversation, is a five-movement trumpet concerto.

(Photo: Courtesy Waiting Moon Records)

The thrice Grammy-nominated trumpeter Tim Hagans apprenticed in the bands of Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Dexter Gordon, Bob Belden, Joe Lovano and Thad Jones. The latter encouraged Hagans to begin writing for large-group jazz settings, effectively positioning him as a direct successor to Jones’ formidable legacy as a big-band leader and trumpeter. Hagans’ latest release is A Conversation (Waiting Moon Records), a five-movement trumpet concerto with the NDR Bigband, his fourth with the German ensemble and 17th overall as a leader. DownBeat caught up with him via videoconference from his home in Long Island, New York.

Conte Candoli/Lee Morgan
“Moto” (Double Or Nothin’, Fresh Sound, 1992) Candoli, Morgan, trumpet; Benny Golson, Bob Cooper, tenor saxophone; Frank Rosolino, trombone; Dick Shreve, piano; Red Mitchell, bass; Stan Levey, drums.
It sounds like something from the ’50s, Ernie Wilkins or maybe Quincy Jones. The second trumpet player sounded a little bit like Lee Morgan. Lee has such a definitive sound and articulation, and also the way he leaves space. One of the things that threw me — none of these soloists leave space, because they were confined to one (chorus). I’m not used to hearing Lee play continuous ideas without much space. [afterwards] I heard Conte play many times when I was with Stan Kenton. He’s an incredible player.

Art Blakey
“Anthenagin” (Anthenagin, Prestige, 1973) Blakey, drums; Woody Shaw, trumpet; Carter Jefferson, tenor saxophone; Cedar Walton, electric piano; Mickey Bass, bass; Tony Waters, congas.
I haven’t heard that in a long time. Woody Shaw. As far as the stars go, just infinite stars. That’s massive goosebumps every time I hear Woody. He always invited me to sit in when we crossed paths, so I got to hear that thing standing next to him up close. There are two Art Blakey albums, one’s called Anthenagin and the other’s called Child’s Play, and it sounded like something from one of those two records.

Ambrose Akinmusire
“Blues (We Measure The Heart With A Fish)” (On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment, Blue Note, 2020) Akinmusire, trumpet; Sam Harris, piano; Harish Raghavan, bass; Justin Brown, drums.
It reminds me of Steve Bernstein. I felt like the trumpet player felt totally free. There were all sorts of different types of ideas — abstract chromaticism, eighth-note lines, and then all of a sudden there’s the blues. It was a compact statement, this moment in time. I could listen to much more of this. [afterwards] Oh, no! I know Ambrose’s playing. We did an adjudication for the Carmine Caruso Trumpet Competition a few years ago. Ambrose played a ballad on the concert that was one of the most beautiful things I ever heard. I haven’t heard Ambrose play like this. It just shows he’s experimenting the whole time, putting his musical voice in different contexts. Of course, anything he does is 5 stars. You hear the history of the trumpet lineage in his playing, but he’s making those developments on it.

Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller
“This Is Always” (In Harmony, Resonance, 2021) Hargrove, flugelhorn; Miller, piano.
That was incredible. Such a gorgeous sound in the middle and low register. And of course, the notes this player chose, the harmony, the extended notes — it’s just gorgeous all over. To me, it sounded like Wynton Marsalis just because of the command of the instrument, but then there were a couple of things that didn’t sound so Wynton-ish. It might be Roy Hargrove. That was kind of floating around in the back of my mind, but the reason I thought of Wynton was that there were a couple of phrases that had a Clark Terry-type of articulation. I hadn’t heard Roy use that type of articulation, but it’s totally comprehensible to me [that’s it’s him], because he’s just nailing the changes. That’s what I listen for, how well they bring out the nuances of every chord, picking the most important note of that moment that would exemplify the changes. Roy was incredible at that. I always marveled at his melodic-harmonic concept. 5 stars for that, of course. It’s beautiful.

Nicholas Payton
“Tea For Two” (Relaxin’ With Nick, Smoke Sessions, 2019) Payton, trumpet and electric piano; Peter Washington, bass; Kenny Washington, drums.
Wow! I don’t know where to start. It sounds like things Thad Jones would play, but the articulation is a little different. I’d sit on the edge of my seat listening to Thad play. It’s kind of a thriller: He backs himself into a harmonic corner, and you don’t know how he’s going to get out. This trumpet player reminded me of that. [afterwards] Well, that makes sense. He’s one of those cats with an incredible harmonic sense on how to approach changes — that twisted way of looking at melody and harmony. I’ve heard Nicholas play many times, and I’m glad to hear that element in his playing.

Cuong Vu Trio
“Not Crazy (Just Giddy Upping) (For Vina)” (Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny, Nonesuch, 2016) Vu, trumpet; Pat Metheny, guitar; Stomu Takeishi, bass guitar; Ted Poor, drums.
I always like to hear disguised “Rhythm” changes. The trumpet player was amazing. I haven’t really experimented with extended technique on the horn. This trumpet player is a master at that as well as nailing the changes and swinging. The guitarist sounded a little bit like John Scofield, just the fluidity, the sound and the notes. [afterwards] Metheny was my next guess.

Charles Mingus
“What Is This Thing Called Love” (The Jazz Experiments Of Charlie Mingus, Bethlehem 1955) Mingus, bass, piano; Thad Jones, trumpet; John LaPorta, clarinet, alto saxophone; Teo Macero, tenor, baritone saxophones; Jackson Wiley, cello; Clem DeRosa, drums.
That was Thad, obviously, but that’s such a weird recording, arrangement-wise. I’m not familiar with that recording or even that instrumentation on any of Thad’s records. It must be Mingus. Thad’s playing trumpet. This is when he was with Basie, before he gravitated to the cornet. But in every situation Thad plays, he’s himself. And it fits, regardless of the situation. People don’t realize what an incredible, visionary improviser he was. He was very outgoing, and very approachable. He was very encouraging to young musicians. He just left too early, like a lot of people. He was a big inspiration. I was hoping you would play some Thad Jones. DB

The “Blindfold Test” is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to discuss and identify the music and musicians who performed on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune using a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test.

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