Hannah Nepil discusses the life of an international musician with renowned American trumpeter Allen Vizzutti. He performs Top Brass! with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Thursday 17th October, 7.30pm at Cadogan Hall.
Being a jet-setting musician obviously has its perks. But, as the internationally renowned American trumpeter Allen Vizzutti implies, it can occasionally lead to confusion. ‘When my daughter was about seven or eight, her school teacher went round the class and asked what everybody’s parents did for a living and she said ‘my mom plays piano and my dad works at the airport’.
In a way, it’s not a million miles from the truth. By now, Vizzutti, 60, has spent his fair share of time in departure lounges, having travelled to forty countries in his capacity as a classical and jazz trumpeter and composer. The father of three (now grown-up) children, he has had to learn a thing or two about multi-tasking, particularly since his pianist wife Laura frequently performs with him. ‘The kids stayed at home when we toured because they had school plus it wouldn’t be fun for them to travel all the time, so we would hire people to stay with them. They now look back and are actually much more secure because they know how to take care of themselves,’ he says jokingly.
It seems that Vizzutti’s pace has not slackened with time. The next month sees him touring the USA, before travelling to Spain, Wales, Manchester, Leeds and London, where he will perform a mixed programme, including some of his own compositions, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Equally devoted to classical and jazz disciplines, Vizzutti admits that there are those who believe ‘if he plays jazz he can’t be that good a classical player or vice versa’. However, he is keen to stress the advantages of combining the two. ‘I could write a book on the ways that classical and jazz trumpet complement each other,’ he says. ‘When you practise both you become more free in your thinking and in your technical abilities. Classical musicians who have never made a good melody by ear (as you do in jazz) are actually selling themselves short.’
His compositions, meanwhile, often serve a practical purpose: to provide himself with pieces to play, rather than relying only on the existing classical repertoire. ‘In terms of trumpet concertos, since the early 1900s there has hardly been anything that has really stuck,’ he explains. ‘I think part of the reason is that audiences’ exposure to classical trumpet music is very limited in comparison to that for voice and strings.’
He tends to compose in a broad range of styles, the results ranging from a Japanese-themed work to an impressionistic piece for trumpet and orchestra. ‘I’m not married to the music I write down’ says Vizzutti, ‘if something needs to be changed to make it more playable then I’ll change it.’ But for him, the ‘bottom line’ is to play and create something that the audience enjoys. ‘I don’t care if it’s wild contemporary music, Vivaldi, or jazz. If the audience goes home with a good feeling, that’s a job well done.’