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Jazz Tuba Player JIM SELF's Musical Odyssey

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    Posted: 02 Dec 2022 at 7:46am





Featuring Arrangements by Kim Scharnberg




MY AMERICA 2: Destinations, the newest album by JIM SELF, is an homage to the many places across America where the well-travelled jazz tuba maestro has lived and worked. A prolific musician, Self has produced 20 albums as a leader. All About Jazz said about Self’s latest album with guitarist John Chiodini, Hangin’ Out, released earlier in 2022, “Lush, lovely melodies, rich and evocative on his weapon of choice, and beautifully voiced with guitar, trumpet, trombone into a textured blend that is aesthetically pleasing.” Self has also worked for all the major Hollywood studios since 1974, performing for over 1500 motion pictures and hundreds of television shows and records. A favorite of John Williams, Self’s solos have been featured on

Williams’ scores to Jurassic Park, Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and Hook. He was also the “Voice of the Mothership” from Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


MY AMERICA 2: Destinations is a sequel to My America, which Self released 20 years ago. Like the first album, MY AMERICA 2: Destinations is a collaboration between Self and arranger KIM SCHARNBERG, and features some of the top jazz and studio musicians in Southern California, including RON STOUT (trumpet, flugelhorn), BILL BOOTH (trombone, euphoniums), SCOTT WHITFIELD (trombone), PHIL FEATHER (alto saxophone, English horn), TOM PETERSON (soprano & tenor saxophones), JOHN CHIODINI (guitars), STEVE FISTER (guitars), BILL CUNLIFFE (piano, melodica), KEN WILD (string, electric, and fretless electric bass), KENDALL KAY (drums), and BRIAN KILGORE (percussion). Many of the players are also members of The David Angel Jazz Ensemble and performed on Out on the Coast, which Self released in 2021.


Self often works with one arranger for an entire album. He chooses some of the most talented arrangers on the music scene and gives them the freedom to express their own creativity. Like Self, Scharnberg has an extensive resume, which includes writing several pieces performed by high level orchestras such as the Boston Pops. He has also orchestrated many Broadway musicals, television shows and movies. Self says, “There was a day when writers like Pat Williams, Quincy Jones, Marty Paich, and Johnny Mandel were hired by artists for entire recordings. Kim Scharnberg is that kind of talent and it shows in every note he writes.”


Self unabashedly loves this country and decided it was time to do a follow-up to the original My America. For that album, he used songs that were associated with Americana, like “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” and “When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home Again.” For volume 2, he chose songs with city, state, and area titles that were hit tunes in their day. He once again gave free rein to Scharnberg to work his magic and create unusual and hip versions that give ample space for the soloists to ply their jazz improvisations. The songs feature the musicians in different configurations, creating interesting and changing dynamics when you listen to the album from start to finish.


 Self opens the album with “Chicago,” a city whose jazz scene was an early influence on him. The song was written as an homage to the partying and excess of the roaring 20s, and Scharnberg gives the tune a fun, Dixieland arrangement that is a perfect fit. Self opens Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” with his warm, mellow tuba playing the melody, which is followed by the rich, interweaving textures performed by Stout and Cunliffe. “Kansas City” is a medley of two songs with same name, one by Mike Stoller and the other by Richard Rodgers. The arrangement moves between swing and shuffle grooves, featuring solos by Booth on trombone, Chiodini on guitar, Self on tuba, Feather on alto sax, and rock and roller Steve Fister on guitar. “New York State of Mind” is a modern pop classic with Cunliffe playing the melodica and Self playing the fluba, an instrument that he created, which is a combination of a flugelhorn and tuba. “King of Route 66 Roger Miller” is a medley of two great pop tunes. Self, Chiodini, Cunliffe, and Wild really come out swinging, especially on the duet with bass and tuba. “Blue Bayou Bossa” is a lovely mashup. It features solos by Peterson and Stout.


Self has played on several Randy Newman albums and on many of his film scores. Los Angeles has been Self’s home for 48 years and he loved the idea of including Newman’s iconic song “I Love L.A.” Self plays his cimbassos in F and BBb, and Booth adds euphonium parts, while Kilgore adds another texture on the marimba. “Back Home Again in Indiana” is the theme song of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where Self attended. For this version, Scharnberg created an orchestrated version of Dave Brubeck’s recorded arrangement.


If you are doing a song with American themes, you should include at least one boogie-woogie number, which Self and Scharnberg do on “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Of course, one of the most iconic songs in the American songbook is “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” It features a beautiful rendition by Booth on trumpet and an unusual accompaniment of English horn, tuba, and piano.


Early in his career, Self was member of the U.S. Army Band in Washington, DC, and wanted to include a song about the city. Scharnberg deconstructs John Philip Sousa’s composition, “Washington,” and turns it into a very hip, postmodern version called “Washington Postmodern.” Self and Cunliffe perform a soulful, sensitive version of “Georgia on My Mind” on just tuba and piano.


Self always includes at least one song he has composed on his albums, and here he includes his composition “S.L.O. Blues,” a piece he wrote about the town of San Luis Obispo, where he has had a vacation home for 13 years. Self ends all his Basset Hound albums with the world-famous howls of Stanley, his dearly departed basset hound.


The tuba is not often used for melodic accompaniment, but Self shows the tuba’s true potential by playing with great sensitivity and fluency. With the inventive arrangements by Scharnberg and the roster of top-notch players, MY AMERICA 2: Destinations is not just a journey in jazz across America, it is also a unique and eminently satisfying musical adventure.


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MY AMERICA 2: Destinations is set for release on October 28, 2022 and will be available everywhere.








Edited by snobb - 02 Dec 2022 at 7:48am
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