Stamm delivers a knockout show -rws -jcr -dlh

Joe Pfender

On Sunday, Jan. 30, while many Lawrentians sat clenched and sweating over their computer keyboards as trivia pounded through their brains, a jazz trumpet player of great stature and ability made Lawrence the last stop of his two-week tour. Marvin Stamm, trumpet and flugelhorn, and Bill Mays, piano, played to an enthusiastic Harper Hall audience at 5 p.m.
To take a look at Stamm’s biography is to be impressed. Discovered by Stan Kenton while at the University of North Texas, Stamm toured with Kenton in 1961-62 and with Woody Herman in 1965-66. Establishing himself in New York in the late sixties, Stamm played with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra, Frank Sinatra, and the Benny Goodman Sextet, and recored with Bill Evans, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Freddie Hubbard and many others. After leaving the recording studio in the eighties, he has been focusing his energy on playing jazz with his quartet or in a duo with Bill Mays.
Stamm addressed the audience before playing, and in a remarkably clean and articulate speech he lived up to conductor Diane Wittry’s praise of his “complete professionalism” as well as the “warmth of his personality.” He established an easy and informal atmosphere with the audience and an off-the-cuff feel, which he maintained through the entire recital.
Playing both flugelhorn and trumpet during the concert, Stamm displayed the professional playing level toward which ninety percent of the audience aspires. The smoothness of his playing was just as impressive live as on his recordings. His musicianship was evident in his fluent rapport with Bill Mays. Together they easily departed from the written material and returned to it, inserting quotations and gestures at will.
Highlights of the program itself included “Marionette,” a piece by the pianist Lars Jansson, who visited Lawrence last year, as well as a piece by English trumpeter and composer Ken Wheeler, entitled “Widow in the Window.” Stamm called this piece moody, but it was a beautiful sort of moody, with hints of melancholy rather than ugly and overstated despair. There was a nice interplay between Mays and Stamm on this number, with Stamm’s more subtle approach contrasting with Mays’ dramatic style.
Stamm appeared to be in a different gear for this concert, because he took a break before the last number of both halves of the concert to give the audience advice on playing, especially classical musicians. He encouraged students to improvise, advice which perhaps had not been taken seriously by everyone in the conservatory. Stamm then put in a word for our man J.S. Bach, primarily as an illustration of the value jazz musicians can find in other styles ******– classical among them. Both points were underscores by the incredible playing that preceded them. Stamm’s point is that music is a discipline that needs to be flexibly conceived, and after hearing him play, one can see that he demonstrates this credo perfectly.