Vache has panache

The jazz and swing icon plays a mean trumpet.

Trumpet 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Trumpet 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Warren Vache is something of a musical non sequitur. The 59-year-old American trumpeter became fully cognizant of the creative musical endeavor around him in the 1960s, when the jazz world was split between the older generation that still drew on the early roots of the art form, and the principal styles that evolved in the modern era of jazz. The latter began with the dynamic bebop output of the likes of saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and then grew through increasingly divisive offspring, such as hard bop, free jazz and eventually fusion.
Vache, on the other hand, largely fed off the merry energies and sounds of the Swing Era, spending a highly valuable decade-long apprenticeship in the big band headed by clarinetplaying stellar swing leader Benny Goodman.
“I learned a great deal from Goodman,” notes Vache, who kicks off this year’s Hot Jazz series tomorrow and will play seven gigs across the country, ending on October 30. “He was a tough guy but a wonderful professional.”
Vache recalls one incident when the former attribute, along with an acerbic sense of humor, came through with unmistakable force. “It was after a show, and as we left the stage Benny came up to me and said, ‘You did good work. That was a great solo.’ When I replied, ‘Which solo?’ Benny said, ‘Well, if you weren’t paying attention, why should I?’” Vache went through a learning curve that must be the envy of many players of his generation and thereafter. “I was lucky enough, besides Goodman, to work with guys like Hank Jones, Zoot Sims and Benny Carter. I was in hog’s heaven. These guys were all my heroes, and there I was playing with them.”
By his own admission, Vache had a good and early start to his musical development and was totally enthralled by the world of music from a very young age. “My dad was a bass player,” he says. “I don’t know how much I got from him in terms of playing, although the bass is the driving instrument; it determines the harmony. But I did inherit an enormous record collection. When I was a kid I wasn’t out playing baseball or dating, I was at home listening to records.”
Most would agree that there was a joyous feel to much of the early jazz styles, which is not always apparent in the more modern versions. “I think that is possibly what attracted me to swing music and the like,” Vache observes. “I’m not saying that contemporary jazz isn’t good. There’s good and bad stuff in everything, but it doesn’t move me.”
Vache sees no problem with playing music that was popular long before he was even a twinkle in his bassplaying dad’s eye. “No one asks classical musicians why they play works by composers who died a long time ago, so why should it bother them when jazz players do that? Anyway, music is just music.”
In fact, Vache has spread his artistic net far and wide. Besides playing trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn with a long list of jazz icons, he also dabbled in the movie business, writing soundtracks and even landing a brief acting spot in the 1985 drama The Gig, which starred Wayne Rogers. But Vache clearly has no pretensions to Hollywood stardom. “I played a lecherous trumpet player. That wasn’t too much of a stretch for me, at least not back then.”
Over the last four decades, Vache has gained a reputation as one of the foremost players of swing music and, along with saxophonist Scot Hamilton, furthered the cause of small swing-oriented ensembles. Critics have noted the warmth of his tone and insightful improvisational work. Vache would, no doubt, just shrug his shoulders at such observations and repeat: “Music is just music.”
Vache’s shows will take place in Modi’in (the Einan Hall, October 23); Jerusalem (Gerard Behar Center, October 25); Herzliya (Zappa Club, October 26); Ganei Tikva (Mercaz Habama, October 27); Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv Museum, October 28 and 29); and Haifa (Abba Hushi House, October 30). He will be joined by local players, including saxophonist Morton Kam, Chen Silberstein on trombone, Nitai Hershkovitz on piano, Tal Ronnen on bass and Shai Zelman on drums.