Morris Northcutt isn’t afraid to mix it up a bit. In fact, I suspect he enjoys it. On his recent debut EP Tonada, the Washington trumpet and cornet master skillfully and stylishly combines classical, jazz and Latin influences to create a rich, appealing work that runs the emotional gamut from soothing to seductive to stirring. Not that it’s anything out of the ordinary for him. Known for his lyricism, artistry and ability to cross the boundary between classical and jazz, the award-winning artist and performer has shared the stage with a lengthy list of orchestras, symphonies, brass bands, and artists of all stripes and styles over his lengthy globe-trotting career. Today he descends from those lofty heights to go toe-to-toe with my absurd questions. We’ll see how he likes that:
Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
I’m Morris Northcutt, a trumpet soloist and clinician and now a recording artist! 🙂 I stopped keeping track of my age after 39 years old.
What is your musical origin story?
After learning about Harry James (a trumpet soloist from the Big Band era), I gravitated to the trumpet, which evolved into studying other musicians who focused on lyricism. I’ve been obsessed with trying to make this piece of brass tubing sound like a vocalist ever since.
What’s your latest project?
My latest project is the release of my first solo album called Tonada. It truly is a culmination of my studies, focus, passion, friendships, losses, family experiences, and life — wrapped into an incredibly expressive and reverent package. I’m so proud and grateful to all of the Venezuelan musicians and technical staff involved.
What truly sets you apart from other artists?
It’s one thing when artists play “from the heart”; it’s another to play with real-life experience in your heart. But I suppose if you live long enough, we all experience the gains and the losses that shape us. I just think that the breadth of my life experiences has provided depth to my music.
Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
My first jazz gig was in a country/western bar in a small middle-of-nowhere town. It’s a great story to be told later — but have you ever seen the movie The Blues Brothers?
What is the best / most memorable performance you have given?
Playing on the beach in Cavalier, France, for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Southern France (the arrival of American troops ) during World War II.
What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
Humble, thoughtful, hardworking.
What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
What do you collect?
If money was no object, where would you live?
Which historical event do you wish you had witnessed?
The photoshoot of the famous image in New York, A Great Day in Harlem, 1958.
What are your pet peeves?
People who don’t clean as they go — in the kitchen.
What would the title of your autobiography be?
The Late Bloomer.
What’s your motto?
Think big but focus small.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
Fruit, cheese, and ginger beer
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What was your favourite class in school and why?
Band class, naturally.
What was the worst job you ever had?
Cleaning toilets for my parent’s motel.
What’s the best and / or worst advice you were ever given?
Wow, I’ve been given so much good advice over the years. One that stands out most is to enjoy every minute with your kids because time goes by so fast.