When I received tubist, Jim Self’s, “YO!” I was puzzled. Between the cartoonish cover art and the name, Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band, it was hard to take the recording seriously.
Then I read the following endorsement by Poncho Sanchez: “Jim Self has brought a fresh new approach to Latin jazz with his tuba. Very seldom do you hear this combination in jazz, much less Latin jazz. If you love good music, you’ll love this.”
And I took notice of the small print on the cover, which reads: “Featuring the Music of Francisco Torres,” the trombonist and musical director for the Grammy-Award winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band.
Jim Self is an American tubist and composer from Los Angeles. He’s performed with The David Angel Band, the Gil Evans Nonet, his seven-piece group, the Tricky Lix Band and as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral tubist, and studio musician with roughly 1500 recordings to his credit.
His latest love is Latin Jazz, which is not a place where one would expect to see or hear a tuba but, with the assistance of Francisco Torres, who chose the tunes, suggested musicians, composed three of the nine songs, plays trombone and led the band and engineer Tally Sherwood’s “big ears,” he turned his dream into a reality.
A few words about the tuba in jazz: It is the largest and lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family and has been used in jazz since the genre’s inception. In contemporary jazz tubas usually fill the traditional bass role, though it is not uncommon for them to take solos. New Orleans style Brass Bands like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band use a sousaphone (a tuba designed to be easier to play while standing or marching) as the bass instrument. Bill Barber played tuba on several Miles Davis albums, including Birth of the Cool and Miles Ahead. New York City-based tubist Marcus Rojas frequently performed with Henry Threadgill and Howard Johnson’s Gravity, which features six tubas and a rhythm section, takes the instrument to new and unexpected heights.
On the plus side, Self’s tuba adds depth and breadth to the brass section. Also, Self is an adventurous soloist, as evidenced by tunes such as, Cal’s Pal’s, For Charlie, Morning and the bolero, Quiero Llegar. Conversely, some tunes are more “tuba friendly” than others but more often than not, the concept succeeds.
FYI, the title comes from a search of Self’s last name in Spanish, which (roughly) means YO (I, me). Despite the illusory cover art and Self’s quirky sense of humor, YO! is a surprisingly good recording.
Enhance the experience by listening with headphones. You’ll hear the nuances and low tones that you might otherwise miss. If you’re up for something different, “Yo!” is just the ticket.
Jim Self Biography
Jim Self is a Los Angeles-based freelance musician. Since l974 he has worked for all the major Hollywood studios performing for over 1500 motion pictures and hundreds of television shows and records. His solos in major films include John Williamâ€™s scores to Jurassic Park, Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Hook, and was the “Voice of the Mothership” from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Other solos can be heard in James Horner’s Casper and Batteries Not Included, Marc Shaiman’s Sleepless in Seattle and in Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Dennis the Menace. Later films include Wall-E, Troy, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Legend of Zorro, War of the Worlds, King Kong, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Princess and the Frog, Valentines Day, Avatar, Tintin, Toy Story 3, and recently Bridges of Spies and Star Wars 7, The Force Awakens.
Josh Grobin, Cassandra Wilson, Claus Ogerman, Mel Torme, Leon Redbone, Weird Al Yankovich, Maynard Ferguson, Randy Newman, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Don Ellis, the L.A. Philharmonic, LA Opera, Pasadena and Pacific symphonies, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra are among the many artists and groups with whom he has recorded. Self was the string bass and tuba player with Jon Hendricks in his long running L.A. production of “Evolution of the Blues”. He holds principal tuba positions with the Pacific Symphony, Pasadena Symphony and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and principal tuba/cimbasso in the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra which recently did a two-year run of the Wagner Ring Cycle and won a Grammy for Kurt Weill’s Mahagonney.
In l983, Self produced his first album, Children at Play. It features jazz tuba and harmonica and has received world-wide acclaim. It was chosen by High Fidelity magazine as one of the top ten jazz albums of that year. A second recording, New Stuff (fusion jazz), was released in l988 on compact disc. Both are on the Discovery-Trend label. His third recording, Tricky Lix, was released in 1990 on the Concord Jazz label featuring jazz greats Gary Foster and Warren Luening. In 1992, an all “classical” CD Changing Colors came out on the Summit label. A jazz CD, The Basset Hound Blues, with Pete Christlieb was released on d’Note Records in 1997. In 1999, a second “classical” recording, The Big Stretch, came out on Basset Hound Records. It features original compositions by Self and others. That was followed by an eclectic CD entitled My America with arrangements of American songs by Kim Scharnberg. Self is assisted by a great band of L.A. studio musicians and plays his new horn the FLUBA. Next Self recorded a quintet CD of jazz standards and originals called Size Matters, with late/great Tennessee tenor man, Bill Scarlett. Then came InnerPlay, a jazz and strings CD featuring Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb and Dan Higgins with arrangements by Brad Dechter. InnerPlay was chosen by Jazz Times magazine as one of the top 50 jazz albums of 2006 and that same year Self was nominated for the prestigious Downbeat Critics Poll. Returning to his roots, Self and harmonica virtuoso, Ron Kalina next released a new be-bop CD called The Odd Couple. Jim’s latest CD is called ‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly on the Basset Hound label. It features the Hollywood Tuba 12 on 20 great Christmas arrangements featuring 29 of the top L.A. Area Tuba and Euphonium players. All of Self’s recordings and compositions are available from: www.bassethoundmusic.com.
Self is a past president of I.T.E.A., is a former faculty member of the University of Tennessee, Principal Tuba in the Knoxville Symphony and is a former member of The United States Army Band, Washington, D.C. Born in 1943 in Franklin, Pennsylvania, (raised in nearby Oil City), he holds degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Catholic University and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he is adjunct professor of tuba and chamber music. At USC he organized the USC Bass Tuba Quartet that won 1st prize for chamber ensembles at the 2014 ITEC at Indiana University. For many summers he taught students at the Music Academy of the West, the Henry Mancini Institute and the Hamamatsu Wind Festival and Academy in Japan. In 2014 he was an adjudicator at the prestigious Jeju Festival Brass Competition in Korea. His primary tuba teachers were William Becker, Harvey Phillips, and Tommy Johnson.
Besides his work as a tubist, Self maintains an active doubling career performing on bass trombone, cimbasso, contra-bass trombone, and (rarely now) string and electric basses and the Steiner EVI (electronic valve instrument). His latest new instrument is the FLUBA – an original design (picture a tuba-sized flugel horn). It is very unique and is a great solo instrument. Self is the author of the chapter “Doubling for Tubists” in The Tuba Source Book. His hobby is flying his 1973 Piper Arrow for fun, and sometimes to gigs.
Self is also a published composer and arranger. He has about 60 titles for brass, string and woodwind chamber music, works for band, orchestra, solo tuba and trombone. The Pacific Symphony commissioned him to write a feature work for the orchestra called Tour de Force: Episodes for Orchestra. The 13 minute piece was premiered at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Hall in Orange County on April 17-20, 2008, to great acclaim. He has since scored “Tour de Force for Wind Ensemble”. The east co-premier was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in September 2009 with Jack Stamp, and the west premier was at USC in March 2010, H. Robert Reynolds, conducting. A Brass Band version was premiered on 6 concerts by the River City Brass Band in 2013, James Gourlay conducting. Portuguese tuba virtuoso, Sergio Carolino, is a champion of Self’s music and has commissioned, performed, and recorded several of his works.
Jim and Jamie Self have endowed tuba scholarships at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and The University of Tennessee and have endowed five scholarships for the Legacy Brass Quintet at IUP. In 2012 they endowed a Creative Tuba Award through ITEA and offered the seed money for ITEA to establish a general endowment. Jim is also active commissioning new works, especially for the USC Bass Tuba Quartet.
As a solo artist, Self performs regularly worldwide. His concerts and clinics present an interesting blend of classical and jazz music, and represent a wide spectrum of his many experiences as a performer, composer, and teacher. Jim Self is a Yamaha Performing Artist.