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Take 1

Douglas Yeo's new solo album featuring live performance from 1975 - 1997.

A Die letzte Posaune Production, CD 051955

Total time = 71:45

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The Trombonist

The Magazine of the British Trombone Society

Spring 1999

Douglas Yeo's new solo recording features live performances given in concert in 1975-76 and 1997, hence the title Take 1. Douglas says: "Such a recording is not without risk - there will surely be those who will complain that it is not 'perfect' but my response is, 'what is perfect?' I've heard many 'note perfect' performances that have left me unmoved; for me it has always been the emotional content of the performance and the aural connection with the audience that is most important."

The CD is well-produced with the sound quality from the seventies recordings comparable to the nineties. There is also an informative booklet to accompany the CD, and complete program notes can be found on his web site.

The first piece on the CD was recorded in 1975 at Wheaton College with the college concert band and it is a fine performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Trombone Concerto. Considering that he is a bass trombone player, he takes many passages 'up the octave.'

The next two pieces, Tetra Ergon by Donald White, and Solace were both recorded at Douglas' senior recital on 19 April 1976. In these pieces he demonstrates talents other than playing the trombone. In Tetra Ergon, Douglas can be heard singing the words of J.S. Bach's chorale 'Es ist genug', which Donald White quotes in his piece. In Solace he duets with Craig Wahlgren on marimba, and doubles on vibraphone himself!

The next segment of the CD was recorded at various stages in 1997 and all three pieces are premiere recordings. Profile, from David Fetter's Split Personality was written about Douglas and "is intended to give abstract voice to Yeo's staunch religious convictions" (David Fetter).

The next two pieces stand out. Symphony No. 34 for Bass Trombone and Strings by Alan Hovhaness is a real masterpiece, and here Douglas demonstrates why he is regarded so highly as a performer and soloist. Of Mountains, from Of Mountains, Lakes and Trees, for bass, tenor and alto trombones was written by one of Douglas' colleagues at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Norman Bolter. This is a powerful and evocative piece and Douglas' performance is nothing short of brilliant.

Having heard this CD several times now, I can honestly say it gets better each time. The playing is astounding, especially in the '90s recordings and I would find it difficult to complain about it not being 'perfect.' This is as near to perfect as you can get. If you want to hear how a bass trombone should sound, buy this CD. The man sounds great! (Neil Thompson)

The British Bandsman

October 10, 1998, Issue 5008

During a trombone demonstration a young girl asked Douglas Yeo, "Have you ever made a mistake?" That question made Yeo realise that a tremendous number of young people had never heard "live" music and, having instilled in his pupils the need to take risks with their music-making, gave him the idea for this disc.

Six pieces, recorded at various states in this great bass trombonist's career (warts and all), just go to show that performance isn't about making a piece of music perfect with the aid of the producer's editing suite!

The music is substantial yet entertaining, kicking off with the ever popular Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto, recorded in 1975 and played without fuss, just as it should be. It is accompanied extremely well by the Wheaton College Concert Band. The highlight of the piece is the beautifully controlled playing in the middle movement.

On to a recording, from 1976, of Donald White's Tetra Ergon, this time accompanied by Timothy Salzman on piano. This deep, brooding music gives Yeo the chance to show his technical skill to the full.

The talented Mr. Yeo shows another of his musical qualities when he swaps his trombone for vibraphone in Solace from Scott Joplin's A Mexican Serenade, in which he is joined by his friend Craig Wahlgren on marimba.

Moving on more than 20 years to Boston, we find the more mature sounding Douglas in the unaccompanied three movement Profile by David Fetter. Once again the player shows a fine sound and control with all the freshness only a live performance can deliver.

Recorded in Japan in the summer of 1997, Alan Hovhaness' brilliant Symphony No. 34 provides the perfect vehicle for Yeo's particular brand of trombone playing. It is in four movements, opening with a largo cadenza which is an object lesson for all in low register projection. The melodic writing of Hovhaness coupled with Yeo's lyricism makes this a music.

The disc concludes in fine style with music from another of Yeo's friends, Norman Bolter. Of Mountains is Bolter's portrait of man's response to nature.

Douglas Yeo is one of the greats of the bass trombone and this disc music be included in the collection of any serious student of brass playing. (John Maines)

The Brass Band Bridge

September 1998, Issue 73

In Doug Yeo's second solo album within the past few years (his first, Proclamation, was accompanied by Black Dyke Band) he takes the listener on a musical pilgrimage of live performances that range from his student days at Wheaton College (Illinois) to present-day professional performances in Japan and Boston.

The Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto reading dates from 1975 and has been remastered from a vinyl disc, but the noise level is not overbearing. Here we see Yeo as a tenor player aggressively attacking this trombone chestnut while being competently backed up by the good Wheaton College Concert Band. A year later Yeo is on his instrument of choice for the future, bass trombone, in a challenging work with piano accompaniment during which we see the artist emerging, a truly fine player in the making. While at Wheaton, Yeo chose melody percussion as his mandatory secondary instrument, and thus the inclusion of the mallet duet Solace of Scott Joplin.

The final three pieces, and the most substantial portion of this daring album, bring us to the present day - all recorded in 1997. Profile is a significant, three-movement work for bass trombone written especially for Yeo by David Fetter. In the work we find that it is Yeo who is under profile, the piece having a hymn and gospel song underpinning that reflects in a sophisticated way both Yeo's personality and Christian faith. What a wonderful clinic for bass trombonists!

Hovhaness' Symphony #34 for bass trombone and string orchestra, a four-movement work over 24 minutes in length, fully captured my attention and will be a performance that I will want to hear many times over. In some ways it is very characteristic of other works by this Armenian- American composer who blends well his Middle-Eastern clutural roots (and mysticism) with Western composositional structures - the long, chant-like modal melodies, the detailed canonic textures, the tension between suspended "states-of-being" and powerfully dramatic gestures that push the clock forward. Yet the unique combination also calls for some wonderful new sounds and imaginative writing. The dialogue between the bass trombonist and solo string bass in movement 1 is a highlight of this face, and is indeed a highlight of the disc.

I called this album daring - even risky, because live, unedited programs can get you into trouble. But Doug Yeo embraces that risk and the results are fully satisfying. The engineering balances the various primary sources quite well, Yeo supplies good insight into the music and his motivation as a performer over the years in his succinct notes, and there are some charming graphics and photos that make this a very attractive solo brass album by no means restricted to trombonists. (Ron W. Holz)

The OnLine Trombone Journal

September 1998

The newest CD release from Boston Symphony bass trombonist Douglas Yeo is unique in several ways. First, it includes three performances from his undergraduate days at Wheaton College, the first of which was in 1975, then we jump to three 1997 performances. Second, since Mr. Yeo minored in percussion at Wheaton, he's included an arrangement of Joplin's Solace which he performed on vibraphone. Third, all of the performances were recorded live, meaning that no multiple takes or editing was employed in the production of the disc. Hence the name "Take 1."

The first work on the disc is Rimksy-Korsakov's Concerto for Trombone. Mr. Yeo is accompanied by the Wheaton College Concert Band. At the age of 19, Mr. Yeo played this piece with a good command of dynamics and technique, although he does take several of "the passages" up an octave, which, according to the liner notes, makes him "cringe a bit" now.

The second work, Donald White's "Tetra Ergon," is a piece for bass trombone and piano, and was recorded when Mr. Yeo was 20 and still a student at Wheaton College. This composition has a more "contemporary" feel to it, and requires the performer to cover a great deal of the lower register. Mr. Yeo did a good job of quickly hitting strong pedal tones following upper register phrases.

The newest of the recordings from 1997, "Of Mountains" is the first movement from Norman Bolter's larger work called Of Mountains, Lakes, and Trees. The first movement of this "Essence Music" is supposed to make the listener think of mountains, and thanks to the majestic style of Mr. Yeo's playing, and the rest of the Frequency Band, the effect is achieved with fine results.

Everyone has favorites on a recording, and two of the 1997 pieces are mine. Profile, by David Fetter and Alan Hovhaness' Symphony No. 34, Op.310 slightly edge out the others works for me, mainly due to the beauty of the melodies and playing. [The original review on the The OnLine Trombone Journal web site contains two audio clips from the album.] The audio clip from Profile illustrates the beauty of the third movement, and the provided sample from the fourth movement of Symphony No. 34 gives you a taste of the "Adagio for Strings" feel of the Hovhaness work. In the Hovhaness work, Mr. Yeo exhibits a smooth melodic singing quality in the upper range, as well as a "threatening" low register.

It should be educational for trombone students (and others) to hear what Mr. Yeo sounded like, warts and all, when he was a student. Some may find with fault the inclusion of the vibraphone work on this disc. As a "frustrated drummer" myself, I actually enjoyed the change of pace this track provided.

The liner notes are extensive and list all personnel. For instance, the entire Wheaton College Concert Band roster is listed from the May 1975 performance of the Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto For Trombone!

This was a risky compilation for Mr. Yeo to release since it isn't as polished and processed as the usual professional recording. This reviewer believes the risk was well worth it when one listens to this disc keeping in mind the "step up and go for it" mindset that Mr. Yeo would like us all to have when we perform. (David Oliver)

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