Marvin Stamm on Bernie Glow


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In the recording studios of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, trumpet players had specialties. Like baseball batters and Old West gunslingers, top trumpeters in the horn sections of big bands and pop orchestras became distinguished for a particular style. Each of the four trumpet seats were occupied by players known for acing notes and nuances in arrangements. There were jazz soloists, power players, classical-flavored players, low-note players, note benders and players with a specific accent. And then there was Bernie Glow.

Even among the top players in New York, Glow was most admired. He was the leading first chair in a business dominated by East Coast studio giants. In that chair, Glow had the soaring notes in an arrangement and infused the section with confidence and electricity. Most of all, he had a warm, powerful tone that was unmistakably. Plenty of trumpeters could hit high notes, but not as smoothy or as warmly as Glow. On the West Coast, his counterpart probably was Conrad Gozzo, though you'd probably get into an argument debating who had the edge.

Even on disco hits such as the Stylistics I Can't Give You Anything and Van McCoy's The Hustle in the '70s, Glow was called in to play the confident hair-raising notes. Among the leading studio trumpeters of that era, few knew Glow better than Marvin Stamm, who was himself a much admired and prolific studio player. His name can be found on hundreds of albums by artists ranging from Stan Kenton and Oliver Nelson to CTI albums by Wes Montgomery and Freddie Hubbard.

I caught up with Marvin over the weekend and asked him to reflect on Glow:

JazzWax: When did you first begin to admire Bernie Glow?

Marvin Stamm: As a young trumpet player in the 1950s, I became increasingly interested in the musicians on the jazz records I enjoyed most, especially the trumpeters who recorded in New York. They seemed to have a larger, fatter sound than their counterparts in other cities, one that resonated more with me. A name that appeared most often in the personnel was Bernie's. My interest in his playing remained through music school at North Texas State and after I graduated and toured with Stan Kenton’s Orchestra in the early 1960s.

JW: What made Glow special?

MS: Bernie was the premiere lead or first trumpet player in the New York recording studios from the 1950s to the 1970s. In bands, the first trumpet typically doesn't take solos. Rather, the first trumpet leads the ensemble in the interpretation and rhythmic feel of the music and is responsible for the top notes in an arrangement, driving the brass section's energy and excitement. The player's tone, power, and musicality are everything.

JW: Glow seemed to be everywhere.

MS: Bernie played on many of the most significant jazz and pop studio recordings of that era. His beautiful round sound soaring over the music of Gil Evans, Quincy Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, Oliver Nelson, Gary McFarland, Ralph Burns and many other great jazz writers and arrangers.

JW: Everyone seemed to want his flavor, including singers and disco producers.

MS: Bernie was stylistically versatile, being called to play lead trumpet on recordings for Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and other performers. You also find him on many pop, rock and disco recordings, including those by Aretha Franklin, Burt Bacharach, the Rolling Stones Al Kooper and many others. On the classical side, he played in orchestras conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller and others.

JW: Did he have a jazz feel?

MS: Absolutely. Bernie was a great jazz lead trumpet. For example, he played on many of the marvelous Miles Davis/Gil Evans recordings—arrangements that were difficult and enduring for Miles and the orchestra. I was told a fascinating story by one of the Columbia Records recording engineers that occurred during Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain in 1959 and '60. During the recording of Will O’ The Wisp, Miles’s lip became tired at some point. He asked Bernie to play the muted melody at the beginning and end of the piece, leaving Miles to play the improvised section. Miles, listening to Bernie record his written part, turned to the engineer and producer and said, “Shit! Bernie sounds more like me than me!”

JW: Other players were in awe, yes?

MS: Bernie was greatly respected by his colleagues. When performing on a recording session with him, other trumpet players who arrived at the studio first always left the first trumpet chair open for him. He was a marvelous musician and an extraordinary human being. Though friendly, confident, and outgoing, he was not one to call attention to himself. Nevertheless, when Bernie walked into a room, you felt that someone special had entered the space. He was just that kind of person.

JW: When did you first meet Glow?

MS: When alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano invited me to New York to play on his 1963 album A Jazz Portrait of Charlie Mariano. Bernie was booked on the session with brass along with trumpeters Jimmy Nottingham and Jim Sedlar. I was obviously not a New York player then, but they nonetheless treated me as one of them.

JW: Did you strike up a friendship after the session?

MS: After that single, three-hour experience, I didn’t see Bernie again until I relocated to New York in 1966. I was walking down the street six months after my arrival when Bernie recognized me and said, “Marvin what are you doing here?” When I told him I had moved to the city, he said, “Why didn’t you call me?” Having met me once, spending only a few hours with me in the studio, he remembered me and offered to help me with work whenever possible.

JW: What albums did you play on with Glow?

MS: We worked together on many recording dates, including Oliver Nelson’s The Kennedy Dream, Wes Montgomery's Road Song, Gary McFarland's America the Beautiful, Walter Wanderley's Moondreams, George Benson's The Other Side of Abbey Road, Hank Crawford's Wildflower, Urbie Green's Big Beautiful Band, Maynard Ferguson’s Conquistador, Bill Evans's Symbiosis, Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay, Gato Barbieri's Caliente and others.

JW: In addition to being a highly regarded player, Glow sounds like he was a great guy.

MS: He was. Talking with Bernie a couple years after my arriving in New York, I remarked how welcoming he and the New York trumpet community had been to me. I asked him, “How does one repay this kind of kindness and support?” Bernie said, “When a fine young player arrives on the scene, you help that player as we helped you.” That was Bernie, keeping the tradition alive.

JW: Was he highly regarded outside of the jazz studio world?

MS: Bernie and I once attended a concert at Town Hall featuring the world-famous French classical trumpet soloist Maurice André (above). After the concert, Maurice André’s host wanted to introduce him to Bernie. We went backstage. When they met, André proclaimed, “Ah! L’ Premiere!” ["Ah, the First!"]. The world’s greatest classical trumpet soloist recognized Bernie as the premiere first trumpet. A fitting tribute to say the least.

JW: Did Glow give you good advice?

MS: Bernie and others in the studios taught me a great deal about the protocols of the recording business. But we rarely talked about horns and mouthpieces, how to play high notes, warm-ups and such. It was assumed that one reaching this level of playing knew what worked for them. Of course, one could always ask about these things and the player being asked would be as helpful as possible. However, advice was rarely proffered unless asked for. [Photo above of Marvin Stamm, courtesy of Marvin Stamm]

JW: Bernie must have seen something special in you.

MS: Bernie and I became close friends, and he knew I valued any advice he might offer that could help me. After a couple years working together, Bernie told me he felt my instrument didn't match the projection and sound of the Bach-made trumpets most everyone else used. Bernie thought I might be working harder than necessary on my present trumpet to achieve that same amount of sound and projection.

JW: What did he say?

MS: He told me a number of new Bach horns had arrived at Robert Giardinelli’s instrument shop on West 46th Street, the place most New York brass players bought their instruments and accessories. Bernie had gone there to look for a second instrument for himself. He offered to pick one out and have them set it aside for me. This was typical of Bernie’s generosity of spirit and his sense of fraternity. To Bernie, the trumpet section was a family within a family and often the players who could make or break a recording, since we stood out. The horn he picked out is one of the trumpets I still use today.

JW: What was Glow like outside of work?

MS: Bernie was loved and respected by many friends both inside and outside the world of music. Even though there was a 13-year age difference between us, we developed a warm, close friendship. I came to know his family and was a guest in his home in Great Neck, N.Y., a number of times, as was my wife, Nancy. Bernie and Gail also were guests at our home 50 miles north of New York City in Westchester County. Bernie was my mentor, someone I looked up to personally as well as musically. I think about him often. The impressions he left upon me were profound, and I treasure them deeply.

JazzWax clips: For some strange reason, Bernie Glow never recorded a leadership album. I suppose that was because he was too busy hopping from studio to studio and he wasn't a jazz soloist. Also unfortunate is that Glow never recorded in small jazz groups, where he was the sole trumpeter. Most of his isolated solos were on pop and disco recordings.

Here's Glow playing a written solo (1:40) on Hal David and Burt Bacharach's Promises, Promises, with Dionne Warwick...

Here's Glow in 1955, second from the left in the trumpet section...

Here's Glow opening the Stylistics' I Can't Give You Anything (But My Love)...

Here's Van McCoy's The Hustle, with Glow adding his touch at 2:54...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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