This story takes place during my years in high school in North Carolina. In my junior year of high school I spent three nights a week studying at the Greensboro Music Academy. On one particular class we had the honor of having trombonist Fred Wesley at the school to present a clinic.
Sometime during the clinic Fred asked any of the students if they would like to play a tune with him and the rhythm section. I raised my hand and he called me up. I go up to the bandstand and Fred asked me what I would like to play and I told him that I would like to play Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay. This was partly because I had just learned the tune from the record.
Fred agreed to play the tune and he pulls out a fake book. We start the tune up and all of a sudden I find myself sounding wayyyy sharp on the tune. I ended up pulling my tuning slide almost all the way out to match up with Fred’s intonation as well as the band’s. It was soo embarrassing for me at the time.
So we wrap the tune up and Fred mentions to the audience how out of tune I was. He then asked me to play the melody with him a capella so we could match up. So we play and find that we’re actually playing a ½ away from each other!! This was because the fakebook had the tune written in C minor and I had learned the tune in Db minor! That was my first introduction to the importance of learning tunes in all or as many keys as possible. Up until that point I, like many young students, have no concept of the idea of playing the same song in multiple keys. That became something that I had to consider in my practice….