Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Maniacal 4 live and in person

“There are two rules to being a great musician. 1. Be a nice person 2. Don't shit on the music.” — Jan Kagarice, visiting professor at the Hochschule fur Musik in Detmold, Germany and at the University of Minnesota and founder and bass trombonist of the internationally-acclaimed trombone quartet, PRISMA

HOW ABOUT we take a little break from politics and the disastrous state of my state and our nation. Just for a breath or two, anyway.

In January, Grand View University assistant professor of music, director of instrumental activities and trombonist Mark Doerffel, was gracious enough to invite Paul and me to be his guests at a Maniacal 4 concert at Grand View.

You may remember these guys; I wrote about them in November of 2013. Paul had come across a YouTube video of them playing Carry on Wayward Son, showed it to me, and I was so impressed and entertained that I felt compelled to share it with you. 

They're crazy good, and I've been agitating to hear them in person ever since. Lucky for me, they came to Des Moines.

The four members of the quartet, 
Alex Dubrov, Matt JeffersonNick Laufer and Carl Lundgren met when they were freshman at the University of North Texas, which BTW, Paul reckons has the best jazz program in the country. Here's a little bit about the group from their website:

"Maniacal 4 is dedicated to creating musical performances that not only entertain and engage, but challenge the limits of traditional concert presentation. This lively, acclaimed trombone quartet not only rocks the standard repertoire, but also embraces a wide variety of music from around the world and across eras. M4’s clever, insightful arrangements of music ranging from pop/rock and jazz to classical masterpieces bring new life to familiar tunes, often with a tongue-in-cheek playfulness that belies the technical aplomb of the group’s four, highly-trained trombonists."

Left to right: Carl Lundgren, Alex Dubrov, Paul, me, Nick Laufer and Matt Jefferson on 1/23/17 

Paul and I found the Maniacal 4 to be engaging, personable, funny, kinda geeky, technically proficient and very, very just plain nice, so they are indeed following Jan Kagarice's advice — that's her quote at the top of the page — to the letter.

Below is something about all four guys — they're all really interesting people — gleaned from their website, but be sure and scroll to the bottom for your reward; I've attached a YouTube video of them playing Wichita Lineman which, as it happens, is one of my all-time favorite pop songs.

Carl Lundgren

Trombonist Carl Lundgren is best known as the tenor voice of Maniacal 4, as well as the group’s resident “musical tinkerer.” A versatile musician with a hearty appetite for exploration and experimentation, Carl is M4’s innovative composer and arranger, responsible for the extraordinary variety and authenticity of the group’s clever and catchy versions of everything from Biebl to Bartok to recent hit pop/rock tunes. His rendition of “Carry On Wayward Son” played by the group is nearing two million views on YouTube. Carl is also the insightful facilitator of many of M4’s novel initiatives, including a range of collaborative projects, and he is active as a composer/arranger for a variety of other musical ensembles as well.

A native Swedish speaker, Carl grew up in Calgary, Alberta and maintains dual Canadian-Swedish citizenship. He started his musical journey as a child studying piano and added the flute in 7th grade before switching to trombone a year later to play in jazz band. He’s never looked back. A resident of Denton, Texas, he is a graduate of the University of North Texas, where he also taught as an adjunct professor. He continues to teach privately, offering master classes and participating in numerous education/outreach projects. An active freelancer, he is a member of the American Jazz Composers’ Orchestra and the Mars Hill Band. He has an abiding fascination for logic problems, puzzles, board games, clever structures, and the endlessly fascinating subjectivity of human experience.

Alex Dubrov

Maniacal 4 tenor trombonist Alex Dubrov is the ensemble’s electric trombone expert. His skills as a soloist combined with his expertise in using pedal distortion allow him to create some of M4’s most sonically vibrant fusions of jazz, pop and rock. His electronically synthesized trombone sound defines much of M4’s rock tribute material, enabling dead-on imitations of guitar legends such as Jimmy Page and Tommy Shaw. Currently residing in Dallas, Alex is an active freelancer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on both tenor and bass trombone. Credits include performances with a variety of jazz and pop luminaries, including Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Bobby Burns, Jr., and he is a popular figure in numerous cover bands. In addition to maintaining his own studio, where he teaches trombone, tuba and euphonium, Alex is pursuing electronic music production.

Originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Alex moved to Texas at the age of ten and is a graduate of the University of North Texas. He is an avid cultural enthusiast with a steadfast curiosity in languages. Fluent in Russian and English, he is also learning Portuguese and Spanish. After years of playing trombone in a Latin band, he is now taking his musicality to the dance floor, learning salsa and bachata. A health-conscious vegetarian, Alex is also a molecular hydration specialist, consulting with people suffering from degenerative diseases.

Nick Laufer

Trombonist Nick Laufer is the rare freelance musician with enviable facility and proven success across a wide range of musical styles. His enthusiasm and experience range from early Baroque to contemporary, from rock and jazz to Latin. Best known for his lead work in the professional trombone quartet Maniacal 4, Nick has performed hundreds of concerts in venues around the world. He also tours with country music superstar Toby Keith, and he can play a mean sackbut, with engagements that include performances at the internationally-renowned Boston Early Music Festival. Acclaimed for his lyrical style and warm, burnished tone, Nick’s playing can be heard on numerous recordings and streaming platforms, and his television appearances include “CBS Late Night with Stephen Colbert” and “CMT Ultimate Kickoff Party.” Born in Columbus, Ohio, Nick is a graduate of the University of North Texas, where he met the other three trombonists of Maniacal 4. He currently lives in Nashville, and when he’s not playing trombone, likes to drink coffee and perfect his breakfast creations.

Matt Jefferson

While Matt Jefferson is best known as the bass voice of Maniacal 4, his versatility extends to classical and commercial music as well. Equally versed on bass trombone and tuba, he has performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra, and the Grammy-nominated One O’Clock Lab Band. A graduate of University of North Texas, Matt spent three years in Louisiana, where in addition to playing, he also taught at Nicholls State University.

A lynchpin of Maniacal 4’s musical foundation in more ways than one, Matt is the group’s video production guru and the forward-thinking “people person.” A student of life, Matt is an enthusiastic sports fan and self-confessed bookworm whose tastes range from Malcolm Gladwell to Christopher Moore. Originally from London, Ontario, Matt grew up in Calgary and now lives in Toronto with his wife and four cats.

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