Home Books & Miscellany Christian Tamburr: All about “The Awakening” and The Vibes that made it...

Christian Tamburr: All about “The Awakening” and The Vibes that made it Happen

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Christian Tamburr: All about "The Awakening" and The Vibes that made it Happen
Chriatian Tamburr from a performance in 2015 [photographer unknown]
JdG: You play with single mallets in each hand [not two, as some musicians do]… Does that mean you prefer a melodic to the harmonic approach?

CT: I was trained classically and play 4 mallets, but prefer to lead the melody or solo with 2 mallets. I just hate the weight of the extra mallets swinging all over the place. When it’s time to comp I’ll reach over and pick up the other two mallets, but having only two feels so free and unrestricted. I love the sound and pocket you get with just those tow mallets and the ability to go anywhere.

JdG: What r.p.s. [which stands for revolutions per second, equating to the oscillator setting on the vibraphone ] do you use and how does that affect the emotion of the instrument?

CT: I believe you are referring to the vibrato effect or fan speed. I actually don’t use it. The first instrument I had, the motor broke about a year after I owned it. Then I started listening to Gary Burton and Bobby Hutcherson who don’t use it… I just sort of said to myself that no motor or fan effect was going to be “a part of my sound”. On a few tunes, ballads it’s a great effect. Just gives the melodic line this way of reaching and reaching and feeling so light… I sometimes – depending on where I am and what instrument I’m on, will throw the switch and mess with it, but for the most part, I don’t use it much.

Christian Tamburr with Clint-Holmes at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts 2015

JdG: I think you sort of answered my question… I was indeed asking about fan speed in my question. And the reason I asked is because I find you are able to suggest a deeper or longer sustain (or vibration)… I know that Milt Jackson, for instance used a very low or barely discernible fan speed, which gave him a very bluesy sound because of longer sustain or slower fan speed… yours is somewhere in between. I was trying, in fact, to find a way to describe your sound, which is more like Hutch’s than Bags’ (which is, of course, completely unique). However, feel free to elaborate if you think there is more to be said.

CT: [Picking up from where he left off] Okay, I thought that’s what you were inquiring about.

That slower fan speed is really nice, however on faster tunes with more melodic complexity, sometimes the fan closed can choke off the sound into the resonator below, and it’s just one of those things to kind of keep tabs on. I will use it on the ballads and switch off for up-tempo… but in general I don’t use it all that much. I’m glad you’re digging the sound and I’ll take the comparison to Hutch any day as far as sound. Appreciate that and reach out with any other questions should that arise.

JdG: Whose music gets you going each day? Is it a different musician or just one artist?

CT: Oh you’re going to laugh at this…. Now days, some Jimmy Buffett seems to do the trick. [Smiles broadly] I know that sounds crazy but man, that is one happy dude, singing his heart out about some seriously good times of just hanging out. I think with this quarantine going on the idea of kicking back with friends on a boat with a beer sounds pretty darn good right now.
When it’s not Cheeseburgers in Paradise, I’m listening to some of the great classic stuff – [Art] Blakey, Miles [Davis], ‘Trane. I love [Pat] Metheny and Jim Hall. Nothing specific, but there is something about hearing some of the great tunes that we now call “standards” being cut for the first time on those great classic albums. So inspirational to hear [this music being birthed].

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