Jerry Hey is one of the most prolifically recorded trumpet players around. His style, sound and musicality made him the go-to guy on the LA scene, and as a horn arranger he is second to none. His collaborative projects with the great Quincy Jones are now legendary, and even now, after 40 years at the very top of the business, Jerry is still the man to go to for scintillating horns.
From a personal perspective, Jerry is the reason that I picked up a trumpet as a child after hearing those early Michael Jackson albums, so I was delighted that he could spare me some time to answer a few questions:
My reason for first picking up a trumpet was hearing you on those Michael Jackson tracks! What was yours?
My father was a trombone player and my 10-year older brother had a bugle he played in the Boy Scouts that I picked up as a child.
Who would you say was your biggest musical influence in those early days?
Clifford Brown – my father heard him live in Chicago and bought his first record.
Can you tell us a little about your time studying with Bill Adam?
He was simply the greatest person I have ever met, and that has nothing to do with the trumpet but a lot about life, which I try to emulate.
Your time in Hawaii in the early days sounded huge in terms of your development as a player and arranger. How did that move to LA come about and how was that transition?
Hawaii was pivotal in my development with forming Seawind and meeting Gary Grant. Seawind moved to LA to record and Gary had moved from Hawaii a year earlier. Seawind played at the Baked Potato in North Hollywood at least once a week for a couple of years. A lot of musicians came to hear us so that helped get my start in the studio scene, but Gary Grant was instrumental in getting me on many sessions. Also, having met Chuck Findlay and Dalton Smith in Hawaii, they also recommended me for sessions.
Did you have any regular practise routines to keep you in shape during busy periods?
I did the daily routine that evolved under Mr. Adam’s teaching and that Larry Hall and I adapted.
What are the priorities for young and aspiring players hoping to have a long and successful career?
Listen, listen, listen… and then practise!
What trumpets and mouthpieces have you used over the years?
Bach 37 and Bach 3C were my standards throughout, but I played a Calicchio for a while and a had a Bob Reeves mouthpiece which was a copy of a NYC Bach 3C rim.
This is a guest question from Johnny Thirkell, who I interviewed a few weeks ago! [you can read it here] “In the lesson that you gave me, you had me blowing super loud through everything. Much louder than I would ordinarily practise. Is there a specific reason for that or is it just that I am a wimp?!”
It is mainly to get the sound concept that Mr. Adam was trying to impress upon us all. And also to keep the air moving at all times. But once that is established it doesn’t have to be at full volume all the time, like when playing Arban or Charlier for example.
Your horn sections have always had a trademark sound and style that have set the benchmark that producers and engineers now aspire to. Where did that rich, bright and intense sound come from?
It all starts with the players and everyone having a concept of how to make the section sound the best. Then the writing and engineering also play a big part in the sound. Fortunately, I started with Bruce Swedien and Quincy, who both knew exactly how the horn section should be recorded and what the section should sound like. It was a big learning experience for me with both of them.
What are your favourite microphones for recording trumpet?
Bruce Swedien has an incredible array of mikes he used on us, and any mike he used was amazing. My general favourites are Neumann U47, Neumann KM54, Neumann FET47, Neumann U67, and most recently the Royer 121 and 122.
What are the horn sections that you like to listen to that you have not been involved with?!
Tower of Power, Brecker Brothers, Edgar Winter White Trash, Stevie Wonder, Snooky Young with Count Basie and Thad Jones.
Is there a particular project that you can say has been your most enjoyable?
Too many to single out just one! Any Quincy projects, Al Jarreau, Earth Wind and Fire, David Foster Projects, and George Duke.
Do you have proudest professional moment?
There are so many recordings that I am very proud of, but maybe the proudest moment was the first time I worked with my son, Andrew, when he recorded the horn section. We were doing our usual recording when I said, “Let’s double that!” Andrew talked back through the phones and said, “maybe we should do one more”. “Play that back for me Andrew. Wow, OK, you’re right. Let’s do one more take!” And from that very point on, I knew he had some really amazing ears and I go with his suggestion every time. I’m a proud father!”
If you are interested to read more from Jerry, please give Michael Davis’ Hip-BoneMusic a visit. There is a great interview covering all sorts, from ‘Arranging Techniques’ to ‘Wine Recommendations’!