Life Builders: Ed Gerlach

This is the only picture I have with Mr. Gerlach in it. For the people from his band who see this picture, this was the gig that was conveniently located at a hospital. That’s Rudy Razo behind the drums. Buddy Sisco is standing in the back, Dave Womack sitting on the right in the the trombone section, Sylvester standing to the right of the band stand, Martin Langford on sax to the left, Don Elam on sax to the right and Ed Gerlach in the white coat in front, talking to the sound man (who I can’t remember his name).

Ed Gerlach as Role Model

I see Mr. Ed Gerlach as an important role model from my career…and really much more than just that. I admire him as a leader, as a musician and as a man. This Life Builders series is where I take an opportunity to recognize how other people have contributed to my success in life. When it comes to leadership role models, Mr. Gerlach is at the top of the list of people who have influenced me as a leader so it is only fitting that I dedicate one of these posts to him.

I am one of those few strange people who believe some things were better in an earlier era. Not all that is modern is good. Over the years I have struggled to find examples of men who uphold the same values as I do. Please understand what I’m saying. There are plenty of people who say they believe in those values, but so few of them actually live their lives accordingly. I recognize Mr. Gerlach as one of those people. This is important to me because I want to be that kind of man. It’s important to me because I know, from experience, that BEING that kind of man is far more difficult if you don’t have role models to follow.

Yes, I will agree that Mr. Gerlach is a musical icon in Houston and I’m about to talk about that as well. But I felt it was important to make this point first. When I take inventory of my life and look at the men who lived the way I want to live, Ed Gerlach is one of a surprisingly small number of men who I feel I can emulate that way.

Okay, now…moving on to the music stuff.

Music From the Big Band Era

Most people don’t know that I grew up with the music from the big band era. Most people my age did not, but my parents danced to many of the big bands and had plenty of LPs that we listened to during my childhood. While my friends were listening to Led Zepplin, Van Halen, Queen, Rush, Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osborne, I was listening to the Four Freshman, Woody Herman, the Jacky Gleason Orchestra, Ray Conniff, Xavier Cugat and Prez Prado (etc.). Yes, we listened to other music at home as well, but the big band music was something we always came back to.

I specifically remember, before I started playing the trumpet, my father used to quiz me with those recordings. He would ask me to identify each of the solo instruments. Was it a sax? A trumpet? Trombone? These were my first music lessons and through those special moments, my father instilled in me an appreciation for music in general and more specifically for the big band stuff.

So it was always a great honor for me to have worked with Ed Gerlach in his orchestra. I had played in school jazz bands growing up, but I knew that when I started working with Mr. Gerlach, that this was the real thing. For those who don’t know it already, Ed Gerlach is Houston’s most prestigious big band leader and a past member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Quality

I never considered the Gerlach Orchestra to be “just another big band.” I’m not completely certain how to explain what I think the difference is. I have played big band gigs in El Paso, Chicago, Pittsburgh and with almost all of the bands local to Houston (I even played one gig with the Glenn Miller ghost band). None of the other bands I have played with have the same level of authenticity that was standard for Mr. Gerlach’s gigs. I always felt that a lot of effort was invested into preserving that authenticity, holding against the erosive tide of pop music and culture.

Some people would wrongly associate that preservation with something like a time capsule, as if playing those gigs was a portal to an earlier time. But I disagree with that interpretation of the music and Ed Gerlach’s work. I don’t see it as a preservation of a “time” as much as a preservation of “quality.” The Ed Gerlach Orchestra has a few modern tunes in the book, but the arrangements of those tunes never compromise the quality of the musical style  to which the band is committed to.

I hope that makes sense. I learned a great many lessons from my time on Mr. Gerlach’s gigs. I learned about the business. I learned about the music. I grew as a player in my almost twenty years with the band. I grew in ways that I KNOW would not have happened without his influence. But I do believe that the most important lesson I took away from that experience was this thing about the preservation of quality. Mr. Gerlach has a high standard and he expects his musicians to demonstrate that standard in their performances. This is the way I think it should always be and I am glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a fine ensemble.

Summary – Now It’s Your Turn!

As with all of these Life Builders posts, this one only briefly touches on a few key points. It is impossible to summarize any one person’s contribution to my life success in much detail this way. The most important thing here is that Mr. Gerlach knows, and you, my readers know, that I appreciate and acknowledge how he has helped me grow as a man.

That said, I want to encourage all of you who read this to begin doing the same thing in your own lives. Acknowledge those people who helped you succeed. Take inventory of your life successes and look at all the many people who helped you get to where you are. I’m telling you this now, on this page, because Mr. Gerlach was the first person I acknowledged this way. Writing about people on a blog is certainly not the only to do this. In fact, as I’m learning the hard way, it’s probably the most difficult way to do it. I’m making this a part of my blog because I’m in the process of writing about Love (see my Love Is posts). I am using these posts as examples for other people to follow.

So give it a try. Do it now before it’s too late.

 

 

  1. Quality is always better than quantity. I too have noticed that some of the bands I have listened to, and that includes some C&W, Rock & folk, seem to play louder without giving meaning to the music of what we hear.
    And, some jazz music seems to over dominate (loudness) the recording without giving the other instruments to give the underpinnings needed to fill out the chords with their harmony.

    If you have lead/solo, yes, you need to be heard, but blasting just because you can does not enhance the piece for most songs.

    It is the blend of the instruments that Glenn Miller so strove for and can be appreciated by us is an example of what sounds good with solos been heard, but not blaringly. Correct me if I am wrong, but when a solo with a band becomes the most dominate sound the listener hears at the expense of the other supporting instruments then is it mostly a solo. Why even have the other instruments if the harmony and support cannot be heard enough to decipher.

    We as trumpet players are amazed at the high notes one can play. Some are clear, distinct, on pitch without the ‘screaming’ sound. These are the sounds that most players, I would think, want to achieve. A sound with meaning that communicates the music rather than overwhelms with a bombastic sound. The music, no matter the style, should always communicate/connect with the listener. Blending not bombastic is most pleasing to listen to.

    This would be a good time to praise Eddie Lewis’ recent recording “Trumpet Treasures” as a wonderful example of true solo performances. One can listen and listen and each time hear something new. Please, if you must buy a new CD buy this one. I played a couple of his tracks for friends of mine and they were astounded by the clarity, tonal quality, articulation and breath control. These friends, by the way, have perfect pitch and are trained musicians in the classics and many other styles of music. So buy the CD and listen.

    • Thank’s for the comment, John,

      I think I agree with what you are saying about balance. Unfortunately, when you are talking about recordings, a lot of that responsibility is not up to the musicians but sits on the shoulders of the recording engineers. They determine the balance after the fact.

      Jazz is a highly communicative art form. You are correct that the musicians must communicate to the audience, but they also must communicate with each other. In fact, this musician to musician communication takes priority over musician to audience communication in jazz (at least this is my opinion). But that priority is for the audience’s sakes. Jazz is more interesting to listen to when we can hear the interplay between the instruments.

      I’m glad you are enjoying the CD. That’s important to me, that people will listen to it and enjoy it.

      Eddie

  2. CORRECTION
    My previous post listed the CD incorrectly it should be “Vintage Trumpet Treasures”. I apologize for the error.

    • Believe it or not, the original title was going to be just “Vintage Treasures” just like you had it in your original comment. But in looking at the marketability of the CD, I realized the word trumpet needed to be in there. So I changed the name to what it is today in order to hopefully reach more people.

  3. Eddie, I just happened on to your blog this morning. Was this picture taken at Methodist Hospital — just before Rudy collasped? Brings back wonderful memories of my very best friend.

    • Hello Ann,

      Yes, that picture was taken at the Methodist Hospital. You can see he is already not feeling well in this picture.

      I didn’t get to know Rudy as well as some of the other guys. We did spend some time talking on the breaks. What I remember most about Rudy was how proud he was of his family. When I think of him, that’s what I remember.

  4. I played on the Ed Gerlach band in 1954…can you give more on ED…when and how he passed away??
    and…some of the people he booked from his agency????? Larry Genta
    I was on band at the U no H and his nite time band. Some of my greatest memories…. I played tenor in the “brothers” sound..3 tenors & bari.

    • Hello Larry,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I love hearing from people who played in Mr. Gerlach’s earlier bands.

      That said, Mr. Gerlach is still alive. I only do life builder’s articles for people who are still living. You can read more about why I do that at the Life Builders page here:
      http://eltigredo.com/blog/life-builders-series/

      Last I heard, he was taking side man gigs but not working much as a leader anymore.

      Thanks again for writing,

      Eddie

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