Jim Self, freelance tuba player and winds and percussion faculty at the USC Thornton School of Music, recently released a Christmas album of arrangements played on tubas.
Titled ‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly, the album features Self and 29 of the finest tuba and euphonium players in Los Angeles. Having been a Thornton faculty member for 37 years, Self also included USC tuba faculty Norm Pearson and Doug Tornquist, in addition to Thornton alumni: Blake Cooper, Fred Greene, John Van Houten, Dave Holben, Joe Jackson, Steve Klein, Loren Marsteller, Beth Mitchell, Scott Sutherland and Larry Zalkind.
‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly, which includes 12 tubas per song (usually six euphoniums, three F tubas and three CCs), took four years to complete and was produced and financed by Self.
“The cost of recording 12 professional musicians in large studios was pretty steep, so I decided to ‘chip away’ at it over a four-year period,” Self said. “The first session was held at the famous Capitol A Studio in Hollywood. The other five were done at The Bridge Studio in Glendale. While there were never more than 12 on any session, there were many different players on the six sessions.”
Self’s good friend (and ex-tubist) Shawn Murphy engineered and mixed the sessions. Murphy, a long-time engineer for John Williams, James Newton Howard, John Powell, John Debney, James Horner and many others, is an Academy Award winner for Jurassic Park and has engineered for many projects with the Chicago, Boston and London Symphonies and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The original cover art was by David Silverman, who is an artist and producer on The Simpsons. The CD design was done by Dave Amason, another former USC tuba student.
Self has made his living as a tuba player for about 50 years, working on over 1,500 movies as a studio musician. ‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly showcases a deep sense of camaraderie among the small community of professional tuba players.
“There is only one tuba in a symphony so, in most cities, there may be only one professional tuba player–worldwide, there are probably no more than 2,000 professional tuba players,” said Self, who currently performs for the Pacific Symphony, LA Opera, Hollywood Bowl and the Pasadena Symphony.
Self’s Christmas album also pays tribute to the tuba players who have performed in the Hollywood Tuba 12 at the TubaChristmas concerts throughout its near four decade existence—especially to former USC Tuba Professor, Tommy Johnson.
Each December, TubaChristmas concerts are played in hundreds of cities around the world by thousands of tuba, euphonium and sousaphone players. In 1974, the first TubaChristmas was organized and conducted by Self’s former teacher and mentor, Harvey Phillips, in New York City. Two years later it began in Los Angeles, where Self was the head for 35 years.
Self acknowledges that, after many years of the Hollywood Tuba 12 playing at TubaChristmas/Los Angeles, the ‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly CD is a project over 30 years in the making.
“After a few years I decided to make L.A. TubaChristmas a little different and bring in a group of professional musicians to play special charts and augment the larger tuba choir, but all along I thought that these great charts needed to be recorded by the best Los Angeles studio, orchestral and freelance musicians,” Self said.
While Self views the album as balanced with fast and slow tempos, in addition to jazzy and more classical sounds, he also says ‘Tis the Season TUBA Jolly stands out from other Christmas albums.
“It’s really different,” Self said. “Everyone has Christmas albums from Frank Sinatra to Rock and Roll bands. Christmas CDs are a dime a dozen, but nothing is like this. It’s like a men’s choir, with gorgeous arrangements and is very accessible to the average listener. Everything we’ve done is first class with all the top players–and when you do that you get the best product. This is an album that you can really feel”.
In the future, Self hopes to perform music from the album at concerts around Los Angeles and elsewhere.
‘Tis The Season TUBA Jolly CD can be purchased at: www.jimself.com.