Take 1: A Review

By David Oliver • September 01, 1998 • 3 min read

Take 1 Douglas Yeo - bass trombone, vibraphone. Die letzte Posaune, 51955. 71'45".

The newest CD release from Boston Symphony bass trombonist Doug Yeo is unique in several ways. First, it includes three performances from his undergraduate days at Wheaton College, the first of which was in 1975, then we jump to three 1997 performances. Second, since Mr. Yeo minored in percussion at Wheaton, he's included an arrangement of Joplin's Solace which he performed on vibraphone. Third, all of the performances were recorded live, meaning that no multiple takes or editing was employed in the production of the disc. Hence the name "Take 1."

The first work on the disc is Rimksy-Korsakov's Concerto for Trombone. Mr. Yeo is accompanied by the Wheaton College Concert Band. At the age of 19, Mr. Yeo played this piece with a good command of dynamics and technique, although he does take several of "the passages" up an octave, which, according to the liner notes, makes him "cringe a bit" now.

The second work, Donald White's "Tetra Ergon," is a piece for bass trombone and piano, and was recorded when Mr. Yeo was 20 and still a student at Wheaton College. This composition has a more "contemporary" feel to it, and requires the performer to cover a great deal of the lower register. Mr. Yeo did a good job of quickly hitting strong pedal tones following upper register phrases.

The newest of the recordings from 1997, "Of Mountains" is the first movement from Norman Bolter's larger work called Of Mountains, Lakes, and Trees. The first movement of this "Essence Music" is supposed to make the listener think of mountains, and thanks to the majestic style of Mr. Yeo's playing, and the rest of the "Frequency Band," the effect is achieved with fine results.

Everyone has favorites on a recording, and two of the 1997 pieces are mine. Profile, by David Fetter and Alan Hovhaness' Symphony No. 34, Op.310 slightly edge out the others works for me, mainly due to the beauty of the melodies and playing. The audio clip from Profile illustrates the beauty of the third movement, and the provided sample from the fourth movement of Symphony No. 34 gives you a taste of the "Adagio for Strings" feel of the Hovhaness work. In the Hovhaness work, Mr. Yeo exhibits a smooth melodic singing quality in the upper range, as well as a "threatening" low register.

It should be educational for trombone students (and others) to hear what Mr. Yeo sounded like, warts and all, when he was a student. Some may find with fault the inclusion of the vibraphone work on this disc. As a "frustrated drummer" myself, I actually enjoyed the change of pace this track provided.

The liner notes are extensive and list all personnel. For instance, the entire Wheaton College Concert Band roster is listed from the May 1975 performance of the Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto For Trombone!

This was a risky compilation for Mr. Yeo to release since it isn't as polished and processed as the usual professional recording. This reviewer believes the risk was well worth it when one listens to this disc keeping in mind the "step up and go for it" mindset that Mr. Yeo would like us all to have when we perform.


Symphony 34