One of the questions I have been asked over the years, especially from trumpeters, is “Who is the best trumpet player you ever worked with?”
After playing the “coil of torture” for 68 years (today is May 10th 2020 Mother’s Day),I have sat side by side and elbow to elbow with the greatest trumpet artists; legendary players from symphonic, jazz of all styles and virtuosos from most countries of the world.
I have just given you the definition of a “studio” trumpet player. Someone who is highly disciplined indeed. Someone who does not know what they will have to play when they get there. Someone who does not know when they will have to play it or how many times they will have to play it. Someone who does not talk back to the podium personnel. Even if they have already played 28 perfect takes.
Warren Luening is a perfect example of a talent so great that he can handle anything put in front of him. I remember driving in Los Angeles one Sunday afternoon, listening to our jazz station in LA. They were airing an historic Dixieland Jazz Festival from New Orleans. Pete Fountain and Al Hirt were featured when an announcer said “we’d like to welcome 12 year old Warren Luening to the stage”. Warren was a huge hit, sounding like a seasoned veteran. He was just as confident in later years when he was playing principal trumpet with the Pacific Symphony and Opera Orchestra.
The most incredible thing to all of us struggling musicians is that his neighbors were not aware that he was a trumpet player. For 30 years? Warren never practiced that I was aware of. On the job, I heard him put it together out of the case in a very few minutes. He could play anything in any style. He could be very short with other people who were not prepared. Who knows what they called me, but the great Luening was eventually known as “The Public Offender”.
Warren and I worked together a lot from about the 1980s through 2012. ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ was a score we did with James Newton Howard. Warren worked that week with us at Sony (MGM). He had lost his hair from cancer treatments and was wearing a wig. The trumpets were set up way at the top of stairs. He was determined to be able to climb the stairs to get to his chair. It was an extremely long day and he climbed up there and played his usual best. That was unfortunately the last time I saw him. I am not sure if he knew that he might not live through the week. Warren passed away that week not knowing about the worst. He did not ever want to know what the diagnosis was. Warren was able to share his incredible talent until the very end of his life.
Warren Luening was born in New Orleans, Louisiana October 9th 1941 and died in Los Angeles, California March 18th 2012