Music Appreciation 101: Chapter 2, Rafael Mendez
by, 01-12-2008 at 06:00 PM (250 Views)
Rafael Mendez was a wonderful trumpet player who I remember as one of the guest artists to appear with my junior high school band. At that age I was impressed, but I did not appreciate the scope of Mendez's talent. That took me many more years.
I think it is quickly clear to anyone who hears a recording of Mendez that he had great expression and tremendous technique. What was harder for me to identify is that he also had amazing flexibility of technique. He used to listen to violin players and marvel at their technique. Violinists are capable of incredible technique and expression, but Mendez saw no reason that his trumpet could not display the same "flair." He mastered every aspect of technique, but he went one step further. He had such control over technique that during 16th note passages he was able to use a great deal of rubato. In addition, his tonguing was very sharp and even, giving technical passages a sound unlike that from any trumpet player I have heard before or since.
Below is one example of Mendez's artistry. Notice his flexibility of posture as he plays. His playing could have been overdubbed in this clip from a movie, but I have seen him do similar things on live performances. You can find a few more in the Trumpet Videos section of this site.