Tuesday 03/13/2012 by tweezer

INTERVIEW: JOE ALESSI OF THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC

In honor of Trey's recent orchestral tour, Drew Hitz sat down with Joe Alessi, principal trombone of the New York Philharmonic. Joe, who many consider the greatest trombone player in the world, discussed his experience perfoming with Trey Anastasio at Carnegie Hall in 2009.

Drew Hitz: Had you ever heard any of Trey's music, either solo or with Phish, before he played with you guys?

Joe Alessi: I'm ashamed to say I had not.

DH: Well you won't really stumble upon them in too many mainstream media outlets. Had you ever heard of Trey or Phish?

JA: I had heard of Phish but Trey not necessarily.

DH: I know it was almost two and a half years ago at this point but do you remember what your impression of the crowd was during the concert?

JA: Complete pandemonium. And total support for this gentleman and a total love for his artistry. There was exuberant applause.

DH: Did you find the pandemonium enhancing, distracting, or somewhere in the middle?

JA: I think it's great. As a member of the Philharmonic it was great to hear that and we were a part of the show. I was very proud to be a part of that show. And I discovered what a virtuoso he is on the guitar. A real artist. This wasn't just random guitar playing. This was from the soul. His great love of music was so apparent every time he played.

DH: He's a special musician. There's no question about that. When you so graciously introduced me to Trey at the break of your rehearsal you surely remember him saying that he knew who you were before you had even met. He told you that he goes to see the Philharmonic play all of the time and that he and Don Hart had written a solo specifically for you ("You Enjoy Myself") on this occasion. Were you surprised at that?

JA: Absolutely. I think we were coming off vacation at that point and it was early September. For a guitar concert, you don't really think there's going to be a trombone feature! I don't think that I even knew that until I arrived at the hall for the rehearsal. And I said "Oh wow...look at this!" If we weren't coming off of vacation I normally would have been more on top of it. To be a part of that in that way was a great honor. You never know what you're going to have to play when you show up at the orchestra but I certainly didn't expect that.

DH: You touched on it a little already but what was the overall impression of your colleagues of Trey, the evening as a whole, and the whole spectacle of the fans?

JA: Well I do remember violinists going up to him and talking to him. I think everyone was extremely happy with the concert. There was also talk of how come we can't do more of this. As far as I'm concerned he should come back and he should do two or three shows with us.

DH: They would all sell out.

JA: And maybe do an annual show. This is going off track a little bit, but I think part of the problem with orchestras is that they don't have enough traditions. And I think that if Trey were to come in, even if it was every two years or hopefully every year, to do the same concert that people in New York would say “Let's go see Trey with the Philharmonic.” That would be something that I would love to see happen.

DH: That was a very special evening for all of us in the audience and is still talked about and revered in the Phish community to this day. So on behalf of all of us thank you for being a part of it. And you killed that solo. It was just awesome.

JA: Thank you.

DH: It was very surreal for me because that song you played the solo in, "You Enjoy Myself," they've played many, many times and of course there's no trombone part in the original.

JA: I didn't even know that.

DH: That's just a straight ahead Phish tune which means it has guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, singing and that's it. And again, your solo was the brainchild of Trey and Don trying to somehow get you featured front and center and you nailed it.

JA: Well thanks.

DH: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that special evening with phish.net.

JA: It was my pleasure.

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Comments

, comment by WiscoMike
WiscoMike Nice, its nice to hear that the other musicians enjoyed/appreciated the moment as much as Big Red did.
, comment by krs10
krs10 Joe is the man. This is high praise for Trey. And he's right - an annual event is the way to go with this sort of gig. A nice outlet for Trey to keep up his orchestral work. Thanks for the interview!
, comment by Cabot
Cabot Nice job! Thanks for sharing.
, comment by phisherman
phisherman very cool post. it is always amazing to see how an artist and their music stand up in front of orchestra type musicians who are so classicaly trained. it validates our insane support of the band.
, comment by bobby
bobby This is a great interview, I was luck to see Trey with The V.T. Youth Orchestra .The show was amazing Trey working with the kids in the Orchestra was cool for me and I was in the audients the kids must have had a killer time . Then to see Trey play with The N.Y. Philharmonic at Carnage Hall was what I considered to be once in a life time show and it was , but I would go every year if I could. Thanx so much .
, comment by 3conecap
3conecap Love these interviews! Thanks for sharing!
, comment by yoosmitty
yoosmitty Who's got a link to that trombone solo?!?! toot toot!
, comment by _jolly
_jolly awesome interview!! as i've been reading reviews of trey's orchestra tour i've been hoping to come across something like this and hear what the orchestra members thought of performing with trey and the shows as a whole, so thank you very much for sharing! hopefully there will be more interviews like this :)
, comment by tweezer
tweezer Thanks everyone! It was great to hear one of the greatest classical musicians of all time speak so highly of Trey.

Thanks for reading!
, comment by boymangod
boymangod "you killed that solo" haha love it

great interview.

, comment by mmetch
mmetch great interview indeed.
, comment by 757phan
757phan Fantastic read! Thank you.
, comment by HenryHolland
HenryHolland Nice interview, but it just made me sad that I couldn't get a ticket to the Disney Hall show, which sold out in something like a minute (it's only 2,300 seats).

You should have asked him about Time Turns Elastic. :-)
, comment by thebuzzman
thebuzzman I was fortunate to be at last Saturday's LA Philharmonic show. I so wish there was a documentary made about it. The music was astonishing and other worldly but besides getting that recorded, interviewing the musicians before and after would have been great, as well as interviewing the phish heads many of whom seemed like fish out of water not sure how to conduct themselves in such a revered environment.
, comment by tweezer
tweezer @thebuzzman said:
I was fortunate to be at last Saturday's LA Philharmonic show. I so wish there was a documentary made about it. The music was astonishing and other worldly but besides getting that recorded, interviewing the musicians before and after would have been great, as well as interviewing the phish heads many of whom seemed like fish out of water not sure how to conduct themselves in such a revered environment.
I had a before and after interview all planned out with my buddy who's a violist, a huge Phish-head and who was playing with the LA Phil. I was doing the pre-interview and @bertoletdown was going to do the post-interview. My buddy got a call to fill in elsewhere in LA for a soloist who was injured and supposed to play that Saturday night. He lost out on his dream of playing with Trey but the $5000 he got paid to play his instrument for 20 minutes took a little of the sting out of it!

Would have been a cool feature since he's a gregarious guy and a HUGE fan of Phish and Trey. Oh well. Maybe next time.

I did also speak with one of the flute players in the Atlanta Symphony and he was quite impressed as well. Any musician can instantly tell what they are dealing with Trey! He is a gifted man.

I'll try to hit up someone from an orchestra next tour.
, comment by tweezer
tweezer @phisherman said:
very cool post. it is always amazing to see how an artist and their music stand up in front of orchestra type musicians who are so classicaly trained. it validates our insane support of the band.
There are quite a few musicians from the best orchestras in the country who have seen Phish many times. Cleveland Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, Houston Symphony. The list goes on and on. And yes, it is validation!
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