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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