Flight of the Bumblebee: Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov probably rolled over in his grave when he heard my vocal rendition of his popular tribute to this winged insect. Written for his opera entitled “The Tale of Tsar Saltan,” Bumblebee has become a standard showcase piece for solo instrumental virtuosity as the tempo indication is around 200 and most of the lines are 16th note chromatic runs. Not to be outdone by the many trumpeters who have performed this work (Rafael Mendez, Harry James, Al Hirt, Wynton Marsalis, et al) I decided to “instru-vocalize” the pyrotechnic melody using brass flavored double tongue technique (da-ga-da-ga) instead of the easier doodle tongue (li-dl-li-dl). The former syllables promote more accurate rhythmic accents, particularly the second pulse of beat 2 (Da-ga-da-ga da-GA-da-ga), which breaks the chromatic run and changes melodic direction. After recording one take we decided to double the part in unison to fatten my sound a bit. While this could have been achieved by simply double-tracking the one take, I wanted to test my rhythmic accuracy so we recorded a second take without me hearing the first vocal track in the “cans” (headphones) while recording the second. The two takes were so well synchronized during playback that we decided keep both in the final mix. Toward the end of this condensed arrangement, there is a squabble between two bees that altercate over a flowerbed of ½ time funky vocal percussion. Cartoon advocates will note the “Bluto-bee” vocal inflection with glee!
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