Jazz trumpeter Ron Helman is interviewed about his first professional gigs, influences, memorable performances, and much more.
What first got you into music?
My father was a musician beginning with the violin and finally landing as a tenor sax player. We had a family of 5 so he had a solid business as a soda man (day gig) but when that day was done, he removed his soiled clothing and polished up with a shark skin suit, Vaseline hair tonic and Mennen after shave. Just the idea of playing gigs brought him to his full potential of joy. At 15, I started to play in his band professionally and he treated me like a valued pro including adult gig money. His joy is in my DNA.
Who are some of your influences?
In my day you learned your instrument through classical music studies starting with the Arban Trumpet Book. My young life was all about trumpeters like Gerard Schwartz, Mark Gould and the likes but when I shifted to jazz it was Miles Davis and the album Kind of Blue. Wynton Marsalis inspired me because he was both classical and jazz.
What draws you to your preferred genre?
Time, feel, and swing is world of jazz music. Improvisation is the conversation…
What is the best advice you have been given?
Moni Yakim of the Juilliard School Drama Department said to me “Take your time.”
I had a total breakdown as I entered my first tune and never recovered
Any memorable performances you’d like to mention?
My first jazz performance was on my 50th birthday. I had a total breakdown as I entered my first tune and never recovered. I was cursing God on the bandstand because I prepared so hard. Performance anxiety took me over. In hindsight, if I didn’t give up it would only get better.
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How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?
Had lunch at the Grey Market with Rob Gibson and he laid out the scene and made some introductions.
Name a Savannah artist you’d love to collaborate with, and why?
Well, I’m starting to work with Andrew Sovine… different worlds coming together.
At 15, I started to play in his band professionally and he treated me like a valued pro including adult gig money
What are some of your favorite local places to play?
The Grey, The Thompson, Ghost Coast, Starland Yard, Velvet Note in Atlanta.
Your thoughts on the Savannah music scene …
Deep bench of talent.
What’s next for you?
Practice…one day at a time.