The Wedge mouthpiece has quite simply opened up a whole new world of creativity for me on trumpet.
I first became aware of Dr. Dave Harrison's mouthpieces through Jordan McLean and Matt Hilgenberg. I saw these two brilliant trumpeters using these intriguingly shaped mouthpieces while we were playing "Fela!" on Broadway. "Fela!" Is a long and demanding show requiring strength, flexibility and nuance all over the horn, and these guys were killing it!
Both Jordan and Matt told me how the Wedge mouthpiece had changed the way they approached the horn, and both suggested I give the mouthpiece a shot.
I've never been a player who switched horns and mouthpieces a lot, only occasionally trying out a few different major name mouthpieces every two or three years with moderate improvements.
The Wedge, however, is a whole different story. As I'm writing this, I'm on a plane flying from Denver to LA for the last week of shows of the 10 week Donald Fagen-Michael McDonald-Boz Scaggs "Dukes of September" tour. The show is a 27 song set running about 2 hours and 15 minutes, with no break and not a lot of time with the horn of off your lips.
Since I started playing my Custom Leonhart Wedge mouthpiece around 6 weeks ago, I have noticed an amazing improvement in strength, range, flexibility, tone, endurance, intonation and control. Basically, all the things trumpet players struggle with and strive for.
I find myself filled with the same excitement about trumpet playing I had when I started so many years ago.
In a solo/improvising situation, I'm able to play longer, more adventurous solos with less concern over "do I have enough fuel in the tank to go an extra chorus?" and "can I nail this difficult idea I'm hearing?"
In a section, the Wedge makes the intonation of the horn very focused which allows me to center the pitch and give the rest of the section something to sink their teeth into.
In the recording studio, where everything is often more "under a microscope" than in a live situation, the Wedge has already made my life a lot easier. During a recent four day tour break, I did a six hour horn session in Brooklyn. There was a particular track where the producer kept asking us to play the same tricky and demanding eight bar section over and over and over again! The fact that the Wedge makes you focus on maintaining a strong, sealed embouchure helped me avoid the common bad habit of slamming the horn against your lips which usually results in immediate and unnecessary "chop fatigue". Instead, we finished the track and went on to record for another three hours.
The Wedge has also helped my practice, warm-up and warm-down routines become more patient and focused. As the Wedge promotes a relaxed and balanced playing style, I've noticed a greater awareness of both breath control and keeping the entire body loose and relaxed which allows me to find the "sweet spot" where the various and complex facets of trumpet playing come together in a cohesive and almost subconscious way.
By the time I hit the stage or the studio, I can relax more into the horn and zone in on the creative part of trumpet playing.
Thank you Dr. Dave.
Michael Leonhart's Biography
Born into a musical family, Michael Leonhart has developed into one of the most imaginative musicians of his time, sought throughout the music and entertainment world as a trumpet player, producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and singer-songwriter.
As a solo artist Michael has released six albums — “Aardvark Poses” (1995), “Glub Glub vol. 11” (1997), and “Slow” (2002) all on the Sunnyside label; “The Suzy Lattimore EP” (2005) & “The Ballad of Minton Quigley “(2006) self released and 2008’s “Hotel Music” on limited edition vinyl with hand painted covers released through St. Ives (an imprint of Secretly Canadian). He has composed and performed music for movies, television, dance, fashion shows and theater, and has appeared on over 100 albums. At age 17, Michael was honored as the youngest Grammy recipient in history, cited as the most outstanding musician in a U.S. high school. That same year ABC World News named him “Person of the Week”.
Michael has performed with Steely Dan since 1996, recording two albums with them, including 2000’s Grammy winning Album of the Year “Two Against Nature” on which he was a featured soloist, arranger and conductor. He has performed and/or recorded with such diverse artists as A Tribe Called Quest, Arif Mardin, Arto Linsday, Bill Frisell, Bill Withers, Bobby McFerrin, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Eno, Busta Rhymes, Caetano Veloso, D.J. Spooky, David Byrne, Henry Mancini, James Brown, John Barry, Joshua Redman, Lenny Kravitz, Levon Helm, Mark Ronson, Michael McDonald, Mos Def, Natalie Merchant, Q-Tip, Raekwon (Wutang Clan), Slash (Guns and Roses/ Velvet Revolver), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Todd Rundgren, and Wynton Marsalis.
Most recently, Michael recorded with Yoko Ono as a featured member of the Plastic Ono Band for her upcoming album, “Between My Head and the Sky”. Michael also appears on upcoming albums by Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, Foreigner, Sean Lennon, and Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto). After 40 plus recordings as the house trumpet player for Truth and Soul records, the Brooklyn based funk and soul label will release Leonhart’s heavy-funk concept album “Seahorse and the Storyteller” late this year.