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 Post subject: Let's talk DCI Hornlines!
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:32 am 
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I'm a total brass dude, LOVE the face melting sound of a ffff chord in your face! Let's discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of Drum Corps hornlines.

Let's start with my favorite corps: THE CAVALIERS
The Cavaliers tend to "catch a lot of crap" for their hornline. What I've noticed: They give us a great fanfare right at the beginning of most shows including '08, and then they get pretty technical. They always blow me away right at the beginning and then all of a sudden it drops off and I never get that impact again. They do play well, good tone quality, good blend most of the time, just NOT LOUD ENOUGH!!! I love this corps for both their music and drill but I REALLY wish that hornline was a bit more impactful. Comments?

BLUE DEVILS: Ok so I'll just let you know right out of the box, I'm not a fan of this corps. Not really for any other reason than, they are stealing my corps spotlight lol. When I listen to this corps, I have never really been impressed with the technicallity of their music... I think they have good individual tone quality but they lack balance and blend and full sections. Does that make sense? Comments?

Carolina Crown: YEA!!! This is my best friends favorite corps and after seeing them live I know why. Their hornline makes everyone else look like a drum corps of kazoo's. As exciting and impactful as their horns were. Why are they scoring somewhere around 5th place in the open class??? Please give me some feedback...

Phantom Regiment: This corps has the full package. Volume and technical stuff, they even manage to perform it outstandingly. I love listening to this corps. In my opinion they've been screwed over in scoring in past years. Feedback?

These are the corps that stick out in my mind. Please keep in mind that these are my personal opinions and if you disagree with me that's fine. I will have a spirited discussion with you but I refuse to argue with anyone about a subjective activity. Please post your comments and I'll be sure to respond.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:03 am 
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You've certainly picked four of the best!! Each of these four are different in their approach to the brass caption. Personally, I've always favored Phantom Regiment as much for their choice of music as the way the kick ass playing it. Their low brass has always been outstanding. In recent years, I have to say that Carolina Crown is matching PR in brass. Their low brass is also excellent. The Cavies have played original compositions that are tailor-made for their balance and skill. I agree with you they are excellent players, but seldom does the scoring let them cut loose. The opening in-your-face moments, besides getting the audiences attention, are perhaps only to show the judges they are capable of such. BD's scoring is also designed for their "sound". Often playing jazz, they are a bit freer in ensemble, a bit less technical than some, and feature screaming sopranos over the top. As a jazz fan, I generally like their product.

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 Post subject: Agreed
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:10 am 
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Like I said my only beef with BD is them winning LOL! Since you seem to be very knowledgable I've come up with a question for you. What is your opinion on the Cadets hornline and the Cadets in general?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:27 am 
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Not the most knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the brass lines, but here is my ranking of most enjoyable sounds:

1. Carolina Crown - This goes back a few years for me, and each year they seem to get a little better. They seem to be one of the best, if not the best, in playing subtle tones oh so clearly...Sara McLaughlin's (sp?) Angel from a few years back...WOW!

2. Phantom Regiment - close second...though sometimes they come across as a little harsh IMO. But at other times, there sound is so distinctive...you would know it was them with your eyes closed.

3. The Cavaliers - I agree with you in that I think they can play just is well even if they went for more volume...which I want!

Some others - Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vanguard and The Cadets come next. None of them really stand above the other in my opinion. Some years I like one of the brass lines over the other and then that will change the following year.

Worth mentioning - Blue Knights have a brass line that is very distinctive....very dark, deep, low sound that really stands out. I haven't seen this year's show that is getting some slack, but the shows from the past two years have really grown on me. Also, Blue Stars brass line has really matured this year IMO....very powerful moments; becoming one of my favorites of the year.


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 Post subject: Moving right along...
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:14 am 
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So do you think that there are any horn lines in the World Class that are "Lacking?" I was impressed by the "wall of sound" put out by just about every corps in SA, but I have to atribute some of that sound to the echooooo of the alamodome. Comments?

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 Post subject: Re: Agreed
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 12:13 pm 
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Teaves1112 wrote:
What is your opinion on the Cadets hornline and the Cadets in general?

The Cadets always have a very solid hornline. They were incredible back in the mid-80's run of championships. But I would put them in the second tier for brass (after the four mentioned above) along with Santa Clara, Bluecoats, and Blue Knights, and I might even include the return-to-Div I Blue Stars. That's a pretty good 2nd tier of hornlines!!

I'm not going to comment on any specific "lacking" hornlines. Suffice to say, there are some very good and entertaining hornlines that are missing an element or two which would put them into the top or 2nd tier.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:24 pm 
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IMHO, admittedly biased maybe, I have to say Crown has the best overall brass sound that I have heard this year. By far the best low brass sound that I've heard this year and they have very exposed parts of their book, especially the end of the ballad in trumpetland. Another thing that impresses me about their sound this year is that it is uniform from pp to FFFFFFFFFF. All too many corps sound great from mf to ff but get crass anything beyond.

I will say though, I have yet to see or hear PR and I hear they have an amazing hornline themselves ...

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 Post subject: Yep
PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:02 pm 
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I will admit they had one hell of a face melting impact there about a minute into the show. They were the last performance of the night and they had San Antonio on their feet by the end of that show. They also played the encore that night and it was possibly the loudest, cleanest, most well balanced thing I had ever heard live. I wouldn't be surprised to see that corps medal this year.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 10:13 pm 
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Well, okay, in my unprofessional and only semi-knowledgeable opinion...

Brass lines I'm impressed with...
1. PHANTOM REGIMENT

When they're on, they have the best tone quality in DCI. IMO, they're also (usually) the best corps at "selling" the music. It doesn't hurt that I think they usually have the best arranged brass books, too: Jim Wren retired and J.D. Shaw stepped up and the corps barely skipped a beat. On the downside, sometimes they try to sell the music too much and overblow, especially in the middle voices. As much as I love the musical effect at the end of their 2003 show, you can really hear the harsh tone in the mellophones. But that doesn't happen every year. Maybe it's because I go the "Beethoven" route ("A mistake is nothing"), but I'd much rather hear an energetic, slightly imprecise brass performance than a mechanical, crystal clean performance.

2. CAROLINA CROWN
They've steadily built up from a poor hornline (2002, 2003) to a fair hornline (2004) to a good hornline (2005, 2006) to a great hornline (2007, 2008). My only problem with them is that I haven't really cared for their books until last year. People rave about Angelus and Bohemia, but those shows did nothing for me. I would LOVE to hear this year's corps redo their 1995 "Stormworks" show, but since Stephen Melillo is a tool, I guess that's never going to happen.

3. THE ACADEMY
I know, they've been a disappointment this year, but I still think their upside is enormous. I think they have the potential to be far better than the Mandarins, Pacific Crest, or Seattle Cascades ever were. I remember watching their show three years ago and thinking they were like "Phantom Regiment West." They need to clean house in the staff if they want to take the next step. Their visual staff isn't getting it done, and I'm still a little wary about their brass books. 2005 and 2006 were fabulous, 2007 and 2008 not as much. This year especially I think they wrote over the kids heads a bit, particularly towards the beginning of the season.


Brass lines I'm NOT impressed with...
Okay, time to strap on the asbestos suit; I'm sure these will be popular with a lot of people. :roll:

1. THE CAVALIERS
I LOVE watching the Cavaliers. But the more I listen to them the more I think Richard Saucedo is terribly overrated as a DCI brass arranger. The only original music I've liked from them was 2002... and I've been listening to that show a lot recently and had an epiphany: that brass book really isn't that good or difficult. Performed unbelievably, no question: 2002 Cavaliers had possibly the best intonation I've heard from a drum corps. But wow, aside from a few intervals and harmonics that book was about as meaty as celery-flavored tofu. The first sixteenth note run was, what, eight minutes into the show? Also, I've noticed the Cavaliers always have their most difficult musical lines marching the easy drill while the easier accompaniment does the crazy stuff. Unlike the Blue Devils and Cadets, which attempt crazy difficult musical passages on top of crazy difficult drill, the Cavaliers do one or the other at any given time. And wow, when was the last time a brass line played less (time wise) in a show than the 2007 Cavaliers? If you're an optimist, you can say it's ingenious writing around the corps' particular weaknesses in any given year; if you're a pessimist, you can say it's just a cop out.

Hey Kevin, make more friends!
2. BLUE DEVILS
First things first: their technical capabilities are unimpeachable. But too often I feel this corps is just trying to play perfect notes instead of music. And I'd like to go on record, right now, for all time, and say that Wayne Downey is currently the most overrated brass arranger in DCI and is pretty much getting by on name alone at this point. Really, he's not in the Top 3 (Shaw, Bocook, Klesch) (Klesch is still with Crown, right?) and would barely make my Top 5. I find no flow or musicality to his music any more. 2004 was okay, but 2000 was the last "great" Downey book in my view. I mean, seriously, listen to the Blue Devils' brass books from 1991-1994 and tell me there's one from the 21st century that's even half as good.

Brutal. Okay, one more group of people to piss off...
3. SANTA CLARA VANGUARD
Mainly because of their frustrating inconsistency and because they always seem... just... not... quite... able to reach that awesome potential they usually show each season. They had a great run from 1997-2001 in brass; since then... meh. And that 2005 brass line, wow (not in a good way). Their books... well, the more Gordon Henderson is involved, the better they are. You can chalk me up in the "nay" column with regards to Key Poulan. I've heard rumors that some brass staff changes are in the works. I can only hope replacing Poulan with Henderson is one of them.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:59 pm 
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1. Cavaliers- I might be a little partial to their hornline, but I feel that they play very musical, use good intonation, great balance and blend. No, they won't blow you away with their volume, but they play better in tune than most if not all. I feel Richard Saucedo has done a great job with the line. Hey, they've won 6 title with his arranging, plus best brass in 2002.

2. Phantom Regiment- I've always enjoyed their classical arrangements. I think Jim Wren was one of the top arrangers in the activity. His arrangements of "New World Symphony", and their 1996 show are two of his best efforts. JD Shaw has kept the traditional strong. I feel that they do overblow at times and this causes a little problem with intonation and balance.

3. Cadets- I've always liked Cadets, especially when Jim Prime was arranger. I feel that they 1984 line performed one of the most beautiful brass books ever put on the marching field.

4. Blue Devils- they haven't put out a show that I was really thrilled about in years. Sorry, but I miss the big band stuff they used to play (Stan Kenton, for example). Wayne Downey is a great great arranger, but they haven't performed the music I think serves them best.

5. Carolina Crown is defintely a great line. I've enjoyed the last 2 years with their Michael Klesch arranged shows. Great stuff!


One final note: I think Blue Stars will be one of the better lines very shortly due to the teaching of Donnie Van Doran.

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 Post subject: I agree...
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:48 pm 
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... first of all, I agree completely. Second of all, what organization do you direct? Since I was just in Laredo watching bands a couple of weeks ago I thought it would be interesting to know.

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