Born Warren Webster Vache, Jr., February 21, 1951, in Rahway, New Jersey; father, Warren, Sr., a professional jazz bassist and author of several published books on jazz as well as jazz criticism in journals, was an electrical appliance and musical instrument salesman; mother, Madeline Sohl, was a secretary at Decca Records; married and then divorced from Jillian Tundermann; sons Christopher, born August 22, 1981, and Robert, born November 28, 1986. Education: Degree in music education from Montclair State College, 1974; studied with trumpeter Pee Wee Erwin. Addresses: Record company--Zephyr Records, 1252 Waring St., Seaside, CA, 93955; phone (408) 394-1821.

Just when you think you can predict how cornetist Warren Vache might finish off a phrase or interpret a given song, he turns quite another way or the tune receives a totally new treatment. In Vache, jazz has found a creator whose prodigious, hard-earned skills enable him to craft swinging performances of beauty, emotion and surprise. Sometimes narrowly classified as a swing musician, the cornetist regularly defies this or other labels.

Vache has listened to and absorbed all styles of music. His trumpet heroes include Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Bobby Hackett, Fats Navarro, Tom Harrell and Ruby Braff among others. Shunning imitation, he is able to evoke some of the best from these and other models, creating an individual cornet voice, one that stresses purity of tone. In the liner notes for Vache's Easy Going album, Peter Straub wrote, "Here Warren has located himself firmly in that most immediately satisfying of jazz territories, where (in trumpet terms) Bunny Berigan shakes hands with Clifford Brown." Having played in a variety of settings, including polka bands, Dixieland bands, big dance bands, Broadway pit bands, small jazz groups, and large free- wheeling combos, it is in the latter setting that he has earned his worldwide reputation.

Warren Vache, Jr. began playing piano in the third grade but soon switched to trumpet so he could play in his school's fourth grade band. Because his father was a bassist, Vache originally thought he would follow suit, but his father advised against it. Though he earned his living as a salesman, the elder Vache had a passion for music. He played his bass as often as possible in a variety of settings, began writing about jazz, and went on to help found the New Jersey Jazz Society. "When I told him I wanted to be in the fourth grade band in school, he bought me a cornet immediately," Vache recalled in an interview with Contemporary Musicians. "Dad was very involved in my early training in ways that weren't academically accepted, but they were things that a musician has to instinctively use when playing. He made music exciting." Part of the excitement for Vache was to play a song or two with his father's band at weddings and receptions while in his early teens.

Throughout high school and at Montclair State College, Vache eagerly sought out all kinds of gigs, playing with the high school dance band, as well as at Polish weddings, bar mitzvahs, and receptions. As a college music major, he began to find the formal training stultifying and through his father met trumpeter Pee Wee Erwin, who had been a star performer with the best bands of the swing era, including Benny Goodman's and Tommy Dorsey's. While selling musical instruments to retailers, the elder Vache paid a call to a small store in Teaneck, New Jersey which happened to be owned by Erwin and another big band era trumpeter, Chris Griffin. "Dad mentioned that he had this kid at Montclair State who played trumpet, and would Pee Wee be interested in teaching me," Vache recalled in the CM interview. "Pee Wee said, 'of course.'"

Vache soon began making the hour long trip from Montclair State to Erwin's store, at first just once a week, but then more frequently as he began to think of Erwin as more than just a teacher. "Pee Wee was one of the nicest human beings on the face of the earth," Vache said. "He was the glue that kept me together. I considered leaving college without my degree. He kept me interested. He gave me some stuff that was musical to play, but still required technical expertise. He was what I always aspired to be--a professional trumpet player who played jazz and could read and had a wonderful appreciation for other kinds of music- -and was a marvelous player."

It was Erwin who recommended Vache for his first professional job, playing in Detroit with the Billy Maxted band in 1972. "I failed miserably!" says Vache. The job required him to double on the unfamiliar valve trombone and he was back home in about three weeks. Other jobs soon appeared, however, some on Erwin's recommendation. With his clarinetist brother Allan, Vache and a Dixieland- oriented group successfully auditioned for a role in 1975's "Dr. Jazz," a Broadway production starring Bobby Van and Lola Falana. Though the run was short, Vache was able to work with established composers/players such as Dick Hyman and Sy Oliver and to further his reputation as a coming talent. Also in 1975, George Wein and the New York Jazz Repertory Company staged a tribute to legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, which featured Vache playing the Bix parts. Performances on NBC and PBS provided further exposure.

In the mid-seventies Vache began playing with the Benny Goodman band on the recommendation of veteran guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and found himself in the company of such stellar players as pianist Hank Jones, trombonist Urbie Green, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, bassist Slam Stewart, and Goodman himself. Goodman picked and chose his appearances sparingly, and while this association took Vache all over the world, it him afforded time to play in a variety of other settings. He became a regular part of the house band at Condon's in New York, teaming with the great veteran trombonist Vic Dickenson, whom he credits with some of his maturing approach to jazz playing. On this job he also worked next door to the influential trumpeter Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge, who took him under his wing. "It used to amaze me how approachable my heroes were," Vache admits, "how eager they were to pass along advice." During this time Vache also headed a trio at New York's Crawdaddy, featuring pianist John Bunch and bassist Phil Flanigan.

Though 1976's First Time Out on the Monmouth label was Vache's first record as leader, it was at Concord Records that Vache achieved his greatest exposure. Towards the late seventies along with other quality players such as tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, guitarist Cal Collins, drummer Jake Hanna and pianist John Bunch, Vache was at the core of the ever-changing Concord Super Band, the "house band" for Concord. In this format they toured much of the world performing to great acclaim. "These musicians have moved beyond their predecessors; they contain the past and the present," Whitney Balliett wrote in the New Yorker. "They hold in balance the love of melody and tonal quality of the old swing musicians and an awareness of the harmonic expansions and rhythmic freedoms that have taken place in jazz in the past twenty years. Of all these players, perhaps Vache is the most impressive." More than twenty Concord recordings feature Vache, many in the role of leader, and he is in a sensitive accompanying mode on a series of popular jazz-tinged vocal albums by Rosemary Clooney.

Like most jazz musicians, Vache constantly juggled a schedule that included as many additional jobs as possible. In 1985 he assumed an acting and playing role in Frank Gilroy's delightful cult film about musicians, The Gig. For Gilroy's 1989 film, The Luckiest Man in the World, Vache composed and played on the soundtrack. In recent years he has added other composing, arranging for a vocalist and some teaching to his schedule.

Vache's first post-Concord recording was 1993's Horn of Plenty, featuring tenor saxophonist Houston Person, pianist Richard Wyands, guitarist Joe Puma, trombonist Joel Helleny, and bassist Michael Moore. This album displays all the facets of Vache's playing, from standard Dixieland tunes and blues to new twists to Clifford Brown and Miles Davis compositions. This album was followed by the release of two 1994 concerts recorded in Hamburg at the Amerika Haus. One concert is led by Warren, with Allan Vache as guest, while on the other the brothers reverse roles. Two recent releases, recorded about six months apart, feature the music of Harry Warren. One is in duet with the piano of Britain's Brian Lemon, the other presents a more conventional quartet, with guest trumpeter Randy Sandke.

Even casual Vache listeners seem able to discern that they are in the presence of something special. It may be the beauty of the ballad tone quality, the unique restating of a melody or the driving energy of an up-tempo swinger. Noted DownBeat writer and jazz historian Dan Morgenstern summed up Vache's position accurately: "It speaks well for jazz, that music of continuing surprises, that it is still capable of producing unclassifiable players like Warren Vache, who find new and personal ways of using aspects of the jazz tradition that others may have overlooked or neglected, or never been exposed to. Eclectic he may be ... but uncommitted he most certainly is not."

For his part, Vache is intent on continuing his individualistic style which is the sum of all his influences. "I read an article by {trumpet legend} Buck Clayton in Metronome when I was a kid," Vache recalled in his interview with CM. "His advice to young kids was, 'Steal! If you like something, steal it. You're never going to be able to play it like the guy originally did and sooner or later it will become yours.' So I have been unashamedly stealing from everybody in the world for the rest of my life. I'm trying to do something that is not eminently practicable, which is that I'm trying to incorporate all the sounds that excite me into something that becomes me. That's a process that's ongoing."

by Robert Dupuis

Warren Vache, Jr.'s Career

Began first piano lessons in third grade; started trumpet in order to play in fourth grade band in school; first formal trumpet/cornet teaching from Jim Fitzpatrick through sixth grade; Harold McGee through junior and senior high school years; father started him on early jobs, 1963-65; played wide variety of jobs in the Rahway area through high school and college; attended Montclair State College, earning degree in music education, 1974; began studying with famed swing era trumpeter Pee Wee Erwin while in college; first "regular" professional job with Billy Maxted in Detroit, c. 1972; first New York job in stage productions, 1975; played jobs with Benny Goodman band, mid-1970s to early 1980s; first recording as leader, 1976; began long association with Concord Records, 1977; film appearance in The Gig, 1984; composed and played on film soundtrack for The Luckiest Man in the World, 1989; presently maintains full schedule of recording, worldwide festival appearances, Broadway shows and club dates.

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