Future Music review of Greg Adams’ Big Band Brass

Future Music

Few instruments are harder to reproduce through the traditional sample-played-on-a-keyboard method than trumpets, saxophones and other brass. Perhaps only the guitar, with its very particular “guitar” articulations, is harder to emulate with a sampler and keyboard. Nevertheless, manufactures continue to explore ways to bring playable horn samples to producers, but unless you’re a very adept keyboardist, even the best multisampled horns can sound lame if you play them on a keyboard. Great strides have been made recently with LinPlug SaxLab, Big Fish First call Horns, Artuia Brass and AMB Kick-Ass Brass virtual instruments – some of which you can read about in “Soft Machines” in this issue’s Power Up! section-but for my money, if you really want convincing, realist horns on your next recording, the best way to go is still good ol’ prerecorded loops and samples, played by solid horn players.

Among the very best horn sample collections to emerge recently has been Big Fish’s Greg Adams’ Big Band Brass, a massive DVD’s worth of loops and one-shots that packs over 4600 big band-style loops and samples, including a huge library of short solo phrases for flugel horn, trumpet, sax and more that is worth the price of admission alone. Greg Adams is a founding member, arranger, trumpeter and composer of Tower of Power, one of the great horn brands of all time, and his expertise and experience clearly go into these loops, which are recorded with stunning fidelity by producer/engineer Stephen Sherrard. Culled in large part from Adams’ own Big Band arrangements, and recorded with the Greg Adams Jazz Orchestra’s 14-piece horn section, this is the absolute cream-of-the-crop: the classic big band brass vocabulary, presented in both Acidized WAV files and AppleLoop AIFF format for low-impact time-stretching. Prepare to be wowed.

Most of the major horn section riffs and phrases are recorded both in close-mic and room-mic proximity, a subtle distinction that makes all the difference in a mix. In addition to the horn section folders – essentially construction kits in a particular key – there’s a folder just for big horn chords and chordal phrases (paradise!), those inimitable big band falls, all manner of exciting hits and stabs, even more solo instruments, as well as one shots for programming your own lines and phrases from trumpet, sax, trombone, flute and flugel horn. For the jazz traditionalist or commercial producer looking for top-flight horns, it’d be hard to find a collection that rivals this, especially for what amounts to a straight-up steal: $99! For the more electronic-leaning DJ/producer, this is the mother lode of horn samples, recorded simply and elegantly enough to be processed, tweaked and morphed without losing the majestic vibe that great horn sections and soloists add to a track. Try doing that playing triads on our USB controller.