Erdmann, professor of music, had an article published in the professional trumpet journal.
Professor Thomas Erdmann in the Department of Music had an article published in the January 2023 issue of The International Trumpet Guild Journal.
The article, “Hugh Ragin: Put Your Own Thing On It,” is about trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, scholar and educator Hugh Ragin. He performs jazz in an inexhaustible number of widely-divergent genres and each at an incredibly high level of artistic and virtuoso-technical levels. A few of the varieties include forward-thinking music with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, conducting original music with the David Murray Big Band, music based on non-traditional music notation with Wadada Leo Smith, advanced ways of thinking about how composition and improvisation interact with Anthony Braxton, as well as R&B with Randy Crawford, as a member of both Maynard Ferguson and Roy Hargrove’s big bands, and contemporary jazz with Mark Sloniker. This list, however, is just the start. Ragin also leads many different ensembles including his own Latin Soul Express which, as one critic put it, brings “south-of-the-border flavor to… jazz classics.”
On his own recordings, Ragin is just as varied. A few examples include free jazz on the album “Revelation,” blues-inflected straight-ahead on “A Message from Sun Ra,” bop on his own “Blue Honda a la Truck” on “Back to Saturn,” an album of solo trumpet on “Sound Pictures,” and on “Feel the Sunshine” Ragin’s rendition of Caravan pays homage to jazz’s history while simultaneously moving forward. So broad are Ragin’s stylistic abilities critic Steve Loewy wrote, “(Ragin) cannot be pigeonholed.”
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Ragin started playing the trumpet in junior high. His classical chops won him a spot in the Houston All-City High School Orchestra touring England and Wales. While earning a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Houston, Ragin met jazz legend Donald Byrd who stressed, “fundamentals, bebop, swing, and work ethic.” A Master’s degree in classical trumpet performance from Colorado State University was followed by expanding his experiences with jazz. Ragin went to the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, to study composition with co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEOC), saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell. Mitchell’s groundbreaking organizations stressed performing, “Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future.” Ragin’s own music takes this edict to heart, incorporating blues, R&B, classical, world, and all of jazz’s history into an improvisational/compositional context defying inclusive definition.
Ragin’s excellence was quickly noticed by others and he was soon playing with the Roscoe Mitchell/Leo Smith Creative Orchestra, and forming a many decades relationship with AACM members. Later Ragin joined Maynard Ferguson’s big band and was asked to move to New York by David Murray so he could join the leader’s critically acclaimed octet.
The love of teaching and education was never far from Ragin’s plans, earning a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Colorado (UC), Boulder, with teaching stints at Oberlin, the Colorado Jazz Workshop, and in the Denver Public School System, as three examples. Currently teaching Jazz Studies at UC Boulder, he is a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Ragin is a prolific composer, whose pieces have been performed by many including David Sanford who used Ragin’s A Prayer for Lester Bowie as the central compositional piece in his own big band recording of the same name.
To say high critical acclaim is universal and noteworthy is an understatement. Jazz historian Francis Davis describes Ragin as, “a trumpeter with very few peers in terms of imagination or technical command.” Scott Yanow wrote, “virtually every Hugh Ragin recording is well-worth exploring,” and critic Chris Kelsey stated, “(Ragin has a) well-rounded technique and abundant imagination.” Going on Kelsey declares Ragin, “a harmonically daring player, (combining) the clear, ringing tone of a classical trumpeter with the chops and rhythmic ingenuity of a top-notch bebopper.” A true jazz master, Ragin himself strives, “(to) be part of a continuum of growth in music education and music performance.”
This is Erdmann’s 293rd peer-reviewed/professional published article.