Originally developed in Germany from a traditional English valveless bugle, the flugelhorn very much resembles the trumpet and is often tuned in B flat (sometimes C as well) but has a larger appearance, because while the same length, it has a wider, conical bore. The first version was sold by Heinrich Stölzel in Berlin in 1828, and its B flat tuning partly the inspiration for Adolphe Sax to develop the saxophone. The word Flügel means flank or wing in German, from which its military bugle association comes. The instrument usually has three valves, and its sound is somewhere fatter and more mellow and dark than the trumpet or cornet, and perhaps halfway between a French horn and trumpet. But let's hear the difference between it and its closest relative courtesy of this helpful demonstration from brass player Dave Allison:
In its earlier years, the flugelhorn featured in several classical pieces, including Igor Stravinsky's Threni, Ralph Vaughan Williams's Ninth Symphony, and sometimes replaces the more traditional post horn in Mahler's Third Symphony. Here though is a specialist piece, played by Sergei Nakariakov and Kirill Soldatov in Joseph Haydn’s Double Horn Concerto, here arranged for two flugelhorns:
Jazz of course became a focus point for the flugelhorn, most commonly taken up by trumpet players as a additional instrument. But one of the most prominent players who brought it to the fore was Jim Bishop, who played with the Woody Herman band in the 1930s. Here it comes with a jaunty solo three-quarters of the way (at 1.56) through Woodchopper's Ball:
Clark Terry played in Duke Ellington's band, land on into the 1950s was given an airing by Miles Davis on his Miles Ahead and Sketches of Spain albums, as did Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers, Kenny Baker, and later Hugh Masekela among countless others. To pick one example of many, here's Clark Terry playing an outstanding Stardust win 1967:
And here's modern player Ed Trujillo playing Miles Davis's track Nardis:
Most used in as an auxiliary instrument, but but in the 1970s Chuck Mangione stuck solely to the flugelhorn because, as his hit song said, it Feels So Good:
The flugelhorn is an official instrument of traditional brass bands, but where else does it appear? Let's take a few examples from artists with whom we don't normally associate such an instrument. From Bruce Springsteen's classic 1975 album, Born To Run, the flugelhorn opens and appears throughout in Meeting Across The River, played by Randy Brecker, formerly of Blood Sweat and Tears. It’s a key part of the emotional lining of this down-on-luck character song:
Brecker also plays on the first track from Steely Dan's 1980 album Gaucho. Babylon Sisters, a song that’s reference to the lives of other downtrodden lives – prostitutes. Here this jazz part coming halfway through the song more fleeting, sleazier, sexier.
The instrument was also the focus of some conflict on that much admired Pogues song, A Rainy Night In Soho, first recorded in 1986. Singer and songwriter Shane McGowan fell out with producer Elvis Costello, the latter having much preferred an oboe to the flugelhorn part which mimics the main singing melody in of the song, but the band's frontman blew up about it, and Costello had to back down, leaving flugelhorn to grab the glory. However, a 1991 version of the song - a remix with new overdubs, produced by Steve Lillywhite - was released containing elements of both instruments.
And finally, the American band Beirut includes rather beautiful rotary valve flugelhorn playing by frontman Zach Condon, as on the title track of their 2018 Gallipolli album:
And there are many other examples of the flugelhorn in all genres of music. Care to blow out the cobwebs of your music collections to find more? Feel free to share other examples in songs, instrumentals, on albums, or other contexts in comments below.
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