The Sound Cafe
Behind The Curtain: Howard Moore
By Erin McCallum.
In this month’s edition, the focus is on a musician who has been steadily adding to the Music Collective for decades. Classically trained at York University, University of Toronto, the Royal Conservatory of Music, and as a Salvation Army cornet soloist, Howard Moore has a musical capacity as a vocalist, trumpet player, and on the piano. Although skilled in multiple musical disciplines, he is best known for his contributions of playing the instrument of his choice: trumpet. Moore has spent the past 35 years touring and recording in a versatile way. In every edition of “Behind The Curtain”, I urge readers to seek out further information on the featured artist, however, in Moore’s case, there are less resources to find a complete bio in one place, so, there is merit in providing enough information in this article for people to discover more.
To give readers a sense of just how versatile he is with respect to his musical abilities and approach, Howard Moore’s playing appears on over 200 studio albums, his performance capacity spans multiple genres, and, notably, his playing has crossed mediums. For context, Moore has recorded with numerous international reggae stars (Dennis Brown and Buju Banton, for example), and his television appearances include a variety of recognized programming (such as the NHL Awards and the Canadian Idol series) and programming roles (Movie/TV supervisory roles in BRAVO’s “The Jazz Man”, Principal Actor’s Coach for Disney’s “In a Heartbeat”, and Music Contractor for “In My Father’s Shoes). In addition to the aforementioned, Moore has travelled the World playing music with notable acts, and he continues to maintain a busy performance schedule today. For those who would like references that fall in tandem with the Blues/Roots genre, Moore is an active contributor in the Maple Blues Band, The Hogtown Allstars, various Lance Anderson productions, and can be heard performing with Johnny Rawls, Powder Blues, Blackburn, and various other projects that fall within the scope. Perhaps it’s safe to assume that many readers have already come across Moore’s playing, either intentionally, or by chance. Either way, there’s merit in having a conversation with Howard Moore to investigate what lead him to a career in music, and to discover something more about him that offers a sense of what drives him to continue his career as a professional musician.
At the beginning of the conversation, I asked Moore what led him to the trumpet as his instrument of choice. His response explains his path historically, but interestingly, also explains – perhaps foreshadows – where a combination of encouragement and life events shaped him into the player he is today.
“I grew up in the Salvation Army – both of my parents were ministers at the Salvation Army, and I started playing with one of the best bands (the Etobicoke Youth Band) through that upbringing. The players in the band knew what they were doing, and already had skills and experience. When I first started, I was a 13-year-old sitting with the 9-year-olds. That was a lot of motivation for me to get better on its own, but there was an instructor who encouraged me – I worked my ass off, and by the end of that year, I had caught up and become one of the top players in the band. After that, there was no turning back – playing is what I wanted to do.”
It became evident very early in conversation that Howard Moore’s journey in music has always been informed by his life’s journey, which is often the case with people who have spent a lifetime carving a career in music. As he explains his story further, however, a deeper truth starts to emerge; while explaining parts of his personal history, it becomes apparent that the things that have shaped his life have also influenced Moore’s approach on the trumpet.
“Even though I had an upbringing where I did not go without, when my Dad died unexpectedly, I regressed in my musical growth. I never stopped playing trumpet, I continued to learn and pursue my career, but my rate of development wasn’t the same. Truthfully, when I was younger, at that time, I didn’t truly have a deep sense of responsibility and it likely affected my discipline with respect to playing.”
Candidly, Moore continues to explain how significant moments in his life have shaped him – and his approach to playing the trumpet. It is worth noting that while touring the World as a professional musician, on his personal journey Moore became a husband and a father himself. While discussing another substantial portion of his life – the gains of love, and the process of navigating the illness and eventual passing of his wife – Moore draws a relationship between the changes in his life and the changes in his approach as a player:
“When my wife experienced her process, it was different for me. I watched how she made sure that my daughter and I were prepared – it was so selfless, and it taught me a lot. At 55 years old, I learned a lot about personal responsibility, and I gained a lot of sense about what’s real. It changed my approach to playing – what you see is what you get – because it is done with a new sense of authenticity. I play with a different freedom with that approach of authenticity – maybe that is embracing more space, or being more free to play what I feel works melodically in a lead capacity as a player.”
Moore is also quick to acknowledge the Music Collective itself when discussing the relationship between his wife’s passing and his life in music:
“The Blues community of musicians and supporters helped us before AND after my wife passed away. There has been all types and manners of support – financial support, prayers, and everything in between. I think it’s important for me to mention and acknowledge that this community became a soft place for me to land, and I felt like part of that family through it all. That’s part of that sense of ‘what’s real’ too.”
While discussing the music community, Moore is swift in giving credit to colleagues who have been influential – both in his career and musical schema:
“I’ve learned a lot about how the horn is supposed to inform the music and make an impact within the Blues genre from Pat Carey (saxophonist). We’ve played in a lot of projects and on recordings, and shared the stage for a lot of performances; it’s really helped to inform my Blues playing and my understanding of the music - and I’m a better Blues player because of it.” Of note, Moore and Carey have shared the stage together for approximately 3,000 performances. “Gary Kendall (bass) has also included me in multiple projects over the past 20 years; he hired me for a project after hearing me at a live performance once, and that opportunity has turned into many more, which, of course, has helped to develop my career as a Blues player. Both Gary and Pat have embraced me and encouraged me that way, so they have had an important impact on my development and understanding of the Blues.”
The main purpose of ‘Behind The Curtain’ is to give readers a glimpse of what resides beyond the music - and the press release. This is done in effort to discover and understand something more about the person behind the music, and how an artist’s career arrives as we know it. Sometimes, the insight comes in the form of learning an artist’s musical philosophy, or finding out exactly what was going on behind the scenes at a particular moment in an artist’s career. Sometimes, asking direct questions about how a notable musician honed their skills, or how any particular artist became inspired to pursue their passion for the music, is what provides that glimpse. In the discussion with Howard Moore, it’s clear that his life’s journey itself has informed his approach to how he plays the trumpet. Although our conversation covered many topics on record, this is the discovery that offers readers, fans, and aspiring musicians that unique understanding that can’t be found in regular forums.
It’s important to draw the distinction between artists who develop as players while gaining, honing, or developing skills over the course of their careers, and what has been has been revealed through candid conversation with Howard Moore. In Moore’s case, the very way he approaches his instrument as a player is guided by his life’s lessons and personal development - and that is perhaps why he is viewed by many as one of the most notable trumpet players (both in section and in his lead playing) on the Canadian Blues/Roots music scene today.
As the conversation with Howard Moore drew its conclusion, I couldn’t help but ask what some journalists might have led the interview with – I asked Moore to describe his current approach to his playing:
“On trumpet, I’m willing to do anything that moves forward, and its not something a want – or expect – to go in a straight line. Honestly, my only motivation is to be the best player I can be, and have the respect of my closest peers while I’m doing it. It’s all about the pursuit of excellence, and being authentic while I do it.”
Moore’s final words in interview likely carry a different weight, knowing how he arrives at them through this conversation.
As this edition of “Behind the Curtain” draws to a close, I trust that readers of all varieties have gained something more about the artist of mention. This article can be found each month as a regular contribution via The Sound Café with the intention of providing a deeper insight into the Canadian Blues artists who are at the core of the Blues music Collective.
Touring blues musician, Erin McCallum's formal post-secondary education was in media studies (news, radio), graduating from Humber College in Ontario, she went on to be mentored by Canadian News Hall of Fame inductee, Robert Holiday, and she is a regularly published writer in music and investigative journalism, having focused on music for the last six years. Erin has an exclusive monthly column in The Sound Cafe featuring musicians and industry professionals from across Canada who work predominantly in the Blues & Roots genres.
Erin McCallum Big Voice. Big Sound. www.erinmccallum.com
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