As the trumpeter for Out of the Blue, Blue Note Records' attempt at a "house" combo, Michael Mossman made a name for himself before the group disbanded. That was followed by stints with Horace Silver, Michel Camilo, Gene Harris' Philip Morris Superband, and just this summer, Gerry Mulligan's Re-Birth of the Cool band.
"I'm finding that being a sideman is also kind of a dead end. I'm tired of it," he says. "I still like playing with other people, but after a while, you get your bandleader bug. If you're going to play your own music, you've got to have your own band."
But not having a band hasn't stopped Mossman from recording. He's paired with Swiss saxophonist Daniel Schnyder on Granulat (Red 123240) and with Spanish alto player Perico Sambeat on the just-released Uptown Dance (EGT 565). He also teaches part-time at his alma mater, Rutgers, attempting to make the school jazz ensemble "a real training ensemble for professional musicians. Basically, I holler and scream a lot. Also, we concentrate on serious music. We did a whole concert of Jimmie Lunceford. We did some music of Gil Evans." Using his own experience as a sideman, Mossman passes his professional knowledge on to the students, telling them what his employers did in a working situation.
Bill Fielder, the man who prompted Mossman to leave Chicago and study for his master's degree in New Jersey, is now his boss at the school. "Bill's helped me with some very difficult changes I made in my trumpet embouchure," Mossman explains. "When I came to Rutgers, I decided to basically, fundamentally change the way I play trumpet. It took me five years. It was absolutely hellish.
"There were certain things that I wanted to do on the trumpet which I realized I would probably never be able to do the way I was playing before," he adds. "For at least four of the years I was playing [during the transition], I really couldn't depend on anything coming out of the horn that I wanted to. And here I've got [altoist] Kenny Garrett standing next to me playing all this stuff, and [tenorist] Ralph Bowen on the other side playing all these amazing things, and I have to cope with this."
Mossman took up trombone as an exercise when changing his embouchure. That has really paid off, now that he's confident enough to play it in public. "If you have a band that's trumpet and tenor, and suddenly it's trombone and tenor, that's a whole 'nother band. As far as an arranger and composer's standpoint, it allows you to write some really different sounds."