The EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) is the brainchild of my inventor friend Nyle Steiner. This particular model is one of only two see-through versions that Nyle produced. This particular instrument has been fitted with a wireless MIDI transmitter, the MIDIjet Pro, produced by Classic Organ Works here in Toronto. It enables me to move freely in performance and works wonderfully.
It is essentially a synthesizer for a trumpet player. I found an early version of the instrument I now play in a music store in Chicago in 1979. At the time I was on the road with Blood Sweat and Tears. Though I had little idea of how to play the instrument, I was so taken with it that I took it on stage that same night and played it – albeit terribly – much to the puzzlement of the audience and the horror of my band-mates. However since I loved the instrument so much I persisted in practicing it and the BS&T recording Nuclear Blues contains the first commercial recording of the EVI. I play it on my song ‘Agitato’.
I think that it is the most expressive electronic instrument produced to date. It responds to breath pressure, vibrato, portamento and pitch bend and has a playable range equal to that of the piano. It is capable of producing the sounds of many different instruments via an electronic protocol called MIDI and is also capable of playing complex new sounds even emulating the sound of a full orchestra.
A sister instrument, the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) is essentially a saxophone-style version of the EVI that Nyle produced around 1990 and being easier to play is a much more commonly seen instrument. Certainly the best-known proponent of the EWI was the late great jazz saxophone player Michael Brecker.
NyIe Steiner himself is a wonderful performer on the instrument and though you may not have seen him play it you have certainly heard it though you may not have recognized the instrument because of the EVI’s chameleon quality. During the 80s and 90s Nyle lived in Los Angeles and preformed extensively in studio settings. Some of the better-known films that contain NyIe’s playing are: Apocalypse Now, Dead Poets Society, Fatal Attraction, Ghost, Gorillas In The Mist, Officer And A Gentleman and Witness. On Apocalypse Now all of the lead melodies are played on EVI and some tracks consist completely of multi-layered tracks of EVI.
I now consider the EVI my primary instrument and with my late friend David Hoenigsberg produced an orchestral concerto for the instrument and I used it to play the Ondes Martenot solo part on Olivier Messaien’s Turangulila Symphony with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra in 1992. I play it extensively on the album “Timeless’” with my partner Pops Mohamed and live with my Hotfoot Orchestra here in Toronto as well as in concerts with David Clayton-Thomas. An album of Hotfoot that features the EVI is “Sunrise on Ganymede”. In April 2013 I released an album of African themes (My African Heart) with my Hotfoot Orchestra in which the EVI is featured prominently. A search on the Internet with “Bruce Cassidy”, “EVI” and “trumpet” will show some of my other work.
With David Clayton-Thomas at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2006
On a TV show in Johannesburg 1994 – with Steinerphone – an analog version of the EVI
My Funny Valentine – at Rumours Jazz Club, Johannesburg – late 80s
The EVI excels on ballads because if it’s expressive quality – This is EVI with my programmed backing – produced during my extended work sojourn in South Africa.
Lament For My Mother
The EVI is capable of producing any sound – here I am playing the EVI through a physical modeling synth – the sound is a cross between a saxophone and an oboe. This is from the album ‘Timeless’ which I produced in South Africa. My friend Pops Mohamed plays mbira and sings on this track.
Dunya (Mother Earth)
My arrangement of this very popular South African township song by Abdullah Ibrahim from my recent album ‘My African Heart” available on iTunes, Myself on EVI and Kelly Jefferson solos on tenor sax.
Pulitzer Prize winning composer Michael Colgrass has just finished a concerto for the EVI called ‘Dragon’ wherein the EVI plays the part of Lisbeth Salander in an interpretation of the novel (and film): The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A preview performance was held on April 17, 2014 at the Claude Watson School at Earl Haig Collegiate as part of the youth outreach program conducted by the Toronto-based Esprit Orchestra. I am expecting a public premiere with the orchestra in the near future. For the interest of my musician friends here is the first page of the EVI part for the concerto.
A short demo of playing a found sample with MainStage on Mac
Geek stuff: The EVI is basically a controller and needs customized sound modules to produce sound. My current equipment includes:
• Serge Modular System (recently retired to Sweden)
• Yamaha VL1-m physical modeling synthesizer
• Roland JV-1010
• Roland JV-1080
• Roland S-760 sampler
• Roland Fantom Xr sampler
• Yamaha VL70-m synth with Patchman turbo chip
• Oberheim Xpander.
• These days I usually use Mainstage on a MacBook Pro when playing live. The virtual instruments that it contains and it’s sampling capabilities are more than adequate for most situations.
I have five different models of EVI including a Steinerphone (a completely analog version of the instrument – I used it to perform Messiaen’s Turangalila and (above on this page) My Funny Valentine (video) and Lament For My Mother (audio only).
My DAW of choice is Logic Pro X though I use Pro Tools from time to time. For sound design and manipulation I often use Metasynth and I own all of the other programs designed by Eric Wenger. These days much of my performance work is done in my studio at home where all of my equipment is readily available. Often I get a brief for an EVI performance on Skype and do the work and send a dry full-bandwidth stem (and sometimes an effects stem) to the client.
Besides arranging and production work a particular interest of mine is my group The Body Electric in which we attune to the atmosphere present in the venue and play to resolve the present feelings by means of our musical performance. Music is a healing force and the EVI is my ‘instrument of choice’ in this work.