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.
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.
For the interest of my musician friends here is the first page of the EVI part for the concerto.
The EVI excels on ballads because if it’s expressive quality – This track was produced during my extended work sojourn in South Africa.
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.
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.