French Horn and Composer
Over the past 25 years I have built a solid reputation as an accomplished and totally dedicated French horn player, performing in a wide variety of musical contexts, as well as an increasingly active composer. My first instrument as a member of the junior high school band was the cornet and later the trumpet and fluglehorn. But after hearing the French horn during rehearsals, I felt a strong affinity for that instrument and was happily able to make the change. Simultaneous with my band experience in high school, I was first active in Giles Yellow Jackets and later the St. Andrews Hornets and the DesPlaines Vanguard competitive drum and bugle corps. Through high school and college, I lived a kind of musical schizophrenia, studying and playing classical music, but listening to and loving jazz. I finally decided that I needed some instruction on how to approach jazz on this instrument.
Upon graduation from Southern Illinois University School of Music, I moved to New York City to seek out and study with the long-time pioneering jazz French hornist Julius Watkins. I was able to win a N.E.A. grant to begin this study program. After several years of instruction and hard practice, I first came to prominence as a regular member of the Sun Ra Arkestra from 1976 to 1978. After that I worked sporadically for Sun Ra, making a number of recordings with the ensemble, as well as working for six years with the Carla Bley Band. In 1984 I joined Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy and have been featured on all of the group’s nine recordings. For many years, I have been part of the Murray Big Band and am featured on five CDs. Other musicians with whom I have worked are: Chick Corea, Cassandra Wilson, Shirley Horn, Randy Weston, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, The Gil Evans Orchestra, and The Mingus Orchestra. In The Netherlands I have worked on various contemporary classical projects with Guus Janssen. I have also performed with popular artists such as: Ashford and Simpson, Melba Moore, Peggy Lee, Maxwell, Aretha Franklin, Freddy Jackson, The Winans, Elvis Costello, Brandy, Dave Douglas, Diana Krall, and many more. In 2000 I had the honor of performing for Pope John Paul II’s 80th birthday concert.
As a sideman, I have recorded with various artists on more than 150 albums, CDs, and soundtracks. Eventually I came to the point that many musicians reach when they feel the need for more personal creative expression. I began writing music that could best express myself and my instrument. I felt that no one was writing for the French horn the way I knew it could be played. Several bands were put together over many years, leading to my first CD. Welcome Mr. Chancey was released in 1993 on In + Out Records. I enjoyed working with this quartet, but began to feel that I wanted to do something closer to the music that I had always listened to as a developing jazz musician—classic jazz. I started by composing music that I thought worked with the way I liked to play my instrument. Soon after I was asked to do a CD of music commemorating my jazz horn teacher, Julius Watkins and his group The Jazz Modes. In 1996 I recorded my second CD Vincent Chancey and Next Mode on DIW Records.
The French horn is my natural voice. Throughout my career I have been devoted to the idea of achieving wider recognition for the horn as a jazz instrument. I have constantly sought to increase the capability of the instrument and overcome the inherent problems of adapting it to the vocabulary of jazz.