Arnold Jacobs was a totally unique figure among tuba players, able to control all aspects of his tone production and capable of an almost supernatural ability to project his sound. Jacobs spent 44 years in the tuba section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and though his distinctive tone penetrates through Chicago's orchestral recordings of that time, like most great orchestral musicians Jacobs had only limited opportunities to demonstrate his skills and artistry in smaller settings. Summit Records, an Arizona-based label specializing in brass-related classical recordings, has compiled Legacy of an Artist, a collection that is part music and part documentary material, to help summarize and explain what made Jacobs such an exceptional tuba player.
This is Summit's second tribute to Jacobs; the earlier volume, Portrait of an Artist, was devoted to Jacobs' playing in full-length etudes and well-chosen orchestral excerpts. This second volume provides some glimpses of his artistry in chamber contexts, with student orchestras and some private recordings made in his own basement. Summit bridges this material with comments taken from some remarkably detailed interviews with Jacobs about his approach and interests, as he speaks on mouthpieces, wind production, and the like. Legacy of an Artist will mainly be of interest to tuba players, but it will prove very interesting to them, and admittedly there are not a lot of good tuba-related recordings around at any given time. The sound quality is all over the map, as these recordings have been obtained from tapes made far and wide from the '50s and '60s. Nonetheless, Summit has done a great job of making these various recordings sound stable and consistent through the disc, and if you are a tuba player, you will not care about the sound quality. The booklet notes by Frank Byrne function well as a guide to what one is hearing and spell out the reasonable and sound decisions made in the process of compiling Legacy of an Artist.