Three Great Blue Note CDs Featuring J.J. Johnson as Sideman

During his career as a jazz musician, the late J.J. Johnson recorded many times as a leader. His well known musical vision and skills as a writer and arranger — not to mention his virtuosic translation of modern jazz to the trombone — meant the leader role fit him well. That same reputation, too, meant he was in demand as a sideman. In these instances, J.J.’s playing always adds something special to the musical proceedings, and, while freed from the responsibilities of a leader, he might sound a little more relaxed than usual. Below are three Blue Note CDs you may not have heard yet: all feature J.J. as a sideman. Check them out. The titles and cover art will link to the music at Amazon.


Kenny Dorham: Afro Cuban

Leader: Kenny Dorham, Recording date: March 28, 1955

  1. Afrodisia
  2. Basheer’s Dream
  3. Lotus Flower
  4. Minor’s Holiday
  • J.J. Johnson, trombone
  • Kenny Dorham, trumpet
  • Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone
  • Cecil Payne, bass sax
  • Horace Silver, piano
  • Oscar Pettiford, bass
  • Art Blakey, drums
  • Carlos Valdez, percussion

Volume 2

Sonny Rollins: Vol. 2

Leader: Sonny Rollins, Recording date: April 14, 1957

Page for this recording at Wikipedia

  1. Why Don’t I?
  2. Wail March
  3. You Stepped Out of a Dream
  4. Poor Butterfly
  5. Misterioso
  • J.J. Johnson, trombone
  • Sonny Rollins, Tenor saxophone
  • Horace Silver, piano
  • Paul Chambers, bass
  • Art Blakey, drums

Cape Verdean Blues

Horce Silver: Cape Verdean Blues

Leader: Horace Silver, Recording date: October 22, 1965

Page for this recording at Wikipedia

  1. Nutville
  2. Bonita
  3. Mo’ Joe
  • J.J. Johnson, trombone
  • Horace Silver, piano
  • Woody Shaw, trumpet
  • Joe Henderson, tenor saxophone
  • Bob Cranshaw, bass
  • Roger Humphries, drums

The Republicans from Central Casting

Republican actors?

The Cast?

Commander Trombone has a simple inquiry to put out there into the internets today, and it goes like this: are Republicans in the U.S. Congress actually representatives, or do they now only represent what representatives are supposed to look like?

Sorry to get all Glenn Beck on you, but I’m just asking the tough questions that no one else will ask. Lets peal back the layers of the onion. I’m crying because of all this, not because of the onion, but because I love my country so much. OK, it’s a figurative onion. I’m still sobbing.

In the preceding months that lead-up to the final passage of health care reform—really, it’s health insurance reform—here in the United States, Republicans have been saying all kinds of crazy, untrue, things. Here’s something that may scare the pants right off you: in many cases, these Republicans were told to say these things. Below are some examples of things they were told to say. Please excuse the excessive use of exclamation points; they are needed to convey hysteria.

  • This reform will set up “Death Panels”*

    *No, not that fake wood paneling from the 70s. A government “panel” will decide if your grandma lives or dies. It’ll be like the DMV. She’ll be asked to take a number and sit down. When her number comes up, she’ll be herded into a room with other senior citizens. The Death Panel will take their seats and activate television monitors. You know what’s next: Golden Girls and Matlock re-runs! Eventually, the inevitable will happen.

  • This reform is a government takeover*

    *You know how your government screws up everything right? We mean, well, we Republicans work in government, but forget about all that. Government will screw it up. Only the magic of the private sector can provide health care. Imagine if the The Government ran a fast-food restaurant. You’d pay $40 for a milkshake that would plant a computer chip in your brain! It’s a computer chip that causes you to buy more milkshakes and eventually causes you to develop type 2 diabetes, thus making you totally dependent on U.S. Government for the rest of your life! (Does this seem over-the-top crazy? This particular crazy thing was specially written for Michele Bachmann.)

  • This reform will explode the federal deficit!*

    *Please forget what the Congressional Budget Office says about this bill, and please try to forget that our party already exploded the deficit. We really are the party of fiscal responsibility, except when we don’t hold 2 branches of the Federal Government (Really, 3 branches).

You may wonder who’s behind these lies, and who compelled these Republicans to say these things. Is it a shadow government controlled by a foreign power? Is it the Shriners, with their crazy fez symbology?

Friends, I have something awesome to reveal to you today. These are not real Republicans, these are actors. These people come from Central Casting. Yes, Hollywood is behind this, the silver screen on to which all this utter ridiculousness is projected.

“But,” I hear you saying, “The Republicans always rail against Hollywood. How could they be working for Hollywood?” Well, Follow the money. What drives ticket sales? Controversy. There’s only so many Crazy Lohans Hollywood can put out there. Hollywood needs crazy like it needs the air, and Hollywood needs the “Republicans” to criticize them. Ever since 1938, when Orson Welles convinced all those uncomplicated rubes that martians were invading, the media and Hollywood has known people could be made to do their bidding. What better bidding than to buy movie tickets?

How do we know all this? It’s simple: we know because of smart movie critics like Roger Ebert. He told us that the “Conservative Republican” writing is bad, the narrative is flawed, and the performances are not even passable. Further, we know Hollywood puts its weakest performers on Fox News. Behind the media curtain, the Bad Fox Actors frantically work the levers of their machine, trying to deceive the already spelling challenged. But that deception ends here, today. Now you know the rest of the story. Commander Trombone—Good Day.

Commander Banjo?

No, well, he wouldn’t go for that name, and that’s probably a good idea, but musician Danny Barnes runs an interesting website.

danny barnes, musician

Not surprisingly, many of the articles/entries are about music, including this particularly good one how to make a living playing music. Barnes, however, will often venture onto any topic that interests him. For example, here’s an entry about getting started with shortwave radio.

I discovered this website, like so many other things on the internet, through a succession of links: ElementsOfJazz: oneworkingmusician dot com: Danny Barnes.

Commander Trombone Classic: View to a Polka

Happy New Year! The following article ran on Commander Trombone in 2005.

As you might or might not expect, Commander Trombone has by this time played numerous gigs on the trombone. Trust me, if you were to read my résumé, you’d quickly see that the word numerous is used numerous times in regard to gigs.

The Show’s On:
Big Joe alerts the neighbors

Some time ago, one of the aforementioned gigs was playing trombone on a cruise ship. I played in the show band. As its name suggests, the show band played for the cruise ship shows. It was a kind of all-purpose musical organization whose functions included “playing on” comedians, jugglers, and magicians, playing with the occasional competent singer, and playing light dance music for the older cruising demographic. The show band did not play top forty cover tunes or Texas Two-beat — there were other bands on board for that sort of thing. For dancing, we played simple adaptations of big-band tunes, waltzes, tangos, etc.

After a long night of shows for the cruisers, the show band was often obliged to play a late-night dance set. When we needed to clear the room — perhaps because we had had enough and wanted to retire to our cabins or the bar for the evening — one kind of tune was guaranteed to get the job done: a polka. Almost always, a simple rendition of Pennsylvania Polka would be enough to make our listeners lose interest and wonder what was being served at the Midnight Buffet.

Happy Music for Happy People

Make no mistake, however: Polkas are a constant fountain of joy for some. Specifically, happy people. To clarify a bit, not all happy people are polka lovers, but polka lovers are generally happy people. In fact, that’s how Big Joe describes his polka-dance show: Happy Music for Happy People.

If you’ve never heard of Big Joe or the Big Joe Show, it’s probably time you did. Currently, the program airs Wednesday and Saturday night on RFD-TV, a network that is carried by Dish Network and DirectTV.

The Big Joe Show is a polka dance show. It’s not your father’s dance show like American Bandstand or Soul Train, it’s your grandfather’s dance show — if your grandfather really liked polka.

Even if you aren’t particularly a polka fan, you may find the Big Joe Show endlessly fascinating. There are three basic reasons for this phenomenon:

  1. Big Joe himself, who is always clad in a colorful, shiny, piano vest and cummerbund. Who lives, sleeps, and eats polka? Big Joe does.
  2. All the bands on the show are live bands, featured in the same space as the actual dancers. The quality of the bands varies greatly — some are quite good, but there is the occasional tubist whose batting average in relation to hitting the correct notes is quite low. You get the picture — tuba farts to a polka beat.
  3. The dancers. There won’t be any of the self-conscious dancing you see on the MTV. These are not self-consciously “cool” people. These are simply happy people. Remember — happy music for happy people?

The production values on The Big Joe Show vary greatly. For example, a typical episode features video that turns from hazy and washed-out to completely clear depending on the camera and camera angle being used at a given moment. This camera effect, combined with the styles of eyeglasses and hair, make it harder to guess what decade all this dancing and merriment is taking place in.

Below are some Quicktime samples of the show. If you can, though, tune in and turn on to the Big Joe Show at the next available opportunity.

Big Joe’s Commercial for CDs:

Joe Beno Band with an introduction by Big Joe: