Larry McCabe’s Irish American (Full Album!)

Larry McCabe

Larry McCabe

A while back, I wrote about Larry McCabe’s EP, Irish American. I am pleased to say it’s now a full length album, and it is — as we say in the trades — completely bad-ass. As I write this, I’m quite certain that Larry would say that this recording project — in addition to being an education — has been a labor of love. (Of course, all recording projects are an education when the artist is truly involved, but I’m digressing.) To the point, love shows in the music, which ranges from hard rocking — O’Diddley, for example — to dance-worthy, to serene and beautiful. A little excerpt of what Larry says about it:

I was born in the heartland of America. My great great grandfather came here from Ireland. I grew up listening to all kinds of music and was fortunate enough to play with some very talented and soulful musicians right out of high school. It was a time when you could go on the road, play music and make a living. I played with everyone from Brenda Lee to Maynard Ferguson and had a ball. A few years back I started listening to Irish music and it it literally struck a chord with my ancestral roots. I love pure traditional music.

Over the years, and no doubt through the musical experiences he mentions above, Larry’s been able to match his musical sensibilities to the slide instrument, with the result that today his musicality and trombone playing are easily in a class by themselves.

One of my personal favorites from Irish American is a marvelous, arranged-on-the-fly, trombone choir: Annie McMahon. Clan McCabe is nothing short of a trombone power ballad. (The euphonium is used here to great effect, too.) Is some of this music shades of Trombone Shorty? You bet! So, check out Larry McCabe’s Irish American — as in right now!

“Bone Masters” with Paul the Trombonist

Trombonist Paul Nowell seems to exist in the weird intersection of trombone playing, education, clowning, employing a large stuffed banana as a sidekick, and constantly repeating a joke about tuna fish, tuning, or something like that.

Possibly the most edifying of Nowell’s various forays on the internet is his recurring YouTube show called Bone Masters, in which he plays host to the trombone-famous. Through the magic of green screen, Bone Masters is often set against a pleasant tropical or nature scene, the pleasantness of which is possibly destroyed by all the tromboning (of course, that’s a matter of opinion). While the guests relate important playing techniques and insights, Paul asks the pertinent questions. Below is a sampling of some of the episodes. You can see them all at Paul’s YouTube channel.

With Bill Watrous:

With Bob McChesney:

With Alan Kaplan:

Lawrence Brown with Duke Ellington in Montreal 1964

Sure — there are lots of things on the internet that you probably wouldn’t want to see, and many things that you’d probably want to un-see. Yes, as time goes on, they’ll be more and more demand for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [iTunes] technology. What’s posted here, however, likely won’t fall into that category: It’s a 1964 performance by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in Montreal for a Canadian TV program called Le Jazz Hot.

Many of the Ellington stalwarts are here, including Cat Anderson, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, and trombonist Lawrence Brown. (The full personnel listing can be found here.) Not surprisingly, this YouTube clip is an excerpt of a DVD which is commercially available. Imagine that!

slidetrombonelb Interestingly, Lawrence Brown was not a huge fan of Duke Ellington, despite working with the leader for nearly thirty years. The gist of the resentment? It seems Brown felt The Duke’s charisma was used to manipulate, and that Ellington took credit for the musical creations of his band members. As a specific example, Brown said that he was the actual composer of the “A” sections of Sophisticated Lady, and that saxophonist Otto Hardwick had come up with the bridge. Certainly, some of Brown’s criticisms are a matter of perspective. Where, for example, does cajoling end and manipulation begin? The interdependent relationship between Duke and his orchestra members is widely acknowledged, yet, it’s likely that Lawrence Brown’s name should be included on any Sophisticated Lady byline.

Lawrence Brown did branch out on his own from time to time. The album Slide Trombone [iTunes], from 1955 and for Verve records, is one example.

Slide Hampton Plays Tadd Dameron

A book of solo transcriptions by Mike Medrick

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Mike Medrick’s book of Slide Hampton solos features Slide’s improvisations over the compositions of Tadd Dameron, including The Scene is Clean, Sid’s Delight (aka Tadd’s Delight), If You Could See Me Now, Lady Bird, The Squirrel, and Hot House.

Mad About Tadd, an album featuring Slide Hampton and the Heath Brothers, is the recording most of these solos come from. You can get Mad About Tadd on iTunes or at Amazon.

You can obtain a copy of Slide Hampton plays Tadd Dameron by emailing Mike directly. The book is $30; the price includes shipping costs.

As has been mentioned here before, in the 80s I was fortunate enough to attend The University of Tennessee for music school. It has to be admitted that my first university ensemble was the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. While that was a life-transforming experience, I was soon on to greener pastures in UT ensembles that were 1) more edifying, and 2) actually more fun.

picture of slide hampton

Slide Hampton plays the Indy Jazz Fest Photo: Chris Wiley

One of these ensembles was the UT Trombone Choir, which played in both the jazz and western-art-music traditions. It was directed by the trombone professor, Don Hough. Importantly, in the recent past previous to my joining the trombone choir, that ensemble had achieved a remarkable claim to fame by playing and performing with legendary jazz trombonist Slide Hampton. There was a cassette tape of the resulting UT Music Hall performance that was passed from trombonist hand to trombonist hand (no mp3s then, you ungrateful kids). On the basis of everyone’s experience with Slide’s visit, it was apparent that he 1) was pretty cool, 2) was also one of the most avid practicers in jazz, on the order of John Coltrane or Booker Little, 3) was a pretty amazing practitioner of the style of jazz referred to as “be-bop” on the slide trombone, 4) and had considerable skill as an arranger and orchestrator.

Mike Medrick, a soon-to-be trombonist chum who joined the Trombone Choir a short time later, also thought Slide was great. We’d often discuss jazz recordings. J.J.? As much as you could get your hands on. Slide on A Day in Copenhagen? A must-have. Mike was (and is) an avid arranger, and he soon was writing for both the trombone choir and UT jazz ensemble.

In the jazz program at UT run by Jerry Coker (did I mention this? The jazz department was run by Jerry Coker!), we did solo transcriptions for Coker’s Jazz Styles and Analysis class. Through Jerry, it became clear to us (if it wasn’t already) that one of the best ways to learn the nuts and bolts of jazz music is to listen to, take note of, and study what has been performed by the great practitioners of the music.

Now, just like in Back to the Future, a fair amount of time has gone by, and quickly. But the great lessons and ideas are more like constants. Accordingly, my friend Mike Medrick is back from the future with a wonderful book filled with Slide Hampton solo transcriptions. If you are any sort of musically literate student of jazz — not necessarily a trombonist — this book is well worth investigating. (See the sidebar for how to get a copy.)