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

Brookmeyer Interview at Jazz Wax

On the web, there are lots of things to read, see, and hear. Consequently, there are a lot of things one might miss. One good thing I missed was this Bob Brookmeyer interview. Jazz Wax, the home of the interview, is run by Marc Myers, a New York journalist, and was linked from NPR’s new jazz blog, A Blog Supreme.

Incidentally, you might wonder how NPR came up with the great title, “A Blog Supreme.” Well, they had a contest to name the blog, but they conducted the contest after they had already come up with the obviously-fantastic “A Blog Supreme” name. Go figure.

Don Hough, ITA Humfeld Award Winner

During a period that included the 1982 World’s Fair, I spent my undergraduate days at the University of Tennessee. Importantly for me, Don Hough was my trombone teacher at UTK. I have plenty of great memories from that time, many of which do not include the World’s Fair Sunsphere. Many of these good memories do, however, include Don Hough, who recently won an ITA Humfeld teaching award. You can see the award announcement, and read about Don’s ongoing musical activities here.

When Trombones Fly Redux

It looks as though my last entry here at Commander Trombone has grown old and crufty. Still, for the new year I’d like to add some potentially valuable information for those traveling with a trombone. (By the way, happy new year.)

The basic issue of the trombone case may be easily solved. After all, most trombones ship with a case. However, these standard-issue cases vary in size, weight, and the amount of protection they provide. For plane travel, bigger trombone cases, including bass trombone cases, may be a problem as a carry-on. On the other hand, a relatively thin tenor trombone case can likely be taken on as a carry-on despite the fact that it will easily exceed most airlines official limitations of about 45 linear inches.

If you’re in the market for a trombone case (find some money somewhere and stimulate the economy, bub), below is a list of trombone case manufacturers. Most of these cases will likely need extra external protection if checked under a plane, with the possible exception of this one. As noted elsewhere, some musicians have further protected trombone cases by putting them inside a golf-club case or bag.

Here are some good online guides to check out:

When Trombones Fly

The trombone box

Recently I embarked on a trip and a surprisingly annoying project: transporting a trombone across state lines with the help of commercial aviation.

To check or not to check? That was the question. Would the overhead compartments really fit my trombone despite the fact that the case was larger than the officially stated limit of “45 linear inches”? If I checked the trombone, would the baggage monkeys mangle it beyond recognition, delivering me a pile of mangled brass later?

As a hedge against the airline insisting I do it anyway, I finally decided to check the trombone. A specially constructed box was used for further protection of the Pro Tec trombone case. This “special construction” consisted of three taped together boxes, but the key feature of the enclosure was the yellow tape that bore the Italian phrase “Fra-gile” written in Sharpie marker.

What happened, you might ask? The box performed well on the trip, but a funny thing happened in the Boston airport on the way back. A friendly airline employee was inspecting the trombone box while I looked on. He paused. Was he trying to decipher the Italian? He said, “You know, you probably could have just brought this on the plane as a carry-on.”