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.”

Aurex Jazz in Translation

Out of the randomness that makes up YouTube content these days, real surprises occasionally surface that don’t have to do with dogs riding skateboards or cats playing the piano. One such find is the “Aurex Jazz Special” that aired on Japanese television in the 80s, apparently concurrent with the Aurex Jazz Festival. In the clip below (click movie to start play), J.J. Johnson explains his early musical influences:

There’s also a version of Jay and Kai playing It’s All Right With Me with a rhythm section that includes Tommy Flanagan on piano and Roy Haynes on drums. On what seems to be the same occasion, Dexter Gordon and Clark Terry join for I’ll Remember April, and Milestones. There are a few awkward Lost in Translation moments during the show as the musicians smile and “play along” with whatever is being said by the show hosts.

The Sound of Now’s the Time

This YouTube post by Zemry features a host of be-bop greats: J.J. Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Howard McGhee, Walter Bishop, Tommy Potter, and Kenny Clarke. It’s apparently a video transfer of a kinescope made for British TV in 1964.

When I first saw and heard the YouTube clip, I thought the performance sounded familiar. Sure enough, I found that a CD I own contains the sound portion of the performance. Just to see if I could improve the sound of the video, I removed the original sound track in iMovie and applied the CD’s sound instead. The result does make the sound clearer, and the project is posted here in Quicktime form. Fortunately, J.J. “stomped” the tune off loudly enough on stage to make a fairly good audio sync possible, although it isn’t perfect.

Note that the video clip doesn’t include the entire performance. For that reason, you’ll hear the music continue after the clip ends.

(click movie to play)

The Sacred Sackbut of Marcy Tigner

Marcy Tigner's solo trombone christian faith recording

Although it may not be obvious to as many today, the history of music has long been tied up in the history of worship. Not to worry — the historical treatise needed to back that statement up won’t be pursued here. Suffice it to say that musical cross-pollination between the secular, the sacred, and the profane has been pretty common over the years, and the trombone has been of mighty good service to all three. Anyway, it’s possible that the sweet trombone style of Tommy Dorsey meets the sacred in Marcy Tigner’s Christian Faith trombone album from the 50s. How to describe the recording? The best thing for anyone to do is simply to listen. Whatever you think of the musical style, the trombone playing itself is fantastic.