Jack Teagarden High Tone Studies

High Tone Studies for Trombone

Almost any English teacher can be counted on to make some sort of a handout on when to use a comma. It’s sort of that same way with brass players and exercise books, going back — at least — to Arbans famous method.

Both comma handouts and brass exercise books have this in common: despite some points of controversy, you end up with lots of similar material and advice. And yet, despite all that, there’s still the occasional insight and innovation.

In 1936, Jack Teagarden, the jazz trombonist from Vernon, Texas, known for his ability to play a whole lot of trombone in the first 4 positions, came out with his High Tone Studies for Trombone, a short treatise of 51 exercises designed to help get the player up to a high D. The book is currently available on Apple’s iBooks, and also at Cherry Classics Music. As CCM’s blurb says, “it is obvious that Teagarden had put a lot of thought into his technique.” A bit of classic good advice from the book:

Do not force or strain at any time. Rest frequently.

Happy Birthday, J.J. Johnson!

It’s the birthday of one of the great voices of jazz music, J.J. Johnson. Of the slide instrument, J.J. — often referred to as the father of modern jazz trombone — once quipped, “It’s a horrible, beastly to play, especially to play jazz on.” Well? You could never really tell that when J.J. played. His handling of the trombone always projected a relaxed calm, and the musical results speak for themselves.

In 1960, for Jazz at the Philharmonic, here’s J.J. playing with Stan Getz and band: Victor Feldman piano, Sam Jones, bass, Louis Hayes, drums. The location is the Salle Pleyel in Paris, France. The musical vehicle is Sweet Georgia Brown, a tune whose changes J.J. was evidently fond of improvising on. He recorded it more than once as a harmonic basis for tunes he composed like Sweet Georgia Gillespie and Tea Pot. Speaking of composing, the fact that J.J. was an inventive composer showed in all of his musical expressions.

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:

April & Jazz Appreciation Month

Well, it’s been a while since there have been any posts here. To make matters worse, your’s truly has allowed most of Jazz Appreciation Month to pass without any jazz appreciation represented here. Thankfully, though, there’s still time. There’s always time. I think Albert Einstein said that.

For some (really) belated jazz appreciation, let’s go back to nearly the beginning of the previous century to a little thing called Livery Stable Blues, recorded by The Original Dixieland Jass Band for Victor in 1917. In these early days of “jass,” this sort of music was supposed to be somewhat comedic. The nascent recording industry used this idea of fun, novelty, and “jass” to “get over” with a popular market. In the case of Livery Stable Blues, this also meant — in part — a barnyard tie-in featuring musicians imitating animal sounds. Arguably, this constituted a disservice to both the animals and the humans. Other ODJB titles: Barnyard Blues, Ostrich Walk, Bow Wow Blues, and Skeleton Jangle.

Similarly constructed bands of this time played a music that musicians mostly identified as “ragtime,” and which didn’t need to be “funny.” The non-comic musical influence was coming from musicians like Joe “King” Oliver, whose band wouldn’t record for another six years.