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.
Trombonist and proprietor of Hip Bone Music Michael Davis has been running his excellent Bone-to-Pick interview series for a while now. A little over a year ago, Davis featured the incomparable trombonist Bill Watrous. Watrous, who is full of stories, observations, and the occasional joke*, is a natural for this sort of thing, and that makes the interview fun to watch.
How Long Has This Been Going On?
*The Carl Fontana Joke
Watch the entire interview if you haven’t already, but for the joke as told by Carl Fontana to Watrous, check out 32 minutes 13 seconds.
When recalling his earliest — and fairly obscure — LP solo recordings, Bill mentions one whose title seems to be a 60s zeitgeist send-up: Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. Watrous remembers the arranger Walter Raim talked him into the project when he was in New York City doing other recording work. Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known had interesting instrumentation in addition to Watrous’s trombone, consisting of string quartet, vibes, guitar, bass, and drums, plus voices. “I still have a copy of this. You can’t get these anywhere,” says Watrous.
Well, over at my favorite used record store, Hymies, I did find a copy of, you know, Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. It was recorded in 1969 for MTA Records in New York (not to be confused with the current label of that name). Despite the high concept title, the recording is a standards outing with Aquarius (from the 1967 musical Hair) added in. (Also, did Aquarius ever really become a standard?) To be sure, it’s easy listening, but as the liner notes mention, using a string quartet — as opposed to a huge string section — changes up the usual “easy listening” texture. The arrangements are interesting — the tracks on this LP could have easily been used for Mad Men music cues.
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.
Not so long ago — well, maybe it was pretty long ago, I did a little write-up on Yamaha Slide Oil. Give it a look, I’ll wait. Why do I bring it up? Well, there’s a good article about this Yamaha mixture at The Reforming Trombonist that is well worth reading, both because of the Yamaha stuff and a certain other lubricant.
Out of musicians I get to perform with on a regular basis, one of the most special is fellow trombonist Larry McCabe. He probably wouldn’t object to being called, first and foremost, a wailer of the blues on the slide instrument. But, it’s important to note that while the blues informs almost everything he plays, there’s a lot more to Larry’s musical sensibilities than the blues alone. Just one of those sensibilities involves a love for the music of his Irish ancestors. So, it isn’t too surprising that his latest set of recordings is titled Irish American. The other influences? Well, I’d just check the music out.