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.

Sounds of the Time Capsule

The Jazz Trombone Time Capsule has been hanging around here for awhile, surviving several versions of this website. When it was first published, it used “dot mov” files for the sound clips. While it was an OK solution for the time, it required QuickTime to be installed on the computer (nothing wrong with that, necessarily), and the audio codecs I used have since become outmoded. Yep, the sound clips could have sounded better. Well, now I’m pleased to announce that, in addition to improving the way the sound clips are delivered, I’ve updated them all to higher bit-rate mp3. Better late than never, huh?

“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.