In the same way that accordions and banjos seem to exercise great fascination for the non-musical would-be-musician, there are other instruments, such as the violin and the trombone that fortunately seem mostly to repel those types. True, these instruments can, under certain circumstances, produce truly vile noises, but generally speaking, the necessity for a good musical ear, combined with the amount of commitment required to actually play these things in tune, generally weeds out most of the aforementioned non-musicals. In the case of the trombone, I had never felt particularly strongly about it one way or another, but in recent years it has slowly dawned upon me that it is one of my favourite instruments. In fact I would go so far as to say that if was starting my musical career all over again it could well be as a trombonist...
The first trombonists to capture my imagination were the Jay and Kai Trombone Octet who I first heard on a radio programme called 'Two Way Family Favourites' around about 1957. Before jazz was banned from the programme there were a couple of Jay and Kai tracks that were frequently played. One was 'The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and the other was "The Peanut Vendor". I saved the necessary pennies and bought an EP (extended play 45 r.p.m. disc for those to young to remember them) which featured those tracks along with, I think, "A Night in Tunisia" and "Jeanne". In those days an album was often released as three EP's as well as in LP (33⅓ r.p.m. Long Playing Record) format.and I subsequently bought another EP of the band, but it wasn't until quite recently that I was able to buy the whole album when it was released in CD format. The principal players were J.J.Johnson and Kai Winding and the sound that that group made was, to my ears, absolutely thrilling. The CD may still be available at the time of writing and is called 'Jai and Kai + 6'(Columbia 480990 2).
The next player to capture my imagination was Bob Brookmeyer. He was featured on a Stan Getz EP that I purchased soon after the Jay and Kai disc (I'll undoubtedly come back to Stan Getz in a later posting) and impressed me as much as Mr Getz. I was unaware at that time of the existence of the valve trombone and was therefore doubly impressed by his dexterity, but it was the memorability of the lines that he created that particularly struck me. Soon I had discovered his collaborations with Gerry Mulligan which, even then, I preferred to those of trumpeter Chet Baker. Years later (around 1981) I got to see Brookmeyer perform as half of a duo with guitarist Jim Hall (another hero that I'll be returning to!) at the Bracknell Jazz Festival - and what a memorable gig that was.
There were many players that impressed me along the way - George Chisholm, Don Lusher, Bill Watrous, Rob McConnell and the amazing but to me anonymous trombonist on some of the great comedy recordings by Spike Jones and his City Slickers - but I got into whole new territory when, in recent years, I started seriously getting to grips with Brazilian music. I realise that the trombone is not the first instrument that you think of in the context of Brazil, but there are some extraordinarily good players there. I am especially fond of Ze da Velha (seen hear in this You tube clip with the another of my heroes - clarinetist Paulo Moura www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCHJr8f8PLU ), Bocato ( seen here with his group http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-oZLOMWKBs&feature=related) and Vitor Santos.
The truth is that the more good trombonists I hear, the more I like the instrument but, most importantly, the more I realise what a favour I did to the world by not taking it up...
J.J. Johnson - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53dQ77NBpQI&feature=related
Bob Brookmeyer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrEAmaMAeSM
Kai Winding - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjyoXwkUQV8
Bill Watrous - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RHzCQIvMyo&feature=related
Rob McConnell - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXtmicTzViw