A review of some trombone players

Full disclosure:

Christopher Ingraham is my younger brother. He played trumpet in school and also bugle in the American Legion Marching band back in the day. Although not a professional musician, he has maintained an intense  interest in music, concentrating on Classical, Jazz and Blues and gives a poetic sensitivity to his listening. 

He was recently programming his Duke Ellington Pandora ©  Station and, wanting to add some trombone  to the mix, asked me for the names of well known trombone players. I gave him a list (by no means comprehensive) and mentioned that I particularly liked Bill Watrous. I also mentioned that I had seen Bob Brookmeyer with Stan Getz many years ago. 

He went onto Youtube © to listen to some samples by musicians I mentioned and wrote a review of what he found. I found his response and comments interesting and thought they might be of interest to a larger audience. The trombone player reviews in his letter to me  follow

Kevin M Ingraham,


Vallejo Jazz Society

A Review of some trombone players

by Christopher K. Ingraham

Hi Bro:

Well, the fast review of trombone greats goes something like this (remember, these are knee-jerk reactions formed after a minimum of listening and are subject to change by the second. This ranking made for entertainment purposes only

Bob Brookmeyer:  it was hard to find something I really liked of his on the internet. It all seemed a bit soapy. I wanted something more spirited, more substantial. It didn’t help that he is so poorly served by the internet. Every other artist I searched for had a greater selection and more diverse choices. I guess if you love this guy it would be best if you would send me a link for a specific tune.

Curtis Fuller: Curtis is a bit narrow, doesn’t offer much in the way of variety. I wanted to encounter more of the tonal flexibility that the trombone possesses. As a trumpet player, I was always aware of the many places that the trumpet could not go; places where the trombone is richly comfortable. Listening to Fuller I had the feeling I was listening to a trumpet player. A gifted trumpet player to be sure, but a trumpet player. Use those fat tones! Go to the trombone rain forest, Curtis ! You got the chops, now bloom !

Kai Winding: I have to admit the name seemed a bit strange to me, and the bizarre version of  “More”just reinforced that. Nonetheless, he had the stuff I was looking for; tonal creativity, great rhythmic moves and the use of the instrument to its true potential. Still unsure after “More” I went on to “Loverman”. Here it all was; great tune, great tones, infectious rhythm and the use of the ends of the scale without effort. Would this be who I added?

Bill Watrous:  I approached Watrous with some anxiety knowing your fondness for his art. No need to worry, however, as the speed and precise virtuosity of “Spain”soon knocked my socks  off. I loved his deeply felt rendition of “Body and Soul”, his heart all over the room. He had all the qualities I have mentioned above, coupled with more courage and a greater willingness to take risks. I decided to go ahead and give “Straight, No Chaser” a click. I can only repeat what I wrote down :

“Tremendous, Original “.

J.J. Johnson:  I sampled JJ Johnson and was most impressed. You never doubt you are listening to a trombone with J.J. Besides that idiomatic voice is his adherence to the sounds of what I think of as “Jazz”. His “Autumn Leaves ” puts it’s arms around you and holds tight in  its familiarity but still seems original and sincere.

Urbie Green: The music that won the prize came from Urbie Green. It speaks for itself. Give a listen to “Let’s face the music and dance”or “Sleep ” from his big-band 1956-59.His big band is, like J.J’s, familiar and continually surprising at the same time. This band is  tight and Urbie produces the trombone sound I hear in my inner ear late at night, big city big-band that renders the traffic harmless, a game of lights and movement. 

Urbie’s rhythms are infectious, you will tap your foot and be sure to annoy your seatmate as your fingers dance on the armrest. Urbie sounds like no one else without self-consciously pushing the envelope. He slides like only a trombone can, always using the potential of the instrument to the fullest. I just love the guy and his music repeats “Jazz Jazz Jazz” to me without effort. As the winner he will be added to my Duke Ellington Pandora radio station.

Of course these are only my opinions and you’re welcome to them.

Addendum; Christopher’s response after I (Kevin ) sent a couple of other Bob Brookmeyer Youtube selections and I mentioned that Brookmeyer plays valve trombone) 

“Seems maybe the valve is giving me trouble, or do the rest of them also play that instrument ? I told you I’m just a novice with first impressions. I did enjoy both offerings, but was the comparison of Brookmeyer and your other man (Bill Watrous- ed.) really fair ?

My first impressions, all selections still enjoyable and worthy. “

As always, opinions expressed are that of the writer (VJS)

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