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The Trombone ForumPractice BreakPolls(Moderators: bhcordova, RedHotMama, BFW) The 3 most prominant jazz trombonist (Early, Middle, and Late)
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Question: Do you agree with me?
Yes - 5 (35.7%)
No - 9 (64.3%)
Total Voters: 14

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Author Topic: The 3 most prominant jazz trombonist (Early, Middle, and Late)  (Read 1108 times)
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Bret Steed

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« on: May 11, 2017, 08:09AM »

Hello Everyone,

I'm conducting a poll for my doctoral dissertation - I have selected 3 jazz trombonist who, in my opinion, are the most prominent jazz improvisers within their respected time periods.  It is very difficult to settle on simply 1 person per period - However, considering their name recognitions, trombone innovations/technique, and jazz harmonic language/improvisation, do you agree or disagree with my following choices?

Early (Late 20's - 50's) - Jack Teagarden
Middle (40's - 70's) - J.J. Johnson
Late (70's - 90's) Bill Watrous

My plans are to analyze transcribed solos both harmonically and technically.  I will compare these three gentlemen's solos to other prominent trombone solos within their time period.  My goal is to provide an in-depth reasoning into how they revolutionized jazz trombone improvisation during their time and how they continue to influence current jazz trombonist today. (Well, that's it in brief)

Thanks for your help!
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2017, 08:31AM »

Personally, when I think of a current jazz trombonist, it's not Bill Watrous. Although he's still active and playing, I would group him in a sort of late-middle category, using your terminology, since I would relate his playing style more to that era of players. As far as current players, I would think of people like Marshall Gilkes, Michael Dease, Conrad Herwig, Andy Martin, etc...

Just my thoughts.
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Evan Clifton
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2017, 08:42AM »

Personally, when I think of a current jazz trombonist, it's not Bill Watrous. Although he's still active and playing, I would group him in a sort of late-middle category, using your terminology, since I would relate his playing style more to that era of players. As far as current players, I would think of people like Marshall Gilkes, Michael Dease, Conrad Herwig, Andy Martin, etc...

Just my thoughts.

I would add to that Hal Crook
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Bret Steed

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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2017, 08:54AM »

Personally, when I think of a current jazz trombonist, it's not Bill Watrous. Although he's still active and playing, I would group him in a sort of late-middle category, using your terminology, since I would relate his playing style more to that era of players. As far as current players, I would think of people like Marshall Gilkes, Michael Dease, Conrad Herwig, Andy Martin, etc...

Just my thoughts.

Thank you so much!  I edited my initial post -
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2017, 09:03AM »

What also might be interesting is comparing them to non-trombonists of their era. Perhaps the most influential jazz musician of that period. So perhaps:

Early: Louis Armstrong
Middle: Miles Davis(?) maybe Coltrane... Parker... again, that's harder to pin down than specifically trombonists obviously
Late: Later miles davis stuff? -- The 70s - 90s to me are a lot harder to define since there were so many offshoots. That alone would be enough material for a dissertation.  Miles doing the rock fusion, Chick Corea... Then there's the Ornette Coleman direction etc. etc. 
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2017, 09:14AM »

What also might be interesting is comparing them to non-trombonists of their era. Perhaps the most influential jazz musician of that period. So perhaps:

Early: Louis Armstrong
Middle: Miles Davis(?) maybe Coltrane... Parker... again, that's harder to pin down than specifically trombonists obviously
Late: Later miles davis stuff? -- The 70s - 90s to me are a lot harder to define since there were so many offshoots. That alone would be enough material for a dissertation.  Miles doing the rock fusion, Chick Corea... Then there's the Ornette Coleman direction etc. etc. 

You ought to include Arturo Sandoval....
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Matt K

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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2017, 10:25AM »

You ought to include Arturo Sandoval....

There are a lot of people one could include in that list, obviously!
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2017, 10:46AM »

An alternative to Teagarden might be Miff Mole.  He's not as famous now, but was back then.  Another early name would be Kid Ory.  I won't add George Brunies or Eddie Edwards as they often did not improvise.

For the middle, everybody's crazy about JJ (for good reason) but there are others like Trummy Young, Sam Nanton, and even Tommy Dorsey.

I'd bet there are tons of dissertations analyzing JJ, Teagarden, and someone more modern.  How about trying a different avenue?
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2017, 11:06AM »

What also might be interesting is comparing them to non-trombonists of their era. Perhaps the most influential jazz musician of that period. So perhaps:

Early: Louis Armstrong
Middle: Miles Davis(?) maybe Coltrane... Parker... again, that's harder to pin down than specifically trombonists obviously
Late: Later miles davis stuff? -- The 70s - 90s to me are a lot harder to define since there were so many offshoots. That alone would be enough material for a dissertation.  Miles doing the rock fusion, Chick Corea... Then there's the Ornette Coleman direction etc. etc. 

I have to disagree.  I have done a dissertation.  It is a long slog.  He has to keep it focused. 
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Matt K

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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2017, 12:54PM »

I have to disagree.  I have done a dissertation.  It is a long slog.  He has to keep it focused. 

Well, if you want to give good advice then maybe that makes sense  Evil  :D
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2017, 01:08PM »

An alternative to Teagarden might be Miff Mole.  He's not as famous now, but was back then.  Another early name would be Kid Ory.  I won't add George Brunies or Eddie Edwards as they often did not improvise.

For the middle, everybody's crazy about JJ (for good reason) but there are others like Trummy Young, Sam Nanton, and even Tommy Dorsey.

I'd bet there are tons of dissertations analyzing JJ, Teagarden, and someone more modern.  How about trying a different avenue?

While Miff Mole was the recording trombonist prior to Teagarden, his style was more related to cornetists of the day, playing in a "shuffling the arpeggios" kind of style that is reminiscent to some Beiderbeck and Red Nichols.

Jack Teagarden was an atomic bomb.  His style was completely original and trombonistic.  Nothing like it had occurred before and his influence reverberated throughout the trombone kingdom, never to be undone.  he was the first truly "modern" sounding trombonist. Miff Mole's style was quickly forgotten.  Miff himself ended his career sounding much like Teagarden (as much as anyone could, at least).

While I do not discount Miff's dominance as a white, recording artist prior to Teagarden, nor his obvious skill at the trombone, he is nowhere near as influential as Big T.  If there were any singular trombonist that might possibly compare, I would point to Kid Ory, who was the first influential jazz trombonist (widespread) but was an early tailgate/gut-bucket style.  Big T's style and approach continues to reverberate through the improvising trombone community today.

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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2017, 01:45PM »

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« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2017, 02:49PM »

Watrous is a marvelous musician but I don't think he's quite right for this, even though he's an amazing trombonist. He is using melodic and harmonic concepts that were available and contemporary during JJ's heyday, and refining those and making them his own, but not in a way that will be easy to contrast.

I agree with using Teagarden, JJ, and one of the contemporary 'outside' players because they'll create clearer distinctions.
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2017, 03:34PM »

I'm not sure 'technically' is a good basis for comparison. Each of these players is masterful enough technically to do what he wanted. They did use different techniques, though.

I'd say how they differed 'rhythmically' is a good chapter, and maybe 'conceptually'.

Teagarden sounds modern partly because he was more flexible rhythmically than most players of his era so he is a sort of transitional figure (in the same way that Coleman Hawkins and Lester were transitional to bop). He had a strong agility at changing subdivisions rapidly so he sounded more conversational than most players of the era. He had a strong sense of 16th-note feel over swing, which was a hallmark of later swing players. The other comparison is 'swingy-ness". Someone sent me a great scholarly treatise where they actually measured the spacing of eighth notes and expressed it as ratios during each beat. A ratio of '2' would indicate eighths played like triplet feel, because the first is twice as long as the second. A ratio of '1' is completely even eighths, which is perfectly available and viable within a swing feel. Of course, both of those variations occurred 'in the field' as did every possible fractional distance between. In general, as jazz has progressed, eighth notes have gotten more even. The other change is that more modern players were less consistent and more expressive in the spacing.

Conceptually, Teagarden was coming out of an era where improvisation was more likely to be an elaboration on the original melody, rather than 'playing over changes'. You can still hear that in his playing, and the purely improvisational portions of his solos tend to relate to the song in the same way as the original melody, almost as if he's trying to discover a new 'hot' melody that's just as good as the original. That's different from bop soloing, even though he sometimes presages it. Bop soloists also blew over pop changes, but they seemed to want to use the changes and the shape of the song as freestanding resources for blowing, without trying to reprise or even resemble the melody. Contemporary players seem to use notes in ways that relate to each other as sets of intervals, as much as to the changes, like little tone rows or something. Those are pretty clear conceptual differences to me.
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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2017, 01:09PM »

Before Teagarden, I think the best trombonist is J.C. Higginbotham.
His solo at 0:44 and 1:38
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhTKdUB0OU

J.J. is the greatest jazz trombonist of all times. (IMHOl

Instead Watrous is Ray Anderson:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EHVfjhua2Ko


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« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2017, 02:46PM »

I don't agree with definitive statements as to who is "the greatest" (in any of the arts). This isn't the Olympics; medals are not awarded.

It is subjective. I love Teagarden, Jimmy Harrison, Quentin Jackson, J.J., Rosolino, Slide Hampton, Curtis Fuller, Ray Anderson, Fontana, Roswell Rudd and countless others.

As a jazz trombonist, I count all of them as influences.
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« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2017, 07:36PM »

I know this is subjective, but I think for Middle (40's - 70's), it's Carl Fontana (even though he didn't come onto the scene until '51). I have a long list of reasons why but I'd rather just avoid getting into a debate about it......
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« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2017, 07:40PM »

If this is for a doctorate dissertation, I disagree with the whole concept. The time periods you chose do not have much meaning in the development of trombone improvising. You seem to assume that improvising on trombone is a single concept and that just is not so. What you should do is select the various styles of jazz as they occurred in the history of jazz. In some styles, improvising has continued to develop and contemporary trombonists cannot be compared from style to style, even though they might have played in the same time period. I would suggest you require many more headings as follows. Even with the extended list it is difficult to select just one trombonist for each heading and at this stage I have not even tried. I just do not think that a comparison of the three trombonists based on time is going to tell you much about the different approaches to improvisation in the different styles of jazz that exist:

Classic New Orleans Jazz -   1890s
Chicago Style         1917 on
New York Dixieland      1917 on
Duke Ellington (Swing?)      1925 on
Swing big and small Bands    1935 on
San Francisco (West Coast Revival)1940 on
Kansas City Jazz      1930 on
Bebop            1940 on
New Orleans Revival      1942 on
Cool Jazz         End of 1940s on
Free Jazz         1950s on
Hard Bop         1950s on
Modal Jazz         Late 1950s
Jazz/Rock Fusion      late 1960s
Smooth Jazz         early 1980s

Other people have their own chosen headings for the different styles/genres of jazz:
https://www.apassion4jazz.net/jazz_styles.html
http://mavesd.people.cofc.edu/jazz.htm
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_HTIbLOn3UaI/TL9OtT_LnmI/AAAAAAAAAPg/BoKqxQsha6o/s1600/timeline.gif
http://jass.com/ejazz.html

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