The oft-neglected of the brass instruments, you don’t always here their names, but you have undoubtedly heard the unmistakable deep pop as they emerge from under the rest of the horn section, growling into your ears. From Dixieland to jazz, funk, and even hip-hop trombone players have defined recordings and bands with their swinging glissandos, muted wahs, and distinctive melodic growls. Here to continue our “Evolution of the Instrument” series are the Trombone players.
Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973)
(King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five & Hot Seven, Jelly Roll Morton…)
*After meeting Louis Armstrong in King Oliver’s band, Kid Ory went on to help define Armstrong on numerous records with his distinctive energetic disposition.
Miff Mole (1898-1961)
(Original Memphis Five, Benny Goodman, Baby Dodds, WOR, NBC…)
*Miff Mole is considered one of the greatest jazz trombonists of all time based on both his style and compositions which have lived on far after he passed.
Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton (1904-1946)
(Duke Ellington Orchestra, Cliff Jackson, Elmer Snowden…)
*Aside from anchoring the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Nanton pioneered the wah-wah technique.
Juan Tizol (1900-1984)
(Duke Ellington Orchestra, Nat King Cole…)
*Juan Tizol joined Joe Nanton in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, thus allowing Ellington to do more with his trombone section. Tizol defined the use of the valve trombone in popular use. Moreover his compositions such as “Caravan” and “Perdido” still resonate today.
Glenn Miller (1904-1944)
(Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Glenn Miller Orchestra…)
*Glenn Miller was a master of leading bands, composing music, and playing trombone. His work on TV, movies, radio, with record labels, and in the armed forces is remembered as unique to him alone.
Jack Teagarden (1905-1964)
(Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Mezz Mezzrow…)
*Jack Teagarden found success within the likes of many bands before starting his own. He was a member of Playboy’s All Star Band as well as the recipient of the 1944 Esquire Magazine Gold Award. Aside from his live performances, Teagarden was also a well respected recording artist and singer.
Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956)
(Paul Whiteman, Vincent Lopez, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra…)
*Besides being an accomplished trombonist technique-wise, Dorsey was one of the great bandleaders of his time.
Dicky Wells (1907-1985)
(Ray Charles, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter…)
*Dicky Wells defined a style that was simple both percussively and melodically, yet still so compelling.
Benny Morton (1907-1985)
(Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Fletcher Henderson…)
*Best known for his work in jazz orchestras during the swing era, Morton set up a position filled by many after him.
J.J. Johnson (1922-2001)
(Lester Young, Count Basie, Max Roach, Charlie Parker…)
*JJ Johnson brought trombonists into bebop to contend with sax and trumpet as a leading force in the genre. He is noted to be the leader of the jazz trombone resurgence after it fell out for a little while.
Kai Winding (1922-1983)
(Benny Goodman, JJ Johnson, Creed Taylor, Anita Kerr…)
*Kai Winding is known for his large sound in recordings alongside JJ Johnson, Benny Goodman, and on his own records.
Frank Rosolino (1926-1978)
(Charlie Parker, Gene Krupa, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett…)
*Frank Rosolino innovated the way he got his sound. He played with partials and positions to gain a unique tonality that many sought to emulate.
Ku-umba Frank Lacy (1959-)
(Dizzy Gillespie, Mingus Big Band, Branford Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Soultronics…)
*Playing with the best in the game, Frank Lacy made a renowned name for himself. Moreover, as a member of D’Angelo’s touring band, the Soultronics, Lacy represents trombone in a popular music context. His versatility is evident in these two clips.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (1986-)
(Trombone Shorty, U2, Green Day…)
*Trombone Shorty is a triple threat on the bone, trumpet, and vocals. He is keeping the energy, enthusiasm, and talent alive in the next generation.
As always, this is an incomplete list. Chime in with your favorite trombone innovators or anyone we missed!