Tag Archives: Jazz

The Unknown History of Jazz Trombone, Part 1

Recently I’ve been busy studying the amazing history of jazz trombone – diving into deep tradition while searching for hidden treasures.  What I’ve discovered is that much of the music made by great trombone masters has yet to make it into the digital era.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting about some of my favorite trombone LPs in an effort to raise awareness of these unsung heroes of Jazz music.

Unknown Session
Duke Ellington (w/ Lawrence Brown)

This record was made on July 14th, 1960, soon after Lawrence Brown rejoined the Duke Ellington Orchestra after a 10 year hiatus.  It also features stellar performances from Ray Nance, Johnny Hodges, and Harry Carney.  Brown, perhaps because of his return to the organization, is featured extensively on the first side of the LP.  He plays with such incredible grace and confidence that I’ve come to hear this record as one of the greatest recorded jazz trombone performances in the history of the music.  It breaks my heart that it isn’t more well known.

Black Beauty and Mood Indigo are my two favorite tracks.  On Black Beauty you can hear Ellington quietly chortling his approval in the background during a particularly swinging ensemble section, and then Brown plays the melody in such an individualistic way that it seems more like recomposition than interpretation, even though he pretty much sticks to the script.  It has to be heard to be believed.  Mood Indigo is Brown’s real tour de force, though.  Starting with a few bars of melody and quickly evolving into embellishment and filigree, Brown shows his true mastery of the jazz trombone style over his chorus and a half of improvisation.

I first discovered this record when I was writing a paper on Mood Indigo for Anthony Coleman’s Duke Ellington class at NEC.  I headed down to Firestone Library and started getting as many LPs and CDs as I could, determined to listen to many many different versions of the composition.  The first recording I put on the turntable was LP 865 – the Unknown Session – an inconspicuous record if ever there was one, and imagine my surprise when Brown’s trombone playing leapt out of the headphones.  Needless to say, any research plans for the afternoon were derailed as I listened to Brown’s performance over and over. 

I’ve searched, and I’m pretty sure that the only way to hear this record is to buy it on LP.  I think, for a developing trombonist, that it might be worth it to buy a turntable solely to listen to this record.  Fortunately there are enough copies out there, that it’s almost always avaliable on Ebay.  It’s a masterpiece!
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I would also like to take this opportunity to remind folks that next week I am sharing a solo concert with alto saxophonist James Wylie.  I think it’s going to be a really fun time, and I’m excited to hear what James is going to bring to the table.  Please come out if you are free that night!

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Stupor

Randy Pingrey Trio – March 23rd 2010

Stupor

Four Decembers (previously performed here)

Randy Pingrey: trombone
James Wylie: alto sax
Ezra Weller: trumpet

Look at the score to Stupor (pdf).

The RPT performed as part of the third Boston Comprovised concert.  As always, our very sincere thanks goes out to Dan VanHassel and Travis Alford for having us play.  Thanks guys!

Stupor was a totally new composition for the trio, and it’s the first, cautious, step into writing more traditionally notated material.  Like many of my peers, the music of Steve Lacy has been a really eye-opening influence, and the new tune is a little tip of the hat to Mr. Lacy.

As always, thank you very much for listening!

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Duo with Peter Negroponte

Randy Pingrey – trombone
Peter Negroponte – drums

The First

The Second

The Third

The Fourth

The Last

Recorded Saturday, March 27th in Boston, MA at NEC

As for his feet, sometimes he wore on each a sock, or on the one a sock and on the other a stocking, or a boot, or a shoe, or a slipper, or a sock and a boot, or a sock and a shoe, or a sock and a slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a stocking, or on the one a stocking and on the other a boot, or a shoe, or a slipper, or a sock and a boot, or a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a boot, or on the one a boot and on the other a shoe, or a slipper, or a sock and boot, or a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometime he wore on each a shoe, or on the one a shoe and on the other a slipper, or a sock and boot, or a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a slipper, or on the one a slipper and on the other a sock and boot, or a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometime he wore on each a sock and boot, or on the one a sock and boot and on the other a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a sock and shoe, or on the one a sock and shoe and on the other a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a sock and slipper, or on the one a sock and slipper and on the other a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a stocking and boot, or on the one a stocking and boot and on the other a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometime he wore on each a stocking and shoe, or on the one a stocking and shoe and on the other a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.  And sometimes he wore on each a stocking and slipper, or on the one a stocking and slipper and on the other nothing at all.  And sometimes he went barefoot.                                 -Samuel Beckett

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March 7th

Randy Pingrey Trio/Quartet at the Kaji Aso Studio

Scribe – for Morton Feldman

Thriving – for Anton Webern

Short Notes – for Anthony Braxton

Grock (Solo Trombone) – for Luciano Berio

Long Notes – for Anthony Braxton

Four Decembers – for Earle Brown

Randy Pingrey – trombone
Ezra Weller – trumpet
Chris Veilleux – alto sax, flute
and special guest – Kathy Olson – flute

On March 7th, the Randy Pingrey Trio +1 opened for Shaw Pong Liu’s amazing Ligeti string quartet project.  I couldn’t have been happier with the way the evening turned out – Ezra, Chris, and Kathy all played amazingly (check out the end of Short Notes for some pretty sick ensemble playing), and it was the first time I heard Ligeti’s first String Quartet (it was stunning).  As always, thank you very much for listening!

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Standards in Solitude

Randy Pingrey – Alone

Easy Living

Sweet Sue

Come Sunday – solo piano

Deed I Do

Randy Pingrey – all instruments and arrangements (except for Deed I Do, which is based on a Kathy Olson arrangement)

I recorded these tracks over the past few months using a small digital four-track device.  It started out as something that I was doing just for fun, but eventually I realized that I had pull together a few of my favorite tracks to release here.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Chasing the Bird

While at NEC, I was fortunate enough to study for a year with the famed trombonist-extraordinare Robin Eubanks.  For a while, I was bringing in Charlie Parker solos to work on with him, and in one of our lessons he said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

You know, someone should take some time to transpose these solos up a fourth.  They’re really in the pumpin’ register.

After you take a second to chuckle at the phrase “pumpin’ register”,  let me explain what he meant: When trombone players practice Parker’s solos (say, from the Omnibook or from their own transcription), we play what Parker played, but down an octave.  Unfortunately, the “money register” for a saxophone tends to skew lower on the instrument’s available tessitura than what is common for the average jazz trombonist.  As a result, here is what a trombone player looks at when they try to play a Charlie Parker solo:

To a jazz trombonist, the preceding excerpt, although playable, doesn’t really lay in an idiomatic fashion on the horn.  When a trombone is played in its lower register, all of the slide positions are further apart compared to the closer positions of the higher register.  In other words, what Robin meant by “pumpin’ register”,  is that the solo is just too damn low and one has to move the slide too much.  Bebop is already hard enough on the trombone, and the range that trombonists play Parker’s solos in certainly doesn’t make these tricky solos any easier.  Here is what the same excerpt looks like when it’s transposed up a fourth:

Now we’re talking!  The range is much more reflective of what jazz trombonists actually play.  So, I went ahead and I transposed the whole solo up a perfect fourth, just like Robin suggested.  Here, take a look and listen for yourself:

Moose the Mooche (pdf file)

The benefits are pretty clear – I’ve been working on the solo for about a week, and the bebop vocabulary feels much better suited to my instrument.  I suppose one could argue that it would be more valuable to study Parker’s solos at the original pitch, but I’ve always thought that the jazz tradition is ours to play with, so why not?

I also went ahead and did the same thing to Parker’s solo on Donna Lee.  Check it out too:

Birds Solo on Donna Lee (pdf file)
(I haven’t had the time to work on this solo, so I can’t totally swear by its accuracy, and there’s not yet an audio file for me to post.  Besides, it’s really, really hard…)

So anyways, feel free to download these solos, and share them with your trombone playing friends!

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The Olson Pingrey Quartet at Rutman’s

December 10th, 2009

On the D.L. “by” Randy Pingrey

Tygart Valley by Kathy Olson

Stone Age Rhumba by Randy Pingrey (more info)

Blues for Mac by Kathy Olson

Reverie by Kathy Olson

My Waltz by Kathy Olson

Low Contrast by Randy Pingrey (more info)

Venus de Milo by Gerry Mulligan, arranged by Randy Pingrey

Kathy Olson – bari sax
Randy Pingrey – trombone
Mark Zaleski – bass
Austin McMahon – drums

What a great evening!  Kathy and I can’t thank Mark and Austin enough for being so shockingly perfect for our music, and it was wonderful to see so many people at the gig.

And special thanks goes to Rutman’s Violins for having us play…

…and an extra special thanks goes to Joel and Laura for being totally awesome.

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