This article is copyright 2007 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in the International Trombone Association Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, January 2008. It is used by permission of the author and, as needed, the publication. Some text variations may occur between the print version and that below. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.
Jazz Trombone and the Microphone
by Antonio J. García
Associate Jazz Editor, ITA Journal
Perhaps no single musical element identifies jazz musicians more than their personal sound. Given the liberties jazz players may constantly choose that the classical genre does not so frequently allow, the section leaders of jazz bands—much less their soloists—can be readily identifiable in as soon as a single note.
Technology has evolved along with jazz, particularly the amplification of live and recorded sound. The electronics have influenced the players and vice-versa. And after some 90 years of jazz history, we are at a point where differences of opinion often divide trombonists and their listeners as to what that sound should be.
Does playing trombone solos close-mic in some way “cheat” or disrespect the sound of what I might call, for lack of a better brief term, the “full-on,” more mic-distant and open trombone-soloing tradition? Are there advantages, disadvantages, differences, and/or prejudices? I have personally witnessed—as with such heady subjects as politics and religion—heated debates that can occur between respected individuals on and after the gig about the topic of the microphone and its relationship to the sound of the jazz trombone.
So I figured it was high time we look at the topic in our ITA Journal. In a highly unscientific manner, I contacted some 30 respected players and inquired about their views. I reached out across continents, genders, and age groups. More than half of them replied, and not all “for the record.” One trombonist who described it as “a beautifully volatile topic” captured the thoughts of some participants. And two well-known performers did expressly decline to share any thoughts for publication, one stating “I wouldn’t get in the middle of that,” another not wanting to “jump in this quagmire of dissension.”
I doubt that any discussion regarding “the ideal jazz trombone sound” would last long: jazz, by its definition, calls for individuality of expression. What I hope to do is illuminate the understandings that provide the foundation for various schools of thought on the issue so that hopefully everyone can come away from this with not only a more thorough understanding of the position they themselves hold but also a more healthy respect for the logic of any opposing view(s). That, to me, is good education.
None of the trombonists quoted within this article had access to the others’ replies; so I am grateful to each for their willingness to contribute their thoughts independently. Some of their answers are presented anonymously.
Antonio García: When you were developing your sound early on, which trombonists particularly inspired you with their close-mic sound?
Various: Albert Mangelsdorff, Bill Reichenbach, Bill Watrous, Bob McChesney, Carl Fontana, Curtis Fuller, Dante Luciani, David Gibson, Frank Rosolino, Hal Crook, Harry Waters, Jiggs Whigham, Jim Pugh, Joe Prejean, John Fedchock, Lawrence Brown, Paul McKee, Quentin Jackson, Slide Hampton, Urbie Green.
Steve Wiest: Carl Fontana and Bill Watrous. It seemed to me that in those days Jim Pugh was doing some live Woody Herman recordings with the close-mic sound as well. I really enjoyed the efficient-sounding nature of this lighter sound—and the “beyond-trombone” quality it produced.
Deborah Weisz: I really loved Carl Fontana’s sound, on mic or off. I didn't really think of Carl's sound as a “close-mic” sound, just as a wonderful, warm sound on the trombone.
Ray Anderson: I had no concept about mics. I’m old enough to have grown up in the pre-PA period. A big sound was a goal and a necessity. I played rhythm-and-blues; and PA’s were rudimentary, to say the least. Usually only vocalists had mics.
García: And which trombonists inspired you with their open-horn sound?
Various: Al Grey, Andy Martin, Carl Fontana, Conrad Herwig, Curtis Fuller, Dave Bargeron, Frank Rosolino, Fred Wesley, Freddie Assunto, J.J. Johnson, Jack Teagarden, James Pankow, John Allred, Lawrence Brown, Phil Wilson, Quentin Jackson, Slide Hampton, Tom “Bones” Malone, Tommy Dorsey, Tricky Sam Nanton, Trummy Young, Tyree Glenn, Urbie Green, Vic Dickenson, Wayne Henderson.
Allen Hermann: There are wonderful players such as Wycliffe Gordon who defy classification!
Doug Sertl: The trombonists that inspired me as a young player and even today have nothing to do with how they use a mic. It’s all based on how they play: their musical ideas, mastery of the instrument, soul.
Anderson: I’ve always been inspired by people with big sounds: Vic Dickenson, Trummy Young, J.C. Higginbotham, Dickie Wells, Bennie Morton, and the like.
Jiggs Whigham: Most all classical trombonists have a great open-horn sound, as well as so many jazz players.
Wiest: One of the greatest exponents of using both sounds is my absolute hero on the instrument: Slide Hampton. Whichever direction or sound Slide chooses always seems to be natural and musically appropriate.
John Fedchock: My first inspirations to become a jazz trombonist all came through listening to studio recordings; so, in essence, every trombonist was close-miked. Check out YouTube, and look at the distance the microphone is from a variety of players. The proximity of the microphone is similar in most instances. The sound engineer has the power to turn the level up or down. Close-miking is not really the issue here: this is really more of a playing-volume issue.
Some may say that this is a trombone-sound issue. But I have worked alongside some of the giants of the jazz trombone, and I personally find no distinction between players’ personalized “open-horn” sound and the volume they are playing. Slide Hampton’s sound at a soft volume has the same dark richness as it does at louder volumes. Urbie Green’s sound, belting it out at his loudest, still has all the beauty of his soft ballad playing. I’ve stood next to Al Grey playing coolly into a microphone and heard the same brilliant sound he displayed when crackling through a plunger. I’ve also sat six feet in front of Carl Fontana while he tried horns for an hour, putting them through their paces at all volumes. His inherent sound remained the same.
Ray Anderson and Mark Blankenship at Virginia Commonwealth University.
García: Some trombonists find close-mic soloing a cop-out, saying that it masks the true “open-horn” sound of the instrument. Your thoughts?
Michael Davis: I couldn’t disagree more. Seems to me, Carl and Frank both had great sounds whether they were playing into a mic or not. The players I like today are the same way.
Wiest: I agree and yet disagree here. It does indeed mask the true open-horn quality of the trombone, but I find that sound to be very attractive and desirable. It adds one more color to the compositional palette of improvisation. I think of the close-mic sound in the same manner as I consider a mute.
Anderson: I think it’s very important to develop a sound that represents you. I don’t believe one should rely on a microphone for that. But perhaps you play quietly.....
I just heard Slide Hampton with two young trombonists and marveled at the way they could all stand perfectly still and play with the mics right on their bell. I could never do that. Different strokes for different folks.
I’ve been using a clip-on mic and a wireless transmitter/receiver for some years. The clip-on might seem like the ultimate in close-miking, but actually it functions like no-miking in that the dynamics have to produced by the musician. You can’t swallow it and make your soft stuff loud, and you can’t get away from it to make your loud stuff softer. I love it because I can wander around the stage and bend over or whatever I need to do without my sound going out of the PA.
Hermann: Let me hear their sounds and articulations open-horn before I pass judgment.
Rick Simerly: I don’t feel that close-mic is a “cop-out.” Obviously if you get too close to the mic, the natural sound of the ’bone is affected; but most players who use the mic know how to do it. They usually know the correct distance from the mic, exactly what they want in the sound and for the EQ [equalization] of the instrument.
It could also be argued that the true sound of the instrument is the controlled sound that a close-mic player gets. It isn’t forced or out of focus, which is sometimes the case when an “open-horn player” has to play to a big room. Then again, close-mic players are sometimes at the mercy of the sound system, which varies from venue to venue.
I’ve always felt trombonists have to be flexible and that the most important thing is to “play the room.” If you have a good sound system and can use it to your advantage, then do so. If not, it shouldn’t ruin your night. Once I played with a 40-piece trombone group and a kicking rhythm section. My mic was the only one available: it ran through the tiny ceiling speakers and sounded horrible. I just had to suck it up and play loud without it. I felt my sound was forced and the performance flawed, but I had no choice in the matter.
Tom Brantley: I do not think close-mic playing is a cop-out. If anything, I think it is the opposite because it takes so much control and air to play that softly and produce the many notes and wide range that the close-mic folks usually perform. Also, your sound, your tone must be really focused.
On the other hand, as a listener and a player, I think that close-mic playing can really limit the colors of sound that can be created, along with really limiting your dynamic range. And another limitation as a close-mic player is that you are at the mercy of the sound-person and the sound equipment being used (the mic, monitors, speakers, etc.).
Scott Whitfield: I see no reason the two schools of thought can’t coexist peacefully. It is, after all, a choice.
Ed Neumeister: To each his/her own.
Whigham: The “cop-out” is an unfortunate and silly premise! These are simply two different techniques! I have had to play out without the opportunity of a mic (such as in the Kenton band) and have also done a great deal of recording and concerts where a soft, intimate sound is required. Both have their place! I feel that an artist’s personal “voice” is paramount: all the great jazz artists have had one. Whichever microphone technique enables the production of the “voice” is the choice of the artist.
Delfeayo Marsalis: Close-miking can be helpful in large auditorium and outdoor settings, but players should never rely upon the microphone and amplification to create their tone and sense of projection.
Weisz: My own preference is to play more “open-horn” in situations that require a mic. But sometimes in performance it may be necessary to play close-mic, particularly when the trombone soloist is performing with a big band and amplified rhythm section. You need a mic to get through all that sound; and if the sound situation and/or mic is not adequate, you may choose to play close-mic for more “presence.” Sound is personal, and what one person likes may not be another's “cup of tea.” Such is life and the art of music!
Fedchock: It’s rare in today’s jazz festivals or concert halls to actually hear a group playing completely acoustically. Knowledge and use of amplification is necessary in today’s jazz world. I’ve spent considerable time over the years studying sound-reinforcement just to find ways for a sound system to not “mask” my natural, open-horn sound. Regardless of musical approach, eventually everyone will need to play into a microphone for a major performance. I’ve heard many who have a great acoustic sound but when faced with playing into a microphone do not handle it correctly—and all the time they’ve spent toward gaining their own individualized sound is lost.
Technically speaking, there are natural correlations between playing-volume and facility. Flexibility throughout the overtone series and executing intricate passages can be achieved with a little more ease at a moderate volume. But I wouldn’t call it a cop-out, if persons are honestly expressing themselves, musically speaking. I believe it becomes a cop-out when used for the wrong reasons.
For some, a danger can be in developing a solo style that’s too focused on “chops” and facility and not enough on musical content. Those players, as well as another type basing their style purely on attention-getting blasts and musically baseless effects, have fostered heated debate over this “microphone” subject. Overall, I believe this debate to be over musical issues involving a select, diametrically opposed few, not necessarily a microphone-specific issue affecting all.
I’m not one for stereotypes; but there are some people, both musicians and non-musicians, that seem to expect or prefer that the trombone be played strongly most of the time. This stereotype may be perpetuating the issue. To the general public, the trombone’s “character” is expected to be brash, bold, or even sometimes comical. That character doesn’t come through as apparently at moderate volumes, possibly spoiling many people’s preconceived expectations. So, rather than “fighting City Hall,” some players unfortunately repress the exploration of their own more sensitive sides.
I believe the trombone, like other instruments, should be offered every opportunity to think “outside the box.” Would you expect to have a modern guitarist like Pat Metheny play unamplified on a Freddie Green-type acoustic guitar? Of course not. He would lose his identifiable approach. When a young Miles Davis realized he didn’t initially possess the dynamic flair of Dizzy Gillespie, thank goodness he realized that one of his contributions to jazz could be a more subtle, understated approach to playing.
Ultimately, a jazz player’s approach and sound should be a direct result of his personality. I believe myself to have a soft-spoken and somewhat understated side. Over my 30 years as a jazz musician, those personality qualities, among many others, are now reflected in my playing. Ignoring those more subtle ideas because they may not be expressed as idiomatically on the trombone has never been an option for me.
Everyone should be able to express their complete personality through their music, regardless of their chosen instrument. Whether in or out of a mic, played loudly or softly, contrasting styles can only complement each other in the bigger picture, setting each other apart and adding to each of their importance. In jazz, as in life, difference is what makes the world go ’round.
García: Is close-mic soloing a genre unto itself, say, as much as the classical guitar and the jazz guitar are so often addressed as two different instrumental techniques (if not instruments)?
Neumeister: It’s part of our style for sure.
Mark Mullins: Just as the guitar has many different sounds it can use and still be called a guitar, so does the trombone. Inherently it has the ability to be an incredibly dynamic instrument, and I would consider the use of close-miking to be just another way to gain a different sound out of the horn. You don’t have to like it, but it is part of what a trombone can do. I will say it is not my favorite way to go these days. Twenty years ago it was.
I see the reason for choosing close-miking as a solution to be heard in difficult situations. When you can’t hear yourself in a loud situation, you know that if you bury your bell in and “eat” that mic it will get you closer to where you want to be. You feel as though you have power to bypass that soundman who has not been getting it done for you all night. This opens up a proverbial can of worms in regard to sound-reinforcement, keeping your sound decent out front, and keeping the monitor-guy on your side. (I hear the sighs already.)
Sometimes close-miking can work nicely as an effect if you are careful with it. It’s almost like a guitar pedal that boosts you to the lead channel of the guitar amp for a solo. But most of the time it creates a dark muddy blob of sound that creates havoc for the mix out front: although you might hear a little better, it can ruin the sound of the entire group.
Simerly: I’m not sure close-mic playing is a genre unto itself, but I do think there is an art to the technique of close-mic playing and open-sound playing. Close-mic players have to know about sound, distance, EQ, and more when relying on a mic and sound system. They also have a control to their sound and can measure the volume-peaks in their sound so as to not distort. Open-sound players have to know how to project in certain situations. This involves getting a great sound with a lot of volume and being able to play fast and articulate at higher volumes.
Wiest: I believe that close-mic playing is its own genre. In my own sensibilities, I feel close-mic soloing to be one of the many musical options that make the trombone such an ideal jazz instrument.
Whitfield: No. It’s simply a different concept of sound.
Marsalis: Close-mic soloing is clearly not a genre. Instruments that rely upon electricity for amplification cannot be compared to those that are naturally resonant. When we hear great soloists on acoustic instruments, it is the resonance and tone of the instrument that attracts us along with the melodic ideas. No one has ever suggested close-mic opera singing, nor will they ever!
Davis: I don’t think close-mic is its own genre. Many times we have to use a mic to compete with other louder, electronically amplified instruments. But being a jazz soloist has much more to do with the actual content of what you are playing than it does with whether you are using a mic or not. Time feel, harmonic knowledge, the ability to react musically to what’s going on in the rhythm section, the building of a solo will always be more important elements than whether one is using a mic or not.
Sertl: Close-mic soloing is definitely not a genre. It doesn’t affect how well you play, your technique, or your flexibility. It’s really not anything except how close you want to get to your mic. The only change is that if you swallow the mic with your bell, you might sound like a jazz kazoo.
Brantley: I don’t see it as really its own genre. For instance, the group “Bonerama” consists of five guys playing “close-mic” all of the time. They are often playing “all-out,” whereas most other close mic-players are usually playing quite soft. “Bonerama” could be considered “jazz/rock” rather than straight-ahead jazz as most other close-mic players are.
García: Regardless of your preferred style of soloing live, do you have to compromise in some way in the recording studio—or vice-versa?
Marsalis: No. The more relaxed you are in any situation, the better your tone will project. Using isolation booths and close-miking in the studio tends to make for a sterile, clear, and one-dimensional-sounding recording. Many times the rhythm section sounds like a play-along track, with no sense of dynamic or rhythmic interplay.
Neumeister: When recording, I usually don’t move around as much as I might on a live gig. But otherwise, I use the mic for all the sound possibilities available: up close for a certain dark sound, and various distances for other sounds (including completely off the mic). If one uses dynamics at all, then the mic’s distance is important so as not to overblow and distort the sound when playing louder.
Simerly: The studio can be a totally different animal. It depends on the situation: whether section work, solo work, same-room location, everyone in isolation booths, etc. However, for a solo mic, I think trombonists need to first find a mic that best recreates their sound. Establish a correct distance from the mic in order to get the sound you prefer, and set the levels in correlation to the distance according to the volumes you’ll be playing. I have never liked the “room-sound” of being too far away from the mic.
Sertl: The mic is simply a tool. When I solo with a big band, I almost never use a mic during rehearsal; but I make sure I don’t allow myself to overblow to be heard over a 17-piece big band. At the concert I definitely use a mic—with proper monitors, if possible. The best position for the mic, I find, is 2-4 inches away from the horn. If it’s a rehearsal with a bigger group, say jazz orchestra, I probably would ask for a mic in rehearsal. The point is to amplify the pure sound of the horn. Getting too close to or swallowing the mic with the bell tends to muffle your sound.
The same is true in recording. In the almost 30 years I’ve been recording, the concept is basically the same. The mic is 4-6 inches away from the horn, and I'm using a medium volume. The key, without a doubt, is having a great engineer! Choosing the right mic and the right person “turning the knobs” makes all the difference. You don’t need to blow the same volume as live: you just need a good engineer and mics.
Whitfield: No difference. I play the way I play.
Weisz: No. I have not had to compromise in the recording studio, due to wonderful mics being available that allow me to play more “open-horn.”
Mullins: Sure, for me these tend to be two different things, although one tries to remove that wall. In the studio I try to make sure whatever comes out is driven from the same internal fire that a live solo might be born out of. Ain’t always easy! And playing live, I sometimes like to think as though it’s a recording session in order to make myself focus better on specific performance issues (remembering parts, intonation, etc.) that sometimes get set aside because it’s “just” a live gig. That’s one reason I like to record my live performances.
Anderson: Yes, you have to adjust in the studio. You can’t go off mic, and you have to be careful not to overblow and freak out the mic. In the studio you are also trying often to get just the essence of what the musical idea is: you don’t necessarily want to play the 25-minute solo. Of course, this is one reason why live recordings are so wonderful and valuable.
Whigham: I often have to adjust. For example, when soloing in front of a big band or large orchestra, I prefer to use a mic. However, I’ll often step to the side of the mic and not use it for cadenzas (unless it’s in a recording studio or an enormous hall).
Wiest: In artistic recording situations, I try to make sure that my microphone-placement is such that it picks up my true sound at any dynamic level. Then, of course, the end result rests upon the quality of the mixing process. Therefore, it is super-important to use a high-level ribbon mic as well as a high-level “blue-ribbon” engineer! A true master of this process is Phil Bulla, who mixed my recent CD as well as Maynard Ferguson’s final project. Phil has also engineered all of the University of North Texas 1:00 Lab Band recordings since 1985. I feel that engineers of this quality are all-important in achieving the ultimate studio sound. They can actually reproduce both the open- and close-mic textures using mixing techniques.
Whitfield: Personally, the closest I ever get to a microphone is about 6-8 inches—and sometimes not even that close, depending on the situation. I enjoy being in control of my acoustic sound but will definitely use the mic for extra presence.
Davis: Of course playing in the studio and playing live require slightly different approaches; but the most important elements of good playing—sound, time, pitch—are the same no matter what or where we are playing.
García: Do you recommend any particular practice regimen for developing one’s close-mic solo sound?
Davis: It seems to me it would be the same recommendation for developing a good overall sound. Have a clear mental picture of your sound at all times. Make use of your practice time to focus on sound so that when you go to play jazz, your sound is second-nature and not your primary focus. Don’t overblow the microphone.
Fedchock: I haven’t practiced for an “open-horn” or a “close-mic” sound. I just practice to have a good sound: a combination of all the good sounds (on all instruments) that I’ve heard over the years. Hours and hours of long-tones have brought me to the sound I now have. Playing into microphones has had no bearing on that. I strive to have the same qualities of timbre in my sound, whether on or off a mic. Those who have sat next me in a section know that my lead playing, even when pushing the dynamic envelope, retains the same qualities present in my softer microphone-playing.
J.J. Johnson had a similar view about sound-quality and playing-volume. He relayed one of his practice concepts to Steve Turre, as quoted in an October 1997 JazzTimes article “’Bone Voyage,” in which Steve said:
I was talking with J.J. on the phone when he was still living in L.A. about developing my sound, and he told me to play long tones soft. You want a big sound so you practice with a big sound; but he said, “No, practice soft.” When you can get it to be round and pretty when it’s soft, then when you play loud it’s gonna’ be round and pretty, too. Just like when you want to play fast, practice slow, the same thing with sound. It was like “ding, I never thought of that”; but it’s so obvious. J.J. said play so soft it hurts—so when a master tells you, I just try to do it. When you get down real soft, it’s harder than playing loud as you can; and it showed me something about control.
Mullins: Practice on a close mic with a PA or headphones. And understand where these monitor-engineers come from: some of them are very good and know more about what we do than you think they do. Give them respect when you walk in, and you’ll be amazed at what they’ll try to do for you to keep you happy all night.
Rodger Fox: When I am in a recording situation, I tend to play as if I were performing live and do not alter my sound or style. I feel this captures my style and sound. For a hard-blowing solo, I stay off-mic 12-18 inches. If I am playing a ballad, I would work 4-6 inches from the mic and play with my practiced, focused, soft sound.
I favor a consistent practice and performance method, practicing soft and loud, only using the close-mic technique as just one of the tools for a soloist. It has been my experience that if I practice at a soft volume with a focused air-stream and sound I am able to use this directly onto the mic for the close-mic sound. But I also recommend practicing exercises with a full, loud sound to be able to have the technique and chops to play a solo without a mic. In my opinion, soloists need to use all the colors that the trombone can produce, not by only playing with a close-mic style.
Hermann: I really would like my horn to sound like it does in my living room when I practice. Studio recording gives me my best shot in the world of sounding the way I sound in my living room. I don’t see any need for me to compromise there.
But it’s usually not possible to get that to happen in a club or concert venue. Add the drums, and I need a mic. Add crowd noise in a club, add a mic! What seems to matter to me is that I hear my sound clearly and that it has “presence” during soloing.
Some trombone players actually use a close-mic to reduce the high-end sounds, sometimes “swallowing” the mike. But I prefer a flat EQ, with the bell about 2-4 inches from the mic. I noticed in playing with Carl Fontana that he also preferred a flat EQ, with his bell about 6-10 inches from the mic. He seemed to need less feedback to his ears from the mic system than I do—but his sound was a bit bigger than mine.
For developing a good close-mic sound—or a good sound in general—I am a big fan of long-tones. I remember taking a lesson from Dick Nash in the mid-’80s; and his advice was to play lots of long-tones, with crescendos and decrescendos for each tone. I am trained as a physicist, and for years I had tried gimmick after gimmick to achieve a great sound. But it was after doing long-tones for some years that I finally found more or less the sound I had been looking for. Dick Nash finally solved my problem: lots of practice and lots of long-tones! I have passed that on to students over the years, and it has seemed to work for them as well.
Brantley: I always recommend players to not limit themselves or specialize. I think young players should be able to “play the occasion”; so therefore, they should practice playing with a great sound at all times, with most practice on the softer side. Only practice playing loud when playing a piece or improvisation that calls for it—unless there is a specific need to work on sound-projection or “loud playing.”
Marsalis: Avoid close-mic playing like the plague it is; but if you must, use the Yamaha Silent Brass or comparable device to gauge the articulation and tone quality.
Wiest: To start out, I always recommend that one have a role model in the area of tone. Carry this role model with you in your mind at all times, and adjust your tone accordingly! Eventually you will synthesize the role models into your own voice.
As far as a process when playing close-mic, the obvious first step is to control your dynamic level. If you can get a sound engineer to set your mic and leave it alone, you can then move in and out of the pickup area just as a jazz vocalist would: the closer you are to the microphone, the softer your dynamic level should be. I tend to prefer hearing myself in the house speakers when I am close-mic, but many artists favor a special monitor mix for this purpose.
I recommend that you get with a sound-engineer friend and some other musical pals who will listen from the audience-seats for you as you go through many mics, settings, EQs, and more to establish your own preferences.
Sertl: Don’t waste your time practicing any kind of mic technique. Practice mastering your instrument: develop a good strong sound, work on your soloing, and listen to the greats. How you use a mic will not improve how you play. If you can’t play your way out of a paper bag without a mic, you can’t play your way out of a paper bag with a mic shoved up your bell. Spend your time working on things that will improve your playing. Once you’re out playing gigs and soloing, how to use a mic will come with practice and error.
Weisz: I believe the focus should be on continuing to develop one’s own personal sound and bringing that sound to all situations, including those that require use of a microphone. But it is a good idea to learn a bit about microphones: which ones work best for trombone and what sound EQ may be needed when working with a microphone that is not ideal for trombone. No matter your personal preference for playing on mic, a little education in this area will be helpful.
Ed Neumeister (playing)
and Virginia Commonwealth University brass students.
García: Would you care to name several currently active trombonists who seem to you adept at soloing close-mic, open-horn, or both styles easily?
Neumeister: As far as I can see and hear, all the top players have good mic technique. It’s part of the gig.
Simerly: I have found that some people are offended by characterizing them as either and usually argue the point that they can also play loud or soft.
Sertl: I don’t know any players based on their mic technique, just based on whether they can play or not.
One Respondent: Close-mic: Andy Martin, Bill Watrous, Bob McChesney, Curtis Fuller, John Fedchock, Paul McKee. Open horn: Alex Iles, Conrad Herwig, Luis Bonilla, Pat Hallaran, Pete McGuinness, Robin Eubanks, Scott Whitfield, Slide Hampton, Steve Armour, Steve Davis, Steve Turre.
Another: Slide Hampton is my favorite example of someone who uses both styles at a virtuoso level. Tom Garling and Steve Davis are two more great artists that can make wonderfully organic use of both open- and close-technique. I think Steve Turre is one of the strongest exponents of the open-horn jazz trombone sound today: he continues to knock me out with what he can do on the horn.
As far as close-mic exemplars, Paul McKee comes instantly to mind. Paul not only makes this sound viable and desirable, but when you hear him use it, it’s difficult to think of any other way to play at all! A couple of other young artists that seem to have a grasp of the entire spectrum of the instrument are Michael Dease and Elliot Mason: these guys are absolutely killin’!
Another: Bill Reichenbach, Bob McChesney, Andy Martin, Conrad Herwig, John Fedchock, John Allred, Slide Hampton, Steve Davis, Larry Farrell, Mark Nightingale, Jim Pugh, and Birch Johnson are some players who I think sound good on the mic and without a mic. I don’t know anyone who has a bad sound open-horn yet has a good sound close-mic.
Another: Soloists of today that can play in both genres include Jim Pugh, John Fedchock, Steve Wiest, and Bill Reichenbach.
Another: Wycliffe Gordon and Steve Wiest are mostly open. Steve Turre, Robin Eubanks, Conrad Herwig, and Slide Hampton do both.
Another: Urbie Green, Bill Watrous, Andy Martin, Alex Isles, Curtis Fuller, Phil Wilson, Bart Van Lier, Mark Nightingale, and Jiggs Whigham all use both techniques very well.
Another: One of my favorites is Ed Neumeister, who has a wonderful sound open-horn or on mic. In particular, he really knows how to play with the mute/plunger combination on a mic and still get wonderful “presence,” which can be a challenge.
Michael Davis and Bryan
Hooten at Virginia Commonwealth University.
García: Your additional thoughts? Angles I’ve missed?
Hermann: It’s all about sound and articulation to me. I don’t care so much where the mic is as long as the sound is good. That having been said, I rarely have heard a trombone sound I liked without miking. Exceptions are of course related to small or really great acoustical venues.
As a physicist, I can say that the attack is critical to the sound. It contains the high frequencies; so tonguing is most important to sound. If it takes a mic for the tonguing to be heard, so be it.
Anderson: Again, I would caution that your tone, your sound, is your voice. You don’t want to only be heard when there is a PA, do you?
Marsalis: Bob McChesney has a great book for multiple tonguing. In his description of developing the doodle, he pretty much sums up the main problem with close-mic playing: “Be aware that fast legato playing on the trombone is more difficult to perform accurately at louder volumes. This is not to say that variation is not possible—the variation will be within a generally lower dynamic range.”
The only reason a person would use a close mic is to play fast, play in the upper register, or to do both simultaneously. In general, the close-mic concept discourages using the trombone’s full dynamic range and promotes dispassionate performance.
Fox: I have never been a fan of a completely close-mic style of playing. I find players who always use a close-mic technique end up losing endurance and the ability to perform in a totally acoustic environment. It’s like only practicing at a soft volume and not developing a complete overall sound.
I would not recommend to any student or performer to develop a completely close-mic style of playing. To be able to work in the business of music, a musician needs to be able to adapt to all styles. The close-mic style doesn’t suit commercial styles of playing (such as rock, blues, and Latin) and cannot be used in a big-band-section context.
Brantley: My own tendency is to play off-mic or “open.” But I am always working on playing with more of a “close -mic sound,” since that is where my weakness is. I always want to have as many “color-of-sound” options as I can.
If I am in really good shape, practicing a lot and on top of my game, then I am very comfortable with the close mic. Ironically, if I am out of shape, then sometimes I will use the mic as a “cop-out”—but I am never very happy with it because I am out of shape, have not practiced, and therefore cannot play with the sound that is in my head.
In my classical playing, I rarely practice playing “loud.” In fact, most of my playing is at a very soft volume so that I can work on my control and flexibility and also work on a good, centered, and solid-to-the-core sound. I practice the same way when I am in the style called “jazz.” I tell myself and my students that we should never rely on equipment to get the sound that we want: use it as a tool or color but not as a crutch.
Wiest: In general, it pains me greatly to hear trombonists argue about the close-mic concept. It pains me to hear trombonists argue about anything at all! (It’s not in our nature.)
I feel that the natural voice of the trombone is simply one of the
greatest instrumental sounds in the orchestral spectrum. I also believe
that the close-mic trombone sound is such a unique color in jazz that it
almost qualifies as a different instrument! Far from being something we
should stay away from, this texture should be honed, maintained, and included
in every jazz trombonist’s vocabulary. The trick to me is when and how to use this exciting texture.
To refer to a Branford Marsalis quote: “The music tells you.”
Whigham: In the attempt to make music, our task is to simply serve the music as best we can. An important aspect of this is common sense. Unfortunately, as Voltaire wrote, “Common sense is not so common.”
and Rick Simerly at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In reviewing the remarks of the superb trombonists commenting within this article, keep in mind that what may look like disagreements among them aren’t always. First, of course, they did not hear each others’ thoughts when sharing their own. But even in live conversations, different people can interpret the same question somewhat differently and thus answer with wider variation. I can envision any number of these players sitting around a table, trading thoughts, and coming back with, “Yeah, I see your point....”
Here are some thoughts from one person with whom I was unable to discuss this article, trombonist Bill Watrous, as described in an interview long ago:
I use the trombone like a vocal tool, more or less—my attitude towards playing the instrument is pretty much like that of a good vocalist. In other words, I believe in the open throat and a full column of air at all times—and control over it.In fact, one of the things that I ask people in clinic situations is: “How long can you hold your breath? For instance, are you one of those people who, when you dive underwater, can only be under a few minutes before you have to come up for air, or can you swim the whole length of the pool underwater?” Some panic when they’re underwater, and some don’t....What I try to do is utilize the resistance in the instrument, you see, to enable me to just get a comfortable...sort of a meeting of the ear versus the resistance. And I go there—as long as I can keep it there and it’s in balance, I can go forever. I can play a hundred hours in a row, and my body’ll wear out and fall down before my mouth will. Basically, that’s my playing attitude.I don’t play with what they call “a heavy tone.” Some people use a real heavy stroke; I don’t—I try to play in such a way that I can manage an awful lot of light articulations over a given space, shall we say.—“Bill Watrous,”<www.jazzprofessional.com/interviews/Bill%20Watrous.htm>. Copyright © 1982, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.
It is often said that no instrument comes closer to emulating the lyricism of the human voice than the trombone—and trombonists are often the people saying it. Consider, then, that the jazz vocal tradition is almost exclusively miked—and most often close-miked, at that. In my view, this is because of the same reasons that jazz trombonists might seek such reinforcement: sonic competition with numerous other instruments (amplified and non-amped), combating the noisy ambience of the club or hall and its often talkative patrons (and active blenders and espresso machines), compensating for the uneven acoustics of a venue that might naturally elevate other frequencies present more than one’s own (to the point of generating “wolf-tones” in the hall), the opportunity to hear more of the center of one’s tone rather than merely its outlines, and the option of not always sounding as though one is shouting the musical language.
Vocalists have the option of singing in chest-tone (a la Broadway or opera) or in the lighter head-tone (as in most jazz vocals). As Delfeayo Marsalis aptly put it, “No one has ever suggested close-mic opera singing.” But what, then, for the head-tone vocal lines of jazz, which are sung not in the high range but in the more conversational tessitura of the human voice? A close-mic use would seem valuable in preserving the timbre and balance of the music when one is not “belting” a song. Opera also benefits from having a conductor positioned in front of the vocalist and accompaniment to hear and adjust sonic balances. A jazz combo has no such benefit (nor do many big bands): the real-time communication has to occur entirely between the players, who first have to hear each other’s musical ideas.
I had the good fortune of growing up in New Orleans, where there is as much a heritage of full-on brass-playing as in any city in the world. In addition to my fine college studies, it took me many years of listening, apprenticing, and experimenting to learn how to play in a traditional New Orleans brass band and not utterly destroy my chops. Playing Ringling Brothers Circus was a similar learning experience. Contrary to common expectation, neither really called for “blasting”: you had to learn how to poke in and out of the texture with your volume-changes as the music prompted you—and your embouchure would be just fine.
If not different genres, I certainly consider the jazz-club and brass-band illustrations above to at least bear the potential for very different styles of trombone-playing (along with the potential to carry over styles from one to the other). If the guitar were always played acoustically, these styles would certainly demand that the instrument be played in two very different, physical ways. At many schools that offer jazz and classical guitar lessons, the performance techniques are so different that for all intent, these are considered two different instruments.
I believe it important that trombonists who want to express themselves across a wide spectrum of music—and who want to work—are well-served to have open-horn and close-mic skills readily at their disposal. It’s no accident, in my view, that so many great soloists are also great lead players in a jazz trombone section. Diversify! Any lead players would say that practicing and performing exclusively close-mic would be the death of their lead chops!
I also believe you should practice mic technique in addition to the trombone itself. I found Steve Wiest’s comparison of mic-use to mute-use an especially valuable analogy. How many of us have had to spend considerable time learning how to get the most expressive sounds we can out of a given mute? A mute offers a palette of colors, and so does the microphone. Why not devote some time to learning its breadth of possibilities?
You could choose to learn mic technique exclusively on the gig; but that will only expose your inexperience (especially if you can only log fleeting moments on the mic at a gig rather than be positioned there all night). I encourage my students—whether as soloists or as an ensemble—to “simulate game conditions” when practicing. Otherwise, you will find yourself distracted by the new, pesky element present on the gig (such as using a mic) and may thus play worse than you would if you’d been focused. Distractions can lower the quality of your musical contribution: you can suddenly find yourself with limited pitch-range, flexibility, and dynamic expressiveness merely because you’re out of your acoustical comfort zone.
Practice on good systems and bad. If you’ve ever been in a quality mixing session, a critical playback of the mix is not necessarily over top-of-the-line speakers but instead could be over the speakers that most closely simulate the equipment the music will later be heard through by the consumers of the material.
Similarly, I’ll sometimes practice with a lousy sound system—even just using a small guitar amp and a mic—for the same reason I’ll sometimes continue to practice a while when my chops are really tired: because these things happen on the gig. Sometimes your chops are tired, yet there are two hours left to go. Sometimes you’ve been presented a horrible sound system, but you still have to play. Experience and knowledge are your power. Practice not only for the great environments but especially for the poor ones, because you’ll be lucky if even half your jazz gigs are acoustically what you’d consider ideal. Know how to work your horn to get the best out of a bad sound system—and at what point you’ll need to cut the PA loose and fend acoustically for yourself.
It’s a blissful thing that many jazz trombonists defy categorization by being versatile enough to “play the room” as they best see fit. As I tell student bassists: “Play the bass, not the amp. Get the color you want out of the acoustic bass, and then add the amp as needed.” The same applies to the trombone (though one can always choose to go for special effects).
I recall having the opportunity to perform along with a hosting jazz trio at an international music conference. I arrived at the venue to discover that I was not going to be provided any mic or PA. Consider the logic: there was a drummer; the guitarist had an amp; the bassist had an amp. Anyone who might say that these amplifiers would only be used to the extent needed to produce a balanced, acoustic jazz-combo sound had left no room for the opinion of the soloist joining them: the trio would of course have its own idea as to what a balanced sound would be. And how well could the drummer hear the featured soloist? At what sonic point would a potential lack of musical exchange between the front row and back truncate the real creation of music in the jazz tradition?
I had no choice but to play much more one-dimensionally than I otherwise would have. I was grateful that I received kind comments afterwards from audience members regarding my tone quality and expression, but the bottom line was that I’d had to leave lots of my expressiveness at home. I believe it would be much better for any trombonist to be afforded the same sonic options as a vocalist with a trio would have: to be off-mic, on-mic, or anywhere in between. The irony that this had occurred at an international music conference certainly suggested that not everyone would agree with my preference for sound-reinforcement options!
Along with learning from the live and recorded examples of such visionaries as Bob Brookmeyer, Rob McConnell, Art Baron, Gary Valente (none of whom mentioned by my interviewees), and the many artists already cited above, I was blessed to hear and sit next to so many brilliant players in New Orleans. Just one example would be the late, incomparable Bubby Castigliola, a quiet man I’d met in his 60s who could whisper a jazz ballad, tailgate a Dixieland tune, or play the “March” from Aida dozens of times over, each time taking the fanfare up an unerring octave at fortissimo. The fact that he was by day an electrician who took his horn out of the case only some months a year for the Mardi Gras season was all the more impressive.
The unspoken lesson was clear on this 20 year-old at the time: learn all you can about varying stylistic approaches to the music and the instrument, and you just might develop a personal sound—and get some work.
The following artists were interviewed between July 15-September 26, 2007. Numerous other trombonists were also contacted but proved unavailable for comment.
Ray Anderson’s cooperative trio, BassDrumBone, (bassist Mark Helias, drummer Gerry Hemingway, and Ray) is 30 years old and celebrating with touring and a new album, THE LINE UP, on Clean Feed Records. At the time of this interview, he had just returned from performing at the Newport Jazz Fest with his quintet featuring Wycliffe Gordon: “a rather bonacious affair.” Visit <www.rayanderson.org>.
Tom Brantley is Professor of Trombone at the University of South Florida and the trombonist for the chamber group Rhythm & Brass, with which he has performed in every U.S. state except Hawaii as well as throughout the world. He is a Yamaha clinician and served for a time as the news editor for both the International Trombone Association Journal and the ITA web site. His latest CD is OBSESSED WITH TREASURE (Bear Claw Records). Visit <www.usftrombones.com>; e-mail him at <Brantley@arts.usf.edu>.
Michael Davis has recorded and toured with a wide variety of artists during his 25-year career in New York. Among them are the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Bob Mintzer, Buddy Rich, Aerosmith, and Sheryl Crow. He is the founder of Hip-Bone Music and will soon release his 10th CD, ABSOLUTE TROMBONE II. Visit <www.hip-bonemusic.com>.
John Fedchock has been an established jazz trombonist in New York City for two decades. He has toured with the Woody Herman Orchestra, Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, T.S. Monk, and the Bob Belden Ensemble, among many others. A Grammy-nominated arranger, he is leader of the critically acclaimed John Fedchock New York Big Band. His latest CD, UP & RUNNING, is on the Reservoir Music label. Visit <www.johnfedchock.com>.
Rodger Fox is a trombonist and bandleader who serves as Senior Tutor at the New Zealand School of Music. He has performed with such artists as Michael Brecker, Steve Smith, Louie Bellson, Bill Reichenbach, Chuck Findley, Randy Crawford, Bobby Shew, Diane Schuur, Arturo Sandoval, David Clayton-Thomas, Joe Williams, Bill Cunliffe, and Kevin Mahogany. His latest CDs are SOMETHING JUICY (with Bill Reichenbach, on Summit Records), THE LA–NZ JAZZ CONNECTION (with Brian Smith, available in the USA through TAP Music), and NO EXIT (The Rodger Fox Big Band). Visit <www.rodgerfox.co.nz>; e-mail him at <email@example.com>.
Dr. Allen Hermann is Instructor of Jazz Trombone and Professor Emeritus of Physics of the University of Colorado at Boulder. He gained worldwide notoriety with the release of THE JAZZ TROMBONE CD that he recorded with Carl Fontana a few years ago (Sea Breeze Records). His latest CD, ON THE BRINK (Summit Records), recorded with the Bob Montgomery/Al Hermann Quintet, was released in April 2007, is getting international airplay, and has received enthusiastic reviews in JazzTimes and other periodicals. His upcoming performance tours include Australia and Korea. Visit his web site at <www.concentric.net/~Pvb/ahermann.html>; e-mail him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Delfeayo Marsalis is currently touring with a jazz quintet and recently orchestrated Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder and a concert of Basie music for octet as Artistic Director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2007 Jazz Series. His latest CD is MINIONS DOMINION, featuring Elvin Jones. Visit <www.dmarsalis.com> and <www.myspace.com/delfeayomarsalis>.
Mark Mullins is the bandleader of New Orleans premiere brass-funk-rock band “Bonerama,” which performed at the International Trombone Festival in New Orleans in May 2005. Bonerama is now touring nationally in support of their new CD, BRINGING IT HOME. Mullins also served 16 years as lead trombonist with Harry Connick, Jr.'s Big Band and funk band and has appeared on most of Connick's studio recordings and television appearances since 1990. Visit <www.bonerama.net> and <www.markmullins.net>.
Composer, conductor, and trombonist Ed Neumeister has been composing and leading his own groups since 1978, touring extensively both as a soloist and as a leader of The Ed Neumeister Quartet and The NeuHat Ensemble. He has recorded seven albums as a leader including modern big band, trombone quartet, chamber trio, and jazz quartet and quintet as well as a concerto for cello and big band. His latest CD is NEW STANDARDS. Visit his web site at <http://edneumeister.com>.
Doug Sertl has been recording and performing as a jazz soloist for almost thirty years. Among his CD releases as a leader is JOY SPRING (on the Stash label) and TRISTE (with the Nick Brignola Quintet & Doug Sertl Big Band on the Discovery/WEA label). Until his new web site debuts in 2008, e-mail him at <email@example.com>.
Rick Simerly is Associate Professor of Music at Milligan College in Tennessee, a Conn-Selmer clinician, and has two solo CDs, SIMPLE/COMPLEXITY and OBSCURITY. A longtime faculty member of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops and a previous faculty member at the Brubeck Institute, he performs clinics, concerts, and jazz residencies throughout the United States, has performed with many jazz greats, and has been described by David Baker as “one of the most exciting and consistently creative trombonists in jazz today.”
Deborah Weisz’s life in music has been filled with diversity, from playing in the Sahara Desert with Roswell Rudd to touring the world with Frank Sinatra. She has performed at numerous festivals and conferences and is an active composer. To learn more about her and the release of her new CD, TRIO, please visit <www.deborahweisz.com>.
Scott Whitfield is a trombonist, composer, arranger, and vocalist whose career includes stints with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra and Johnny Griffin’s Big Soul Band, as well as leading his own Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestras. His works have been performed and recorded by such artists as Diva, Maurice Hines, The Pied Pipers, Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band, and Pete Petersen’s 23-Strong Collection Jazz Orchestra. He has nine recordings as leader and more than 50 with other artists. His latest release is SPEAKING OF LOVE on Summit Records.
Jiggs Whigham is an internationally acclaimed trombonist, bandleader, and educator whose experience includes stints with the Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton, and Kurt Edelhagen Orchestras. He is currently conductor of the BBC Big Band in Great Britain, artistic director of the Berlin Jazz Orchestra, and visiting Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Jiggs Whigham is a lifetime member and general advisor to the International Trombone Association and the German Trombone Society and also a lifetime member of the International Association for Jazz Education. He is a clinician for the Conn-Selmer Company and author of the book Jazz Trombone (Edition Schott–ED 12710). Visit <www.jiggswhigham.com>; e-mail him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Steve Wiest is a Professor of Jazz Composition/Arranging and Trombone at The University of North Texas. His latest CD is EXCALIBUR: THE STEVE WIEST BIG BAND (<www.arabesquerecordings.com>). Visit <www.stevewiest.com> and <www.myspace.com/stevewiest>; e-mail him at <email@example.com>.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Antonio J. García is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra I; instructs Applied Jazz Trombone, Small Jazz Ensemble, Music Industry, and various jazz courses; founded a B.A. Music Business Emphasis (for which he initially served as Coordinator); and directs the Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band. An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music and of Loyola University of the South, he has received commissions for jazz, symphonic, chamber, film, and solo works—instrumental and vocal—including grants from Meet The Composer, The Commission Project, The Thelonious Monk Institute, and regional arts councils. His music has aired internationally and has been performed by such artists as Sheila Jordan, Arturo Sandoval, Jim Pugh, Denis DiBlasio, James Moody, and Nick Brignola. Composition/arrangement honors include IAJE (jazz band), ASCAP (orchestral), and Billboard Magazine (pop songwriting). His works have been published by Kjos Music, Hal Leonard, Kendor Music, Doug Beach Music, ejazzlines, Walrus, UNC Jazz Press, Three-Two Music Publications, and his own garciamusic.com, with five recorded on CDs by Rob Parton’s JazzTech Big Band (Sea Breeze and ROPA JAZZ). His scores for independent films have screened across the U.S. and in Italy, Macedonia, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, India, Germany, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Israel, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
A Bach/Selmer trombone clinician, Mr. García serves as the jazz clinician for The Conn-Selmer Institute. He has freelanced as trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with over 70 nationally renowned artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Mel Tormé, Doc Severinsen, Louie Bellson, Dave Brubeck, and Phil Collins—and has performed at the Montreux, Nice, North Sea, Pori (Finland), New Orleans, and Chicago Jazz Festivals. He has produced recordings or broadcasts of such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Jim Pugh, Dave Taylor, Susannah McCorkle, Sir Roland Hanna, and the JazzTech Big Band and is the bass trombonist on Phil Collins’ CD “A Hot Night in Paris” (Atlantic) and DVD “Phil Collins: Finally...The First Farewell Tour” (Warner Music). An avid scat-singer, he has performed vocally with jazz bands, jazz choirs, and computer-generated sounds. He is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). A New Orleans native, he also performed there with such local artists as Pete Fountain, Ronnie Kole, Irma Thomas, and Al Hirt.
Mr. García is a Research Faculty member at The University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa) and the Associate Jazz Editor of the International Trombone Association Journal. He serves as a Network Expert (for Improvisation Materials) for the Jazz Education Network and has served as President’s Advisory Council member and Editorial Advisory Board member. His newest book, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading (Meredith Music), explores avenues for creating structures that correspond to course objectives. His book Cutting the Changes: Jazz Improvisation via Key Centers (Kjos Music) offers musicians of all ages the opportunity to improvise over standard tunes using just their major scales. He is Co-Editor and Contributing Author of Teaching Jazz: A Course of Study (published by NAfME) and authored a chapter within The Jazzer’s Cookbook (published by Meredith Music). Within the International Association for Jazz Education he served as Editor of the Jazz Education Journal, President of IAJE-IL, International Co-Chair for Curriculum and for Vocal/Instrumental Integration, and Chicago Host Coordinator for the 1997 Conference. He served on the Illinois Coalition for Music Education coordinating committee, worked with the Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to develop standards for multi-cultural music education, and received a curricular grant from the Council for Basic Education. He has also served as Director of IMEA’s All-State Jazz Choir and Combo and of similar ensembles outside of Illinois. He is the recipient of the Illinois Music Educators Association’s 2001 Distinguished Service Award.
Regarding Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading, Darius Brubeck says, "How one grades turns out to be a contentious philosophical problem with a surprisingly wide spectrum of responses. García has produced a lucidly written, probing, analytical, and ultimately practical resource for professional jazz educators, replete with valuable ideas, advice, and copious references." Jamey Aebersold offers, "This book should be mandatory reading for all graduating music ed students." Janis Stockhouse states, "Groundbreaking. The comprehensive amount of material García has gathered from leaders in jazz education is impressive in itself. Plus, the veteran educator then presents his own synthesis of the material into a method of teaching and evaluating jazz improvisation that is fresh, practical, and inspiring!" And Dr. Ron McCurdy suggests, "This method will aid in the quality of teaching and learning of jazz improvisation worldwide."
About Cutting the Changes, saxophonist David Liebman states, “This book is perfect for the beginning to intermediate improviser who may be daunted by the multitude of chord changes found in most standard material. Here is a path through the technical chord-change jungle.” Says vocalist Sunny Wilkinson, “The concept is simple, the explanation detailed, the rewards immediate. It’s very singer-friendly.” Adds jazz-education legend Jamey Aebersold, “Tony’s wealth of jazz knowledge allows you to understand and apply his concepts without having to know a lot of theory and harmony. Cutting the Changes allows music educators to present jazz improvisation to many students who would normally be scared of trying.”
Of his jazz curricular work, Standard of Excellence states: “Antonio García has developed a series of Scope and Sequence of Instruction charts to provide a structure that will ensure academic integrity in jazz education.” Wynton Marsalis emphasizes: “Eight key categories meet the challenge of teaching what is historically an oral and aural tradition. All are important ingredients in the recipe.” The Chicago Tribune has highlighted García’s “splendid solos...virtuosity and musicianship...ingenious scoring...shrewd arrangements...exotic orchestral colors, witty riffs, and gloriously uninhibited splashes of dissonance...translucent textures and elegant voicing” and cited him as “a nationally noted jazz artist/educator...one of the most prominent young music educators in the country.” Down Beat has recognized his “knowing solo work on trombone” and “first-class writing of special interest.” The Jazz Report has written about the “talented trombonist,” and Cadence noted his “hauntingly lovely” composing as well as CD production “recommended without any qualifications whatsoever.” Phil Collins has said simply, “He can be in my band whenever he wants.” García is also the subject of an extensive interview within Bonanza: Insights and Wisdom from Professional Jazz Trombonists (Advance Music), profiled along with such artists as Bill Watrous, Mike Davis, Bill Reichenbach, Wayne Andre, John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre, Jim Pugh, and Ed Neumeister.
The Secretary of the Board of The Midwest Clinic, Mr. García has adjudicated festivals and presented clinics in Canada, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, and South Africa, including creativity workshops for Motorola, Inc.’s international management executives. The partnership he created between VCU Jazz and the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal merited the 2013 VCU Community Engagement Award for Research. He has served as adjudicator for the International Trombone Association’s Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, and Rath Jazz Trombone Scholarship competitions and the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble competition and has been asked to serve on Arts Midwest’s “Midwest Jazz Masters” panel and the Virginia Commission for the Arts “Artist Fellowship in Music Composition” panel. He has been repeatedly published in Down Beat; JAZZed; Jazz Improv; Music, Inc.; The International Musician; The Instrumentalist; and the journals of NAfME, IAJE, ITA, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Percussive Arts Society, Arts Midwest, Illinois Music Educators Association, and Illinois Association of School Boards. Previous to VCU, he served as Associate Professor and Coordinator of Combos at Northwestern University, where he taught jazz and integrated arts, was Jazz Coordinator for the National High School Music Institute, and for four years directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Formerly the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, he was selected by students and faculty there as the recipient of a 1992 “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” award and nominated as its candidate for 1992 CASE “U.S. Professor of the Year” (one of 434 nationwide). He was recipient of the VCU School of the Arts’ 2015 Faculty Award of Excellence for his teaching, research, and service. Visit his web site at <www.garciamusic.com>.
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