Spock's Trombone

I wanted to write something that used the full range of trombone sounds. Not “range” in terms of high and low notes, but in terms of the full assortment of sounds available to the trombone.

Beside the normal sound from lips vibrating in the mouthpiece, I used mouth pops, streams of air blown into the mouthpiece without buzzing, clicking the mechanical parts of the horn, playing short puffs of sound, and hitting the bell with a soft mallet (no dents to show for it!).

Sequence that into a groove and you have a complex trombone sound that might have been played by Spock after finishing a rousing game of 3-D chess.

William Russell Watrous recently passed at the age of 79. If you are or ever were a trombone player, and especially if you play jazz, you’ve been influenced in some way by this great musician.

I wanted to pay tribute to Bill, and doing so through a ballad seemed appropriate. He played higher and faster than just about anyone ever, but his ballad playing brought out his great musical sensibilities and expanded his popularity to a wider audience than just his adoring trombone fans.

I once asked him how and what he practiced early on. He replied simply, “I just improvised melodies.” And what a great melodic sense he had, no matter what he played. The impact of those four words have stayed with me my entire life.

While I’ve never had screaming high chops or great speed, the gift Bill gave me was an appreciation for the primacy of melody and for the ability to use the trombone as an expressive voice.

This little piece reflects Bill’s influence on my trombone playing, but more importantly, my musicianship.

The wisdom Bill shares at the very end comes from a video of Bill explaining his playing philosophy and can be seen here.

This is just a fake book example for the type of website I can build for you. Just trying to use a little humor here!