Los Angeles Studio Legend Phil Teele Inaugurates Year Two of the “7 Positions” Interview Series

Phil Teele is one of the greatest Los Angeles studio bass trombonists of all time. Recording the bass (and sometimes contrabass), trombone parts on countless film soundtracks ranging from The Godfather & Indiana Jones, to The Color Purple or Star Trek-is the merest sliver of Phil’s outstanding work.

Teele has not only been an accomplished musician in the studio, but enjoys an excellent reputation in classical, commercial and jazz idioms as well. Phil was the featured (contra) bass trombone soloist on Toshiko Akiyoshi’s famous bass trombone feature: “I Ain’t Gonna Ask No More!” and has inspired other bass trombone features such as, “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week” from the “Sinatraland” CD. He has a solo recording entitled “Low and Outside” and has served featured soloist and clinician at the Dutch Bass Trombone Open. Phil Teele is a legendary and inspiring bass trombonist. We are delighted to host Mr. Teele with the first installment for the second season of ‘7 Positions”.


1st Position
What do you look for in an instrument?

Response and comfort.

2nd Position
How do you conceive of an ideal tone quality?

The one inside your head; I get mine with long tones

3rd PositionSynthetic Division-3
What is your secret to a beautiful legato and a ballad?

First, have command of your instrument, then play what you feel.

4th Position
What helps you achieve musical expression?
(Especially in solos, particularly in jazz).

Being real and knowing what you’re playing.

5th Position
Name two inspirations. One musical. One non-musical.

1. Frank Rosolino
2. Osho

Sinatraland-16th Position PT
What has being part of the great LA trombone tradition meant to you? How has it influenced you?

I was lucky to work with the great guys: Dick Nash, Lloyd Ulyate, Joe Howard, George Roberts, Kenny Shroyer, Dick Noel, Charlie Loper, and others. They showed me the standard of an artist.

7th Position PT
What would it surprise people to know about recording music for movies? Which skills are most valuable to be successful?

Being able to sight-read anything.

Good sound.

Be able to play hard things over and over.

Nerves of steel.

When I started working in the studio scene, I was amazed at how good everyone was-big sounds, great intonation. They could play anything, any style.

Once, I walked on the sound stage at Fox. It was a call with Jerry Goldsmith for a TV show called “The Studio”. It started with a pedal ‘C’ slurring up to a pedal ‘D-flat’,and stayed in that register for 24 bars then another 12 bars of highly technical trigger register stuff then some soft stuff then at the end after about 24 bars of rest there was a part starting on an ‘F’ in the staff up to an ‘A’ down to an ‘A-flat’ then up to a high ‘B’, diminishing to pianissimo over 5 bars.

We rehearsed for 1 hour, then takes for 1 hour. This was the 10% terror you’ve heard guys talk about. The point is that you can run into anything and have to play it over and over and not miss. The call with Jerry had only a violin, a viola, a cello, a flute, and a clarinet, so I was pretty exposed.

Being a studio player is like being a matador; you never know when you will be gored.

Low and Outside-2

T1 What is the best trombone playing you have ever heard?
Anything by Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, J. J. Johnson, Bill Watrous, Curtis Fuller, Jack Teagarden, Dick Nash, George Roberts, Kenny Shroyer, and a lot of other guys.

What is the best trombone playing you have done
What I did with Alex North, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Billy May Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mandel, Shorty Rogers, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Randy Aldcroft and Sammy Nestico, to name a few.

c. 2013 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. davidbrubeck.com

Teele Cover024Phil Teele has been gracious enough to include one page of his famous warm-ups (or daily routines), entitled “Advanced Embouchure Studies for Bass Trombone” for the readers of davidbrubeck.com


c. 2001 Phil Teele All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. Courtesy of davidbrubeck.com

Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
Charlie Vernon
James Markey
Chris Brubeck
Doug Yeo
Jeremy Morrow
Tom Everett
Gerry Pagano
Ben van Dijk
Randall Hawes
Denson Paul Pollard
Thomas Matta
Fred Sturm
Bill Reichenbach
Massimo Pirone
Erik Van Lier
Jennifer Wharton
Matyas Veer
Stefan Schulz

c. 2013/2014 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved davidbrubeck.com

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