Eliezer Aharoni has the spirit of an explorer, the palette of a musical omnivore, and the depth of a French Encyclodepist. An “interest” in non-classic bass trombone and methods for the instrument led this classically trained bass trombonist of note, with the Jerusalem Radio Symphony Orchestra, to produce hundreds of pages of music and words in honor of his instrument. Aharoni’s careful irrigation and cultivation have broadened new lands, and have charted unfamiliar territories for all who follow his guideposts. Come along to whaft the favorite fragrances of his florid collection of music and marvel at sonic delicacies he has gathered, grown and transcribed. Enjoy “The Jazz Bass Trombone” tm with Eliezer Aharoni….
1. Where do you draw the line between jazz and non-jazz commercial?
This is a rather complicated issue, as there are today many different fields in music, many styles, and a lot of combined styles and hybrids of different styles, so it is really very hard to draw a line between “true” jazz and commercial jazz flavored music, which is often regarded, sometimes with a bit of patronization, as artistically inferior. The distinction depends on many factors, such as: context, target audiences, type of ensemble, (for example: if it’s a big band or a combo – it will most likely be categorized as jazz; If strings are involved – it might be viewed as commercial) and many more.
Many of the jazz standards came initially from musicals, and as such were considered as commercial music. Then, they were performed as standard repertoiry of jazz musicians, and acquired the tag of “jazz”. We can hear recordings of Sinatra, Four Freshmen, Elgart Brothers, and many more, that are regarded as commercial music, but nonetheless are great jazz, so in my view music can be sometimes simultanously jazzy and commercial, and we don’t really have to draw a line between the two.
2. Which applications and expressive outlets for the non classical bass trombone have you found most interesting and why? Any future trends you are keeping an eye on?
For me, the most enjoyable and interesting application is jazz ballad, where the bass trombone is displayed at his best, with a warm, expressive singing sound.
A relatively new trend that caught my attention is the bass trombone finding its niche in ethnic music. The most interesting example is the Australian marvelous bass trombonist Adrian Sherriff, who is a multi-instrumentalist and multi-stylist player. In addition to his great jazz playing, he is a member of the Australian Art Orchestra and also plays the flute, percussion and some ethnic instruments like Shakuatchi (a 1.8 foot Japanese flute), Javanese Gamelan, and Mridangam. Sherriff combines jazz and ethnic music from West India, South India, Japan and Indonesia, and performs with quite a few ethnic and jazz ensembles.
Another interesting ethnic playing is the Turkish trombone player Hasan Gözetlik, who plays Turkish and Arab styles. He plays “Taxim” which is a sort of oriental improvisation. Hasan has many video clips. He uses a double valve instrument, but is rarely heard in low register.
In Klezmer style we find bass trombonist Michael Brown of the Dor L’Dor band (heard on Not Your Father’s Klezmer Band and Dance for Your Life Cds. Tenor trombone and tuba are often heard on the Klezmer scene, but a bass trombone is a novelty.
3. What made you decide to write your book?
As you know, before writing this book I wrote a bass trombone method called “New Method for the Modern Bass Trombone”, (NogA Music, 1975). At that time, there were only few bass trombone study materials in general-almost nothing for “non-classic” bass trombone. (This situation has slightly improved over the years). At that time many improvements in bass trombone design came out – different valve set-ups, dependent and independent double valves, and there was no method or consensus as to how to annotate the different positions. I felt the need for more comprehensive study material for the bass trombone and felt that I had something to contribute in this field, especially my ideas for a clearer, more organized annotation system, so I decided to go ahead and write my Method which I hope many of you are familiar with.
Later on, around 2010, I began to realize that there was really very little bass trombone material to study jazz and related styles. I started putting together some ideas how to approach the situation, feeling that despite of the fact that I was primarily a classical player, I have the ability to contribute to enhance the literature in that niche. So I came to the decision to put together my own book. Though I was aware that I am dealing with an area that is not exactly within my area of expertise, I felt that I can write study material that would be both challenging and fun to play, and provide good preparation for players seeking to improve in these fields.
During writing the book, some of the basic concepts were changed. The primary idea was to focus only on jazz, and write a 4-5 pages of introduction. Then, realizing that there are more fields in light music that should be covered, I decided to expand the scope and cover more related styles, such as Pop, Rock, Latin, ethnic music, world music and more. At this time I realized I knew very little about these styles and the background, so aside my bookwriting I started a research to get the bigger picture. I was amazed with the wealth of information I came up with – I thought I’ll find a lake, but found an ocean… I had some help from friends and colleagues, but some of them specializing in jazz fields, could not help me with information about bass trombone in other fields. However, occasionally I received some good tips. For example, Alan Raph mentioned that a former student of his, Marty Harell, played with Elvis, which directed me to learn about bass trombone in Rock. This correspondence with Alan Raph also led to have him write an eye-opening introduction to my book. As a result of this research the info swell into some 50 pages, as I decided that background, history, equipment issues, recording info and information about the main players was also very important and relevant.
Another factor that helped the birth of my book was the collaboration with my friend and former student, Micha Davis from the IPO. I used to send him some etudes for feedbacks, and at a certain point he offered to record them. Then I realized that I need to prepare playbacks for the etudes, which directed me to do the arranging of the accompaniments. So, finally, after nearly seven years of
“pregnancy”, the book came out just in time to be displayed at the ITA workshop
4. Who are your favorite jazz bass trombonists and their recordings?
Well, it’s a long list, but I’ll name a few of them.
My all-time favorite would always be George Roberts. I love his singing style, as well his rich tone and his accuracy and clarity when executing all sorts of bass trombone “licks”. Especially I enjoy his Nelson Riddle recordings “The Joy of Living” and “Life is a Game of Poker,” His albums “Meet Mr. Roberts, “Buttoms Up“, “The Other Side Of The Horn”, and Tommy Pederson’s “All My Friends Are Trombone Players“.
Alan Raph is an incredible player and a respected authority on jazz playing and on bass trombone. Allen can be heard on many recordings of George Benson, Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, and Urbie Green’s “21 Trombones,” to name only a few. On Youtube he is featured on Billy VerPlanck’s “In Summer You Get That Warm Bass Trum-bone Feeling“. He also composed “Rock” for solo bass trombone – a very appreciated and widely performed piece, which demonstrates the way a bass trombone fits in that genre.
I like very much
Phil Teele is another favorite of mine. Phil can be heard on Sinatraland W. Patrick Williams Big Band, Toshiko Akiyoshi Big band recording “Tales of a Courtesan” in “I Ain’t Gonna Ask No More” (contrabass trombone), and his two albums Low & Outside and Syntheticdivision.
Demetri Pagalidis released a beautiful solo recording “Demetri” With big band, Frank Comstock conducting. This recording demonstrates nice sonority and singing style of the bass trombone. “Silverware” is another recording of him in a big band. [Another Setting]
Ron Wilkins is very active as player and educator. He can be heard “All the Things You Are” with Dr Donald (Donnie) Pinson, on Sonny Rollins “Tenor Madness Charles Mingus tune “Boogie Stop Shuffle“, “Tribute to the Masters” and “Bundee Brothers Bone Band” .
NYC player, Max Seigel, played with Slide Hampton on the Trombone All Stars. He is featured on Slide Hampton’s album “Spirit of the Horn” solo on Walkin’-N-Rhythm.
Ingo Luis is currently the bass trombonist of the WDR (West German) Radio Orchestra in Cologne. He has contributed greatly to the jazz brass literature both as an arranger and as a recording artist. His unique stylistic playing can be heard on his two albums with tenor trombonist Ludwig Nuss: “Horn Players Can’t Eat Garlic” and “The Two-Bone Big Band – The Return of the Horn Players.” Both players are overdubbed, forming a larger ensembles. Contrabass Trombone.
Massimo Pirone is a great Italian tenor and bass trombonist.
He has released quite a few albums “A Portrait of Trombone, Portrait of Roberts, The ballad Album, Directly From The Heart, Like the Wind and Two Brothers With Bill Reichenbach
Ido Meshulam is a very talented young Israeli trombonist (+bass & contra), residing now in the US. He can be heard on contrabass trombone
In ensemble and
on Petit Chien (Shadowing Joe Alessi an 8ve below)
5. How do you feel about the use of mutes, looping and live processed sound? Main course or side dish?
The use of various mutes has always enhanced the variety of tone colors of trombones, both in section playing and on solo playing. On the tenor trombone,
One type of mute – the plunger – has created its own special style (noted by artists like Al Gray and “Tricky” Sam Nanton).
For the bass trombone, there is a unique example of focusing on a mute – this
Is George Roberts’ album “Bottoms Up”, featuring the bucket mute, which has a special delicate tone color and enables an uninterrupted expressive singing playing.
Henri Mancini used frequently a cup-muted bass trombone, which made a special effect of mystery. The bass trombonist Karl Deskarske was mostly the player.
Other than that, bass trombone mute use in solos is rather rare, and is definitely a side dish.
In my book, in addition to describing the different mutes, I also wrote a little suite called “The Mute Shop”, featuring 6 types of mutes. You can watch it and listen in YouTube at:
The Mute Shop part 1
About looping and live processed sounds I occasionally watch some YouTube clips.
People like Pharrell Williams, Christopher Bill and Robin Thicke do some amazing things. Some of them use bass trombone as a part of a track, which sounds amazing with all studio facilities. This guys have amazing skills of instant arranging, too, and the whole project sounds very interesting. However, I do not delve too deeply into it, for me it’s just a curiosity.
6. What has the non-classic bass trombone meant to you throughout your life?
As a teenager, still when I played the tenor trombone, I used to listen to trombone recordings (in Israel, at that time, there was no way to hear non-classic bass trombone in live performance, as there were no active bass trombone players other than in the symphony orchestras) Some of the recordings were of trombone ensembles, mostly J & K. As well, I had access to some Nelson Riddle recordings. These were my first exposures to the bass trombone sound, which I enjoyed very much.
A turning point for me was the purchase of a recording of “The Four Freshmen,” backed by a trombone ensemble with arrangements by Pete Rugolo. Listening to the tasteful bass trombone playing (mostly by George Roberts) was very fascinating for me and made me switch to bass trombone. At that time I played in the Jerusalem Municipality Band and later on joined the Army Band. The conductor – the legendary Itzhak(Ziko) Graziani, was also a great arranger and wrote some really nice bass trombone parts. During my service I also had the chance to play in a big band lead by Mel Keller – an American born sax/clarinet player who was THE jazz pioneer in Israel.
After service I joined the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and played mainly orchestral classical and contemporary music, but the orchestra also did some amount of recordings of Israeli songs and song festivals, and in some of them there were some nice bass trombone parts. As well, I did some free-lance work, including the Mel Keller Band and later the Tel Aviv Promenade band.
All these opportunities to play “non-classical” music were for me very enjoyable, and a kind of a different musical journey contradictory to the classical orchestral playing, which had some great moment, but also a lot of routine playing (where you get to count a lot and play very little)…
so basically non-classical music was for me a refreshing change, many times more fulfilling and challenging to play.
The Mute Shop part 3
7. What are your thoughts on the style of soloing various bass trombonists use? The style of post bop saxophone soloists, traditional upright bass, cool style, bluesy tenor trombone or funky electric bass?
All these styles are great models to absorb plenty of ideas and inspiration for solo bass trombone, though players usually do not relay on one model.
The string basses – electric or acoustic – are harder to emulate on bass trombone, because of the difference of character between a string and a wind instrument. There are more inspiring style models, like the style and sound of the baritone saxophone, especially Jerry Mulligan’s playing, or the jazz tuba – players like Joe Murphy, John Sass and Howard Johnson. But the main and natural soloing model is still the tenor trombone, which a bass trombonist has to figure his way how to expand it to the low register. Some players, like Chris Brubeck, choose to improvise mainly in the high register, with some “visits” to the low register. Others, like Massimo Pirone, who has an incredible fluency and agility, choose to stay longer in the low register.
8. Tips for selecting literature?
For me, selecting a piece is about the appeal of the piece to me – some kind of chemistry, a click that makes me want to try the music. I look for pieces that utilize well the singing character and sonority of the low register. I look for pieces that have a logic structure, that are in not too technically demanding, and well suited in register.
I transcribe a lot, borrowing music mainly from low instruments, like tuba, bassoon and cello. I also like to play vocal music for bass and baritone. A great source of inspiration, for me, is the Russian basso profundo singer Vladimir Miller, who sings a lot Russian liturgical music, and I intend to explore and transcribe a few of the works he sings, for bass trombone and tuba.
Like “The Jazz Bass Trombone”? Read the interview and article that launched it all Charlie Vernon and George Roberts (of course), Thomas Matta and more! …HERE.
How about some more Tom Kubis for bass trombone? The Jazz Bass Trombone features “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, featuring bass trombonist AND bandleader, Demetri Pagalidus, HERE.
c. David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com