RARE RECORDING OF LESSON WITH FRANK CRISAFULLI! (Is it unique????) Plus Trombone Books I Recommend…No. 2 “Studies in Legato”, Edited by Reginald H. Fink


You Love Frank Crisafulli?

We All Love Frank Crisafulli!

He was brilliant. Kind. Modest. Hilarious. Everybody’s grandpa. Of course, he made all those amazing recordings/played all those fantastic concerts/won all those Grammys playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for more than 50 years! Of course, he was the founding member and only trombonist of the CSO Brass Quintet with Adolph ‘Bud’ Herseth, Vincent Cichowicz, Richard Oldberg, Arnold Jacobs (and a few others), that many consider to have been the ,most influential brass quintet ever.

Lesson With Frank Crisafulli-Legato Studies



Audio recordings of Lesson with Frank Crisafulli Copyright 2024 David William Brubeck. All rights reserved.

“Alright, a couple of little things.”

“First of all, all these little crescendo-diminuendos. I want you to be a little more careful about how you interpret that.”

“For instance, toward the end here on this Forte, you begin to come down-(singing in measure 28 ).”

“It should be to (singing), to the Bb there, and then you make your diminuendo there.”

“And the same here with all these, (referring to measure five, at the top), it’s not (singing to crescendo at the second note), but (singing to crescendo at the third note). It’s a very different thing!”

“It’s very nice that you observe these markings. They generally mean what they say, although not always-sometimes they are carelessly done. But it does sound better to go (to the third note), and you’ll notice that he has that dash on that (third note), that means he wants it more important.”

“And also, when you start out, know what you are going to do! After all, there are three bars and a half of rest-so something has been going on. So when you start, don’t start with (sings just a dubious start of the initial pitch), but start (sings a full-voiced, passionate iteration of the first notes with dynamics, tempo and phrasing). The tempo has already been established, but no matter, even if you start at the beginning-never play unless you have in your mind exactly what you are going to do with the phrase. And then carry it out, no matter what!”

“Studies in Legato”, edited by Reginald H. Fink-the assistant to trombone genius, Emory Remington.

from Studies in Legato
Arranged and edited by Reginald H. Fink
Copyright © 1967 by Carl Fischer, Inc. 
All rights assigned to Carl Fischer, LLC.
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Available for purchase at your favorite dealer or https://www.carlfischer.com/o4767-studies+in+legato.html.
Mr. C’s CSO Retirement Party at Northwestern University, circa 1989. Photo by David William Brubeck.


“You know, we have an advantage when we are in an orchestra, especially if we have a good conductor, because he never just does this to you (a generic cue). He knows what it’s going to be, and then you know exactly (what it’s going to be) and the whole group can do the same thing.”

“But no, when we are alone, we start playing and THEN we decide what we’re going to do.

It should all be in there before you ever start playing, so that (inhales a relaxed breath and enjoys the exhalation.”

“Let’s try it again. Play it right from the beginning” Sings along. “That’s nice!” Singing more”. A little more than the first time.” Singing more. “A little louder.” Sings.

“This is all in mezzo-Forte. So, stay there! Still mezzo-Forte!” Sings. “Softer, and breath in here.” Sings. “Yes!”

After all, there’s no point in sitting there and trying to hold it when you don’t have any breath. And with accompaniment, which I am sure there would be on this, there would be any number of places where you can easily phrase a breath into it. But it is much more sensible to breath and enjoy playing to the end that (simulates air running out), because you don’t learn anything from that.”

“Now that’s nice! It takes just a little more care, but it should become natural to you to phrase this way, you know? Otherwise, they are nothing but (sings fragmented notes). You know, a little something indicated and nothing happening.”

“That was nice. I like that.”

“I was also able to give you movement so you don’t dawdle!”

“You know, I dislike very much fooling around too much with tempos/rhythms unless it’s asked for, a rubato here or a little bit there, perhaps.”

“But otherwise, I think it’s nicer to have a pulse always that’s there and then the rest is articulation and dynamics. Just like that, you know? And that’s musical. But to let the tempos die, and bring them back and then usually they die and keep dying. Anyhow, then it becomes harder work to play through it, too. It seems to never end, ‘cause we are clawing our way through it rather than moving easily through it.”

Professor Frank Crisafulli, in his lakeside studio at Northwestern University-Evanston, where he attended as a student and served as Professor of Trombone for many years. (Photo by David William Brubeck c. 1989-1997 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved)

Audio recordings of Lesson with Frank Crisafulli Copyright 2024 David William Brubeck. All rights reserved.

“That’s very nice playing. It’s not an easy etude, you know. All right, good playing.”

Student Brubeck, “The first time, maybe a little the second, the first notes, I had trouble.

Crisafulli, “Yeah! Because you’re not ready to play! “You play up to the first note, and don’t expect it to sound. You should play, in your mind, the whole phrase before you start.”

(Sings the first portion of the phrase richly), “Not just, bah” (sings half the first note, tepidly)

And then what?”

“No, no.”

“Again, in your practicing, don’t just look for that first note. Look for the phrase and carry it off even if you don’t feel absolutely at ease with the first note, because if you get in the habit of always stopping unless its perfect, you only create a bigger hurdle to get over each time. Pretty soon, that first note becomes an obstacle rather than the beginning of a nice phrase to carry through.”


“Do a little bit like that. I know that you want to be perfect, but shucks, sometimes I think we’re better off if we accept something a little less and enjoy it very much-if we minimize some of these things that become difficult for us. And for no reason-WE make them that way.”

“Alright, very good.”

“Studies in Legato” is the second book I would recommend to all young trombonists!

It is a masterfully curated collection of wonderfully musical melodies from Italian vocal composers Concone and Marchesi in addition to German violinist and composer Heinrich Panofka. The editor, Reginald H. Fink, was the assistant to the great genius and Professor of Trombone at The Eastman School of Music, Emory Remington, and a significant musician and teacher in his own right.

Nestled in the book, one finds four excellent articulation studies on repeated notes, without significant slide movement. The detailed, concise and inspired discussion of articulation here only gives pause for a moment when one hopes that the option “Thah” will not be overdone, while marveling at the beautiful pedagogy reflected in the inclusion of “Dah”, “Lah” and “Rah”. Just as Remington emphasized singing music and musicianship before trombone technique, these articulations foster excellent oral cavity formation and tonguing with lightness. The distinct tonguing recommendations for different registers probably reflect the use a a pivot embouchure, which are not as commonly used in the present day.

Next, are several articulation exercises which combine slide motion, from one to five positions away. The articulation marking is exquisite, combining both legato and tenuto markings, typical again of the singing, sustained and yet well-defined Eastman style. Finally, there are two exceptional breathing exercises by Emory Remington himself, one of which I have used on a daily basis for many years. The etudes themselves are wonderfully varied in almost every way imaginable given the Romantic era in which they were composed. The range is not as demanding as the Rochut transcriptions of Bordogni compositions, and a varietal palette of rhythms and key signatures are replete and well-sequenced throughout the collection.

Crisafulli. “Let’s finish it. Let’s do the rest of it, I think we reached 35. And now you have a nice (singing) fermata!”

“And,” Crisafulli breaths.

Frank Crisafulli and one of his many trombone students-David William Brubeck (Photo c. 1989-1997 David William Brubeck, All Rights Reserved.)

“A bit short, that last note- oh that’s better!

“Yes.” Singing and breathing. “Good! Good! Ah! Good”

“A little bit more. A little breath accents.” Singing. “A little but less, that’s what’s written.” Singing

“Then full!” Singing. “A little bit longer. Careful the last, now.”

“Nice. Yes. Good”

“Always be sure that when you look ahead and see a pianissimo coming that you leave room for it before hand, ok?”

“Even if you have gone to far, come. back a little bit. Then it’s comfortable. It’s nice”

“Yes, it’s a nice etude, but it must be filled.”

“That’s one time I would allow that (singers staccato longer), and I’m glad you did it not (sungs second note clipped), not the dot but (sings longer) and that makes even room for a breath if you want to.”


“What Concone is this? The 40 studies or something? “

Student Brubeck, “This is a book I stumbled upon. Fink. I was looking for something for my high school students.

Crisafulli, sees cover and recognizes the book, “Oh yes, right.”

Student Brubeck, “It doesn’t have the range of a ‘Rochut’.”

Crisafulli “And you know something though, they are not easy bevause they lie right where you have to travel the most for the botes in the staff with the slide. And yet, it’s an excellent opporrubity to (sings daaaah), let the air take over and not react to the slide.”


FRANK CRISAFULLI OOZED MUSIC AND PASSIONATELY LOVED IT! Frank Crisafulli spoke English only tangentially in lessons, and sang throughout! He sang on no fewer than 21 occasions in this brief 12-minute excerpt. Not only was he encouraging the student to pre-hear the music in the manner of Arnold Jacobs, but he was modeling it by singing in the manner of Emory Remington.

FRANK CRISAFULLI WAS POSITIVE! His demeanor was stern a few times and passionate at others, but overwhelmingly kind. He offered no fewer than 16 positive comments and compliments to the student in just under 12 minutes.

FRANK CRISAFULLI USED REPETITION Whether emphasizing musicality, more vibrant rhythm, or to fully hear the entire phrase before projecting it confidently, he returned to his major theses. Crisafulli used the playing at hand (second-person), his own experience (first person), and the hypothetical youngsters-(third person), to illustrate his refrains with additional perspective and variation.

FRANK CRISAFULLI WAS MUSICAL ABOVE ALL ELSE! More than 18 times in the lesson he observed, anticipated, commented on, complimented or encouraged musicality. Quite often, he did so with great detail and subtlety! Dynamics, articulation, a breath for phrasing, eveness, tempo, mood and confidence. His musicality was downright infectious!

FRANK CRISAFULLI EMBODIED SONG AND WIND. And added the subtlety of never allowing the slide to interfere with the air. A gifted ‘cellist, he made numerous innovative comparisons between the bow and the breath, and was spectacular at evincing evenness throughout the registers in both sound and approach, partially owing to his experience with ‘cello.

CRISAFULLI ENJOYED PLAYING AND SOUGHT RELAXATION. As an undergraduate student of his, the one word I most remember hearing him say was ENJOY! I have often used it as a sign-off for my interviews and articles in honor of “Mr. C”. He unfailingly sought to enjoy playing, and part of this approach was an ease-of-playing and relaxation which may best be described as unhurried.

Article, c. 2024 David William Brubeck All rights reserved

Cover Image courtesy of Hickey’s music.

Written music from Studies in Legato
Arranged and edited by Reginald H. Fink
Copyright © 1967 by Carl Fischer, Inc. 
All rights assigned to Carl Fischer, LLC.
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Available for purchase at your favorite dealer or https://www.carlfischer.com/o4767-studies+in+legato.html.

Audio, c. 2024, David William Brubeck, All Rights reserved.

(Thanks to “Mr. C” for allowing me to record this! The acknowledgement of his genius-level and inspired musicianship and pedagogy is long overdue!)

Soli Deo Gloria

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