Me playing jazz



I began playing trombone in September of 1971 and then began study with Harold Diner in December 1971. At this time Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears were tearing up the radio airplay with their new brand of Rock, funky "horn band" style music. After a brief period of being bored to tears about learning all this hard stuff, I began to really practice trombone. I have junior high school teacher Karl Rasckes and trombone teacher Harold Diner to thank for that. They persevered when others would have given up on me as "too flaky".

By mid 1972 I was able to perform simple trombone solo material and was featured during that year and later years as a trombone section leader and soloist. Within months I got my first gig at a Methodist church on Easter. Later I was able to play in every kind of ensemble. I've even played on the back of a stake bed truck and out on the "street" in Westwood (the secret is you have to "prime" the trombone case with some coins and bills. . .then you get "donations").. 

In the 1980's and early 1990's, I was blessed with some wonderful experiences teaching at the California State University Los Angeles's "Saturday Conservatory".  This is a charitable organization which seeks to provide private instruction and ensemble playing opportunities to kids who, otherwise, might not have an opportunity to get private lessons or play in groups.  Some of my students from Saturday Conservatory have gone on to do wonderful things with music.  I am so happy that they've had good times with music.  Not everyone has the perseverance or talent, but many do. . .many more than you might think.

I've continued to play, perform and record even though I have other work for my primary income. During the recent years, I've moved from being primarily a sight-reading, orchestral and serious music player to being a commercial, teaching player.   I'm "semi-professional". . .nonetheless, I've been very lucky to be associated with some solidly professional working groups. For most of the 1990's I was working regularly with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.  This was mainly when the group was led by Jim Miller, himself a trombonist. I've also had the pleasure to work under Bill Tole both as conductor of the J. Dorsey ensemble, and with his own group. I've worked in orchestras backing up Nancy Wilson, Monica Mancini, and Jack Jones.

Me at Capitol Records Studio A
At the left, here, I can be seen in a recording studio (this is the legendary Capitol Records - Studio A, in Hollywood, CA)  I'm pretty excited just to be there!  The people involved in this project were all the greatest joy to be around and, of course, playing in a big band is always fun.  I think you can see that written on my face


As I began to study music seriously,  I was very lucky indeed to be learning brass instrumental music in the Hollywood, CA area. I met Carson Taylor at Angel Records (my previous visits to Capitol, Studio A) and played in several Youth Orchestras. I was invited over to hear "Hoyt's Garage", really a trombone ensemble led by Hoyt Bohannon, studio trombone ace, together with Tommy Pederson. I either met, or was profoundly influenced by , Dick Nash, Dick Noel, Jim Sawyer, Bill Broughton, Milt Bernhart and many other trombonists playing in and around the LA Studio music business.  These players are incredibly gifted musicians whose talent brought them to Los Angeles for the TV and movie recording work.

By the end of High School I had played with the Los Angeles Valley College and Pasadena City College, Studio Jazz Ensembles (or sometimes known as "A" Bands. . .the better caliber jazz ensembles at those schools). I benefited considerably from the leadership of Dick Carlson and Don Nelligan.  These groups constantly played music by arrangers Bill Holman, Bob Florence, Mike Barone, Billy Byers and other arranging greats. These ensembles had seen the likes of Tom Scott, Mike Barone, Stu Blumberg and other young rising stars in studio music circles.  As time went on I continued this practice and played in Woody James's LA City College Jaz band.  There I ran into Frank Strazzeri and Buddy Childers.

I've had the pleasure of working with or getting to know some great musicians here in the "music biz" - trombonist-Bill Tole, trumpeters-Stu Blumberg,  Ron King, and Bob Summers, sax-Dave Pell and Pat Chartrand, clarinetist-Abe Most, bass bonists-John Leys, trombone-Dave Wells, sax-Rusty Higgins, trombone-Bryant Byers, are acquaintances or have graced the ensembles I've performed with.  I am always impressed by the dedication and professionalism of these fine players.

Symphony Orchestra

I became interested in symphonic and chamber music trombone playing due to the rigorous stylistic requirements and perfectionistic approach to performance. I first worked in this kind of setting while performing for Easter gigs. These usually are paid performances, usually by brass ensembles hired to augment the organist music on Easter Sunday. While the pay is not enormous, the experience is wonderful. A brass player adds so much to the worship that he/she cannot help but feel marvelous after an Easter Sunday session. Lately, I've been lucky enough to be asked over to Larry Lippold's house for his Saturday morning brass quintet.  I do this when the primaries can't make it.  And that is too, too rare.  This is a pleasure, since we all love playing from his excellent book of quintet music.

As I realized I needed to better understand serious music, I sought to increase my knowledge of serious music.  I was blessed with some marvelous friends in my younger days who assisted me with this quest.  John Voland, at Grant High, was a walking encyclopedia of information on orchestral and operatic recordings. Mike Sushel ably accompanied me on piano (after all, Mike had already entered into international competition by the time he was half way through high school). Tom Osborn and his Valley Youth Symphony performed many of the important orchestral works. I was lucky I could perform with them  and even perform the "Concerto D'Hiver" in front of the orchestra.  Principal trombone, Al Veeh, spoke to me at length about his studies with Byron Peebles, principal trombone with L.A. Philharmonic (recently, I've met and "hung" with Byron. . .a splendid human being!).  While still in Junior High and in High School, David Lusher, a gifted young tubist, helped with the most arcane questions of brass technique development.  David studied with Roger Bobo, Tommy Johnson, Abe Torchinsky and other tuba greats!  Eventually, David gave up tuba and became a professional electronic engineer with a large defense contractor, but he inflenced many of us who were exposed to his genius.


Ultimately jazz and swing became the most important aspect of my trombone playing.  By jazz I refer to any jazz style performance. More than any other development, the Jamey Aebersold "play along" recordings have allowed jazz soloing to be more accessible to the regular masses of musicians.  These recordings feature books with the "heads" and chords as well as useful pointers.  The rhythm section plays on the recordings and the groups sound great. The series is beyond one hundred recordings.  Many feature "standards" useful to the gigging musician. By now I have roughly twenty of these useful training recordings.

I am beginning to be considered one of the preferred jazz soloist in ensembles, however I am often asked to play lead trombone due to solid phrasing and good endurance.  I believe that I am now roughly intermediate in my jazz improvising. I am not reluctant to dive into the most difficult jazz improvising situations but don't always equate with the top flight improvisers here in Los Angeles, CA (so, when you compare yourself to Bob Summers, Ron King and Warren Leuning. . .well it's hard to think of yourself as advanced). I can generally function quite well in any big band improv situation.  I have recently begun to more regularly get "casual" or the small-combo night club gigs so essential to beefing up the improv chops.   We'll see. . .maybe I, too can be like JJ, Frank and Carl.