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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.
As I began to study music
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
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. .
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
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" -
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.
interested in symphonic and chamber music trombone playing due to the
requirements and perfectionistic approach to performance. I first
worked in this kind of
setting while performing for Easter gigs. These usually are paid
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.
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.