Establishing oneself as a lead voice that happens to play the trombone is difficult. Trombonists have to fight on two fronts. We have to achieve and maintain great musicianship, as well as educate the trombone novice on our beautiful, noble, swingin’, and soulful instrument. As trombonist, we represent and sometimes spark the perceptions that listeners have of our instrument. The path to establishing a successful solo career as a trombonist is consistency and finding your own path.
Our first battle front is attaining a voice and sound that people want to hear. Our tone, technique, and style has to be of a caliber that is respected by the musicians in which we perform with. Let’s be real, great musicians want to play with great musicians. Since the trombone is often overlooked or misunderstood, it is imperative that we bring a bit more to the table. Selling ourselves in a way that other instrumentalists do not have to is definitely a must. Unfortunately, there are some that think of our instrument as expendable. When in reality, the trombone possesses and adds a majestic quality to any musical palette. Imagine Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” Count Basie’s “April In Paris,” Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” or The JB’s “Doing It To Death” without the voice of the trombone. Yes, my sentiment exactly. The trombone is an important voice that deserves more respect.
The second battle front is exposing and educating the public on the rolls in which trombonists have played in the music industry. As instrumentalist, arrangers, composers, producers, educators, and bandleaders trombonist have made an enormous contribution to various genres and films. Some names that come to mind are: Kid Ory, Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol, Trummy Young, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Sammy Nestico, JJ Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Frank Rosolino, Fred Wesley, Wayne Henderson, Paul Riser, Jimmy Wilkins, George Bohanon and many others. Trombonists tend to be the meat and potatoes for orchestras, wind ensembles, jazz orchestras, and horn sections. Some even say that trombonists are the better arrangers and composers, which I have found to be true. In any event, us trombonist have our work cut out for us. The masses are just getting hip. We have to release more albums and create more popular works that feature our instrument. You know, show them what we are made of.