The Trombone History

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The Trombone

The trombone in itself has been around for over 600 years. Trombones were introduced to the orchestra in the 18th century. Trombones were found in churches during this time because they were known for their vocal support. This tradition of using trombones in a church setting continued well into the mid-19th century. Fanny Mendelsson-Hensel’s Oratorio is an example of the trombone use, used in the early years of the trombone. During the mid-19th century, bell-size became wider as a larger, louder sound was introduced for the performance in bands. This was also used to generate louder volume in the orchestra. By the mid-19th century the role of the trombone in band and classical music was in place. It was not until the end of the 19th century where the trombone found itself in the hands of jazz musicians in New Orleans. There were multiple types of jazz such as New Orleans jazz which was popular during the 1870’s until the 1920’s, Ragtime (1890-1930), The Jazz Era (1920-1930), the Big Band/Swing Era (1930’s-1940’s), the Bebop Era (1940's- 1950's), The Avant Guard Era (late 1950's), Free Jazz (late 1950's), and Fusion (1960's-1970's). However, when jazz was in the beginning stages the trombone was more often used as a single instrument. Early jazz bands consisted of a many instruments, but by the 1930's it became standardized, consisting of four trombones, four saxophones, four trumpets, and the rhythm section which was made up of bass or tuba, drums, piano, guitar and banjo. (“Where Did The Trombone Originate From?” (06/10/2011)

Dixieland was the earliest and most recognized form of jazz and was improvised music. This style began in New Orleans during the early 1900s. Dixieland was performed by small jazz bands which used the trumpet or cornet, trombone, clarinet and rhythm section. The trombones role in Dixieland jazz was to play a counter melody which was pretty simple and reinforced the chord progressions. Tailgate was a style period that jazz musicians loved it used a lot of glissandi and growls. Tailgate was termed by jazz musicians because they had a need to sit in the back of the wagon in order to have enough space to maneuver the slide. One the most well-known trombone players was Kid Ory. Kid Ory is well known for his performances with Louis Armstrong, as well as Dave Peyton, Jelly Roll Morton, and Ma Rainey. Another great trombone player from this period is Freddie Assunto of the Dukes of Dixieland, which got their start during the 1940s Dixieland revival. The 1930s and 1940s began a new style of jazz called the Swing Jazz era. Swing jazz was different from Dixieland in many ways. Dixieland had small combos where the swing era band had 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxophones, piano, bass, drums and every now and then a guitar. Swing Jazz was pre-composed. Jack Teagarden was a well-known trombonist. Jack Teagarden got his start performing in Dixieland bands led by Wingy Malone, Willard Robinson, Elizabeth Brice, Billy Lustig and Tommy Gott. Jack Teagarden was a featured trombonist and singer with Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Teagarden’s jazz style was different from the Dixieland trombonist in that he did not have that tailgate approach it was more like playing a trumpet instead. Teagarden played with a soft tone. Another notable trombonist from this era is Billy Harris which was known for his technical command of the trombone. Billy Harris had great endurance and range and was able to handle fast tempos. Harris was known for using the technique called against the grain. Which is when a trombonist changes notes very rapidly by breaking the harmonic partials without the use of tongue notes. Billy Harris and Jack Teagarden were not the only memorable and notable trombonists of this era, so was Tommy Dorsey who was a trombonist and band leader. Jimmy Harrison, Benny Morton, and Trummy Young are highly memorable...
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