Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (4)

Tonight, we look at one of the most versatile instruments in the world, and how groups of them together sound good.

That instrument is the trombone:

Trombone, in Italian, means large trumpet, which is sort of true. A member of the brass family of musical instruments, trombones can be found in a wide variety of musical groups, including classical orchestras, big bands, brass and concert bands, rock groups, blues, jazz and everything in between.

Having played the trombone since I was 13, I am a bit biased in saying that the trombone is a wonderful instrument to play and to listen to. The concept of playing this is rather straight forward to understand, if somewhat difficult to master.

First learn to buzz with you lips. Then make that same buzzing sound into the mouthpiece (the small end of the trombone) and a sound will eminate from the bell (the large end of the trombone). Changing the pitch of that sound is achieved through a combination of moving the slide of the trombone in and out and by changing the type of buzzing that your lips are making. See, pretty simple.  There are heaps of Youtube videos if you want to learn more about how the trombone works, like here, here, here and here.

Whilst trombones are normally seen playing with other instruments it is not all that common to hear trombones playing together, either in groups of 4 (quartets), groups of 5 (quintets) or more (trombone choirs). Thankfully the second best invention of the last 100 years, (Youtube) allows us to find and experience music played by nothing but trombones.

First of all we go to a young group of 4 musicians calling themselves Maniacal 4 Trombone Quartet playing the Super Mario Theme (what is it with this music, it appears everywhere!)

Next is the Pugh/Taylor project, with David Taylor, Bruce Eidem, Eijiro Nakagawa and James Pugh, with a funky piece being the last movement of 1822: Rossini's visit to Beethoven.

Now moving up to 5 trombones. Based in Yokohama, Japan, here is a quintet playing Rossini's William Tell Overture (the fast bit).

A few years ago, when I was playing with Box Hill City Band, this piece featured heavily in our repertoire. Called Buglers' Holiday, it was not originally composed as a trombone piece. However this trombone quintet makes a pretty good fist of it (though it does get just a little rough towards the end).

Moving up to 24 trombones now and here is Jack Quinby and "Coro trombones de la Americas" playing Scarborough Fair:

The last couple of pieces are from the CD The London Trombone Sound. The group was created by getting together 16 trombone players from the top 7 orchestras in London. Read here for a review of the CD

I really enjoy listeninng to the CD. I do have a couple of favourites which I shall leave you with (not much to see here, it's more enjoyable listening).

The first is a piece that I have been fortunate enough to have played with Footscray-Yarraville Brass Band. It is a brilliant arrangement of a classic song from Eric Clapton, called Layla:

The second is from the same album, but with an added 60 players, making it 76 trombones playing 76 Trombones (I really like the opening homage to pretty much all the standard trombone solos in classic music):

Back to 16 trombones, and the final piece (and our link to next week) is the Theme from the Pink Panther movie:

Have a good week.

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