The trombone has always been regarded as a second-class citizen in the world of jazz. Even jazz magazines that regularly dedicate an entire month’s issue to saxophones, pianos, drums, etc. rarely, if ever, do the same for the trombone.

April of course is Jazz Appreciation Month. And the week of April 16 through the 23 (yes, I know that’s eight days) is International Trombone Week.

To give the trombone its due, I’ll be featuring some of my very favorite trombonists every Wednesday evening throughout April on The Night Beat.

Up first on April 5, is valve trombonist and NEA Jazz Master Bob Brookmeyer. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1929, he began performing professionally at the age of 14. In the early 1950s, Bob moved to New York City where he freelanced with Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and others. Bob would soon find himself in Southern California working with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and others.  Along with Jim Hall, Bob was a member of the legendary Jimmy Giuffre 3.

Bob was the lead trombonist and one of the founding members of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. During that time he wrote a few arrangements for the band and received one of his eight Grammy Award nominations for his original composition The ABC Blues. It was heard on the very first Thad & Mel album in 1966.

While much mention is made of Maria Schneider’s time spent under the tutelage of Gil Evans, she studied composition with Bob for five years. In a 2014 interview for the website, she said “Bob’s incredible skill at development is absolutely astounding and unparalleled—the way he could take a simple idea and morph it into so many different things, but making everything all flow so naturally and feel united.”

In lieu of an overly long summation of Bob’s career and legacy in jazz, this quote from Leonard Feather’s “The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz” says all that needs to be said about him: “…he combines a sense of swing, mordant wit, the ability to extract harmony and an aptitude for contrapuntal interaction with an understanding of the entire jazz tradition”.

We’ll also note the passing of Ryuichi Sakamoto. Perhaps best known for his film scores including the Oscar and Grammy award-winning soundtrack to “The Last Emperor” (1987), the Japanese composer/musician passed away on March 28th at the age of 71 after a long bout with cancer.

Tune in on Wednesday, April 5 at 8:30 pm for The Night Beat with Doug Crane as he celebrates the Trombone.

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