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4BR Top 10 - The Top 10 Trombonists


This was very, very difficult indeed. So difficult in fact, that we very nearly took the easy option and chickened out and replaced the feature with the top 10 triangle players of all time, as it would have been a great deal easier.

The trombone is the one brass instrument that has a worldwide musical influence, be it within or outside the brass banding world, and so we took the view that we therefore had to look at all musical idioms in which it prominently features. From classical to jazz from pop to brass bands – we cast our eye over as many players we could think of and tried to make an eclectic selection that encompassed them all. That’s why we found it so bloody difficult, as there are literally hundreds of brilliant players of the instrument in any of these fields.

Given the differing styles and performing diversities, we have gone for the top 10 players who we think are, or have been unique talents in their field, and for us are therefore the very best. We asked several well known trombone players to give us their lists and they came up with over 40 different players, but these were the ones that were nominated the most. You may or disagree, but we think you would have a field day getting hold of and listening to the recordings we have recommended you listen to. All are simply awesome.


No real order – just ten brilliant players.

Joseph Alessi
Joseph Alessi has been Principal Trombone with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra since 1985. Prior to joining the New York Philharmonic he played with the Philadelphia Orchestra for four seasons and studied at the famous Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. As with a number of top American trombone players Alessi has the ability to 'cross-over' styles extremely effectively, which is something which seems to come naturally with trombone players Stateside - why not over here?

Alessi now has an extremely exhausting recital schedule and has performed many premieres of new works for trombone; the Pulitzer Prize winning Christopher Rouse Trombone Concerto and the Creston Fantasy to name just a few.

One of the many enviable aspects of Alessi’s playing is his sound quality. His ability to create a 'white hot' sound in extremes of dynamic range and register is something other players can only aspire to. Our panel recommended any trombone player obtain a recording of this consummate musician as so much can be learned from his musicianship and artistry.

We’ve asked around and have been reliably informed that you should get a recording of him entitled 'New York Legends' CACD0508 Cala records

Frank Rosolino
Frank Rosolino was a towering genius and a trombone virtuoso in the jazz genre. He will be remembered and respected throughout the contemporary jazz world mainly for his mastery of the trombone.

After leaving the Army in 1946 Rosolino’s big break came when he was offered the trombone chair with the great Stan Kenton Band in 1952. He stayed with the Kenton Band until 1962 then, due to a constant search for a more fulfilling role for the jazz trombone, decided to embark on a number of world tours with trumpeter Conti Condoli in 1973 and 1975 and then as featured soloist with the legendary Quincy Jones in the late 70's.

Rosolino can be heard on numerous Stan Kenton studio recordings such as 'The Best of Stan Kenton', 'New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm' and with Quincy Jones on the famous 'Body Heat' soundtrack.

What happened on the morning of November 26th 1978 is an enigma that has haunted jazz trombone players for many years. The facts are clear; he shot his two young sons, killing one and blinding and permanently disabling the other, then he turned the gun on himself, ending his own life.

Rosolino was arguably the finest all round jazz trombone player of his generation.

Recommended recording - 'Fond Memories of Frank Rosolino' DTRCD-113 Double Time Records

Arthur Pryor
Arthur Pryor was in every sense a 'phenomenon'. From 1895 to 1903 he was trombone soloist and assistant conductor of the famous Sousa Band. Pryor was a musician as well as a technician. Along with his phenomenal tonguing ability and lightning fast slide action, he was equally well known for his beautiful tone and expressive style. In fact he actually preferred playing slow lyrical ballads and operatic arias to the fast, spell binding pieces that Sousa often insisted he perform. His clear unforgettable tone was marked with a constant vibrato, the result of a boyhood accident when a mule kicked him in the face, resulting in partial paralysis!

Through the years with the Sousa band he shared the spotlight with the famous cornetist Herbert Clarke, who said of him "His technique was wonderful, greater than any clarinet player I ever heard...... When we were together with Sousa I heard him play his solos twice daily for years, hundreds of times, and never heard him miss a note".

A generation of trombonists have tried to imitate him, and the instrument has never been the same since.

Recommended recording - 'Arthur Pryor - Trombone Soloist of the Sousa Band' Crystal Records CD451

Don Lusher
The name Don Lusher is synonymous with excellent trombone playing. Even to this day he is the master of ballad playing.

Like many instrumentalists, Lusher received his early tuition in the ranks of the Salvation Army Band in Peterborough. After leaving the Forces in 1947 he landed the trombone job with the Ted Heath Band, where he stayed as lead trombonist and Director until sadly they disbanded earlier this year.

Don's achievements are too numerous to mention but, for us, the finest aspect of his playing is his ability to make the instrument sing. His ballad playing is unsurpassed. The Gordon Langford “Rhapsody for Trombone”, written especially for him remains a flagship piece of writing, and one numerous fine players have performed with varying degrees of success ever since.

Recommended recording - 'The Don Lusher Big Band' Chandos Records

Nick Hudson
When it came to the choice of the best trombone in the brass banding field the name of Nick Hudson was top of our list - and rightly so. Hudson started his career within the Salvation Army movement before becoming Principal Trombone of the Fodens Band at the age of 15. From that time on he has become the finest player of his generation both on the concert and contesting stage, with a superb technique allied to a pure trombone sound.

In addition he has expanded the repertoire of the instrument from it’s historical brass band confines and had earned himself an enviable reputation as a soloists, teacher and clinician. In the brass band world he is without equal and our panel were unanimous in its praise for his playing, which they felt rightly, earned his position within our top 10.

Recommended recording 'New Horizons' Belburn Records BELB008

Click for an appraisal of his latest release.

Denis Wick
Denis Wick was for many years Principal Trombone with the London Symphony Orchestra, and it is in this role that he is responsible for some of the finest orchestral trombone playing you will hear.

Playing the role of Principal Trombone in a symphony orchestra calls for many differing approaches to balance, articulation and projection than that of a brass band player. There are many recordings where Denis Wick can be heard but a favourite of our panel is a recording of Walton's First Symphony recorded in the late 60's with Howard Snell on Trumpet, Denis Wick on Trombone and John Fletcher on Tuba. Denis's Wick’s ability to project the character and sound of the trombone is something all players should aspire to.

He is now retired and lives in Bournemouth and is still actively involved in trombone pedagogy. He also had a handy sideline in mouthpieces, which surely made him the only man to have his name on the lips of just about every brass player in the world.

Recommended recording 'Walton's First Symphony' RCA Victor conductor Andre Previn.

Christian Lindberg
Swedish born Christian Lindberg can proudly be called the first full time trombone solo artist. His schedule reads a relentless list of recitals, premieres and solo recordings.

Christian Lindburg is one of the master exponents of trombone who has worked tirelessly to bring the perception of the trombone as a solo instrument to a wider public. What a good job he has done!

As with all brass instruments, players' sounds and timbre vary according to nationality. This can be the only reason for Lindburg’s individual sound. If you take time to listen to these listed players you will notice that the majority are American. Listening to him is a perfect example of how the 'voice' of the trombone can change in different hands.

Christian Lindburg has made numerous solo recordings on the BIS label and is a fabulous all round musician and trombonist.

Recommended recording 'The Winter Trombone' BIS CD348

Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous is one of a handful of artists who have influenced a generation of players. His velvety tone quality, amazing agility, range and trademark 'doodle tonguing have combined to prompt many an aspiring trombonist to throw his instrument off a cliff!

One of his trademarks is his fascinating use of multiphonics. Whilst generally gimmicks such as these should be strongly avoided Watrous incorporates this effect into his impro' solos with great effect.

Bill Watrous now has his own big band in LA and has produced a number of acclaimed recordings on Double Time Records.

Listening to players of such as Bill can teach us so much in our approach to playing. Taking time to listen and learn from these masters can pay dividends in our own playing.

Recommended recording 'Space Available' Double Time Records DTRCD124

JJ Johnson
JJ Johnson was probably best known for his trombone playing with such greats as Miles Davis, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. His tone has inspired many jazz trombone players and his consummate improvisational skills are yet to be surpassed. Although they may not know it, most of today's jazz trombone players have in some way been influenced by JJ's playing.

Often referred to as 'The King', the recent passing of JJ Johnson has deprived us of one of the great jazz trombone players of the bebop generation.

Recommended recording 'Live at the Village Vanguard' Antilles Records

Ian Bousfield
We are all aware (and no doubt proud) that Ian Bousfield’s roots are within the brass band movement. His early musical education encompassed brass bands such as Yorkshire Imperial Metals before he started his orchestral career as Principal Trombone with the Halle Orchestra but soon travelled south to join the London Symphony Orchestra.

His playing is typically British. This is no way meant in a derogatory manner, far from it in fact, as his ideas with regards to sound quality, articulation and projection are more than enviable. His reputation in the orchestral world – a notoriously hard world to gain any sort of reputation of competence let alone brilliance is secure.

For the first time on record, the Vienna Philharmonic invited a British player to join their ranks. Ian Bousfield went through a rigorous audition routine and won a unanimous vote from the panel – an unprecedented achievement, and one that reflected his pre-eminence as the finest European symphonic trombone player.

Bousfield can also be heard on many recordings but he has recently recorded a disc on the EMI label 'Virtuosi' which demonstrates perfectly why he has made with comfort our Top 10 list.

© 4BarsRest

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