The Definitive List of Famous Jazz Trombonists

The Definitive List of Famous Jazz Trombonists

Image for postHopefully this isn?t too controversial.

How many can you name?

It?s incredibly important for the modern Jazz Musician to become acquainted with and listen to the best players of their respective instruments. In fact, the best way to improve your improvisational ability is to listen to other jazz musicians.

If you?re looking for an Encyclopedic Source of Information on the best Jazz Trombonists then look no further! Please note that everyone has different tastes and I will do my best to avoid bias in these selections. The following list of famous trombone players is in no particular order. I challenge the motivated trombonists of the world to listen to everyone on this list ? you?ll be happy you did.

J.J. Johnson

Image for postThe legendary J.J. Johnson playing his signature horn.

J.J. Johnson is an American Trombonist best known for being among the first trombone players to embrace bebop. He is one of the first people many trombonists think of when asked to name a famous trombone player.

J.J. Johnson has influenced trombone players world wide and he?s known for his great legato style and fast playing.

As trombonist Steve Turre has summarized, ?J. J. did for the trombone what Charlie Parker did for the saxophone. And all of us that are playing today wouldn?t be playing the way we?re playing if it wasn?t for what he did. And not only, of course, is he the master of the trombone ? the definitive master of this century ? but, as a composer and arranger, he is in the top shelf as well.?

Frank Rosolino

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Frank Rosolino was a sideman for Stan Kenton and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as a remarkable band leader. He also did a lot of touring with Quincy Jones. His favorite genres were Hard Bop and Bebop. His tone is modern and funky. He is described as being ?Head and Shoulders above every trombone player.?

Rosolino?s story is both inspiring and tragic. Although a world renowned jazz trombonist, Rosolino ended his own life in 1978. The day he took his life was also the day he shot both of his sons, fatally killing one, and leaving the other one blind. Though his story ends in sorrow, he is still one of the most respected Jazz Trombonists of all time.

Bill Watrous

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A self described Bop-Oriented player, Bill Watrous is well known among fellow trombonists as a master technician and for his mellifluous sound. Bill Watrous is the inventor of the doodle technique, which is used to articulate quickly.

He played with Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, Johnny Richards, and fellow trombonist Kai Winding. He is currently on the music faculty at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

Along with being a great trombonist he is also a huge advocate for music education. His album Tiger of San Pedro has received a Grammy Nomination.

Troy Andrews, (Trombone Shorty)

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The Modern Jazz/Funk Legend! Chances are if you?ve browsed around youtube looking for trombonists you?ve heard of Troy Andrews. He is best known as a trombone and trumpet player but also plays drums, organ, and tuba. He has worked with some of the biggest names in rock, pop, jazz, funk, and hip hop.

He performed the voices of the adults in the 2015 Peanuts Movie. His albums Backatown and For True have quickly become top sellers in modern day Jazz.

Jazz is alive in New Orleans and so is Trombone Shorty. We love his funky style and flare. Troy Andrews knows how to make Trombone cool.

Fred Wesley

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An American Jazz and Funk Trombonist best known for his work with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic. Wesley was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame of Alabama in 2015.

Fred Wesley is a huge inspiration to funk trombonists, and his solos are edgy and bluesy. Wesley is a nice humble guy but once he picks up his trombone he turns into a living legend.

Some of his solos on youtube have garnered over two hundred thousand views.

Wycliffe Gordon

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Play that funky music! Wycliffe Gordon is best known for the crazy sounds he can get out of the horn. Watching him do his thing with a plunger is like nothing you?ve ever seen.

He used to play with Wynton Marsalis, but recently he?s been experimenting with new instruments, such as the didgeridoo over Thelonious Monk songs.

Wycliffe is still incredibly active in the music community and he was chosen as Downbeat Magazine?s Critics Choice Award Best Trombone 2016, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

Slide Hampton

Image for postSoloist Slide Hampton

Described by critics as a master composer, arranger and uniquely gifted trombone player, Hampton?s career is among the most distinguished in jazz. As a fun fact, Slide Hampton is on of the few widely known left handed trombone players. As a child he was taught to hold it the opposite way, since he was never advised against doing so, the habit stuck.

By age 20 he was playing in Carnegie Hall. He was also a sidemember in Maynard Fergusons band. As his reputation grew he started to work with musicians like Art Blakey and Thad Jones.

He taught at Harvard and he formed an octet with horn players Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, and George Coleman. J.J. Johnson thought fondly of him.

Curtis Fuller

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This guy knows how to swing. Curtis Fuller is among one of the most celebrated Jazz Trombonists. He a member of Art Blakey?s Jazz Messengers and contributor to many classic jazz recordings.

He played with the great Miles Davis in the 50?s and was recruited by Blue Note Records, who put him as a band member with notable artists like John Coltrane.

In the 60?s he was part of Dizzy Gillespie?s band that also featured Foster Elliott. Fuller went on to tour with Count Basie and also reunited with Blakey and Golson. In 2007 Fuller was named an NEA Jazz Master. Below is a transcription of his solo on the Jazz Standard, Blue Train.

Carl Fontana

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This American Jazz Trombonist played in the big bands of Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton and Stan Kenton. Fontana is known widely for his smooth and soothing tone and technical skills.

His rise to fame began when he stood in Urbie Green in Woody Hermans big band. Once Green came back into the orchestra, it was decided to keep Fontana as a permanent member of the Herman band. His solos were very lyrical and appeared to be effortless.

Urbie Green

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He has played on over 250 recordings and has released more than two dozen albums as a soloist and is highly respected by his fellow trombonists.

Green?s trombone sound is especially noted for its warm, mellow tone, even in the higher registers where he is more fluent than most trombonists. His technique is considered flawless by many in the music industry. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995.

Bob Brookmeyer

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Rather than use a slide, Brookmeyer preferred to use valves. In fact he is one of the best known Jazz Valve Trombonists. Throughout his life, he received 8 Grammy nominations.

He was part of small groups led by Stan Getz, Jimmy Giuffre, and Gerry Mulligan in the 1950s. He also founded the Brookmeyer quartet. Brookmeyer was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

Brookmeyer is known for his melodic solos and is considered by some to be the best Valve Trombonist who ever lived.

Jack Teagarden

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Renowned as the king of the Blues Trombone, Jack Teagarden was a trombonist and singer. He was an inspiration to many great trombonists, many of whom are on this list.

Teagarden?s trombone style was largely self-taught, and he developed many unusual alternative positions and novel special effects on the instrument. He is usually considered the most innovative jazz trombone stylist of the pre-bebop era ? Pee Wee Russell once called him ?the best trombone player in the world.?

In the late 1920s he recorded with such notable bandleaders and sidemen as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Jimmy McPartland, Mezz Mezzrow, Glenn Miller, and Eddie Condon.

Teagarden turned the trombone from a rhythm section instrument to an instrument on par with trumpet and saxophone. He could turn any song into a form of blues. His solos leave you feeling good.

Jiggs Whigham

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His professional career at the age of 17, joining the Glenn Miller/Ray McKinley orchestra in 1961. He left that band for Stan Kenton. He became featured soloist with the Kurt Edelhagen Jazz Orchestra at the West German Broadcasting Company in Cologne, Germany in 1965. In 1966 he was awarded 1st Prize at the first competition for Modern Jazz in Vienna.

He is currently soloist and clinician worldwide, conductor of the BBC Big Band in Great Britain, artistic director of the Berlin Jazz Orchestra and visiting tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.

The Jiggs Pbone is named after him.

Jiggs Whigham has played with some of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. His list is so large and comprehensive that it would take up this entire page to list them all.

Phil Wilson

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A phenomenal Jazz Trombonist, arranger, and teacher, Wilson is probably best known as an instructor at the Berklee College of Music and a former chairman at the jazz division of the New England Conservatory of Music.

He had joined the faculty at Berklee in 1965. He formed an ensemble there that became one of the most well-regarded college jazz bands.

Phil Wilson is a remarkable teacher, and some of the greatest trombone players alive today were students of his.

He?s preformed with notable Jazz Musicians like Louis Armstrong, Woody Herman, Frank Sinatra, Clark Terry, Buddy Rich, Herbie Hancock, and the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, NDR Big Band (Hamburg, Germany), and Metropole Orchestra (Netherlands).


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