Although I have been a university low brass teacher at some level for twelve years now, I have never taken it upon myself to make a solo recording. One reason for this is the expense involved; making a quality recording can cost over $10,000, and I have heretofore not had access to the financial resources to undertake such a project. Another possible reason for this is that, in my position as audio/video reviews editor for the International Trombone Association Journal, I have seen an extraordinary number of CDs come across my desk. Some of these are exceptional, including many from “people you’ve never heard of.” Others, however, are not so great, and some are obviously “promotion and tenure” projects. Recordings in this latter group are usually quite good, but one is sometimes left wondering what contribution the person making the recording thought his or her disc would make to the trombone community, especially when the works included have been recorded multiple times. Self-promotion is, of course, a legitimate reason to record an album, but I was never willing to invest the effort and expense into making an album purely for self-aggrandizement. It has always seemed to me that, if one were going to make a recording, choosing a theme and repertoire that supplied an unmet need in the available trombone recordings would be more helpful to the trombone community and generate more sales.
Before I had even completed the interview process for my present position at Ole Miss, my department chair made clear to me that recording a solo album, or another performance project of similar heft, would be a necessary part of my application for promotion and tenure. I suddenly found my reticence to undertake a solo recording project entirely removed! The College of Liberal Arts here makes generous Summer Research Grants available to faculty members, and after being awarded one, the largest single obstacle to making a solo recording was also eliminated. I am therefore making a solo recording this summer.
The Project, and Why I Have Chosen It
I have chosen to record an album of intermediate-level (i.e. high school/early undergraduate) works for bass trombone. Perhaps that choice will seem odd to some that have known me primarily as a tenor trombonist, but in all honesty it has been a long time since I have considered myself “primarily” a player of any of my instruments in particular, having cultivated a career as a “doubler.” A significant proportion—and during certain periods the majority—of my work over the past twelve years or so has been on bass trombone, and I am presently enjoying a particular focus on that instrument as I am practicing and rehearsing for this recording. More importantly, I have chosen this project because some of these works have never been commercially recorded, and the others are scattered among numerous recordings, some of which are no longer available, and all of which are filled mainly with more difficult works. In short, I have aimed to supply an unmet need among currently available trombone recordings by providing students and teachers with a single album demonstrating several substantial but approachable works for bass trombone.
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What pieces are you recording?” Here is a repertoire list, alphabetized by composer since I have not yet chosen a track order for the CD.
- Trilogy for Bass Trombone by Tom Dossett
- Sonata I by Johann Ernst Galliard, arranged by Micah Everett
- Drei leichte Stücke by Paul Hindemith
- Trigger Treat by Earl Hoffman
- Cameos by Gordon Jacob
- Concerto No. 1 by Alexei Lebedev
- Concertino Basso by Richard Lieb
- Sonata for Bass Trombone by Patrick McCarty
- Concertino by Ernst Sachse, arranged by Armin Bachmann and Wolfgang Wagenhäuser
- Barcarolle et Chanson Bachique by Jules Semler-Collery
- Dramatique by Edward Solomon
All of these works are on the University Interscholastic LeaguePrescribed Music List for bass trombone, though one of these is a new arrangement that is different than the one listed (which I hope will change in the near future). Why the UIL list? Because, like it or not, Texas has the most organized and regimented high school solo and ensemble program in the United States, and serves as something of a “trendsetter” for the rest of us. Some of the works on the recording are clearly student works, while others are more advanced. The multi-movement works tend to have movements that are approachable by younger students as well as more difficult ones, a reality that the UIL list takes into account by assigning a higher grade level to certain entire works while also allowing less advanced students to perform selected movements at a lower grade level. All in all, I hope this list includes works whose recordings will be useful to student bass trombonists of a variety of ability levels.
A New Edition of the Galliard Sonatas?
As you will see from the list above, I am working on a new bass trombone edition of the six bassoon sonatas by Johann Ernst Galliard (1687-1749). While trombonists have used these sonatas in both teaching and performance for decades, bass trombonists have usually been relegated to playing the tenor trombone or tuba editions, neither of which is in an optimal range for bass trombone. This new edition, for which I have already completed the first sonata for inclusion on this recording, will place each of the sonatas in an ideal bass trombone range, exploring the “cash register” of the instrument without an overabundance of lower pedal tones or high notes. I hope to have the entire thing completed and submitted for publication this summer. Working on new figured bass realizations for this edition has been both fun and challenging!
The pianist on this recording will be Stacy Rodgers, a piano professor at Ole Miss and a frequent collaborator with several of our faculty members, myself included. He is an expert performer whose calm demeanor always creates an enjoyable atmosphere in which to work. The recording engineer will be Rich Mays of Sonare Recordings. Mr. Mays comes highly recommended by James Boldin, with whom I frequently worked and performed for six years while teaching at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Not only do I have complete trust in Dr. Boldin’s opinion, but Mr. Mays was also bass trombonist of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra prior to entering the recording business. So, I am looking forward to hearing the end result after working with an expert engineer who knows both the bass trombone sound and its repertoire.
In anticipation of this recording project, I invested in a new bass trombone several months ago, an S.E. Shires bass trombone with a BI 7RGM bell, BYC tuning slide, dual inline axial-flow valves, B62 slide, and B3L leadpipe. It is a beautiful instrument, and has helped me to achieve the sound I want with minimal effort.
I’m still using the same bass trombone mouthpiece I’ve used for the past nine years, a Doug Elliott LBGMW112 rim, LB L cup, and L8 shank. Think of it as a Schilke 59 or Bach 1.25G “on steroids.”
Dates and Location
We will be recording July 16-18 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Ole Miss campus. The Ford Center seems a bit large for a solo recording space, but is actually quite friendly to trombone, with just the right mix of resonance and clarity. I am looking forward to three days of music making there…and am building up my left arm stamina in preparation for holding up that big trombone for several hours a day!
When Can I Hear It?
That question is a bit premature. I have spoken with a record label that I think would be a good “fit” for this album, and they are tentatively interested. Of course, that depends on the quality of the end result. Hopefully everything will work out for a release sometime during the next academic year. Stay tuned!