FB: Umm, what was your first introduction to the trombone?
TE: Umm, I came from a family of very dedicated parents who uh, ya know, fostered anything I wanted to do. There weren't any musicians in the family though I'm told there was a relative or cousan or someone on my father's or his uncle's side that played cornet in the Berless in Philidelphia and played cornet and violin. I don't know how true that is, but I uh, never met him. But as a kid I remember my mom ironing in the living room and uh, my sitting in front of this huge console which was a radio; a peice of furniture that was in the house at that time, no television. And um, listening to the Arthur Godfree hour which started out with a trombone. Remember that?(sings trombone intro) And that was one of the first trombones I remember hearing, and the first glissando I remeber hearing. But in the record collection, it was pretty popular for that time Monteverdi, Spike Jones was kinda hip I heard a lot of the vocal sounds and unique tambors and textures that Spike Jones would bring and his music was very humorous.
TE: It was really very hip if you think about it. That was hard to bring off.
FB: You bet.
TE: He brought it off very well. And they have Al Jolson, Gene Crosby. These are in the sets where there might have been three to five, um.. ten inchers uh..., shilacks, ya know the old 78 RPMs in a booklet. And the one I particularly remember was the Tommy Dorsey band.
FB: Sentimental Over You, Song of indian.
TE: Thats right. Absolutely. Opus One, uh... all those, Marie. Of course it was such a melodic, sweet singing trombone sound and uh, it sounded so natural I didn't realize at the time it was very difficult to do, and he was setting a standard. So that was my first exposure to the trombone.
FB: Sweet. Umm..., and then what happend, I mean, how did you get one in your hands? didn't you start out on trumpet?
TE: I started out on cornet in fifth grade in school and stayed with that through highschool and umm, in highschool I was an average trumpet player, and the band didn't have a baritone horn player in the highschool band and the director wanted me to switch over to the baritone and I switched over the baritone, the only one, I became the best. So umm, I really enjoyed that. And my best friend was a trombonist at the time and he said ya know, "why don't you come over and play in the jazz band?" So I played baritone horn in the jazz band thinking thats the way its done.
FB: Who were the guys who did that? Don Elliot?
TE: Don Elliot actually had mellophone. There a guy called Gus Macuso.
FB: Oh, ok.
TE: umm... what is the name of the Destroit trombonist who sometimes played baritone horn? Umm, from that period of the late 50s Detroit uh, early 50s Detroit musicians uh.
FB: Not Willy Ruff?
TE: No not Willy Ruff. umm, who also played french horn.
TE: Umm, the name will come to me.
FB: Thats ok.
TE: But uh, very few baritone players around, its just, its almost, the sound spreads out almost too much and its hard to articulate clearly in the lower register. And umm, it doesnt have the vocal capabilities that the slide trombone does. In fact even the valve trombone, there's few we have out there, one of the few who is as expressive as any trombonist we have, slide trombonist, is the great Bob Brookmeyer.
TE: And umm...
FB: That Quintet with Clary Terry is so unique.
TE : Oh Absolutely, oh thats so much fun, and they keep the counterpoint and the distinctive sounds they had. I uh, early sixties heard the Gerry Mulligan concert band which was a wonderful group that Brookmire played in.
TE: And I was a young slide trombonist at the time and thought the slide trombone was more eligant and sophisticated than the valve at the time and I remember mentioning to the trombonist I was sitting next to at the bar named Willie Dennis, a wonderful trombonist who played second in the band and I said ya, "isn't it a drag playing with Brookmeyer on first playing a valve trombone?" And all the sudden I Saw this very stern look, and he kinda leaned back and he said "that man can play more with valves than we could play with two slides. So that really put me in my place and I started to listen a little bit differently and heard ya know, the nuances and the control he had as well as the unique harmonic and melodic uh, context of his playing. So umm, I went to Ithaca college, Conservatory of music in Ithaca New York. And, I was a music education major and came in as a baritone horn major. And to my surprise, this is how nieve as I was for it, and to my surprise I got in there and said boy I'm gonna try out for the orchestra and the jazz band and the brass quintet as well as the concert band, yea I'm really gonna do it and then looked around and found out that there was no baritone used in the orchestra at the music school and the baritone was not used in the brass quintet and the jazz band, baritones weren't used in the big band, it was trombone. And, I kinda saw the writing on the wall and I wanted to play all these different things I needed to play trombone. So I switched to trombone actually kinda late, my freshman year in college. Umm, but I have a lot of tenacity and I jumped on the bandwagon and worked very hard that summer. I had took lessons from the principle trombonist of the metropolitan opera and taught at Julliard school who really helped pull everything together for me. So I was kind of I think fortunate in that I had really good instruction at a fairly introductory level.
FB: What was the guy's name?
TE: Roger Smith.
FB: Roger Smith?
TE: Roger Smith. And umm, I enjoyed such a variety of playing, but my first experience really playing trombone was in a big band. And uhh, I still find that very rewarding uhh, wonderful experience and I miss doing it on a regular basis.