Posts Tagged ‘J J Johnson’

Lucian McGuinness is the latest musician to participate in The Dilworths Top 5 influence column.
Recently we’ve been playing a few horn section gigs and hanging out afterwards having great discussions about music and how we get our music out there.
He’s a killer trombonist and can be seen regularly playing with his band Keizer-McGuinness Quintet (check them out at the Kinetic Festival this month), King Tide and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra.
Here it is:

My top 5 top 8 influences on my instrument

In order of my exposure to these trombonists, I would have to begin with Vic Dickenson. My mum had some Billie Holiday records – cassettes – that we loved, and I learned later that it was his trombone on most of those recordings. And now, listening to that stuff again, especially the late 50’s recordings of Billie, I’m sure all those years of listening to a pretty limited repertoire burnt that sort of lyrical, easy and slightly humorous approach to playing jazz in my brain. I guess by that time almost everybody on those recordings were in the twilight of their careers and didn’t feel the need to playing in any manner other than an ‘easy’ one. There was a tv show made of those sessions, here’s : Vic blows after Lester Young and Ben Webster.

When I started learning ‘jazz’ trombone towards the end of high school, I chatted to a busking saxophonist and he suggested I check out a Sydney trombonist James Greening, on a Catholics record called Simple. I’m sure you’ll all sneer at me when I say that at first I didn’t like it much. I found the texture of the music too subtle, too understated, and that Greening’s sound was too gritty or harsh. This is probably because I had had no real contact with Australian jazz at that point, or any jazz that stylistically reached beyond the 1950’s. (My teacher at the time had me working on J J Johnson and Carl Fontana recordings, both of whom are much more proper than almost any Australian muso, which in turn is something I now love Australians for). Of course, I soon came to my senses and at one point our high-school jazz hang almost became a Catholics tribute band. Then I got the Bernie McGann record with Greening on it, and refused to play anything other than piano-less quartet for a while. This somehow got me to Bassdrumbone, a trio of Ray Anderson, Gerry Hemingway and Mark Helias. I guess Greening and Anderson have some elements in common, although I don’t think Greening lists Ray Anderson as an influence per se. Those reduced combinations (Greening’s World According to James is also a piano-less situation) highlight the incredible freedom that both these guys have. Their sounds differ a lot, but they share a virtousic facility and deceptively ‘loose’ feel. I had a few lessons with a heavy classical cat in Canberra, whom I asked if he could make me sound like that (dumb question). He listened to about 5 seconds of Greening on CD and said something like, “This guy makes it sound free and easy, but underneath all that he has an incredible amount of control.”
Halfway through my conservatorium study Dave Panichi moved back to Oz to teach in Canberra. Dave was my first experience with a trombonist who knows post-bebop developments in jazz inside-out and upside down, which was intimidating at the time. At first Dave sounded too complex and almost pedantic to my ears (I had left J J behind for a while) but watching him play up close changed my whole perception of how at home and confident a trombone could be in sax-and-guitar-dominated-mainstream-modern-jazz.

Around the same time Phil Slater told me to check out a NY trombonist Josh Roseman, who I chased through Dave Douglas recordings to his own debut CD, Cherry. You could argue that there’s not that much trombone playing up front in this record I guess, at least, not in the old-school I’m the bandleader and I play first and the most kind of way, but what Josh plays and the way his personality is stamped across the whole disc is alluring: a kind of anti-Conrad Herwig (can I say that?) I used to spin the Marvin Gaye cover ‘Just To Keep You Satisfied’ on my radio show to sync up with the love scenes on Dawson’s Creek. Who knew trombone could be steamy and sexxy?

The conclusion to this list is another piano-less quartet leader, Nils Wogram. Sydney trombonist Jeremy Borthwick played me, among many other fine eye-openers, some early Nils Wogram quintet CDs which at the time I found so obtuse that I couldn’t fathom, let alone like them (I’m recognising a familiar theme in my journey of discovery). Later along the way, probably at Birdland Records, I heard Root 70’s Getting Rooted, and was completely blown away. Root 70 use high-fidelity to draw you in, and in, to sometimes very fragile timbres on their instruments. There are other amazing elements in the playing, rhythmically and harmonically, but I guess the most striking thing is how Nils can use that ‘fragile’ sound (with plenty of chops) to move in and out of the foreground, adding melody above and harmony or bass below. Oh crikey, there’s so many more…of the 8 names here, I have seen all the living ones play quite often, which greatly determines the scale of their influence, but there are many more!

L (January 2010)

Check out Lucian’s Blog at http://lucianmcguinness.com



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