Thurman Green was born on August 12, 1940 in Texas where he learned to play the trombone. He spent time playing in Los Angeles, California with swinging big bands including the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and was an occasional member of the Horace Tapscott Quintet, unfortunately one of the groups no one bothered to record. He was open-eared enough to play quite credibly in free settings now and then.
In 1962, Green and baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett were jamming buddies at the Navy School of Music in Washington D.C. but they soon went their separate ways hoping to team up again some day. He wpould perform and record with Willie Bobo, Donald Byrd, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Hutcherson and Jean-Luc Ponty.
Some thirty-two years later, in 1994, Bluiett who had been recording for the Mapleshade label was able to give his old friend his first opportunity to lead his own record date, Dance of the Night Creatures. It is a shame that it took over four years for the music to finally come out because on June 19, 1997, bebop trombonist Thurman Green suddenly died at age 57.
More Posts: trombone
Urban Clifford “Urbie” Green was born August 8, 1926 in Mobile, Alabama and was taught the piano as a child by his mother, jazz and popular tunes from the beginning. He picked up the trombone when he was about 12 and although he listened to such trombone greats as Tommy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham, Jack Jenney, Jack Teagarden and Trummy Young, he was more influenced by the styles of Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Parker and Lester Young. Vocalists Perry Como and Louis Armstrong also influenced his style.
After his father died when he was 15, Green went straight into professional music, first joining the Tommy Reynolds Band and then stints with Bob Strong, Jan Savitt and Frankie Carle. While at Auburn High School he played with The Auburn Knights Orchestra, a college big band. In 1947, he joined Gene Krupa’s outfit and quickly moved up to Woody Herman’s 3rd Thundering Herd Big Band in 1950 to play with his brother, Jack.
By 1953 Urbie was in New York City quickly establishing himself as the premier trombonist in the booming recording industry and in 1954 he was voted the “New Star” trombonist in the International Critics Poll from Down Beat magazine. He was voted “Most Valuable Player” several times by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He recorded with virtually all of the major jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s and led his own groups while also joining tours as a featured performer.
He collaborated with innovative producer Enoch Light for the Command and Project 3 labels, producing The Persuasive Trombone of Urbie Green and 21 Trombones, and was sideman and soloist on the album ‘s Continental by Ray Conniff in 1961. In the Seventies he began making innovations with his instrument designing a signature mouthpiece for Jet Tone and collaborated with Martin Brass on practical improvements to trombone design.
He would go on to record with Enoch Light and the Light Brigade, Dick Hyman, Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen before moving over to CTI where he played more of his music and less solos with his band. He would record with Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Manny Albam,, Steve Allen, Ray Bryant, Count Basie, Paul Desmond, Gil Evans, Art Farmer, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Griffin, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Wes Montgomery, Mark Murphy and the list goes on and on.
By the 1980s and beyond Urbie’s recording career began a slowing down with only two live, straight jazz works; Just Friends, and Sea Jam Blues. In 1995 he was elected into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and he still plays live at the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts Festival every September, just miles down the road from his home.
More Posts: trombone
Carl Charles Fontana was born on July 18, 1928 in Monroe, Louisiana and learned jazz from his father Collie, a saxophonist and violinist. He first performed with his father’s band while in high school and would go on to attend the University of Louisiana Monroe for two years prior to transferring to Louisiana State University and getting a degree in Music Education.
Fontana got his first professional break on the jazz scene in 1951 when he was hired to stand in for Urbie Green in the Woody Herman band. Impressing the bandleader with his improvisational skills he kept him on as a permanent member of the band even after Green returned..
Three years later he left Herman and joined Lionel Hampton’s big band. In early 1955 he played briefly with Hal McIntyre before joining Stan Kenton’s big band later in the year. He recorded three albums with Kenton and also worked with fellow trombonist Kai Winding during this period. Being an inventive yet fluid player made it easy for him to record and tour, but Carl was also a master of the “Doodle Tonguing” technique, that allowed him to smoothly execute runs of notes at speeds many had not previously considered possible to achieve on a slide trombone.
By 1958, Fontana was living in Las Vegas, Nevada and would tour only on rare occasions. He primarily performed with house orchestras in Las Vegas during the 1960s, particularly Paul Anka’s band with Rosolino, and in the bands backing Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Wayne Newton and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. This continued into the Seventies in addition to recording with Louie Bellson, Bill Watrous, and Supersax as well as co-leading a date with Jack Hanna, titled The Hanna-Fontana Band: Live at Concord.
The 1980s saw him appearing regularly on National Public Radio’s Monday Night Jazz program. And although he recorded on more than 70 albums over his long career, his first true record as a headliner did not appear until 1985 when Uptown Jazz released The Great Fontana. He continued performing and recording sporadically throughout the 1990s.
Trombonist Carl Fontana, who never earned great fame but was on every great trombonist’s list of greats, passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada aged 75 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease on October 9, 2003.
More Posts: trombone
Glenn Ferris was born on June 27, 1950 in Los Angeles, California. He studied classical music from 1958 to 1967, but from 1964 onward he also studied jazz with Don Ellis. He went on to perform with a variety of musicians in varied genres before moving to France in 1980.
In France, trombonist Glenn Ferris worked with Tony Scott, Brotherhood of Breath, Henri Texier and others. As an educator he currently teaches at the Conservatoire de Paris and leads a trio and a quintet.
More Posts: trombone
Wycliffe Gordon was born May 29, 1967 in Waynesboro, Georgia and was heavily influenced musically by the church music his organist father played at several churches in Burke County as well as being a classical pianist and teacher.
It wasn’t until 1980 that Gordon became particularly inspired in jazz at age thirteen, listening to jazz recordings inherited from his great aunt. The collection included a five-LP jazz anthology produced by Sony-Columbia and was drawn in particular to Louis Armstrong and the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens.
Wycliffe attended, at that age, Sego High School in Augusta, Georgia and played in the band under direction from Don Milford. He graduated from Butler High in 1985, performed in New York City as part of the McDonald High School All-American Band, went on to study music at Florida A&M where he played in the marching band.
His early works as a professional were with Wynton Marsalis but in recent years he expanded beyond swing and experimented with new instruments, notably the indigenous Australian wind instrument, didgeridoo. In 1995, Gordon arranged and orchestrated the third version of the theme song for NPR’s All Things Considered, the widely recognized melody composed in 1971 by Donald Joseph Voegeli.
In 2006 he founded Blues Back Records, his was an independent jazz label and released his Rhythm On My Mind album, a collaboration with bassist Jay Leonhart. His desire for full artistic control was the impetus for creating Blues Back. Blues Back had produced other artists in Wycliffe’s universe who met Gordon’s criteria for originality, however, since 2011 has been inactive.
Jazz trombonist, arranger, composer, bandleader and music educator at the collegiate-conservatory level, Wycliffe Gordon also plays didgeridoo, trumpet, tuba, piano, and sings. To date he has a catalogue of 19 albums as a leader and another eight as a sideman performing with John Allred, Marcus Roberts, Randy Sandke, Maurice Hines, Ron Westray, and Chip White. He continues to perform, tour, record and educate.