In between ravings I've decided to do posts on my favorite trombone players, My Trombone Heroes, as it were. Like everything else, I'll probably decide who and what as I go along but I wanted to start with the theme of trombonists-I-dig-who-have-paid-my-bar-tab.
The first, actually the only one, is Tom Brantley, the trombone professor at the University of South Florida. I got to know Tom after I retired from the FBI and decided to go back to college to study music. He was the first teacher I ever had who was born the year I left high school and probably deserves some kind of medal for sitting through my lessons for 2 1/2 years. Plus, he's just plain good people.
But it isn't because I consider him a friend that Tom's one of my favorite trombonists. In fact, in the category of trombone performances I've witnessed he's the favorite. Tom plays with an exuberance that might come from having been raised in the heart of Cajun country in New Iberia, Louisiana. Hearing and seeing him in person you know he's giving you everything he's got.
After getting his bachelors from the University of Southern Mississippi, Tom went to North Texas State for his master's and played lead trombone in the One O'Clock Lab Band. This is the jazz equivalent of being able to say you played football at Notre Dame except that with the Lab Band you don't have to worry about it having been one of the years when they sucked. Just for emphasis, trombone alums of this band include Conrad Herwig, Dee Barton, Tom "Bones" Malone, Steve Wiest and Bruce Fowler. (If these names don't mean anything to you, then maybe you should just click back to icanhascheezburger and leave us alone.)
But Tom's not just a great jazz player he's also a member of the successful quintet Rythym & Brass. Gerry Sloane, trombonist and Professor of Music at the University of Arkansas, told me that Tom Brantley is one of about 5 trombone players he knows who can play classical just as well as jazz.
And the height of the Tampa Bay social year is the annual Chez Brantley crawfish boil.
I picked this particular recording for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love the tune. Any list of the Greatest American Songs Ever Written that doesn't include Star Dust can't be taken seriously. And that's the problem for a musician with cojones enough to pick something everyone in the world's recorded. How do you make that tune your own?
Tom does Star Dust as a rubato duet with guitar (my second favorite instrument for jazz) and what makes it work so well is the interplay between Tom and LaRue Nickelson, another USF professor and remarkable musician.
Maybe I should just let you listen.
Tom Brantley's album Boneyard is available at www.summitrecords.com, amazon.com and iTunes.