Famous Trombone Players

Famous Trombone Players

Introduction to Famous Trombone Players

The trombone has a long and rich history, evolving from its 15th-century origins to become a staple in jazz, classical, pop music, salsa, Latin music, and many other genres.

This article profiles some of the most influential trombone players who have shaped its development and demonstrated its versatility. We will explore pioneering players, major innovators, and also notable contributions of female trombonists, who have historically been underrepresented.

We’ll take a look at how these trombone players have not only mastered the trombone but also used it to leave a lasting impact on music.

The Historical Development of Trombone Playing

The trombone emerged in the mid-15th century, originally known as the “sackbut,” which differed slightly in size and shape from its modern descendant. Its ability to produce a wide range of dynamics and pitches made it a versatile choice for Renaissance and Baroque music.

By the 18th century, the trombone began appearing more frequently in orchestral works, with composers like Mozart and Beethoven incorporating it into their symphonies for dramatic effect. This period solidified the trombone’s role in classical music ensembles.

The 19th century saw further refinement of the trombone, with technical improvements such as the addition of valves that expanded its range and versatility. It was during this time that the trombone began to make significant inroads into military bands and opera orchestras.

The 20th century marked a golden age for the trombone with the rise of jazz. Players like Tommy Dorsey and J.J. Johnson used the trombone’s expressive capabilities to great effect, exploring its potential in solo performances and establishing it as a key instrument in jazz ensembles.

Today, the trombone is a fixture across various music genres, continuing to evolve with new playing techniques and musical styles.

Famous Classical Trombone Players

This section pays tribute to some of the most influential figures in the world of classical trombone playing. From principal trombonists of renowned orchestras to celebrated soloists and educators, these musicians have shaped the trajectory of the trombone repertoire and inspired generations of players. Their contributions extend beyond the concert hall, encompassing recordings, compositions, and pedagogy, ensuring that their legacy endures and continues to enrich the classical music landscape.

  • Joseph Alessi (1959) – Internationally acclaimed trombonist known for his tenure as the Principal Trombonist of the New York Philharmonic since 1985. Alessi is revered for his virtuosic performances and has premiered numerous trombone concertos and solo works.
  • Christian Lindberg (1958) – Swedish trombonist, composer, and conductor recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the trombone repertoire. Lindberg has performed as a soloist with major orchestras worldwide and has composed numerous works for the trombone, expanding its technical and expressive possibilities.
  • Jörgen van Rijen (1975) – Celebrated dutch trombonist. As the Principal Trombonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, van Rijen has garnered critical acclaim for his expressive playing.
  • Alain Trudel (1966) – Canadian trombonist, conductor, and champion of contemporary music. Trudel has premiered over a hundred works for trombone and has conducted orchestras around the world. His commitment to expanding the trombone repertoire and promoting new music has made him a leading figure in the classical music community.
  • Stefan Schulz (1966) – German bass trombonist known for his lyrical playing and dynamic stage presence. Schulz has performed as a soloist with leading orchestras and has recorded extensively, showcasing his versatility across a wide range of musical styles.
  • Ian Bousfield (1964) – British trombonist renowned for his expressive playing and technical mastery. Bousfield has held positions as Principal Trombonist with major orchestras and is sought after as a soloist and teacher worldwide.
  • Michel Becquet (1954) – French trombonist acclaimed for his rich tone and musical sensitivity. Becquet has performed as a soloist with orchestras worldwide and has recorded extensively, earning accolades for his interpretations of classical and contemporary repertoire.
  • Zoltan Kiss – Renowned as a member of the internationally acclaimed brass ensemble Mnozil Brass. Kiss’s performances with Mnozil Brass have captivated audiences worldwide with their virtuosity, humor, and innovative approach to brass music.
  • Jay Friedman (1943) – Former Principal Trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and respected educator. Friedman has performed as a soloist with major orchestras and has inspired generations of trombonists through his teaching and mentorship.
  • Douglas Yeo (1955) – American trombonist known for his distinguished career as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and his contributions to the trombone repertoire as a soloist and chamber musician.
  • Dennis Wick (1932) – British trombonist and founder of Denis Wick Products Ltd., a leading manufacturer of brass instrument accessories. Wick’s innovative designs have had a profound impact on trombone playing worldwide, and his contributions to brass pedagogy are widely recognized.
  • Charles Vernon (1948) – Principal Trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1986. Vernon is acclaimed for his powerful sound and expressive playing, and he has been a driving force behind the orchestra’s legendary brass section for over three decades.

Videos with famous classical trombone players

Jospeh Alessi

Christian Lindberg

Stefan Schulz

Famous Jazz Trombonists

Jazz has been significantly shaped by the contributions of trombonists. The trombone players listed below not only mastered the technical aspects of the trombone but also expanded its expressive possibilities, making it a prominent voice in jazz ensembles from the early days of New Orleans jazz through the bebop era and beyond. Here, we explore some of the most influential jazz trombonists, presented in chronological order based on their periods of activity.

  • Kid Ory (1886–1973) – One of the first notable jazz trombonists, Ory played a crucial role in the development of early New Orleans jazz. His spirited playing and innovative use of the tailgate style helped define the sound of the genre in its formative years.
  • Miff Mole (1897–1961) – An early pioneer of jazz trombone, Mole’s intricate and technically challenging solos helped to define the role of the trombone in jazz.
  • Jack Teagarden (1905–1964) – A pioneering figure in jazz trombone, Teagarden was renowned for his warm, fluid sound and improvisational skill. His influence extended beyond performance, with contributions to jazz vocals and bandleading.
  • Tommy Dorsey (1905–1956) – Known for his smooth tone and technical prowess, Dorsey was a prominent bandleader and trombonist during the big band era. His melodic solos and ability to swing effortlessly made him a major star.
  • Glenn Miller (1904–1944) – Although more famously known as a big band leader, Miller was also an accomplished trombonist whose music became synonymous with the World War II era.
  • J.C. Higginbotham (1906–1973) – A major figure in the swing era, his robust and vigorous playing style made him one of the leading trombonists of his time.
  • Vic Dickenson (1906–1984) – Renowned for his humorous playing and unique approach, Dickenson was a staple of both swing and mainstream jazz bands.
  • Benny Morton (1907–1985) – Known for his work with Count Basie and Teddy Wilson, Morton’s lyrical and expressive playing style made him a significant figure in the swing era.
  • Quentin Jackson (1909–1976) – A powerful force in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Jackson’s expressive solos and dynamic presence were key components of the band’s sound during his tenure.
  • Trummy Young (1912–1984) – Known for his work with Louis Armstrong’s All Stars, his energetic style and powerful playing made him a standout performer.
  • Tyree Glenn (1912–1974) – A versatile trombonist and vibraphonist, Glenn played with Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, known for his vibrant tone and technical skill.
  • George Chisholm (1915–1997) – A pioneering British jazz trombonist, Chisholm helped popularize jazz in the United Kingdom and was renowned for his lively style and contributions to both jazz and popular music.
  • Lou McGarity (1917–1971) – Known for his work with Benny Goodman, McGarity was a talented trombonist whose style effectively bridged the gap between swing and traditional jazz.
  • Nelson Riddle (1921–1985) – Renowned for his work as a composer, arranger, and trombonist, Riddle’s sophisticated arrangements helped shape the sound of American popular music, particularly in his collaborations with Frank Sinatra.
  • J.J. Johnson (1924–2001) – Often referred to as the “father of modern jazz trombone,” Johnson revolutionized trombone playing with his bebop style, bringing a level of technical and musical sophistication previously unseen in jazz trombone.
  • Sammy Nestico (1924–2021) – Best known for his prolific career as a composer and arranger, Nestico also played trombone early in his career, contributing to the Count Basie Orchestra with his distinctive arrangements.
  • Kai Winding (1922–1983) – A Danish-born jazz trombonist, Winding was known for his collaborations with J.J. Johnson. Together, they pushed the boundaries of trombone duets and were instrumental in the development of the cool jazz style.
  • Melba Liston (1926–1999) – A pioneering female trombonist, arranger, and composer, Liston was a trailblazer in jazz, known for her work with Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, and as a bandleader in her own right.
  • Urbie Green (1926–2018) – One of the most admired trombonists of his generation, Green was celebrated for his exceptionally smooth tone and technical mastery, which made him a sought-after session musician and soloist.
  • Jimmy Knepper (1927–2003) – A distinguished trombonist who played with Charles Mingus among others, Knepper was known for his expressive style and technical prowess.
  • Carl Fontana (1928–2003) – A virtuoso known for his smooth and effortless technique, Fontana was a highly respected figure in the world of jazz trombone.
  • Albert Mangelsdorff (1928–2005) – A German jazz trombonist who pioneered the use of multiphonics in the trombone, he was a key figure in European avant-garde jazz.
  • Frank Rosolino (1926–1978) – Renowned for his fluent technique and lively playing style, Rosolino was one of the standout trombonists in the post-bop era. His ability to deliver fast, complex lines with clarity made him a favorite among jazz aficionados.
  • Åke Persson (1932–1975) – A prominent Swedish trombonist, Persson was known for his powerful tone and technical prowess, making significant contributions to both European jazz and as a member of the Count Basie Orchestra.
  • Slide Hampton (1932–2021) – An influential figure in hard bop, his complex arrangements and virtuosic playing made him a trombone legend.
  • Curtis Fuller (1934–2021) – A key member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Fuller was an important figure in the hard bop community. His rich tone and aggressive playing style added a new layer of expression to the music.
  • Bob Brookmeyer (1929–2011) – Primarily known as a valve trombonist and pianist, Brookmeyer’s innovative approach and compositions had a lasting impact on modern jazz.
  • Britt Woodman (1920–2000) – Another notable trombonist from the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Woodman was celebrated for his technical ability and innovative approach to the instrument.
  • Marshall Brown (1920–1983) – Although primarily known as an educator and for his involvement in the Newport Youth Band, Brown also made significant contributions as a trombonist, fostering young talent and promoting jazz education.
  • Buddy Morrow (1919–2010) – Known for his time leading the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Morrow’s robust playing and leadership helped maintain the big band tradition alive well into the modern era.
  • Frank Rehak (1926–1987) – Known for his work with Dizzy Gillespie and Gil Evans, Rehak contributed significantly to the development of bebop and cool jazz, particularly noted for his smooth technique and creative solos.
  • Roswell Rudd (1935–2017) – A key figure in the free jazz movement, Rudd was known for his adventurous playing style and contributions to avant-garde jazz, bringing a unique expressiveness to the trombone.
  • Raul de Souza (1934–2021) – A Brazilian jazz trombonist, de Souza was known for his virtuosic skill and fusion of jazz with Brazilian musical elements, contributing to the evolution of jazz-funk and Latin jazz.
  • Eje Thelin (1938–1990) – A Swedish trombonist known for his contributions to European avant-garde jazz, Thelin was celebrated for his innovative approach and experimentation with electronic effects on the trombone.

Videos with famous jazz trombone players

Kid Ory

Miff Mole

Jack Teagarden

Contemporary jazz trombone players

From soulful melodies to intricate improvisations and expressive freeform playing, these currently active trombonists represent the forefront of modern jazz, pushing boundaries both musically and technically, redefining the role and possibilities of their instrument.

  • Michael Dease (born 1982) – A versatile trombonist and educator, Dease has made significant contributions to contemporary jazz with his dynamic playing style and innovative compositions.
  • John Fedchock (born 1957) – Renowned for his work as a trombonist, composer, and arranger, Fedchock’s rich tone and melodic improvisations have earned him acclaim in the jazz community.
  • Bruce Fowler (born 1947) – A highly respected trombonist and composer, Fowler has collaborated with artists across various genres, including jazz, rock, and avant-garde music, showcasing his versatility and creativity.
  • Vincent Gardner (born 1972) – Known for his soulful playing and dynamic performances, Gardner is a prominent figure in contemporary jazz, with notable contributions to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
  • Nils Landgren (born 1956) – A Swedish trombonist and vocalist, Landgren is celebrated for his smooth tone and expressive playing style, blending elements of jazz, funk, and pop music in his performances.
  • Tom “Bones” Malone (born 1947) – A versatile trombonist, composer, and arranger, Malone has made significant contributions to popular music, particularly through his work with the Saturday Night Live Band and The Blues Brothers.
  • Andy Martin – A prominent trombonist in the contemporary jazz scene, Martin is known for his virtuosic technique and expressive playing style, making him a sought-after performer and recording artist.
  • Elliot Mason (born 1977) – A British trombonist and composer, Mason is recognized for his innovative approach to the instrument and his contributions to modern jazz, particularly as a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
  • Ed Neumeister (born 1952) – A versatile trombonist, composer, and conductor, Neumeister has made significant contributions to contemporary jazz and classical music, with a focus on blending traditional and modern elements in his compositions.
  • Mark Nightingale (born 1967) – A highly regarded trombonist and educator, Nightingale is known for his technical mastery and lyrical improvisations, earning him acclaim both as a soloist and as a member of various ensembles.
  • Bill Reichenbach (born 1949) – A prolific trombonist and session musician, Reichenbach has contributed to countless recordings across various genres, showcasing his versatility and skill on the instrument.
  • Steve Turre (born 1948) – A legendary trombonist and conch shell player, Turre is celebrated for his innovative approach to jazz and his unique blend of musical influences, including Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz.
  • Nils Wogram (born 1972) – A German trombonist and composer, Wogram is known for his adventurous approach to improvisation and his boundary-pushing compositions, which blend elements of jazz, classical, and avant-garde music.
  • Wycliffe Gordon (born 1967) – Renowned for his virtuosic technique and infectious energy, Gordon is a leading figure in contemporary jazz, with a repertoire that spans traditional jazz, swing, and blues.
  • Michael Davis (born 1961) – A versatile trombonist and educator, Davis has made significant contributions to contemporary jazz with his dynamic playing style and innovative compositions.
  • Ray Anderson – An influential trombonist known for his adventurous improvisations and innovative use of multiphonics and vocal effects, Anderson has left a profound impact on contemporary jazz and avant-garde music.
  • Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty) – A charismatic trombonist and bandleader, New Orleans-based Trombone Shorty has gained widespread acclaim for his energetic live performances and his fusion of jazz, funk, and hip-hop influences.
  • Joseph Bowie (born 1953) – A pioneering trombonist and member of the influential jazz-funk band Defunkt, Bowie is known for his innovative playing style and his contributions to the fusion of jazz, funk, and punk rock.
  • Hal Crook (born 1950) – A highly respected trombonist, composer, and educator, Crook has made significant contributions to contemporary jazz with his innovative compositions and his approach to improvisation and harmony.

Videos with contemporary jazz trombone players

Michael Dease

John Fedchock

Bruce Fowler

Famous female trombone players

In a traditionally male-dominated field, female trombonists have had to shatter stereotypes. Their stories are ones of perseverance, talent, and determination, as they have navigated through challenges to pursue their passion for the trombone.

From early pioneers who defied societal norms to contemporary virtuosos who continue to inspire, the contributions of women trombonists are vast and varied. Their achievements extend across genres, encompassing classical, jazz, pop, and beyond, from the 16th century until today.

  • Maria Trombetti (16th century) – Maria Trombetti was a nun trombonist and organist at the convent of Santi Gervasio e Protasio in the sixteenth century. She, along with other nun trombonists, played the trombone in secrecy, breaking societal norms of the time.
  • Pelizzari Sisters of Mantua (17th century) – Born into a musical family, the Pellizari Sisters of Mantua were involved in the production of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and performed cornetto and trombone in the 1600s, paving the way for women trombonists.
  • Oda Rudolph (1874–unknown) – Oda Rudolph was one of the earliest documented touring female trombonists, known for her talent in the Clara Schumann Ladies Orchestra in the late 19th century, challenging the conventions of the time.
  • Dorothy Ziegler (1922–unknown) – Dorothy Ziegler was the first female trombonist to be awarded Eastman’s performer’s certificate in trombone. She held prominent positions in orchestras and became known for her achievements in the trombone world.
  • Betty Glover (1923–unknown) – Betty Glover became known as the first female bass trombonist in a US orchestra upon her acceptance with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1952. Her contributions to the trombone world were recognized at the International Women’s Brass Conference in 1993.
  • Maisie Ringham Wiggins (1924–unknown) – Maisie Ringham Wiggins, known as “The Wonder Girl Trombonist,” held prominent positions as a trombonist and was renowned for her solo performances. She was also the only female bandmaster in British Territory for a number of years.
  • Abbie Conant (1955) – Abbie Conant is an avant-garde trombonist known for her contributions to the trombone world and her lawsuit against the Munich Philharmonic in 1980 for sex-based discrimination. Despite the challenges she faced, she continued to excel in her career as both a performer and educator.
  • Carol Jarvis (1977) – British trombonist Carol Jarvis is a versatile musician known for her work with prominent artists such as Seal, Rod Stewart, and Sting. She has performed in various orchestras and ensembles and has made significant contributions to both classical and contemporary music.
  • Jennifer Wharton (1975) – Jennifer Wharton is an American trombonist known for her expertise in bass trombone. She has performed with renowned ensembles such as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Wharton is also a respected educator and has contributed to the development of trombone playing through her teaching and workshops.
  • Gunhild Carling (1975) – Gunhild Carling is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist known for her mastery of the trombone among other instruments. She is celebrated for her energetic performances and versatility across genres, from traditional jazz to swing and pop music. Carling’s dynamic stage presence and virtuosity have garnered her international recognition.
  • Aubrey Logan (1988) – Aubrey Logan is an American singer and trombonist known for her captivating performances and unique fusion of jazz, pop, and soul music. She has gained popularity for her distinctive voice and skillful trombone playing, earning her a dedicated following both online and on the stage.
  • Helen Jones Wood (1923–2000) – Helen Jones Wood was an American jazz trombonist known for her contributions to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female jazz group. She was recognized for her talent and played a pioneering role as one of the first African American women to tour with the United Services during World War II.
  • Melba Liston (1926–1999) – Melba Liston was an American jazz trombonist and arranger known for her collaborations with jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and John Coltrane. She was a trailblazer in the jazz world, breaking barriers as one of the first female trombonists to play in big bands. Liston’s arrangements and compositions have left a lasting impact on jazz music, solidifying her legacy as a pioneering figure in the genre.
  • Rita Payés (1999) – Rita Payés is a Spanish trombonist and vocalist known for her blend of jazz, Latin, and Mediterranean music. She distinguished herself early at the Sant Andreu Jazz Band school and continues to captivate audiences with her dual expertise in trombone and voice.

Videos with famous female trombone players

Melba Liston

Gunhild Carling

Rita Payes

Early Pioneers in Trombone Performance

The trombone’s journey into the limelight of musical performance began in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. This section highlights not only the early virtuoso players but also composers who prominently featured the trombone in their works.

Composers Notably Featuring the Trombone:

  • Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/1557–1612): An Italian composer and organist, Gabrieli was among the first to write music specifically for the trombone.
  • Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672): A German composer and organist, Schütz utilized the trombone in his sacred works. His “Musikalische Exequien,” a funeral composition, employs trombones to underscore the solemn and profound nature of the piece, reflecting the instrument’s associations with the divine and the mortal.
  • Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643): Monteverdi’s use of the trombone in his operas and sacred music helped to enhance emotional expression. In “Orfeo,” Monteverdi includes parts for the trombone that help depict the underworld, using its deep and resonant tones to evoke a sense of depth and darkness.
  • Giovanni Martino Cesare (ca. 1590–1667): Cesare made a significant contribution to the trombone repertoire with his piece “La Hieronyma,” which is the earliest known work for accompanied solo trombone. Published in Munich in 1621 as part of his “Musicali Melodie per voci et instrumenti a una, due, tre, quattro, cinque, e sei,” the collection consists of 28 pieces featuring a blend of violins, cornetts, trombones, vocal soloists, and organ continuo. Notably, the collection also includes “La Bavara,” a composition for four trombones, showcasing the instrument’s ensemble capabilities.
  • Anonymous Sonata for Trombone and Basso Continuo: Known as the ‘St. Thomas Sonata,’ this piece, written around 1665, is another early example of solo trombone music. The sonata, preserved in the library of the Saint Thomas Augustinian Monastery in Brno, Czech Republic, remains an important part of the historical trombone repertoire. This piece was later made available in a modern edition by H. Weiner, published by Ensemble Publications, allowing performers today to explore its early Baroque stylistic elements.

Trombone masters matter!

From Renaissance pioneers to contemporary virtuosos, trombone players have left an enduring mark on music. Their contributions span genres and centuries, showcasing the instrument’s versatility and enduring appeal. As we celebrate these famous trombonists, we recognize their profound impact on music history, demonstrating the trombone’s vital role in shaping diverse musical landscapes.

Who do you miss on the list, and who are your favorites?


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