Adventures In Bass Bone

Back to my roots
Back to my roots

I began my life in band on the trombone. I got my Bundy student trombone in 6th grade, the same trombone that my youngest son, J.J., is starting on at his elementary school thirty years later.  I took lessons from Bob Kuhns, the band director. I would walk up to the middle school from our house, and we would play our etudes, our scales, and the duets out of the Rubank Advanced Method with the blue cover. When I switched to tuba in the 7th grade, I thought it was for good, and never looked back. How wrong I was.

The one ensemble the Marine Band never fielded on a regular basis was a full Glen Miller-style big band. It wasn’t until about halfway through my career that there was an attempt to put one together. This came as a complete surprise to our two bass trombonists. Neither was really comfortable playing jazz, so they were both plotting to take leave on the week of the big band concert so they wouldn’t get stuck playing the book. I volunteered to dust off the trombone slide-position chart, and go hang out with the jazz band.

I had played a little bass bone during my summer with the Disney College Band back in the 1980s, but that had been a long time ago. I had to laugh when I was offered the choice of a single-trigger horn or a double-trigger horn. I barely knew what to do with one trigger, two would have been utterly useless. I forged ahead for all I was worth, and yeah, I did all right. The slide was generally in the ballpark for most of the gig. I had the trusty F tuba with me for a few things, and I worked hard on my low C. With a one-trigger bass bone, the slide is all the way out to the end of the sleeves to get to low C, and it’s a little risky for an amateur. Once you’re there, though, you can ramp up the the air, and get that sound of bacon sizzling. Oh, yes I did. Come on, be honest. You would do the same.

It was a good enough concert that we did another one the next summer. We all thought it was just a nice diversion, at least, that’s what we thought until John Williams came to town. There’s a lot more to John Williams than just Star Wars and Harry Potter…