The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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No instrument has undergone a more thorough evolution in its jazz use than the slide trombone. It was used in the early days of jazz mainly as a rhythm instrument, pumping out two or four notes to the measure in a role that was more rhythmic than melodic; in fact, to some extent it complemented or sub­stituted for the brass bass. The expression "tailgate" trombone originated when brass bands playing ragtime or early jazz were loaded onto advertising trucks and the trombonist, in order to give free play to the full length of the slide, had to stand near the tailgate of the truck. The reason for the simplicity of the trombonist's original role in jazz was basic; most early jazzmen had comparatively little formal training. The notes on the trom­bone are produced by placing the slide in one of seven positions. In order to lead to a melodic creation of any real substance, the manipulation of the slide and the control of the embouchure must be expert and highly professional.
The normal range of the trombone runs from F, a twelfth below middle C, up to a sixth or seventh above middle C and even higher—as with the trumpet, musicians in recent years have shown extraordinary technical mastery and increased the upper range considerably. The trombone (which, contrary to popular belief as propagated by the movies, is never known among musicians by such terms as "slushpump*" and "sliphom", but is frequently known simply as a "bone") is subject to modi­fications of its tonal quality through a variety of mutes, plungers, etc., all of them similar to those used for the trumpet. Music