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Music Appreciation 101, part 7: The Valve Trombone

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I have always been fascinated with the valve trombone. My first instrument was cornet, then I changed to euphonium. It was several years later that I learned to play trombone. Obviously, learning to change pitch with the slide instead of valves was a challenge. The slide certainly gives one access to some nice effects, but it is darned hard to play a chromatic scale! Well, eventually I toughed it out and learned how to play trombone.

During the All State festival one year we went to a dance one evening. The band playing had a fine trombonist, who switched to valve trombone for a couple of numbers. He had a King trombone, which could be bought as a bell section with interchangeable slide/valve section. Some years later I was able to find a used valve trombone and bought it. However, mine was a much older instrument. As a production savings, the manufacturer used trumpet valves in this horn, so the bore was pretty small. It was fun to play around with, though.

Today there are a few trombonists performing who prefer the valve trombone. One of the better-known examples is Canadian Rob McConnell (of Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass). But before I heard of him, I knew of Bob Brookmeyer, who had done a series of jazz recordings, including several with the great trumpet player Clark Terry.

Valve Trombone Recordings on Amazon aStore

Both men are fine jazz artists and make optimum use of the valves. I am not aware of any artist who has become famous using valve trombone in a classical context (but I would like to hear of one if any readers have that knowledge). Below are a few examples from YouTube.

Bob Brookmeyer - Jim Hall

Rob McConnell Trio with Ed Bickert and Neil Swainson

Rob McConnell Quintet with Ed Bickert

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