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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Discussing The Trombone, Kid Ory and Tailgating... Dixieland Style!"

Playin' dat old tailgate...
Once again, what I had in mind did not come to fruition with this sketch. I didn't feel the need to capture this trombone player's portrait, but sketching him on site as he played was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Just drawing the trombone itself was harder than I thought it should ever be even though it seems a very basic instrument. The trombonist was one of four musicians entertaining the crowd at the annual Southeast Louisiana Land Grant polo fundraiser. Two years ago, I designed and illustrated a poster for the fundraiser, which you can find at:


The musician and I had a wonderful discussion about his career and his life as a musician. He hailed from Indiana, I believe, and went to school on a music scholarship in Chicago. I am not sure how one can fall in love with such an instrument as the trombone, but he did. He played classical music until he heard some Kid Ory records and decided to move to New Orleans and immerse himself in that "tailgate" style of Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band. Although the trombone is less often heard as a solo instrument, many legendary performers have left distinctive marks on the history of jazz. Kid Ory's aggressive style of playing long slide notes up or down between the cornet and clarinet solos, created a sound that was distinctly up front and out there. 

The term "tailgating" was probably best used to describe Kid Ory's use of slurred notes, growls and rumbles, but actually tailgating trombones was more of a practical space saving device. The band, usually consisting of a trombonist, cornetist, clarinetist, bass instrument ( a tuba or double bass), chordal instrument ( a banjo or piano), and a drummer, would advertise their dance or party by marching in parades or playing in a wagon pulled around the street of New Orleans. The trombonist, in order to have enough room to maneuver his slide, would sit at the back of the wagon, giving the name "tailgate trombone" to this style.

Anyway, this trombone player knew his history and had me completely sold on the instrument. I told him I'd do a sketch of the band with him in the lead, ( it was not his band! ) but this sketch is all I had to show him at the end of the day...

And, I did not show him!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III