26 December 2015


One of the special effects that any trombonist can contribute to a performance by a traditional jazz band is the glissando, where he uses his slide to move (sometimes down but more often up) from one note to another. Most commonly, it is used on the last beat of a bar, dragging up to the first beat of the next bar, and in the process moving either the melody or the chord progression or both on to the next change.

Barnabus Jones, with Shaye and Erika
Well, let me tell you about an amazing use of trombone glissandos. The trombonist is Barnabus Jones and the band is Tuba Skinny on its CD called 'Rag Band'.
In the song I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water (a 12-bar blues from 1936 performed in the key of G), Barnabus plays nothing but glissandos. There are - I think - 96 bars (i.e. eight choruses) - not counting the Introduction - and Barnabus plays a glissando leading into every odd-numbered bar. So he plays 48 glissandos in all. AND ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE! He begins every glissando on the 4th beat of a bar, slides up to the required note by the first beat of the next bar and then sustains the note for several beats, thereby underpinning all that is going on in the rest of the band.

I don't know whose idea this was. Maybe they simply decided to have a bit of fun, to see how it would work.

The answer is that it works amazingly well. Whether accompanying Erika's singing, or Shaye's piano chorus, or the clarinet solo, the glissandos are unrelenting; and they are very effective in pumping the tune along.

What a tour de force!

You can listen to the performance by going to:

Then click on the second tune. You will hear it - completely free. But I hope you will also consider helping this wonderful band by buying the CD. You can do this online: just follow the instructions on the page. I have done it; and it works easily and well.
You can also watch the band performing this number on YouTube:

Just keep your eye on that trombone slide! The indefatigable Mr. Jones works the trick again, though in this YouTube performance he  also plays a more 'standard' out-chorus.

And there's a more recent YouTube performance:

Incidentally, here's how the tune sounds to me (three choruses).