Cutting Edge New Music Festival 2021

The Art of the 21st Century Trombone

By: - Apr 13, 2021

The Art of the 21 Century Trombone
Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival 2021
Symphony Space
April 12, 2021

The Cutting Edge Concert Series 23rd season began this week. Victoria Bond has held this series through thick and thin.  It comes to us live streamed and is a treasure.

The first concert in the series celebrates the trombone, an instrument devised in the 15th century. From the biographies of the composers whose works were presented, you see that military bands use the trombone to good effect. When bands rode horseback, trombonists could not manage to stay in the saddle while they performed, and often fell to the ground.  When trombonists marched on foot, the trombone usually led the band, so that the instruments singular motion in propelling the slide forward would not knock over a fellow band member.

One of trombone's strengths is its imprecision.  There are no values. Differentiating notes takes place as the slide moves up and down. Breath is crucial. The lip movement is used not only for one note, but to articulate a trill by changing the lip position.

Difficult to master, the trombone's tones are well worth it, especially in the hands and mouths of the performers in this concert. Joseph Alessi, principal trombone of the New York Philharmonic, John Romero, principal trombone of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, George Curran, bass trombone and Colin Williams, associate principal trombone also at the New York Phil, and JoDee Davis, a professor of trombone at the University of Missouri, Kansas City Conservatory. 

Compositions included Jorge Machain’s Adelante, helping us to move forward in difficult time.  Harrison J. Collins elaborated on what it’s like to be a young American now. Uncertainty is musically expressed, along with anger and anxiety.  We end with hope.

Kenneth Fuchs places the trombone front and center against a rich background. The orchestra’s role here represented by the piano. 

Anthony Barfield is the only composer who has performed on the instrument. He understands its lyric possibilities and uses jazz rhythms and unusual beats to express the world immediately after the Big Bang.  His goal: to help us feel at one with each other. In the face of this beautiful and complex expression of our common start, it is hard to resist his suggestion. 

Composer Victoria Bond noticed the dependence of the trombone on the breath. JoDee Davis talked to Bond about her commission, but says that the jumping board she provided was far exceeded by Bond’s leap. This is a virtuoso piece. Sometimes long and meditative and at others turbulent and vigorous, a playful spirit dominates.

The concert is available here.

The next concert features pianist Paul Barnes and composer Philip Glass on April 19th.