For the better part of this last year, I have been alternating between transcribing Craig Klein trombone solos and Kid Ory solos. It kind of had some logic to it; studying the modern New Orleans trombonist next to perhaps the originator of New Orleans Creole trombone, and spanning nearly a century of jazz trombone. In actuality, I just wanted to feature both trombonists on the blog immediately and I couldn’t put one before the other.
I have to admit that I prefer Kid Ory’s rhythmic style to Craig Klein’s virtuosity, and I have learned more about the role of the trombone within a hot ensemble because of Ory’s playing. But what Klein has done with this album, New Orleans Trombonisms, is feature the subtle and not-so-subtle characteristics of New Orleans music. Instead of composing original material to show off his dexterity, or putting a progressive spin on a looked-over standard as many soloists prefer, Klein picked tunes that are familiar enough to know by heart in order to present the many “feels” of New Orleans music.
And what I appreciate the most about “Save It Pretty Mama” is how good it makes me feel. A simple melody, a positive message, and a hot band; Klein’s version is a fitting tribute to the Louis Armstrong recording. The trombone solo is not perfect, it’s not amazing, but it makes a lot of sense by taking simplistic inspiration from the original melody. Klein makes use of playing the 3rds and 7ths as we all are told to do when we first learn to improvise jazz music, and he extends the harmony of the C7 chord to satisfy the theorists who live inside their own heads. He even adds flashy lip trills and flutter-tongue growls to excite the undiscerning audience. But the highlight of this solo for me is when Klein hits the high G before the last chorus as the band lays into a heavy swing feel to take it home, almost gospel-like, and the feeling affects his playing to finish the tune. The band’s energy sounds like it’s having fun. You can hear the difference, you can feel it. And there are no words to describe the feeling.
Here’s an older YouTube video of Craig Klein performing in the Leroy Jones Quintet.
Recommended Reading: Magic & Mischief by Andrew Mayne. Published by Mayne’s Mischief & Magic Shop.