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Frank Rosolino: Trombone Heaven, Vancouver, 1978

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Album Review

Save J.J. Johnson, Frank Rosolino, and Carl Fontana were the two most technically gifted jazz trombonists without peer. Period. Putting them together is indeed like being in trombone heaven, yet this club date in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Bayside Room proved their styles were compatible even if their sounds were distinct. The ultra-literate Rosolino, displaying a cat quick tonguing technique, runs rings around anybody the instrument has ever known, while Fontana restrained his ultimate gifts in favor of a more precise, soulful, refined, full, less showy sound, yet could play effortless bebop at the flip of a switch. These two, in their own inimitable ways, truly had it goin' on! Unfortunately, both sported limited discographies, so this release is both a treat and an event. The tunes, all standards, are out-and-out extended jam sessions, but often with a twist. Two ballad medleys have each 'bonist playing individually, with Rosolino tearing up "Here's That Rainy Day," while Fontana chills on "Stardust," then in quite similar melodic parallel lines, Fontana gently strokes "Laura" while Rosolino snuggles up to "Embraceable You." They discourse quite vocally through their brass and slide axes ad infinitum on a 16-plus-minute "Well, You Needn't," predominantly in beautiful unison on the lead melody, run through a stylized but inspired 15 & 1/2-minute take of the loping "All Blues," and draw on counterpointed Dixieland type chattery, clipped, conversational phrases during a 13-minute drill on "Just Friends." The telepathy between the two is remarkable, but the finale, Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow" shows their complete command of harmonics, their ability to play off each other, and their willingness to experiment with the extended sonic timbres of their horns. The sound quality is very good for recordings that have been sitting around since 1978, and the local rhythm section is par for the course, as they allow these two to have center stage and blow. Rosolino and Fontana, who both passed away under-recognized in the general scheme, deliver all one could hope for on this fully realized document of two real geniuses, at work and at play. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews


Trombone fans, rejoice! Uptown Records has found a rarity, a live August 1978 recording of trombone giants Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana. Recorded in an intimate setting of a small night club in Vancouver, BC, Trombone Heaven finds Frank and Carl in peak form. Rosolino was a West Coast fixture noted for his up tempo playing and repetitive tonguing. This session was his second to last recording, made just three months before his death in a tragic murder suicide.

Fontana never received his true recognition as a great trombonist in the general jazz community. Highly respected by fellow jazz trombonists for his fluency and speed, Carl spent most of his later years in Vegas show bands after starting out with the big bands of Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, and Stan Kenton. Fontana was not a prolific session leader as he did not have his first album until 1985, when he recorded The Great Fontana.

Therefore, this recording by two "high priests of jazz trombone" as coined by Bill Watrous, in a relaxed setting is a must-buy. Song selection is all standards, ranging from a Van Heusen/Hoagy Carmichael medley of Here's That Rainy Day and Stardust; to Monk's, Well You Needn't and Miles Davis' All Blues. Even Dizzy Gillespie's bop Ow gets a bone workout.

The relaxed non-competitive atmosphere allows each co-leader to really stretch out in their solos as all but one of the tracks exceeds ten minutes and two are over fifteen minutes-over 79 minutes in total. It's truly trombone heaven and manna from above for jazz trombone lovers.



Vancouver, Canada, August 12, 1978


Born: August 20, 1926 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Jazz trombonist Frank Rosolino matched any of the idiom's giants in fluidity, technique, and imagination. He was a comic vocalist, but there was nothing funny about his solos. They were smooth and dazzling, delivered with ease and precision. Born in Detroit, Rosolino began as a guitarist at 10 and trombone later in his teens. He joined the army at 18, and played with service bands both in America and the Philippines. He played in several big bands after his discharge, among them Bob Chester, Glen...
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Frank Rosolino: Trombone Heaven, Vancouver, 1978, Frank Rosolino
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Nov 13, 2007

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