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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource


Trombonist Bob McChesney

By Published: November 5, 2003

AAJ: As a jazz educator, in addition to techniques of jazz performance, composition and improvisation, do you feel that intangibles such as enhancements to creativity or imaginative prowess can be taught? If so, how? What approaches might be employed?

BMc: Can you teach artistry? I think it is difficult if not impossible to teach creativity and artistry. However, educators can help create an environment where creativity is encouraged and is more likely to develop. Also, students should be given many opportunities to be inspired by great playing and originality, to develop a deep passion for the music.

AAJ: As follow ups, what are the most common misconceptions about jazz that your students have? What concepts do they have the most difficulty in grasping?

BMc: Well, as far as jazz soloing goes, one big misconception I see is that merely playing a lot of notes makes a good solo. Students should concentrate on good time feel and play simple ideas that relate to each other in a logical way and make perfect sense to the listener. Most importantly these ideas should be practiced over and over until they feel completely effortless and natural to play. This takes some time to achieve and requires patience. A developing soloist who plays simple ideas effortlessly without tension sounds best.

AAJ: For you personally, what are the most alluring or attractive aspects of improvisation?

BMc: When I get into a solo and I realize everything is going pretty well, it feels completely liberating and uplifting. At its very best it feels like I am an outside observer of my playing, listening and not knowing which direction the solo is going to go. It's a pretty amazing thing and few other things in life come close to it.

AAJ: From the various and diverse sessions you've participated in, which have been the most challenging or rewarding or memorable to you as a musician? What is it you've learned?

BMc: I find challenges and rewards on every session I do. Which have been the most challenging or rewarding would be hard to say. Certainly recording my debut CD has been memorable and rewarding. One nice thing about being a freelance musician is that there is so much diversity in the kind of work you do, so it's hard to ever get bored, or not feel challenged in some way. On one session I might be soloing on a jazz recording, on the next in the trombone section of a 90 piece orchestra, on the next on a pop record date. It keeps you on your toes. I feel like I always walk away having learned something. In Los Angeles I am privileged to be able to work next to some of the finest brass players and musicians in the world - always challenging and rewarding.

AAJ: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in your musical career?

BMc: It’s hard to think of only one. Once many years ago I was on a big band dance gig playing second. The lead trombone player had had way too much to drink but insisted on playing the gig. He couldn't sit up in his chair without falling over on me or to the other side. The third trombone player and myself managed to crank out the whole first set pressing our shoulders against his from both sides to keep him upright. We didn't miss a note.

AAJ: What other projects can AAJ expect from you in 2000-2001?

BMc: I'm working on a classical project for trombones only. There are some solo pieces and pieces for up to seven trombones. I'm going to do all the tracks myself. When that is finished I'll be working on another small group jazz CD, possibly a quintet with tenor sax. I'm writing some originals and will also do some standards. I may also do another tribute CD.

AAJ: Thanks Bob for taking time for this interview with All About Jazz.

BMc: And thank you for asking me to do this interview and for AAJ’s interest in NO LAUGHING MATTER.

Visit Bob McChesney on the web at

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