Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Not A Novelty

Dan McClenaghan BY

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Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Not A Novelty
The trombone came into its own as a lead and solo instrument in jazz on the shoulders of J.J. Johnson, in the early days of bebop. His Four Trombones: The Debut Recordings (Prestige, 1953) celebrated the big brass instrument with three fellow 'bone men—Kai Winding, Bennie Green and Willie Davis, all joining Johnson in a four man front line. Now Jennifer Wharton presents a four trombone summit of her own with Not A Novelty, the second outing of her group Bonegasm.

Trombonists John Fedchock, Nate Mayland and Alan Ferber join her. Wharton wields the relatively unusual—in jazz—bass trombone. More often heard in classical orchestras (Wharton has been there), it has been employed in jazz by Don Sebesky—who became much better known as a producer/arranger than an instrumentalist—and San Diego's Jimmy Cheatham in his four-horn-front-line Sweet Baby Blues Band.

Four trombones could turn into a bombast party, but it didn't on any of J.J. Johnson's multiple 'bone discs, and it doesn't on Not A Novelty. Opening with the tune "Bongasmo," from the pen of the group's pianist Michael Eckroth, the sound has a hearty feel with a smooth flow, percolating with dance-inducing Latin percussion. "Face Value" has a gentle orchestral feel, featuring gorgeous trombone harmonies—Wharton holding down the low end with leviathan-ish groans. And here—and throughout the album—the music is given a gravitational lift via Eckroth's light sparkling piano touch.

"Ice Fall," written by saxophonist Chris Speed and arranged by Alan Ferber, explores a majestic landscape, at dusk perhaps, Eckroth's piano coaxing the stars into view through the dimming sky, while the Wharton/Fedchock-penned "Blue Salt" gives off a robust, "onward my friends" vibe, and "Union Blues" sounds like a slow flow of hot tar (alto saxophones and trumpets couldn't do that), with Eckroth's piano igniting here-and-there flames in the inexorable movement.

Wharton and Bonegasm close with a pulsing, ominous take on Soundgarden's "The Day I Tried To Live," with Kurt Elling sitting in on vocals, giving the tune a grungy mood, the voice tinted with a combination of anguish and anger, sounding very trombone-ish.

Track Listing

Bongasm; Face Value; Ice Fall; Blue Salt; Union Blues; Twinkle; Manta Rays; La Otra Mano; Little Cupcake; The Day I Tried To Live.


Jennifer Wharton: trombone, bass; John Fedchock: trombone; Nate Mayland: trombone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Michael Eckroth: piano; Evan Gregor: bass; Don Peretz: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Samuel Torres: percussion (1, 8); Kurt Elling: vocals (10).

Album information

Title: Not A Novelty | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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