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Tom Green: A Man And His Trombone

Nick Davies By

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Tom Green is a trombonist, composer and arranger described as "a new rising star in the British jazz scene" by Nigel Williams (Jazz FM). In 2014 he was mentioned three times as Jazzwise "One to Watch," and was the recipient of a Help Musicians UK Emerging Excellence award. He is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music jazz course, and has performed at venues including Ronnie Scott's, the Vortex and 606 Club, as well as the Montreux, Toronto and Montreal Jazz Festivals. His current main project is the Tom Green Septet, who released their debut album Skyline in February 2015 to unanimous critical acclaim.

Tom discusses his career and how the different musical styles have influenced his playing and composing.

All About Jazz: You have been described as a new rising star of British Jazz, how does that sit with you?

Tom Green: It's always nice to be given that kind of respect, after working at something for such a long time with no feedback. You sit there, writing music on your own which you then rehearse with a band behind closed doors. When you put it out into the public domain, you get all these people that can hear it after what has been a long process, especially if you have been recording an album. This can take up to a period of nine months of writing and recording the music before you release it. It's great to have people enjoying the music and saying positive things about it. This makes it all worthwhile.

AAJ: Do you think it's unusual for a trombonist to be in the limelight?

TG: The instrument tends to be overlooked. When anyone thinks of their favourite jazz musicians it's always saxophone players, or trumpet players. I think the trombone gets pushed to one side. I don't know why that is, I think people are unsure of it because of the common belief that the trombone has more technical limitations than other instruments but that is not true. Also, it is played less for some reason and therefore there are not that many trombone players out there. It is because of this that it does not get in the limelight however I would like to see it rebranded with a higher profile. There are so many great trombonists around and so many great arrangers who are trombonists, such as Sammy Nestico and Bob Brookmeyer. This shows that there is a big tradition of arrangers who were trombonists throughout the history of Jazz.

AAJ: Did you start playing the trombone at school?

TG: Actually, I started on piano and I credit my piano teacher for introducing me to jazz. He was a massive fan of classic jazz and he got me improvising on the piano without me even realising it at quite a young age. When I picked up the trombone later it was a natural thing for me to start playing jazz and improvising. I was also taking classical lessons at the same time with a teacher and I used my piano playing to influence my trombone playing. In fact my first jazz gigs were on the piano and I slowly made the switch over. It was then that I discovered the lack of trombonists and I was in demand, especially for big bands.

AAJ: You are not the first person I have interviewed who started their career on the piano and moved across, why do you think that is?

TG: It's a good instrument, a harmonic basis for everything; you can see the harmony on the piano right in front of you when you are playing. It really gives you a good grounding of all the basics and then you can extend that to horns and single line instruments quite easily.

AAJ: Do you feel that, having studied classical music, gives you some discipline?

TG: Yes, you need the technique to start with, really, and that is gained from classical music. Even today, when I practice, my focus is on technique and exercises that are all classical-based because, as a brass player, you need to up your game and, to keep playing at a high level, you need the technical proficiency. So, yes, the classical training helped.

AAJ: What made you apply to the Royal Academy of Music. in London to study on the Postgraduate Jazz Course, becoming the first trombonist to do so?

TG: It's interesting because, at university, I did a physics degree but when I was there I discovered all these amazing musicians and got very involved in the university big band and this led me to directing it for a couple of years. We also managed to take this band on tour and played the Montreux Jazz Festival. as well as other places in Europe; this was great but you can only really do it at university because it's all on a shoe-string budget and nobody gets paid. Outside of university, it is more difficult to do without any funding. This experience made me think that I really want to do this full time and it was then that I applied for the post-graduate course at the Royal Academy and managed to get accepted.

AAJ: You studied under some big names such as Dave Douglas, Django Bates and Troyka; is that how you came to meet Troyka doing your post-graduate course?

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