Search for Peace

Search for Peace

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Joe Jackson was born in Dallas, Texas into a musical family; his mother is a former professional clarinetist, and his father, Jim Jackson, a former trombonist with the Fort Worth Symphony, is today a renown recording engineer.

Joe chose the trombone at age 12, and during his high school years was the recipient of three Down Beat Magazine “DeeBee” awards. During his tenure at the University of North Texas, Joe studied with Vern Kagarice, Hal Galper, David Liebman and Don “Jake” Jacoby, played lead & jazz trombone in the famed One O’Clock Lab Band, and was named the National Association of Jazz Educators 1985 College Musician of the Year.

Joe left UNT in 1990 to join the Maynard Ferguson Band. He spent a year with Ferguson, performing throughout the United States and in Europe. From 1991 to 2011 he was lead trombonist with the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note, and from 2004 to 2011 was the Director of the Airmen of Note. During his tenure as Director, Joe produced the award-winning Jazz Heritage Series heard on 112 radio and media stations worldwide, and eight recordings including “Cool Yule” which climbed to #2 on the JazzWeek chart in December 2010.

As a freelance trombonist and arranger, Joe performs with top East Coast bands including the Woody Herman Orchestra, the David Liebman Big Band & Chaise Lounge.  Additionally, he performs regularly in DC-area theatre productions and is in high demand as a session player. He has contributed hundreds of commissioned arrangements to dozens of ensembles across the country, and his educational arrangements are published by Alfred Music.  Joe has appeared as a clinician & soloist at music festivals across the country.

Joe publishes his website dedicated to serving the trombone community,

Joe Jackson Biography – pdf

Joe Jackson



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Bandleading 101

Come to grips with the fact that people like to laugh and have a good time, and whether and how much you want this to occur in rehearsal. It’s up to you, and be sure you take responsibility for everything that happens in rehearsal; because of the fact that you dictate the environment, you are.

If you want zero joking around and talking, simply make sure you never lose the floor, and the way you do that is by always thinking two or more steps in advance and knowing precisely what you are going to play and what rehearsal technique you are going to use. Then, whenever you cut the band off, jump right in with what you are going to do without waiting.

You can always institute programmed pauses, asking if anyone has any input, without letting go of the talking stick. Many times sections need to talk among themselves to fix things that don’t need to get on your radar. Be sensitive to this, know how to differentiate between this and merriment, and treat it accordingly.

On the other hand, if you are going to run rehearsals looser, be intentional about it and don’t get mad when there is talking, etc. Communicate exactly what you want. Never assume that everyone should know how you want them to act.

Remember, as much as people want to believe otherwise, the basic way rehearsing happens is through repetition. You can disguise the fact that repetition is occurring through rehearsal technique, but the more reps you get on music the more it improves, period (at least with good players).

Some good rehearsal techniques include breaking the music down by musical element or by section and then building it back up, slowing the music down, starting from the end of the score and working backward, and playing the music from left to right without stopping.

Things to pay attention to and address are, misplayed notes (obviously), balance, blend, intonation, time, playing together, accenting and driving the music, dynamics, interpretation and concept.

If you make a suggestion and then run it and they are not implementing the suggestion, tell them to exaggerate it until it sounds ridiculous. Then if the exaggeration is what you want, remind them that what sounds ridiculous in the section sounds great out front. If the exaggeration is too much, then it’s easy to back off.

Do not be afraid to make suggestions to individual people. If you do, do it very gently. If you are afraid of doing it, you will come off as strained and that will make it awkward. Make is sound completely friendly and natural, not like there’s something wrong: “Dave, maybe you’re just a little high on the Bb”. The tone of your voice has a lot to do with success of a rehearsal.

I never tell people what to do. I only listen and make suggestions. I ask that people simply try my suggestions, and if they don’t like them they can ultimately blow it off. It’s a good stance, because in reality no conductor can have control over the way people play. If someone wants to do something, they will do what you say in reh and then play it the way they want in the performance. So there’s no sense in setting up any false expectation when it comes to the degree of power the conductor actually has.

However there is, in reality, a hierarchy of creative license within an ensemble. Folks definitely have veto power when it comes to solos. They usually have veto power when it comes to lead or principal playing. If they know they have license they will respect you more and be more likely to listen to you. What I end up telling lead and principal players has to do with their responsibilities to play in a way that the ensemble can follow. I hardly ever try to correct a lead player based on my personal taste, unless there are style factors that influence the overall sound.

When it comes to section playing, the playing is more dictated by their responsibilities to the section sound. It is more cut and dried.

Expect to have the most interaction (at least the most critical interaction) with section leaders and soloists. That’s the nature of things.

And never, never, ever get angry in rehearsal. Every time you get angry you lose credibility. You can lose credibility quick and easy, but gaining it is slow and painstaking. Regardless of how you think you are perceived, start your “new job”, forcing yourself to believe that the group respects you and that you are seen as a credible director. The reason why is that you project the way you perceive that people perceive you, and if you start with doubts you will merely reinforce whatever doubts people actually have.

By automatically always acting like everyone in the room loves you, you project the self-perception of a loved person; you create a feedback loop that inevitably generates that good will, and even the elusive quality that all leaders seek – charisma.

Finally: bad leaders are unorganized, undisciplined and emotional in rehearsal, and oppressive and attention-seeking in performance. Good bandleaders establish firm structure and are super-positive in rehearsal, and they get the hell out of the way at the performance.

if a rehearsal leader is bad, nothing gets accomplished and there is mutual disrespect between the leader and players. If the leader is good, everyone knows he/she is in charge, and there is good progress on the music.

However, if a leader is great, the people have no idea they are being led, and the music magically comes together with fire and commitment on the gig. Under great bandleaders, players perform in a way that they or anybody never dreamed they were capable.

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A Chromatic/Intervalic Approach to Trombone Technique and Intonation

(Excerpted from The Trombone Forum)

On February 13, 2005, Subliminal wrote:
I’m tired of messing up scales. I play piano as well as trombone and I have all the scales memorized for piano but I’m having trouble playing them from memory on trombone. Anyone have any tips for how I can better associate the notes with the positions?
On February 13, 2005, waynenickoli replied:
This is a little esoteric but as a former piano player it may make some sense to you. I find every angle of seeing something helps to at least deepen my understanding.A major scale follows that old T T st T T T st pattern (T= full tone, st= semitone). On piano this pattern is quite obvious: one key away is a semi tone and two keys away is a full tone. On trombone each position moved changes the pitch by one semitone. So a major scale would follow a pattern of 2 positions, 2 positions, 1 position, 2 positions, 2 positions, 2 positions, 1 position.

This is exactly how I approach playing music on the trombone.

I start from a chromatic understanding of the trombone, and then I think in half steps, whole steps and minor thirds. Then all I have to do is learn one scale, for example super locrian being half, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, and as long as I am solid with my chromatic foundation I know that scale in every key.

The challenging thing is to then move to bigger intervals, like fourths, major sevenths and minor ninths.

For me it is a matter of relating to the horn as a completely chromatic instrument instead of a series of certain kinds of scales. Then I identify a written or unwritten scale, arpeggio or pattern as a series of intervals from my ear to my “body as instrument” (meaning the pitch extending from my brain through the airstream into the buzz).

When everything is working right, I am translating the written material (or improvised idea) into a series of intervals, and the slide position being dead on (while important) is secondary to the actual note I am buzzing into the mouthpiece.

This is all rather abstract, but the simple way of putting it is that I strive for the horn to appear (in the part of my head that makes music) as a piano. The piano, in terms of the geometric visualization of the instrument is that while the piano has black keys and white keys, the geometry of it is rather linear.

If we are to approach the trombone without being locked into certain scales in certain keys, one can learn to interpret the instrument as chromatic; it’s just that the adjustment for the geometry has to happen in the process.

It’s best if that adjustment happens by rote, in my opinion. (Not that western tuning chromaticism is everything! There’s a whole different world out there beyond approaching music chromatically, however this is a big part of the musical world many of us live in…).

So the number one scale I have to know by rote is chromatic. If I have this down, 99% of material is just a sequence of intervals. Just like a pianist sees it!

It makes switching keys much easier; in fact  I have a problem that I’m not really sure of the standard key of tunes. In other words, if you called “If I Should Lose You” right now, I don’t have the foggiest notion what the standard key for that tune is. But since I hear tunes in intervals, I guarantee I could play the head and solo in it no matter what key we did it in.

Furthermore: relating to the tones as members of a chord or a scale or a family; hearing the tone and imagining it being the thirteen, then the major seven, then the third then the tritone, etc etc. Or playing a “C” and imagining it as the first note of the Tip Toe soli, then as the first note of “Polka Dots & Moonbeams”, then as the first note of “Lush Life”, etc etc.

In fact, hearing a pitch this way is the very kernel of the chromatic approach to music. Trane was the one who took the art of overlaying entire harmonic structures over music with just one note. Just cursory analysis of his cadenzas is a primer on chromatic approach — David Liebman, in his wonderful book “A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody” takes this approach and runs with it.

Q: What’s so great about learning to play a scale by interval?  It seems so complicated compared to simply learning the position numbers or the names of the notes…

A: If you have to think of notes or position numbers when you play scales, there are 12 different major scales you have to learn, 12 different melodic minor scales you have to learn,12 different harmonic minor scales you have to learn, 3 different diminished scales you have to learn, etc. etc. etc.

If you learn scales by interval, there is one major scale, one harm minor, one melodic minor,one dimished scale, etc. They just transpose.

AND in the process it develops the player from being locked in to certain keys when playing material or improvising. You begin to approach the trombone like a piano or guitar.

This approach is the key to unlocking a part of the musical brain that improves technique, pitch and sightreading. It is a very advanced approach. If any of you here are able to wrap your minds around any it, I urge you to give it a try.

Q: OK, so how do I learn this way?

Step 1:

– Drill the chromatic scale until you are so conversant and comfortable with it that it is second nature. Learn it linearly: ascending and descending, through the entire range of you instrument.

Step 2:

Drill interval patterns: play the chromatic scale in major seconds, minor thirds and major thirds, ascending and descending, i.e.:


Once you become comfortable with this, mix up the patterns: whole step up, half step up, whole step down, half step up, rinse, repeat. Then, mix them up even more: minor third up, half step up, whole step down, half step down, repeat.

Step 3:

As you play an ascending Bb major scale, rather than thinking about the actual notes, think about the harmonic space between the notes. You change from the Bb to the C, but that’s not two notes, it’s one whole step interval. And so on up the scale: another whole step, then a half step, then whole, whole whole and finally the half step from a to Bb octave.

So you have visualized the ascending major scale as WS, WS, HS, WS, WS, WS, HS.

Now, start on B natural and play the exact same series of intervals. If you sufficiently drilled your chromatic intervals in steps one and two, the B scale is just as second-nature as the Bb. If it is not, go back to step one!

That’s the major scale. Analyze all of the other scales as interval patterns, and each scale transposes in just the same manner as we have done the major scale.

Q: I don’t know.  This looks like a lot of work.  It makes my head hurt.  I want to take a nap.

Establishing a relationship this fundamental is a lot of work. However, if you are committed to the trombone in the long term, this approach will serve you much more than simply learning note names or scale degrees or position numbers.

If, on the other hand, you goal is more short-term, like learning a certain major scale, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But it is a superficial way to learn the horn if you have expectations of being involved with the trombone for a significant portion of your life.

For those willing to commit themselves to internalizing the fundamentals of interval relationships as they lay on the horn, there is a tremendous pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


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Developing Endurance

I think there are two kinds of endurance on the trombone, each having it’s own separate characteristics in terms of the nature of muscular duress and failure: short-term, and medium-term endurance. (Really, there is a third category of endurance, long-term endurance. But, as is pointed out in the Seven Habits of Effective Trombonists article, that is more about having endurance as a person and taking care of one’s body into middle and old age through a holistic approach to mental and physical health, than it is about a given set of techniques, as with the issues of short and medium-term playing endurance…)

1. Short-Term Endurance 

The first kind, short-term endurance, is that which is at issue in a given piece, or a high-intensity portion of a piece, wherein the set threatens to break down. By break down, I mean a generic state of muscular failure within which the risks run from strained pitch and tone, to not being able to maintain notes, to complete failure – not being able to make a sound at all.

I believe the primary way of improving the short-term endurance is through practicing high-intensity playing, that is the precise kind of playing that has a tendency to put us in a muscular breakdown situation.

There is that which automatically happens during such practice: the facial tissue develops strength as a result of the physical duress. However, this is but a small part of what improves as a result of practicing high-intensity material.

The most valuable thing that happens during this variety of practicing is when the body learns to make physiometric adjustments to control the airstream and position the parts of the blowing apparatus to make the playing part most efficient. I feel like I’ve already hammered home how important it is to adjust the size of the airstream during high-intensity playing a dozen times over, in articles such as Developing the Upper Register.

Practicing high-intensity material (that is, music that poses physical challenges to us in terms of range, volume, articulation and weight of sound) is the ultimate laboratory within which to experiment with modulating the size and speed of the airstream. And the effectiveness and efficiency of that modulation is key to taking the heavy lifting away from the comparitively weak muscles of the lips, which is most critical in terms of developing short-term endurance.

2. Medium-Term Endurance 

The second kind of endurance is medium-term endurance, that is the ability to play for hours and hours, or the ability to play multiple gigs on a given day. The nature of stress or failure with this kind of breakdown is likely not as catastrophic as the short-term kind, it is more likely to manifest as a general feeling of fatigue, or numbness, or a feeling that the sound is spread, or an inability to maintain sound quality or intonation. Of course, a state of medium-term endurance stress can leave one much more susceptible to a short-term endurance problems, as we have all likely experienced from time to time.

And if you can believe it, the skill of solid medium-term endurance is even less based on physical strength than is short-term endurance.

Medium-term endurance is almost solely based on how well a player has learned to base his or her fundamental, physical approach to the trombone on a strong and efficient air stream. Again, the muscles that drive the airstream in the lower torso are comparatively large and strong when compared to the minute muscles of the face. Additionally, the force from the “gut” muscles is not fighting against the force of adjacent muscles; conversely, the complex small muscles in the face are often exerting opposing forces on one another.

The fatigue that results largely from asking the facial muscles to do too much, combined with the tendency of the small muscles to unconsciously loose coordination and begin opposing one another, is the cause of the overall facial fatigue that many players identify as a medium or long-term endurance issue. When in reality it is based on incorrect technique and reliance on the wrong muscles.

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