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David Wilken
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Frank Rosolino

Having a most unique approach to playing BeBop on the trombone, Frank Rosolino was able to achieve an original, easily identifiable sound. In addition to effectively using alternate positions, Rosolino developed the ability to change harmonic partials on the trombone very quickly, allowing him to play as fast as a saxophonist. This technique has been called either "lip breaks" or playing "against the grain." In addition to possessing almost unparalleled speed on the slide trombone, Rosolino had a strong upper register and a bright tone. He often played with a fire that became the model for trombonists who wanted to play in this hot, energetic style.

Rosolino's professional career started at the age of 18 while he served in the U.S. Army, performing with the 86th Division Band. After his release he went on to play with Gene Krupa's Bebop-influenced big band from 1948 to 1949, where he performed with them under the stage name Frankie Ross. His most well known job was with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, where he played from 1952 to 1954 as the featured trombone soloist. It was with Kenton that Rosolino gained recognition as a soloist without equal.

Rosolino continued to record with Kenton into 1955, as well as with the Howard Rumsey Lighthouse All Stars. He joined the Terry Gibbs Dream Band in 1959 and performed with that group off and on until 1962. He also performed in Donn Tremmer's House Band on the Steve Allen Show, where he was not only featured as a trombone soloist, but also as a comedian. From 1973 to 1975 Rosolino participated in a number of world tours with Conti Candoli, Quincy Jones, Benny Carter, and the group Supersax.

To the right is a 4MB QuickTime movie of Rosolino's improvisation on the Thelonius Monk composition "Well You Needn't," taken from a 1962 live television broadcast of Jazz Scene, USA.

During most of his career Rosolino was based out of Los Angeles where he did quite a bit of session work for movies and television. Throughout his career Rosolino performed with many groups as a featured soloist, including Tutti's Trombones, The Trombones Inc., Zoot Sims, Dexter Gordon, Carl Fontana, and the Airmen of Note.

Rosolino was not only known as a trombone soloist, but also as a singer and comedian. Rosolino's scat singing utilized the same energy and creative ideas as his trombone playing. As a comedian, he was always performing. Trumpeter Bobby Shew recalls that Rosolino was a source of entertainment on long studio sessions. "Some of us used to 'goad him on,' just to get him started. It always ended up in complete hilarity and 'good vibes' amongst everyone who was lucky enough to be around him."(Herwig, 1996, p. 25)

Trombonist Jiggs Whigham tells another story.

My favorite "Frank" story took place in Oldenburg, Germany. We were on tour with an "All Star" lineup including Clark Terry, Art Farmer, Herb Gelled, Don Mensa, and so on. The concert took place at a made over water pumping station. . . strange to begin with! In any case after the concert had come to an end, Frank and I discovered a room upstairs filled with boxes and boxes of chocolate covered marshmallows. War was declared! Us against them! We proceeded to bombard the remaining members of the audience (and band) with our chocolate bombs, pausing in between to eat some and throw some at each other. It was a beautiful moment. (Herwig, 1996, p. 77)

This transcription of Rosolino's solo on "Now's the Time," with the group Supersax, demonstrates his style and technical mastery. His creative fire and energy are pervasive throughout the entire solo. Examples of "against the grain" playing can be found throughout the excerpt, as in measures 13-14.

And there are others, of course.

Although these exemplary trombonists were discussed for their importance to Bebop, many other significant trombonists have not been mentioned. Some of them, such as Carl Fontana and Curtis Fuller, will be discussed in a later article. Others, such as Willie Dennis, Melba Liston, Al Grey, Milt Bernhart, and Eddie Bert all deserve mention as excellent Bebop trombone soloists.