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Riffs & Dances: A Review
Brad Edwards

Bugby, Colin. Riffs and Dances for Solo Trombone. Rushden, England: Colin Bugby, 2002. Website:

Usually reviews help potential buyers decide whether or not to purchase a piece. In this case, the dilemma is resolved by the fact that Riffs and Dances is available for free. This is a moderately challenging, through-composed piece for unaccompanied trombone ranging from pedal B-flat to high D-flat (the F-attachment range isn't used, though). The slow opening begins somewhat haltingly around the tonal center of B-flat. One can hear the influence of jazz in some bass-line “riffs”, extended sequences and syncopated rhythms. This slow material serves as an introduction to a fast section with lighter, playful syncopations reminiscent of ragtime. While these faster figures stay largely tonal, Bugby occasionally throws in some atonal curve balls. A brief return of the slow material soon gives way a lively ending. The occasional appearance of multiphonics doesn’t prove overly difficult and may serve well as an introduction for players unfamiliar with this technique. Bugby writes mostly parallel fifths between the voice and trombone. I am troubled by his frequent fortissimo dynamics during these multiphonic sections. Balance between voice and trombone is already difficult enough to achieve. A true fortissimo by the trombone will render the voice inaudible.

While most of the piece is within reach of a strong undergraduate player, Bugby sometimes throws in passages much harder than the surrounding material. Examples can be found with the high C-D-flat line in m. 52, the relatively high tessitura in mm. 96-102 and the odd atonal departure in mm. 92-95. These passages may serve Bugby’s musical aims, but will also frustrate players who can otherwise handle the piece.

Though the piece has several nice moments, as a whole it seems to need more compelling direction. I find this particularly true with the halting figures at the piece’s slow opening. Do the frequent rests build suspense or stifle momentum? Bugby does achieve some unity through a recurring syncopated sixteenth note motive and some of the fast riffs are fun to play. They might serve well as sightreading material for advanced students. When all is said and done, however, the price is right!

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Bass Clef Version
Tenor Clef Version

Dr. Brad Edwards teaches trombone at the University of South Carolina, a position he began in the Fall of 1999. Previous to this appointment, he taught at the University of Northern Iowa and performed with the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony as Principal Trombonist.

Articles by Brad Edwards Other Review Articles