Live reviews

REVIEW: Jacob Garchik’s Trombone Choir and Quintet at CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Jacob Garchik (left) and Richard Foote (centre) as the Trombone Choir
 marches into the CBSO Centre.
Photo: © John Watson/
Jacob Garchik’s Trombone Choir and Quintet
(CBSO Centre, Birmingham, 16 March 2019. Review and photos by John Watson)

The riff started off-stage – a pulsing, blues-laden blast of brass that grew in volume as the musicians marched into the concert hall, slides waving, bells aimed at the ground and then at the ceiling. It was a thrilling start to this first performance by Jacob Garchik’s UK Trombone Choir – seven tonally blazing bones, plus tuba and drums.

Trombone ensembles are rare in jazz, but some significant musicians have created stimulating music with these rather special groups. Among them in the USA are The Band Of Bones, which has featured guest stars including Steve Turre and Mercer Ellington, and has notably celebrated the music of JJ Johnson in concerts and on disc. There’s also the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Competition, organised by the US-based International Trombone Association for groups of three or more trombones.
Jacob Garchik
Photo: © John Watson/
San Francisco-born Garchik is in the forefront of trombone ensemble creativity in New York, and with the UK’s Richard Foote developed a UK version of his Gospel Trombone Choir, with a short tour organised by Birmingham-based Tony Dudley-Evans of TDE Productions. The CBSO Centre concert was promoted in conjunction with Fizzle and Jazzlines.

The music was inspired by the trombone ensembles of the House of Prayer Churches on the East Coast, and strongly influenced by the feel of classic New Orleans brass playing. The gospel trombone ensemble tradition, as far  as I can discover, originated in the region of Moravia, in the Czech Republic, and was brought to the USA by immigration from the area in the early 18th Century.
The concept works wonderfully well for gospel music, and for blues, too – the riff which heralded the arrival of the ensemble on stage settled quickly into a straight 12-bar sequence.

With Garchik and Foote on trombones were Nichol Tomson, Rob Harvey, Kieran McLeod, Tom Dunnett and Michael Owers – plus tuba player Oren Marshall and drummer Andrew Bain, all very fine players who blazed through Garchik’s suite The Heavens with tremendous zest. The highlights included Creation’s Creation, Dialogue With My Great Grandfather, and a stupendous I’m Bound For Canaan Land. These pieces were punctuated by occasional 30-second blasts of Jesus Is A Rock, all forming an exciting road to gospel glory.

A short first set featured Garchik’s Quintet playing his original compositions, with the leader and Foote on trombones, Andrew Woodhead on piano, Olie Brice on double bass, and Bain on drums.
This was rather less successful, not really catching fire until the final piece – one of the mysteries of jazz is that you can have very accomplished musicians and yet the music doesn’t quite gel. However, the splendid gospel trombones more than made up for it. I’m looking forward to a return visit.

Jacob Garchik’s Trombone Choir also appears at Yellow Arch, Sheffield (in association with Jazz At The Lescar) on Sunday 17 March and at the Vortex in London on Monday 18 March.
The Trombone Choir in rehearsal at the CBSO Centre
Photo: © John Watson/

Categories: Live reviews

Leave a Reply