Anita Brown


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The Leading Edge: Keith O'Quinn, Unedited (Sept. 2010 Issue)

Who were your top three earliest influences as a lead player before you turned thirty?


Keith O’Quinn:

            The first trombone player that really grabbed my attention was Phil Wilson with the Woody Herman band around 1964. In the band room where we rehearsed was a built-in turntable with two sets of headphones (which was a new thing to us at that time) and one of the records that was there was Woody Herman-1963, Swingin’est Big Band Ever. I was about 13 years old and had just started playing lead trombone in the Jr. High school jazz band. There is a ballad on the record called It’s a Lonesome Old Town (When You’re Not Around) and Phil plays a solo that just amazed me. I can still remember the feeling I had when I heard it back then. He comes in on a Double A and plays this gliss down into the melody that I listened to hundreds of times until I wore the record out trying to figure out how he did it. (I never did.)  He also ends the tune on another Double A.  I got my own copy of the record and listened to it all the time. I loved his approach to playing. He also played several up-tempo solos on the record that I really liked. Phil was my teacher years later when I went to college at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

             A couple of years later, when I was 15, I made my first trip to the Stan Kenton Clinics in Redlands California. There I met Dick Shearer who was the lead player with Stan’s band. Each evening after dinner the band would play a concert and I got to sit up close to the trombone section every night and really check out what they were doing. Dick became a friend and mentor to me during my high school years.

            Also around that time I discovered the incredible playing of Urbie Green, first through the record he made with Twenty-One Trombones and later through various records that I could get hold of. His lead playing had a very big influence on me. I don’t believe there was ever anyone better.

            I also began listening to a lot of jazz trombone players. My favorite was J.J Johnson and I tried to listen to as many of his records as I could get hold of. Curtis Fuller was also a favorite and I listened to him a lot on all of the Art Blakey records that he was on with Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and all those guys. 


I was certainly not much of an influence, but, for the record, I gave Keith his first trombone lesson. I was in the Lebanon High School band, Lebanon, MO, and Keith was a few years back. I've always been very proud of what he's done.

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