Anita Brown


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The Leading Edge: Mark Patterson, Unedited (Sept. 2010 Issue)

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


Mark Patterson

            I’d say my two early trombone influences as a lead player were Lawrence Brown, with the Ellington Band, and Jim Pugh, with the Woody Herman Band. Those are two quite different conceptions, really, but both had a distinctive sound that sang in a beautiful way that fit with the whole ensemble sound, meaning that their style of singing was perfect for style of orchestration and the feel of the rhythm section.

            Lawrence Brown had a way of barking out rhythm with his section that goosed the time, all the way from the Jimmy Blanton years onward; and also his sound on lyrical phrases had a ringing quality that I thought of as an ‘ar’ feel, because when I would try for that type of sound my mouth would gravitate toward a wide open feel, like saying the syllable ‘ar’, and this helped me to feel the sound singing through a legato phrase. Jim Pugh’s lead sound was distinctive too in its way of singing. I liked his use of straight tone with some purposeful vibrato to shape the end of a note within a phrase. I say purposeful because it wasn’t automatic vibrato, but it was inserted at a place which would move a long note forward.

            I think that for lead playing my conception was also largely framed by trumpet players. Snooky Young and Danny Stiles really come to mind in the recordings I wore out of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and also the Basie band. In fact for some reason I had always thought Snooky Young was the lead player on that first record of the Jazz Orchestra, “Solid State,” and just loved the way he made the ensemble sing and made the time move and dance in such a perfect way. Then I found out that I hadn’t checked the listing very closely, and it was Danny Stiles on that particular record, so I have to name him as a favorite now!

            Anyway, the two things I love about a great lead player like Snooky are the way he can make a note sing and move, using vibrato and dynamics, though I think of it more as singing and moving, because the vibrato is used more as a singing tool than an automatic component of the sound, and the dynamics are subtle and not necessarily written, but used to move the phrase forward and shape it.

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