Slide pride: Trombone ensemble makes debut at the Jazz Kitchen

Quite a lift was given to this former trombonist when a phalanx of a half-dozen sliphorn maestri sailed into "Jeanine" to launch the debut set Tuesday of Bone Appetit, an Indianapolis-based trombone band, at the Jazz Kitchen.

Though jazz trombone ensembles have popped up around the country over the years, I had never
Personal treasure:The mother of them all. My copy is  in glorious mono, with co-leader Kai Winding's first name deliberately misspelled "Kay" for the sake of rhyming with J.J. Johnson's nickname.
heard one live. I've nourished my interest by plopping onto the record player from time to time this 50-some-year-old LP with the imperishable cartoon cover by Arnold Roth.

Bone Appetit in rehearsal for its only scheduled gig up to now.
Put together by bass trombonist Rick Balek, with musical direction by Freddie Mendoza, Bone Appetit also includes tenor trombonists Chris Van Hof, Ryan Fraley, Rich Dole, and John Huntoon, with a rhythm section consisting of Scott Routenberg, piano; Jesse Wittman, bass; Patrick Wright, guitar; and Cassius Goens III, drums.

That rhythm section, though mostly hidden from the sizable audience by the trombonists, was no slouch. They put up a fine intro to Willie Maiden's "A Little a Minor Booze," and after an ensemble statement, Routenberg an aptly atmospheric statement.

Then,  following Van Hof's estimable high-register solo, Wright delivered one of several of the set's best solos. For me, his outing on "A Shade of Jade" clarified the piece for me. Goens contributed thunderous but uncliched drumming behind the ensemble riffs near the end of "This Is a Test."  And in the solo-chocked set finale, "Get Out and Stay Out," Wittman's stood out for its bluesy pizazz before he shared the spotlight with Mendoza alone. Bone Appetit's music director offered stunning virtuosity in this fast blues before the ensemble took it out.

Several arrangements emphasized the fine blend of the group. "Pure Imagination," a song from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," was a model of precisely phrased chords, with no solos. "Low Motion" also had the rhythm section retiring briefly from the stand to emphasize Bone Appetit's ensemble rapport.

In the Great American Songbook jazz favorite "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," the arrangement had little solo passages threaded through the ensemble. It was notable for making nice textural contrasts among the trombonists, as well as for Dole's time in the spotlight. There was a beautiful soft crunch of harmonies as the piece slowed down toward the double bar.

"My Favorite Things," a "Sound of Music" favorite, was treated to a whole-hearted uptempo romp. I'm reminded of what a Down Beat critic wrote long ago to end his review of John Coltrane's classic album by that name: "If these are really his favorite things, it's easy to see why." I could say the same of what Bone Appetit offered Tuesday night on its maiden voyage: If these were really their favorite things (so far at least), it was easy to see why.


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