Jennifer Wharton – Bonegasm (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time – 59:20 minutes | 694 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Sunnyside
The trombone is an instrument that seems to attract a certain type of practitioner. Musicians who choose this particular horn as their passion tend to be open-minded, playful and, more often than not, extroverted. It shouldn’t be a surprise that bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton fits this description to a tee. Naturally, she takes her enthusiasm for the horn seriously and hopes to spread her joy to the public with her infectiously fun recording, Bonegasm.
Though she originally studied and performed in the classical field, the past number of years has found Wharton in many more diverse musical situations, especially in the world of jazz. She is a regular in the Broadway pit orchestras of New York City and also a regular in two of the best large ensembles in jazz, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and the Alan Ferber Big Band. Playing in these ensembles among many others over the years, Wharton discovered how brilliantly her favorite composers could write for bass trombone, allowing the bass trombone to separate from the trombone section in intriguing ways.
These developments led to her decision to create a band that would commission composers to write and arrange music for the often overlooked trombone and it “had” to be named Bonegasm. According to Wharton, a bonegasm is the overpowering joy that can only be accomplished through the experience of listening to trombonists. Bonegasm would be the first ensemble that Wharton had ever led, so she recruited some expert musicians to assist in her transition to leader, including trombonists John Fedchock, Nate Mayland and Alan Ferber, along with pianist Michael Eckroth, bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Don Peretz.
The pieces on Bonegasm are from arrangements done specifically for the release and works commissioned by Wharton for the ensemble, all by friends or husband Fedchock . The resultant compositions are ingenious in their approach to interplay between the trombones; Wharton is given space to really let her talent shine through on her bass trombone, which customarily gets treated in a supportive role to the bass.
The recording begins with “The Year of Two Summers,” by Edward Perez of the Silk Road Ensemble. It’s a fun piece that features every member of the band, cool bass lines for Wharton, group singing and Mauricio Herrera on percussion. The grooving “Low Ball” is by Wharton’s dear friend and hero Jim McNeely who gives Wharton her first recorded solo section. Named for his 6 month old daughter, Stella, Nate Mayland’s “Stellar” is brash and funky, while Alan Ferber’s stately “North Rampart” showcases the spiritual qualities trombones can invoke on a beautiful ballad. Fedchock’s arrangement of “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” was crafted especially for Wharton and gives the band ample room for solos.
Wharton was impressed by DIVA’s trombonist and composer Sara Jacovino’s submission for the BMI/Charlie Parker Composition Competition, so she followed up with Jacovino to see if she would write a piece for Bonegasm. “Other Angles” is a beautiful but difficult waltz, a style Wharton loves to play. Oscar Peterson’s tricky “Tricotism” also received a Fedchock arrangement that holds nothing back and showcases what the band can really do. Originally written for Wharton in junior college as a long big band feature without any improvisation, Dave Eshelman’s “Impromptu” was adapted and arranged for the group by Fedchock and retains some incredibly angular writing. The recording concludes with the risqué “Big Long Slidin’ Thing,” which was made popular by Dinah Washington but now becomes the debut of Wharton’s vocal career.
Jennifer Wharton’s enthusiasm for her instrument and the music of her ensemble can easily be heard and felt on her new recording Bonegasm, a joyful feeling that can’t be denied.
1. The Year of Two Summers
2. Low Ball
4. North Rampart
5. Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise
6. Other Angles
9. Big Long Slidin’ Thing
John Fedchock – trombone
Nate Mayland – trombone
Alan Ferber – trombone
Jennifer Wharton – bass trombone, vocal
Michael Eckroth – piano
Evan Gregor – bass
Don Peretz – drums
Mauricio Herrera – percussion (1)