Born: August 20, 1926 | Died: November 26, 1978 Primary Instrument: Trombone
Frank Rosolino will be remembered and respected throughout the contemporary jazz world for his mastery of the trombone, his uncanny ability to fit and work successfully with a wide range of musical ideas, and perhaps last but not entirely forgotten, his wit and capacity for comic entertainment. There has seldom been a time when any single aspect of this amazingly complex individual was submerged for any great length of time. He was always the superb performer, upfront individually as a musician or commercially as an entertainer.
Frank Rosolino was born in Detroit on August 20, 1926 and began taking trombone lessons in the eighth grade or about the time he was 14 years of age. Many of the traditional musical hurdles had already been smoothed out prior to his introduction to the trombone as a result of the guitar lessons he received from his father from the age of 9. However, proof as to his advancement on the trombone was obviously much in evidence long before he graduated from Miller High School in Detroit . He had auditioned and was accepted into the Cass Tech Symphony orchestra which drew its members from all over the city of Detroit and to be chosen was considered to be quite an honor.
Frank went into the army at the age of 18, evenually joined the 86th Division Band and went overseas to the Philippines. His two year stay in the army provided him with the opportunity to experience yet another kind of musical performance and added to the overall preparedness to fend for himself as a full fledged professional musician upon release from the service.
Rosolino's career started in earnest upon release from the Army in early 1946 and for the next several years he was to gain invaluable experience playing with a great variety of bands.....Bob Chester, Glen Gray, Gene Krupa, Tony Pastor, Herbie Fields, Georgie Auld, and with his own groups in Detroit . His first major break came when he was offered the jazz chair with the great Stan Kenton Band in 1952 and he was one of the featured soloists with Kenton through late 1954. However, following the breakup of that great jazz band he continued to record with the Kenton studio bands as late as March 30, 1955. Earlier he had joined the Howard Rumsey Lighthouse All Stars and appeared on his first recording with the All Stars in December of 1954.
He continued playing with the All Stars well into the 60's and also recorded with the Terry Gibbs Dream Band in 1959, 60, and 62. He next joined Donn Tremmer's House Band with the Steve Allen TV show where for two years he was featured as a soloist and occasionally as a comedian. In his constant search for a more fulfilling role for the solo jazz trombone he participated in a number of world tours - with Conti Condoli in 1973 and 1975, as the featured soloist on tour with the Supersax group and finally the trip to Japan with Quincy Jones and a 1974 tour of the USA with Benny Carter.
The fascinating/documentary review of Frank Rosolino's experiences and growth through the various musical groups underline the constant striving for a situation that would allow more time and exposuire for his own creative expression well beyond the charts and the traditional 12/24 bar chorus limitation. Perhaps this is one explanation for the most satisfactory times that occured when Frank was recording with small groups and on the tours with the various quartets, quintets . This certainly provided the opportunity to stretch out and develop longer lines and move well beyond the signature licks that have a tendency to surface when one is restricted to the solo space alloted in most musical groups.
Before and during the search for more solo exposure, especially in the latter part of the 60's and into the 70's, Rosolino arranged to direct a portion of his time to educational appearances in the form of clinics and festivals where he performed with students from many colleges and high schools. He was known to have frequently remarked about the excitement of working with varied groups and of meeting a wide variety of musicians both here and abroad, which allowed him to absorb new ideas and relationships dissimilar to his own. Jazz festivals in particulalr put him together with the unexpected mix , with other trombonists and instrument combinations that would not normally have been booked into the clubs and other commercial gigs, such as the International Trombone Workshop, the Dick Gibson Jazz Party, Charlie Parker Memorial in KC, DisneyWorld, Monterey, Concord, and many of the Universities and other educational institutions throughout the U.S and overseas.
Frank's outstanding reputation as a soloist often found him being featured on many special records; Tutti's Trombones, The Trombones Inc., as a guest with Zoot Sims, Dexter Gorden, Don Menza, Carl Fontana, Jean Toots Thielmans, Pete Christlieb, the Airmen of Note, and Bobby Knight's Great Trombone Company. Again as a freelance during the longer time period of 1945-78 about 17 movie scores found their way onto his schedule including Man with the Golden Arm, The Sweet Smell of Success, Hotel, etc., and as continuing testimony to the popularity and reemergence of Frank Rosolino there is now the amazing number of over 40 CD reissues. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the all inclusive discography remains such a gigantic challenge and is still far from completion after 20 years.
In retrospect we have lost one of the world's greatest trombone stylist at the very peak of his career, an extraordinary musical talent and a premier virtuoso on the TB possesed with a facility that enabled him to improvise as fluidly on the trombone as a saxophonist.. It is certainly an inspiration to view the Lighthouse videos and observe Frank executing the very fast up tempo bop lines in unision with the tenor or trumpet. It is not to say that similar lines did not exist in Frank's own solos , they did, but somehow it seems more breathtaking for a trombonist when heard as a unison line.
One of Rosolino's proudest personal acheivements has to do with a piece he recorded with the Holland Symphony Orchestra, a piece written for and dedicated to him by a young Dutch composer/arranger, Jerry Van Rooyen. Violets is a beautiful composition, a lush arrangement, and most certainly goes a very long way to quiet the critics who have faulted Frank for his tendency to display technique over substance.
Frank Rosolino, instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, singer, comedian, musician extraordinare - most of this to be discovered and experienced on this latest revival record, so very timely and contemporary, it is truely a late 20th century masterpiece.
Source: Eugene E. Grissom