Joel Green started playing trombone in his junior high band. He borrowed his grandfather’s trombone, and never really gave it back. Within a month, he was hooked! Classically trained, he remembers being almost overwhelmed by the raw energy and intensity of jazz when he first encountered it. “It’s addictive,” he adds, “so I just kept going.” Now based in Winnipeg, Joel is a full-time member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Band, and tests his jazz chops and artistry with the Dirty Catfish Brass Band, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, the Winnipeg Jazz Collective, and the Big dig! Band.
Who are your idols on the trombone?
In terms of sound and approach to the instrument, Alastair Kay was my teacher for six years and is the greatest influence on my overall playing. For jazz, I always loved the way Carl Fontana and Frank Rosolino moved around the horn and created melodies. Canada is really lucky to have a lot of great trombone players, but Ian McDougall is a legend and one of my favourites—everything he plays is beautiful. In terms of recent influences, Marshall Gilkes is pretty much a genius virtuoso and Nitzan Haroz has one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ray Charles recently. The simplicity and authenticity of his music is something that I’ve been trying to channel when writing for Dirty Catfish. A lot of New Orleans/funk inspired music like Youngblood Brass Band and Nils Landgran Funk Unit are on my ‘Recently Played’ list. Groups like that have so much energy and that’s definitely something I’m striving for. Outside of jazz, I listen to the Berlin Philharmonic whenever I can; their level of musicianship is incomparable. I’ve also been lifting film and television music to explore how to invoke emotion from simple motifs and timbral changes, something film score composers are masters of.
What musical projects are you tackling at the moment?
I’ve been lucky to be able to play with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra over the last couple of years, and of course the Big dig! Band more recently. It’s a pleasure with all these groups because the level of musicianship is so high! The Winnipeg Jazz Collective happened to be looking for a trombone player shortly after I moved to town. That band has a lot of great writers so it’s a real challenge to play some of the material that’s brought in. A pretty big chunk of my playing and most of my writing is with the Dirty Catfish Brass Band. I can’t say how fun and inspiring it is to play with those guys; everyone brings so much experience and personality to the table. They’re all terrific players too so I mostly just feel like I’m trying to keep up!
What advice would you offer young jazz musicians?
Listen to music. Prior to moving to Winnipeg I did a lot of teaching—private lessons, classroom, jazz combos, big bands—and the students that excelled were always the ones who had a long list of music they liked. It was the same for me. When I was young I had one particular 90-minute tape (yes, a cassette tape) that I listened to every day on the way to school until it wore out. It was a mix of classical and jazz—any trombonist I wanted to sound like. I think a lot of my sound concept came from listening to that so many times.
Aside from that, take every gig that’s offered to you. There’s no gig above you or below you—you’ll always learn something playing beside everyone