Bones Malone and MSU Jazz Trombones

Celebrated trombonist comes back to campus on request of students.


Sometimes wishes do come true.

Acclaimed trombonist Thomas “Bones” Malone visited campus last spring to jam with jazz studies students at the MSU College of Music on the request of Assistant Professor of Jazz Trombone Michael Dease. Then, in October, Malone came back, this time because so many students had told him they wished he would visit again.

“He gave a master class for the whole jazz program,” says Dease who maintains personal and professional ties with Malone. “He talked about his upbringing in Mississippi and how he crossed the color line in the 1950s. He played the tuba, trumpet, and trombone, and performed and recorded with students. It was wonderful.”

Malone—who has been a member of the Blues Brothers, the house band for the David Letterman Show, and toured with Frank Zappa, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Gil Evans—made his jammed-packed visit to MSU the first week of November. He played in concerts with the entire Jazz Trombone Studio and with the MSU Jazz Octets, including both a campus and sold-out performance at Haslett Community Church. In between, Malone went with Dease and several MSU students to record two original arrangements he expressly penned for the MSU Jazz Trombone Studio.

Jazz Studies senior and drummer Nick Bracewell was among the students who had the opportunity to record with Malone. Knowing of Malone’s international acclaim made him a bit nervous, but Bracewell says that Malone’s easy-going nature soon put everyone in the groove.

“It was really awesome to perform with him,” says Bracewell who joined Malone in recording with the Spartan Jazz Trombones. “It was cool to see how technically proficient he was and how he was so down to earth. I’ve seen famous musicians who were standoffish. To see that he was so friendly and so nice will make me keep that in mind should I ever attain that sort of success.”

Dease says that if popular demand is any indication, Malone may return to the MSU campus again in the fall of 2015, with plans currently in the works for him to play with Dease and members of the jazz trombone studio at the TubaBach Chamber Music Festival in Big Rapids in October.

“It was amazing to see how students and the community responded to him,” says Dease. “Everyone is hoping he’ll make it a three-peat.”

Thomas "Bones" Malone worked with the Spartan Jazz Trombones directed by Michael Dease to record two songs during his October 2014 visit. Listen to Bones' arrangement of Freddie Hubbard's Little Sunflowers below. MSU students featured on the recording include Spartan Jazz Trombones members Josh Dargavell, Jamie Burchett, Drew Kilpela, Kyle Tilstra, Peter Tijerina, Kirby Fellis, Rui Zhang, Genta Ogawa, Alex Valigura, William Wang, and Alejandro Espinosa, with Jim Alfredson on Hammond B3 Organ and Zachary McKinney on drums and cymbals.

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