Our new recording project, Confluence, is miraculous to me in so many ways. The word itself – a coming together – describes how our quartet plays together, lives onstage, backstage, and offstage, and stays together, despite the geographical distances that now exist between us. To have a trombone section, with members who studied with different teachers, were hired at different times, by different music directors, and still figure out how to be one entity, both on the orchestra stage and in chamber music settings, is in itself a small miracle. Our project – the project of being STL Trombones – could not exist without the camaraderie, friendship, respect, and goodwill that exists among our quartet.
Creating our own repertoire has been one of my highest priorities throughout our history. Many of the streams of compositional possibility that flowed into Confluence came about because of being in St. Louis. Adam Maness, for example, is a generous musical free spirit who was trained as a jazz musician, but his work as an arranger and composer elude the boundaries of that genre. His work as the mastermind behind The 442s, a band whose influences extend in many directions, is testament to his musical independence from any particular classification. Closing and Opening Doors is a fun and entirely original creation.
Two composers represented on Confluence have never lived in St. Louis, but they have frequently brought their talents to St. Louis audiences. I enjoyed working with Joan Tower during her stint as Composer in Residence at the St. Louis Symphony for several years in the 1980’s. She graciously agreed to arrange Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman #5 for us to perform for the SLSO’s online concert presence during the pandemic. Caleb Burhans doesn’t live in St. Louis, but he frequently performed there with Alarm Will Sound. I am an admitted AWS groupie, so I jumped at the idea of joining in a consortium to commission Caleb to compose Hereafter.
Gerry’s many musical connections across the world brought us to several more pieces. He met Carrie Magin at Interlochen. Although Carrie’s output has been primarily vocal music, her willingness to accept our commission brought us TaleTeller, which I think will be performed widely in the future. Gerry’s connection with Tom Gibson at Mercer University led us to John Henneken’s Diasphere. For Impregnations, it was Gerry’s many solo recordings that inspired Olivier Boreau to compose his dark, spooky bass trombone feature.
The quartet was collectively willing to give each other a chance to be creative. Gerry has become a prolific arranger. Sky Blue, St. Louis Blues, and Closer Walk are just a few of his many efforts. Jonathan has contributed a flashy arrangement of the Prokofiev March, Op. 99. And the group was encouraging and tolerant of my offering of Alarum, despite its tempo and metrical difficulties.
Where shall we record and who should record us? Gerry’s chance connection with Harold Lumley, an amateur trombonist and pastor of the Cornerstone Fellowship Church of the Nazarene in St. Louis, led us to an excellent recording venue. Our longtime recording engineer and producer, Paul Eachus, brought his own history as a bass trombonist and conductor, his sensitive listening skills, and his gentle, matter-of-fact problem-solving approach back to St. Louis for our sessions.
How could all these things have happened together? With so many miracles all at once, we might just as well have named our album Serendipity. The final judgment about how well we succeeded is not mine to make. But for my part, the act of bringing Confluence to the world has been one of the high points of my musical life.