Listen and Learn

If he’d survived, trumpeter Jack Sheldon would have turned 89 on November 30th, 2020. For one who never studied his recordings, it’s fascinating to watch a live video of his quintet in concert.  The five musicians play in perfect sync, like a well-oiled machine, and they swing like crazy.  Jack’s vocal style is instantly recognizable, and his trumpet sparkles with fiery assertiveness, crisp inventiveness, and unhesitating self-assurance. 

The lick leading into the bridge of Jack’s solo especially knocks me out. Here it is: 

There’s a dynamic shape to that melodic line and an infectious rhythmic vitality which combine to offer a wildly exciting listening experience. Equally impressive is Jack’s ability to infer fascinating harmonic curve-balls creating two deceptive modulations before settling onto the home key, as portrayed on the chart above .

Here’s that lick in all 12 keys. 

A complete chart is provided below, if you want to woodshed this unique lick. 

My friend Bill – an excellent trombonist – voiced his frustration after attempting the licks on my blog at full speed.  I reassured Bill that I certainly do not begin by playing any of these licks at its ultimate pace.  Here is the original tempo over which I started wood-shedding.

It took me several hours to get the lick up to tempo.  With each new pass, you ratchet the metronome up maybe 3, 4, or 5 clicks until you reach your goal, and the most difficult note sequences require extensive looping in order to achieve smooth, effortless execution.

Here is Jack’s full solo:

As stated above, the band swings like mad throughout this entire performance.  Here’s a link, if you want to listen to the whole cut.

Click on “continue reading” below to see a chart of the lick in all 12 keys.

4 thoughts on “Listen and Learn

  1. That’s great, Craig. Jack was extraordinary in so many different directions. One night at a big band rehearsal at the union hall a friend overheard Jack saying to the rest of the trumpet section, “Listen, when I die, I don’t want a big, elaborate funeral. None of that. I just want a couple of my closest friends to come over to my house and bring me back to life”!


  2. Hi, Craig–
    Thanks for letting me know about this post! Very interesting. As I mentioned in an email to you, I played with Jack a few times over the years. We were both in the band led by Marty Paich which accompanied Mel Torme’ for a tour in Japan years ago. (A live recording of one of our concerts was released on Concord Records).
    I think Jack would have appreciated–and maybe been amused by–all the effort you put into transcribing this solo! Excellent work, but knowing you that doesn’t surprise me.
    You might know that in his younger years, Jack was a handsome cat, and had a TV show that ran for a season or two (not sure), called, “Run, Buddy, Run.” He shows up occasionally in films and other TV shows of the late ’50s and ’60s.
    He was a unique player, and a one-of-a-kind guy. Thanks again for this. I look forward to your next post!


    1. Greetings Dan,
      Looking forward to enjoying your live recording with Marty Paich’s “Dektette.” I checked with Bo Derrick, and she agrees with me that your group must have been a “10,” as are all of your wonderful CD’s. Thanks for your exceptional trombone work on my CD “Skykomish” and the gigs I was privileged to play with you.


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