Brad Edwards
Latchn Duets: for tenor and bass trombone
Duet for tenor and bass trombone

Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Date of Publication: 2018



Brad Edwards composed this group of three duets based on Appalachian folk music at the request of one of his former students, Russ Zokaites. In the program notes, Dr. Edwards includes links to recordings on YouTube that may be helpful when preparing these pieces, particularly in regards to style.

The first duet, “Everlasting Arms,” is based on the 19th century hymn “Leaning on Everlasting Arms.” Anthony J. Showalter composed the original hymn after two of his former pupils each lost loved ones. The piece opens with descending minor thirds in the tenor trombone, a to f-sharp, d to B, that come directly from the refrain of the hymn, coinciding with the words “Leaning, leaning.” The movement continues with lyrical passages for both trombones and then transitions to a contrasting “B” section that is significantly faster, highly syncopated, and more articulated than the opening. The descending minor third theme returns before a statement of the melody from the hymn verse to close the duet.

The second duet, “He’s Gone Away,” is originally a dialog between a young man and young woman just before they are forced to part indefinitely. Dr. Edwards was inspired by a version for flute and guitar and he appears to replicate some of the finger-picking style through the use of sixteenth-note, arpeggio-like figures in the middle section as well as numerous grace notes, which he requests be performed with the valve when possible, to mimic a “hammer-on” style of guitar playing. These techniques are unique and effective, especially after studying the YouTube link provided.

The final duet is a combination of the songs “Sweet Betsy from Pike” and “Tennessee Stud.” Dr. Edwards explains that it was initially going to be a setting of the latter song until he discovered that it was not an old Appalachian folk song at all, but instead was composed in 1959 and still under copyright. He opted for “Sweet Betsy from Pike” while setting it in a quasi-bluegrass style that was inspired by a performance of “Tennessee Stud” by the late Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (1923-2012). It features something of a “hoe-down” feel that is highly syncopated and energetic. The “Sweet Betsy” tune appears in quarter-note triplets about half way through and there are passages before and after that imitate, quite accurately, two fiddles in a bluegrass band. There is also a technique that the composer calls the “whomp-flop” which is similar to a long glissando/fall between octaves while stopping short of connecting the two notes, and instead creating a breath attack accent on the lower pitch, the “flomp.”

With his Latchn Duets for tenor and bass trombone, Brad Edwards has made a noble attempt to fuse the styles and sounds of traditional Appalachian folk music with brass instruments. If performers can immerse themselves in the correct style, these duets can be performed convincingly. Both parts are challenging, with an assortment of articulations and dynamics, and four octave ranges in both parts, C to d-flat² for the tenor and DD to f-sharp¹ for bass. This collection is a welcome addition to the duet repertoire for tenor and bass trombones.

Reviewer: Eric High
Review Published April 2, 2019