What I’m Watching: Alex Iles

Alex Iles – Principal Trombone, Long Beach Symphony & Freelancer


What Makes This Song Great? Episode 36 with Rick Beato

Multi-instrumentalist and composer/arranger, and veteran You Tuber, Rick Beato is a fantastic music teacher who opens up students to the theory and tools for musicianship which you can apply directly to daily situations. In his popular Youtube channel, Rick shares practical thoughts and answers using his deep rooted knowledge and experience real life musical situations. He is an outstanding musician, transcriber, instrumentalist and producer regardless of the setting; pop music, rock and roll, jazz, classical, film scoring, etc .


The Coltrane Fractal

Bassist, music theorist, arranger, composer, teacher and popular music You Tuber Adam has a mind-blowing channel of videos taking on subjects like music theory, psycho-acoustics, and instrumental practice techniques. He also talks about gear, equipment and production ideas. This was the first video that introduced me to Adam’s channel. He’s that guy you and your music major friends would hang out with until dawn pondering and discussing all kinds of musical and philosophical ideas. He would be the oracle of information to settle all those arguments you and your friends would have after you’d finished your class assignments.


Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers

Author, journalist and public speaker Malcolm Gladwell discusses the connections between effort and success by briefly describing the first 10 years of the rock band, Fleetwood Mac. “Instant success” is not always obvious, apparent or inherent.  In his book, “Outliers” Gladwell propagated the rather controversial “10,000” rule, a theory that many sociologists and psychologists take issue with these days for lack of evidence. However, the idea that most “instant success” is “anything but that” still remains a compelling idea. The vast majority of great musicians had to work for it, and approach that work in a smart way.


Bones Apart Stars and Stripes

This might be one of the first “viral” trombone videos I had heard of on YouTube. I like it for several reasons. It demonstrates playing of a very high caliber by the full ensemble and soloists. It also shows 4 women playing at this level; something that was not as well known to the public in 2007. Everyone was talking about and sharing this video [even though it came out a few years before most of us were on Facebook], but I think it had a particularly strong influence among young women trombonists. Many women brass players have told me they have received encouraging words of support from many men over the years, but they have also mentioned that they felt a different kind of encouragement seeing a group of women trombonists all performing brilliantly together. This video gives me hope that more men and women will be inspired by every type of music created and performed by women and men from emerging from every corner of the world.


I Needs to Be Bee’d With, 1965 (featuring Al Grey with the Count Basie Orchestra)

Some musicians play in a way that is beyond their own era or the genre or labels they are most associated with. In the trombone world, there have been several great jazz musicians who fit this description. JJ Johnson was also a gifted composer and arranger. Urbie Green was a successful studio musician, and could play “tailgate” style, beautiful ballads as well as mainstream and even more modern jazz,  Britt Woodman was equally comfortable as a solo trombonist with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. In this video, Al Grey displays masterful blues trombone playing, as well as complete mastery of the bebop language, his unique plunger mute abilities, incredible melodicism, as well as explosive trombone technique and range [this solo covers 3 octaves]. He also gives a clinic in how to patiently build a perfect solo [sermon!?!] starting with simple murmurs all the way into an impassioned testimony. All that, and in less than 2 minutes! The sum of these details makes this one of the most memorable trombone solos on the internet. I refer so many students and friends to this solo performance. It swings so hard!!! Also, this is the Basie band at what many consider one of its finest periods! Sure there are so many fine jazz trombone performances to check out  on the internet, but this solo is so universal in its appeal and timeless in its feel.