Farewell William Russell



William Russell Watrous recently passed at the age of 79. If you are or ever were a trombone player, and especially if you play jazz, you’ve been influenced in some way by this great musician.

I wanted to pay tribute to Bill, and doing so through a ballad seemed appropriate. He played higher and faster than just about anyone ever, but his ballad playing brought out his great musical sensibilities and expanded his popularity to a wider audience than just his adoring trombone fans.

I once asked him how and what he practiced early on. He replied simply, “I just improvised melodies.” And what a great melodic sense he had, no matter what he played. The impact of those four words have stayed with me my entire life.

While I’ve never had screaming high chops or great speed, the gift Bill gave me was an appreciation for the primacy of melody and for the ability to use the trombone as an expressive voice.

This little piece reflects Bill’s influence on my trombone playing, but more importantly, my musicianship.  

 The wisdom Bill shares at the very end comes from a video of Bill explaining his playing philosophy and can be seen here. 


Preview / Buy Book

Being familiar with the great alto trombone playing of Michael Lake, I can attest that his words of wisdom don’t come from a theoretician, but from a remarkably  accomplished artist. I highly recommend this great book!!”

– Cristian Ganicenco, Principal Trombone, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

I really like this interesting and well-disposed book. So many good thoughts, facts and tips on alto trombone. Good guidance for the searching alto souls out there. A must-have for the shelves.

– Håkan Björkman, Principal Trombone at Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

I highly recommend Alto Trombone Savvy for players around the world wanting advice on handling the alto trombone at the highest level. Classical and jazz players both share the same challenges, and it’s great to have this book in either bass or alto clef to help answer some of those challenges.

– Carsten Svanberg, International Trombone Soloist and Professor of Trombone at the University of Music and Arts Graz

For anyone interested in learning to play the alto trombone, whether for classical or jazz, this book is a must. Clearly written, with excellent exercises and links to audio examples, Michael Lake has provided the trombone world with a wonderful new resource.

– Ralph Sauer, Former Principal Trombone, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Scroll to Top