Tag Archives: Dr. Nelson Harrison

Dr. Nelson Harrison’s Trombetto Tones


This is Pittsburgh’s Dr. Nelson Harrison playing his one-of-a-kind Trombetto.  Harrison describes it as “a compact brass instrument with four valves that plays a chromatic range of six octaves with a trombone mouthpiece.”  You can read more about Dr. Harrison and his extensive music career on his page within the Pittsbrugh Jazz Network site.

As luck would have it, I ran into him at the Afro-American Music Institute when I went to Homewood to record ringtones with their Boys Choir.  I first met Harrison in the early ’90s when I’d go to listen to music at the Crawford Grill in the Hill District.  I’d also see him playing out around town and working with young people in schools.  The night I was at AAMI, Pamela Johnson, co-founder of the institute, asked Nelson if he’d be willing to play a tone or two for the project.  He did, we’re fortunate to have them in the archive, and guess what?  They’re great!

Trombetto (Close Up)

Here are Nelson’s tones–Trombetto Blue and Trombetto’s Good Mood.  Many thanks, Nelson!

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AAMI Boys’ Choir Tones (Teresa’s Tone)

AAMI Boys Choir Members

It is difficult for me to describe how grateful I am for the contributions that members of this community make in the name of sharing freely with others, when they allow me to record and amplify their sounds (Pittsburgh’s sounds).  If you are a jazz fan, you know that there’s very powerful music coming out of Pittsburgh all the time.  It’s a city with deep, deep roots in Jazz History, and therefore, important American and African-American History.  The Afro-American Music Institute plays an integral role in the Pittsburgh’s Jazz scene.  AAMI is a musical institute located in the neighborhood of Homewood, founded and is directed by Dr. James Johnson and his wife, Mrs. Pamela Johnson.  Last year, the Institute celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

Dr. James Johnson and Pamela Johnson

When I asked the Dr. and Mrs. if they’d consider contributing an AAMI tone to the project, they said yes, and invited me to come and record during a Boys Choir rehearsal.  The approach they took to designing their tone was improvisational–scat singing!  The 2.5 minute session I recorded that evening was so good that I’ve decided to post the complete unedited track and to excerpt tones from the recording (so that you can pick the tone or tones featuring the soloists you like).

Near the end of the rehearsal, Dr. J thanked me for coming to make a ringtone.  “Now we have a new piece to take on tour, thanks to Ms. Teresa,” he said to the choir members.  Then I heard him say he needed a day or two to think about what to call the tone.  When I checked back in with him on the name for the tone, he said, “I think we’ll call it Teresa’s Tone.”  I told him I’d shortly be in tears–I couldn’t believe it.  Thank you, AAMI.

Teresa’s Tone-Full Length Track is almost 2.5 minutes long–you can download it and import it into an mp3 player of your choice.  The file includes scat singing by 5 young soloists who are members of the Boys Choir, and solos from Pittsburgh Jazz Greats Howie Alexander, Dr. James Johnson, his son, James Johnson III and Dr. Nelson Harrison.

As for the ringtones, here’s my re-mixed version from the session that I’ll put on my phone–Teresa’s Tone (Remix).

Since I wanted every soloist to have a tone to use and share from that recording, so excerpted ringtones in soloist “track” order follow:

Boys Choir Soloist 1 Tone

Soloist No. 1 (Pictured in White Shirt)

Soloist No. 1 (Pictured in White Shirt)

Boys Choir Soloists 2 and 3 Tone

Boys Choir Soloist 4 Tone (With Solo Remix)

Boys Choir Soloist 5 Tone

Howie and Dr. J Tone

James III and Nelson Tone

If you’re wondering what approach I took to recording, I figured out, during our second take or so, that it might be interesting if I traveled around the room with my portable equipment, to get the mic close to each soloist.  It worked–as you listen to the unedited track, you will walk around the room with me–you can hear the choir and musical instruments I’m standing near as I record each soloist in a different spot of the room.

If you like these tones, wait til you hear the tones that Pamela Johnson requested for Locally Toned by Dr. Nelson Harrison.  He happened to be at AAMI that night, and he contributed Trombetto Tones to the project.  They’ll be posted soon!

Dr. Nelson Harrison and Choir Member Robertson

Dr. Nelson Harrison with Choir Member James Robertson


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