Before trombonist Julian Priester began teaching jazz at Cornish in the late '70s, he recorded and performed with practically every important figure of the modern and postmodern moment of jazz (Max Roach, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus). One of the few famous trombonists of modern jazz (the instrument had a far bigger presence in the swing or big-band era), Priester also contributed two classics to the jazz canon, Spiritsville and Keep Swingin' (an album that has one of the greatest covers of all time and also the lovely, breezy, breathy piece "Julian's Tune").

In short, to watch Priester perform in a club setting like the Royal Room—a joint that recently opened in Columbia City and is partly owned by another local jazz giant, Wayne Horvitz—is basically to watch the breathing, living history of America's classical music. (By the way, Priester is on my favorite Horvitz album, From a Window, a record that beautifully combines jazz moods with cinematic atmospheres.)

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As if all of this were not enough, Priester played the euphonium on one of John Coltrane's two Africa/Brass sessions. The first session happened on May 23, 1961, the second on June 4, 1961. Priester, 25 at the time, contributed to the first and more complete session, though the second session has the better take of "Africa" (Coltrane's sax solo on this take soars high above the one on the first session—the same is also true of McCoy Tyner's piano solo, which ends with a series of coordinated chord attacks). Priester blows like crazy on the bold "Song of the Underground Railroad" and the gorgeous "Greensleeves," Coltrane's follow-up to his biggest commercial hit, "My Favorite Things." Both Africa/Brass sessions were recorded at the New Jersey studio operated by the optometrist Rudy Van Gelder.

I could say more about this studio (a temple of modern jazz), about the optometrist (an American eye doctor who recorded American sounds), about the fact that Priester was part of this magic, but you already get the picture, you already see that the history contained by the life and art of Priester is very deep. recommended