Barnaby Dickinson - Trombone

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 “I’m doing a bit of everything – and it’s what I love”, exclaims the effervescent Dickinson. “I played on the Strictly Come Dancing and Just the Two of Us TV shows and it was great fun and in complete contrast to my own band Most Wanted. Dickinson couldn’t perhaps have chosen a better name for his horn led outfit. As he says: “Work’s been flooding in ever since the day I left college – I’ve been really lucky.” But like every successful musician, it’s all been based on hard work and burning the proverbial midnight oil.
Growing up in Burnley meant only one thing – brass bands. “At school I was the biggest kid in my class,” says Dickinson. “So although there were plenty of smaller instruments, I got landed with the euphonium – a three valve Bach in a really ugly case. After all, I was the only one who could carry it home!” After earning his spurs in the school band, Dickinson soon progressed on to the Junior Brass and then onto the Burnley Youth Brass Band – at just 11. From there it was only a matter of time before he was enlisted into the Lancashire Students Concert Band. “We toured the world,” says Dickinson. “I remember the gigs at Niagara Falls.” Active Image

At 16 Dickinson moved onto the trombone. As he says: ‘it’s a much more versatile kind of instrument that conveniently uses the same mouthpiece.” That same year he auditioned at the Royal Northern College of Music for a place in the Junior department. “I was told that I wasn’t good enough,” he remembers. “And that I’d only get in if they needed to make up the numbers.” They did, and so Dickinson got offered a place on the Saturday course. Between the ages of 16 and 18 he was travelling into Manchester from Burnley everyday. “Doing my A levels at Salford University Monday to Friday then on Saturday mornings I’d go into the music college from 7am to 9pm. The strange thing was that on a Friday night I was playing rock gigs and salsa gigs with much older students late into the night, then on Saturday I was with 10-12 year olds who could play a million times better than I could – ever!”

After two years at the Royal Northern, Dickinson auditioned for the Guildhall. “I was there from 1994-98,” he says, “and I was fortunate to have some great teachers like Tim Garland.” So who were his major influences? “Obviously JJ Johnson and Frank Rosolino’, says Dickinson. “Then there’s guys like Hal Crook at Berklee and Elliot Mason who play the trombone in a modern way. They’ve created their own sound and they really make the trombone sing. But I guess the guy who’s been my greatest inspiration is Fred WesleyJames Brown’s bone player. He had this great sound – totally unique’.

So what instruments was Dickinson playing? “My first trombone was a King 3B and very
soon afterwards I bought a Bach 42 with an open wrap for classical work , it’s supposed to give you a more clear and clean sound.” I wandered what the difference was between the classical bone and it more sassy sister. “Well”, says Dickinson, “the classical’s a lot bigger instrument, because when you’re sitting in an orchestra you are creating more of a wide sound. But when you’re sitting in a big band, or a combo, you need more of a pointy sound – hence the smaller jazz horn.” After he had finished college Dickinson replaced the King with a Bach 16ML  “and that’s my workhorse”, he says. “I’ve always liked Bachs and I still use my old Bach 42 on sessions or something that’s more classical – like when I’m asked to play Mahler or something like that.”

And what of his choice of mouthpieces? “I use a Dennis Wick on the classical horn and a Marcinkiewicz Jiggs Whigham signature mouthpiece on the 16ML,” says Dickinson. I ask whether the Jiggs Whigham signature is nearer a 3 or a 7. “I don’t know. I’m one of those who believes you just get what you’re given and if it doesn’t sound good then you practise it harder and harder until it does!”

I ask Dickinson if he has ever played a valve trombone? “No”, comes the response. “I played a bit of bass trumpet at the Guildhall – and that was good fun. But I often think I’d like to play one – particularly when the tempo’s fast. The joke is ‘I’ll buy you a set of valves for Christmas’!”

Dickinson is clearly happy hopping from one musical genre to another. “Let me tell you, as long as it’s good music,” says Dickinson. “I enjoy every minute of it – well usually!” He laughs as he recalls one of his more unusual experiences. “I did a gig with Kid Creole and the Coconuts at the bottom of mount Etna while it was going off. And there was no one in the audience because they had all scattered and there we were playing at the bottom of this volcano. All the band walked off covered in black dust and I remember the dust getting in my slide and jamming it up!”

I get the feeling that Dickinson’s never short of something to do. So apart from a steady flow of gigs and working on the new Most Wanted album, what else occupies his time? “I’m doing a children’s project that I set up called Just Add Kids for 5-9 year olds,” Dickinson enthuses. “They sing along to backing tracks that we’ve produced and it fits into the National Curriculum. It’s a way of giving something back because I’ve been so blessed with all this good schooling. It’s nice to go back and say play this over that or sing this over that and see their faces – I just love anything to do with music.”