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Hilary Jeffery

started playing the trombone after changing schools at the age of 11. He had previously played the violin, but the new school only had wind instruments; the choice of trombone was fairly random and Hilary had no idea then that this instrument would become a central part of his life. Over the years he became increasingly fascinated with the trombone and its possibilities. Encouraged by his teachers he dived deeper and his explorations were significantly assisted through studying "The Modern Trombone: A Definition of its Idioms" by Stuart Dempster.

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt

Through this study he discovered many pieces of the contemporary classical repertoire, started to improvise and became particularly intrigued by the work of American trombonist and composer James Fulkerson. Later Hilary was able to study with Fulkerson at the end of the 90s in a school for contemporary dance in Arnhem, Netherlands. This study took Hilary deeper into the essential qualities of what it means to play the trombone, physically and imaginatively. He expanded his own repertoire in many directions and developed concepts for playing with amplification and live electronics, dubbed the “tromboscillator” — not a specific instrument but an imaginative sound journey starting with the mind and breath, amplified and transformed, creating a newly synthesized trombone mutation. Musically, Hilary started working in a wide range of settings encompassing rock, techno, electronica, jazz, pop, afrobeat, contemporary classical and free improvisation. His trombone could function in many roles: solo melodic voice, abstract noise generator, funky riffer, apocalyptic siren, harmonic pad, drone machine... all ideal for when he joined zeitkratzer in 2007! In recent years Hilary has become increasingly focused on the melodic and inbuilt microtonal capacities of the instrument, based on his active interest in classical Indian, modern jazz and Japanese shakuhachi music.

Hilary plays on a variety of trombones, not preferring any specific model. In his experience the best trombones are either custom-made models from small manufacturers, or older models built somewhere between 1930 and 1970, of which his Constellation is an example. Exact details of the year in which this particular trombone was built, or other technical details are unknown. While appreciating the beauty and craftsmanship of the instrument, Hilary does not consider these details to be of particular importance. A trombone is in fact more than the piece of metal which makes up the instrument. The player’s mind and body, the space in which it is played, alongside extensions such as mutes and electronics are considered to be equally important aspects of the instrument as a whole.