Jennifer Wharton lives and breathes trombone. She even admits to having a dress adorned with them (see the photo above for proof). The bass trombonist, born and raised in Northern California but a fixture on the NYC music scene, has been linked to the instrument since she was in middle school. Although she’s made her living performing in the pit bands of many of the most successful Broadway musicals, Wharton has always kept one foot in the jazz world. She’s been a secret weapon in various big bands, including the critically acclaimed Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. After many years playing in the back row (literally), Wharton has finally moved forward and released her debut album as a leader, Bonegasm, on Sunnyside, produced by her husband and fellow trombonist John Fedchock. Rather than feature herself as the sole lead with a rhythm section, she opted to celebrate the instrument she loves by recording with—get ready—three other trombonists. The result is not at all what you might expect. It’s melodic, it’s fun, and it even has a vocal on “Big Long Slidin’ Thing,” a song with lyrics as suggestive as its title.
Wharton spoke with JazzTimes contributing editor Lee Mergner during the Jazz Cruise, on which she has performed for the last 10 years as a vital member of the house big band.