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Hilary Jeffery’s plays trombone, trumpet, tuba, piano, electronics and sings. Hilary moved from violin to trombone at the age of 11 when he moved to a comprehensive school which only offered wind instruments. The choice of trombone seemed 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 early explorations were significantly assisted through studying “The Modern Trombone: A Definition of its Idioms” by Stuart Dempster. 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 at the European Dance Development Centre 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 or drone machine. 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.


Since travelling to the Sahara Desert in the summer of 1990, various trombones have travelled alongside Hilary to many inspiring places and he has performed in diverse settings including theatres, jazz clubs, cathedrals, night clubs, festivals, dance studios, bars, cinemas, streets and mountains. Some favourite highlights include: a seven-hour Anthroposophic theatre production at Rudolf Steiner’s Goetheanum in Switzerland, late night appearances at underground techno clubs in the UK and Berlin with Germ and Patrick Pulsinger, at the Tokyo New National Theatre with Sand in Saburo Teshigawara’s epic production “Green”, as a trombone-dervish in a disused mine in Belgium, for Tibetan Lama’s in the Himalayan town Kaza on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, for long drone performances with Catherine Christer Hennix in Amsterdam, Berlin, New York and Hong Kong, at Arles amplitheatre and Havana Parque de Trillo for performances of work by Anri Sala, in remote North Ghana playing for chiefs and villagers with Polyversal Souls featuring Guy One, visits to haunted cinemas in Central Europe and Far East Asia to channel the Inconsolable Ghost, a trip to Jupiter from Murmansk Spaceport, an encounter with a mermaid on the Norwegian island Skomvaer!


Through improvisation Hilary tries to practice the creation of a sense of silent space through the production of sound, not focusing on the actual sound but rather how sound literally brings new worlds into being. Hilary is fascinated by many improvising traditions including blues, jazz, maqam and raga; while not specialising in any of these forms – he tries to incorporate what he learns in his daily musical practice in the classroom, studio and onstage. He prefers not to play freely improvised music in groups without a listening audience of people and/or microphones. He has performed live and made recordings with many fellow improvisers throughout the years and feels a special musical affinity with players such as Tony Buck, Amelia Cuni, Tobias Delius, Paul Dunmall, Amir ElSaffar, Rozemarie Heggen, Tristan Honsinger, Shabaka Hutchings and Gianpaolo Peres. He is also very grateful for the opportunities he had to meet and work with Hugh Davies, Marco Eneidi, Tony Levin and Keith Tippett.


Hilary Jeffery has been playing the trombone since c.1983. What started out as a random decision to learn this instrument in place of the violin, slowly became an important focus for his artistic activity. Hilary’s principal teacher and mentor for trombone playing is James Fulkerson, with whom he studied between 1998 and 2000. Other teachers along the bone road have been Simon Hogg and Sam Burtis. Hilary’s trombone playing encompasses improvised and notated music. In 2013 he started to study Dhrupad with Amelia Cuni, with the aim of applying techniques of this Indian classical music tradition to the trombone. Other important mentors / teachers during this musical journey include Paul Dunmall, Keith Tippett, Mary O’Donnell Fulkerson, Francis Verdonk, CC Hennix, many musician-colleagues and all listening audiences!


As an interpreter of composed music Hilary has played a wide variety of pieces by many contemporary composers including Ellen Arkbro, Louis Andriessen, William Bennett, John Cage, Philip Corner, James Etherington, Morton Feldman, Reinhold Friedl, James Fulkerson, Robin Hayward, CC Hennix, Alvin Lucier, Daniel Matej, Simon Martin, Phill Niblock, Eliane Radigue, Giacinto Scelsi, Elliott Sharp, Karlheinz Stockhausen, James Tenney, Juan Felipe Waller and Christian Wolff. He enjoys playing jazz, blues, renaissance and baroque music.


Hilary has experience with playing in many ensembles and has over the years proven his ability to play in wide variety of styles including afro beat, blues, classical, funk, jazz, pop, rock and techno! He is featured on many recordings and has played onstage throughout the world. Bands he has played with since 1994, in roughly chronological order, include: Germ, Earthling, Sand, Meta Orchestra, Kreepa, Paul Dunmall Octet and Moksha Big Band, Keith Tippett’s Tapestry, Band of Holy Joy, Barton Workshop, Apa Ini, Jimi Tenor (Big) Band, Lysn, High Birds, Minister Kebab, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Inconsolable Ghost, zeitkratzer, Splitter Orchester, Trickster Orchestra, Veni Ensemble, Cluster Ensemble, Mullet / Mullet+, Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage, Zinc & Copper, Tonaliens, Chicks On Speed, Elektro Guzzi, Jeffery / Rose Duo, Minor Tom, mir8, Mouse On Mars Dimensional People Ensemble and Dromedary.


Hilary teaches brass, improvisation, composition and music theory to students from all age groups. He is currently working on his own method book and in 2020 he set up berlintune – a new platform for music education, publications, concerts.


Hilary appears on more than 100 commercial recordings and has made two solo albums of trombone and electronics for FMR Records, and a complete CD of trombone music by Philip Corner with James Fulkerson for New World Records.


Hilary invented the Tromboscillator in 1999 after playing Alvin Lucier’s composition “Wind Shadows” (1994). It is not a specific instrument but rather an illustration of what happens when a trombone mutates and melts into another virtual world (other than the one the player is in). It is the sound of an imaginative journey from interior worlds transformed and transmitted via music. From the mind and breath —> through the trombone —> to a microphone —> into the computer or analogue processor : where the audio signal is fed through circuits which transform the sound : the newly mutated sounds eventually travel out into the perceived exterior world again —> via speakers —> where the electronic sounds interact with the acoustic trombone sounds and acoustic of the performance space —> received by the body and ears —> travelling back into the mind for further internal processing. The trombonist, who always has to grapple with metal tubes, is on a threshold between the body / breath and the instrument / machine and with a Tromboscillator the player can breathe life into machine worlds! The experience of playing with live electronics is often one of transforming and extending oneself (and ones sounds) into what feels like another world which has with a vast landscape of possibilities – a hall of mirrors – a labyrinth of ever changing pathways. As in our experiences in cyberspace and dream worlds – this world offers limitless opportunities for experimenting with the Self, our ideas, our projections, our underwater and outer space wishes! The Tromboscillator is a hyrbid meta-instrument which can make music and implies, as does all real music, much more than just a collection of sounds in space and time. The player of the Tromboscillator is using the means to change the means and to break out of its apparent limitations… The means are: an instrument, analogue and digital hardware, time and space, music and sound, identity and body – this is not a process of denial or escape but one of experimental and joyful transformation, unfixed, always changing and ideally ever present, outside of the time-grid. Another ideal is that music made with the Tromboscillator will also go some way to changing those who hear it – altering consciousness and reprogamming. They (those who hear it) are not necessarily only human – machines and computers also hear and start to oscillate in sync – computers start dreaming and machines start breathing… hopefully animals, plants, spirits, aliens and other entities will also find something interesting in Tromboscillator music!


Hilary on Trombone Page of the World
James Fulkerson
Sam Burtis
Stuart Dempster – The Modern Trombone