James Edward Pugh, born November 12, 1950 is a trombonist, composer, and educator. He is most noted as the lead trombonist with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd (1972-1976) and Chick Corea's Return to Forever Band (1977-1978). For over 25 years, he worked as a freelance trombonist in New York City. In recent years, he has toured and recorded with the rock group Steely Dan, is a founding member of the Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble, and is on faculty as Distinguished Professor of Jazz Trombone at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Jim Pugh is a distinguished trombonist, composer, and educator. The inspiring virtuosity and wonderful versatility he has demonstrated during the course of his career has caused Jim to be often honored as the "musician's musician". Whether he is performing as a concerto soloist in a symphonic setting, recording and touring with legendary artists in the fields of classical, jazz, & rock, or bringing forth his own exciting new compositions that expand the role of brass in contemporary music, his creativity knows no boundaries.
Born in Camden, NJ and raised in Butler, PA, Jim began studying piano at age five and trombone at age ten. Before attending the Eastman School of Music, he studied trombone with Matty Shiner of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. While at Eastman, Jim studied with Emory Remington, Donald Knaub, Chuck Mangione, Ray Wright, and was awarded Eastman's coveted Performer's Certificate. After graduating from the Eastman School of Music, Jim toured extensively with the Woody Herman Band and with Chick Corea before deciding to settle down and make New York City his home.
As a performer and recording artist
Since the 1980s, Jim became New York's top-call freelance trombonist for film scores, records, and music for television and radio advertising. He can be heard on more than four thousand recording sessions.
His trombone can be heard in collaboration with leading classical and popular artists and orchestras such as Yo-Yo Ma, Steely Dan, Eos, Concordia, St. Luke’s Orchestra, André Previn, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Pink Floyd, and Frank Sinatra.
Jim has been called on to add his sound to feature film soundtracks including A League of Their Own, When Harry Met Sally, and Meet Joe Black; and on hit Broadway cast recordings such as City of Angels, Fosse and Victor/Victoria.
In 2003, Jim “re-premiered” the Nathaniel Shilkret: Trombone Concerto at Carnegie Hall with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops Orchestra. This mid-twentieth century masterpiece was originally written for Tommy Dorsey.
Jim Pugh is the only recipient of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Science's Virtuoso Award for Tenor trombone, awarded after being voted Tenor Trombone MVP by the New York recording community for five years.
In 2008, NPR named his album, X Over Trombone, in their list of best classical CDs of 2008.
As a composer
Jim's original music and arrangements can be heard on National Public Radio, in film scores, on "jingles", and on record. His composition, Lunch with Schrödinger's Cat, received a Lincoln Center premier in 1989 by Marin Alsop and the Concordia Chamber Orchestra. Jim premiered his Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra in May 1992 with the Williamsport Symphony. It received its New York premier in March 2000 with Joseph Alessi as soloist and Leonard Slatkin conducting the New York Philharmonic. A founding member of the Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble, several of Jim’s compositions can be heard on a recent Signum CDs entitled Scenes of Spirits and The Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble Plays The Music of James Pugh and Daniel Schnyder.
As an educator
Jim is currently on faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the past he has taught at SUNY-Purchase College, the University of the Arts Philadelphia, and at New York University. In the summer, he has been on faculty at the Skidmore Summer Institute of Jazz at Skidmore College. He appears frequently at schools throughout the country as a guest artist/clinician. Many of these clinics/concerts are made possible through the help of the Edwards Instrument Company.
In the field of instrument development
Jim has been involved with the development of the Edwards small bore tenor trombone and has worked closely with Dave Monette in the development of the Monette TS11 and TS 6 small shank tenor trombone mouthpiece. He endorses both of these products and plays Edwards trombones and Monette mouthpieces exclusively.
1981: Crystal Eyes - Pewter Records
1984: The Pugh /Taylor Project - DMP Recording
2001: Pugh Mosso - CD recorded in Brisbane, Australia with the ConArtists, big band from the Queensland Conservatorium
2002: Legend and Lion - SuperKids Recording, Japanese release
2004: Echano - CD recorded in Brisbane, Australia with the ConArtists, big band from the Queensland Conservatorium
2004: E2’nJ2 - TNC Records
2006: E'nJ "Just Us" - SuperKids Recording, Japanese release
2007: X Over Trombone - Albany records
2007: Holly and The Ivy - Montclair Citadel Band of the Salvation Army
1972: Giant Steps, with Woody Herman
1973: Thundering Herd, with Woody Herman
1976: The 40th Anniversary Concert, with Woody Herman
1977: Musicmagic, with Chick Corea and Return to Forever
1977: Return to Forever - Live, with Chick Corea
1978: Secret Agent, with Chick Corea
1988: The Disney Album, with Barbara Cook
1989: When Harry Met Sally, with Harry Connick, Jr.
1992: League of Their Own, with James Taylor
1994: Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool, with David “Fathead” Newman
1994: Scampi Fritti, with Marc Beacco
1995: Honey and Rue, with Kathleen Battle; St. Luke’s Orchestra, Andre Previn, conductor
1995: Rush Hour, with Joe Lovano; Gunther Schuller, conductor
1996: Two Lane Highways, with Jay Leonhart and Friends
1999: Crossing the Bridge, with Eileen Ivers
1999: Songs from the Last Century, with George Michael
2000: Eight, with Walter Blanton
2000: Two Against Nature, with Steely Dan
2003: Alegria, with Wayne Shorter
2003: Everything Must Go, with Steely Dan
2007: This Meets That, with John Scofield
1989 - present Manhattan Jazz Orchestra – all recordings
1998 - present Super Trombone – “Super Trombone,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Take Five,”, "Basie" and “Mission Impossible”
1992 City of Angels
1995 Will Rogers' Follies
Motion Picture Soundtracks (featured soloist)
Meet Joe Black
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Classical (not as soloist)
Mass, Charles Wuorinen
Ponder Nothing, The Chamber Music of Ben Johnston, Music Amici
The Music of Irwin Bazelon
Collage - New York Trombone Quartet
Bright Sheng: Lacerations, 92nd St. Y Orchestra, Gerard Schwartz, conductor
EOS Orchestra - 5 CDs for Sony-BMG
Concordia Orchestra - 6 CDs for various labels
The Silk Road Project with YoYo Ma
The Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble Plays the Music of James Pugh and Daniel Schnyder, Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble
Dietrich, Kurt. Jazz 'Bones: The World of Jazz Trombone . Advance Music. 2005. ISBN 3-89221-069-1
Feather, Leonard. Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies ISBN 0306802902