A history of the jazz program at the University of Kansas would be incomplete without acknowledging the contribution of trombonist Greg Finch. From the late 70s to the early 80s, Greg had a profound influence on the development of KU as an acclaimed jazz program. Greg was a talented trombonist and improviser. He was one of the first KU students to be selected for the Disney College Musician program, performing as the featured trombonist in the Disneyland College Combo. He was a fixture at jam sessions at the Jazzhaus. Ultimately, his career path took him in another direction, but he played trombone for his entire life.
During his time at KU, Greg was a role model for younger players in the jazz program. For many of them, Greg was the first person they’d ever heard who could play bop lines on trombone. His solos were buoyant and swinging. He was always striving to play the perfect solo. His lead playing was top-notch as well, and he spent a lot of time helping younger trombonists play with a consistent section sound. Long after he left KU, people were still trying to emulate Greg’s playing.
Greg was a teacher at heart. He loved to talk about music, jazz, improvisation, and recordings. He was generous with his time, and he was great at explaining how to listen with purpose. Greg set the standard for how jazz trombone was played at KU that has lasted to this day. Gifts in Greg’s memory are being made to the Greg Finch Jazz Trombone Scholarship which will support the next generation of jazz trombonists.