Welcome

First, let me tell you about that photo above--that's Frank Rehak on trombone playing with John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

And now, let me welcome you to this site. My name is Doug Robinson and I'm a composer and multi-instrumentalist who met Frank Rehak when I was only 15. More about that meeting in a moment.

Frank Rehak was an amazing and inspiring musician, mentor and friend, not just to me but to countless people from around the world. The fact that you might not be familiar with him or his musical legacy is understandable--he was a rising star of the jazz trombone in the '50s and '60s but his career was sabotaged by his heroin addiction. Even that didn't keep him from appearing on more than 4,000 recordings, including some of the most important jazz projects of the day. From the Miles Davis/Gil Evans classic "Sketches of Spain"  to Dizzy Gillespie's amazing State Department Band recordings to Michel LeGrand's all-star project "Legrand Jazz" and dozens of other influential recordings, Frank was in the middle of it all. Leonard Feather, in the 1960s edition of The Encyclopedia of Jazz, called Frank "highly respected as one of the most individual of modern trombonists."

I met Frank in 1969 when I was volunteering at Synanon, where Frank went to finally clean up his act and where he decided to stay and work with other addicts until his death in 1987. I watched him evolve from an obviously talented but sad mess, worn ragged by addictions and all of the accompanying problems, into a generous and joyous teacher, husband, mentor and friend. It is no exaggeration to describe Frank as an inspiration to thousands of other addicts who came to Synanon, desperate for one last chance. Over the years, Frank's story and personal demonstration proved that it was indeed possible to come back swinging hard.

This website is a 'work in progress' in the truest sense. I've managed to find some truly obscure audio tracks featuring Frank, but with him appearing on so many recordings (many out of print for decades now) I'll be adding audio tracks as I discover them.  Check back every once in a while if you love trombone, or Frank, or both!

In the meantime, come on in now and read a bit about Frank Rehak, one of the great jazz trombonists of all time. It's a great story. With the loving cooperation from his widow, Sandy, I've managed to digitize his solos from hundreds of recordings and some complete tracks as well. There is a ton of material that's never been heard before, including audio love letters from friends like Bill Watrous, Milt Hinton and Leonard Feather; interviews with friends and family and Frank himself; and maybe most intriguingly some of the music he created once he cleaned up, which as his unofficial archivist I can say is some of the strongest playing of his life.

Doug Robinson

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  • Geordie King

    Geordie King

    Doug; great website and tribute to a great musician. I played trombone through my school years and in the Army Band. I used to listen to Frank Rehak on Woody Herman albums and was greatly inspired by his unique sound and style. Thanks so much for your hard work-I look forward to seeing more and all the best! Geordie King

    Doug; great website and tribute to a great musician. I played trombone through my school years and in the Army Band. I used to listen to Frank Rehak on Woody Herman albums and was greatly inspired by his unique sound and style. Thanks so much for your hard work-I look forward to seeing more and all the best! Geordie King

  • Doug Robinson

    Doug Robinson San Miguel de Allende

    Just a public 'thank you' to everyone who has written in and shared their thoughts and feelings about Frank, and especially to Jonathan Greenburg who solved the personnel mystery of a few of the tracks I included in the 'music' section. Right on, Jonathan!

    Just a public 'thank you' to everyone who has written in and shared their thoughts and feelings about Frank, and especially to Jonathan Greenburg who solved the personnel mystery of a few of the tracks I included in the 'music' section. Right on, Jonathan!

  • BRIAN REHAK

    BRIAN REHAK New York

    Frank Rehak was my grandfather's brother. My fathers uncle. I've heard some stories about him but the more I read the more I realize how influential he was in the jazz world. It's a shame that addiction destroyed his life. My father had the same problem. It took his life in 2013.

    Frank Rehak was my grandfather's brother. My fathers uncle. I've heard some stories about him but the more I read the more I realize how influential he was in the jazz world. It's a shame that addiction destroyed his life. My father had the same problem. It took his life in 2013.

  • Ben Parks

    Ben Parks Detroit

    I had the good fortune to video tape Frank and the guys in The Synanon Band many times and on a number of those recordings we were lucky enough to have excellent accoustics that made the best recordings possible with our limited equipment. Frank was one of the nicest guys I ever met at Synanon. You couldn't help but smile when you saw him approaching, such was the power and warmth of his aura. In addtion to that he was. by far, one of the coolest people you'd ever want to meet. I know you're a serious musician and student of music and I'd like to commend you for doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful guy here on this website. Many here seem genuinely honored to have met him and we, all the moreso, to have actually had a chance to know him. I'll risk lapsing into the cliche by saying that the world is truly a lesser place without Frank in it. I miss him and I treasure every memory I have of him.

    I had the good fortune to video tape Frank and the guys in The Synanon Band many times and on a number of those recordings we were lucky enough to have excellent accoustics that made the best recordings possible with our limited equipment. Frank was one of the nicest guys I ever met at Synanon. You couldn't help but smile when you saw him approaching, such was the power and warmth of his aura. In addtion to that he was. by far, one of the coolest people you'd ever want to meet.

    I know you're a serious musician and student of music and I'd like to commend you for doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful guy here on this website. Many here seem genuinely honored to have met him and we, all the moreso, to have actually had a chance to know him. I'll risk lapsing into the cliche by saying that the world is truly a lesser place without Frank in it. I miss him and I treasure every memory I have of him.

  • Dave Padilla

    Dave Padilla Benicia,Ca.

    Hey Doug, Thank you for this site. Good memories of a great man that influenced me! All the best!

    Hey Doug,
    Thank you for this site.
    Good memories of a great man that influenced me!
    All the best!

  • Steve Weaver

    Steve Weaver Sonoma County, Ca

    Doug, Thank you so much for this. I went many time to Synanon in Oakland and played with Frank around 1975-76. His stories were captivating and the education from playing with him is still with me. Frank actually sobbed for me on a big band gig in San Franciso and I'll try and figure out how to send you the cuts. David Scott told me about your sight. After not seeing each other for 30 years we play together frequently now. This is a very important project you've accomplished and we owe you a huge debt.

    Doug,
    Thank you so much for this. I went many time to Synanon in Oakland and played with Frank around 1975-76. His stories were captivating and the education from playing with him is still with me. Frank actually sobbed for me on a big band gig in San Franciso and I'll try and figure out how to send you the cuts. David Scott told me about your sight. After not seeing each other for 30 years we play together frequently now. This is a very important project you've accomplished and we owe you a huge debt.

  • Scott Whitfield

    Scott Whitfield Los Angeles, CA

    Doug, thanks for doing this! In my mind, Frank Rehak was one of the greatest players ever, and SHOULD be more well-known. Can't wait to check out the sound clips and video you have here.

    Doug, thanks for doing this! In my mind, Frank Rehak was one of the greatest players ever, and SHOULD be more well-known. Can't wait to check out the sound clips and video you have here.

  • Les Nunes

    Les Nunes Clovis , Calif.

    Thank you so much Doug for keeping Franks legacy alive. He was an incredible player and person. I didn't meet him until shortly before his death in the 80's - He was scheduled to play a concert with the College of the Sequoias night jazz band and I was coming down from Fresno to play in it. Our director Harry Buyuklian was friends with him and my former teacher Ira Nepus had introduced me to his playing some years before. We were going to play an arrangement of Emily together for 2 bones that Fontana had played and he came down ill before the concert and so that opportunity never came about. But I remember what a kind and gracious person he was and how great he played even later in his career. Thank you for all the work you have done putting this wonderful site together. - Les Nunes

    Thank you so much Doug for keeping Franks legacy alive. He was an incredible player and person. I didn't meet him until shortly before his death in the 80's - He was scheduled to play a concert with the College of the Sequoias night jazz band and I was coming down from Fresno to play in it. Our director Harry Buyuklian was friends with him and my former teacher Ira Nepus had introduced me to his playing some years before. We were going to play an arrangement of Emily together for 2 bones that Fontana had played and he came down ill before the concert and so that opportunity never came about. But I remember what a kind and gracious person he was and how great he played even later in his career. Thank you for all the work you have done putting this wonderful site together. - Les Nunes

  • Mel Goot

    Mel Goot Southern Illinois

    Wow! What a beautiful, loving tribute. . . and fantastic site, Doug! It is a story that needs to be told. Some of my fondest memories are of the "hooplas" at Synanon in Santa Monica and also in Oakland, where you and Frank graciously reached out to so many artists, showed us cool musical things, let us sit in, and shared the Synanon experience. Years later I met Milt and Mona Hinton through Ann Williams and "the judge" gave me a book of beautiful photos that included some great shots of Frank with pretty much every jazz great imaginable. . . Thank you for crafting this excellent website. :-)

    Wow! What a beautiful, loving tribute. . . and fantastic site, Doug! It is a story that needs to be told. Some of my fondest memories are of the "hooplas" at Synanon in Santa Monica and also in Oakland, where you and Frank graciously reached out to so many artists, showed us cool musical things, let us sit in, and shared the Synanon experience.
    Years later I met Milt and Mona Hinton through Ann Williams and "the judge" gave me a book of beautiful photos that included some great shots of Frank with pretty much every jazz great imaginable. . .
    Thank you for crafting this excellent website. :-)

  • R Seegar

    R Seegar El Paso

    Thank you for remembering this great musician and his cohorts. I'm listening to him, right now, on an Al Cohn recording called "The Natural Seven" with Cohn, Frank, Joe Newman, Nat Pierce, Freddie Green, Milt Hinton, and Osie Johnson: all remembering Basie.

    Thank you for remembering this great musician and his cohorts. I'm listening to him, right now, on an Al Cohn recording called "The Natural Seven" with Cohn, Frank, Joe Newman, Nat Pierce, Freddie Green, Milt Hinton, and Osie Johnson: all remembering Basie.

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