Last night was one of those moments
you just wish would go on forever
sixty-ish to eighty-ish,
took to the stage,
had immediate control over a crowd of over twelve hundred,
changed the expectant atmosphere to intent silence,
No, it wasn’t the Stones.
Or the Beach Boys.
An Englishman, A New Yorker, And a Scotsman.
Trained by Benny Goodman,
and the Dorseys-
the top trumpeter in Scotland for many years
(and still is as far as I can tell)
an eighty year old plus Englishman who can make a trombone cry,
and the public even more.
And Ken Peplowski,
a top top clarinetist,
star of the Newport Jazz Festival,
who had to change to sax because he was competition for Benny Goodman.
and a beautiful younger English lady,
who learned her amazingly singing style in Harlem,
and a Jamaican Baptist church,
three hours of incredibly hard licks-
(at one point, the trumpeter put the mute over his face
like an oxygen mask.)
the music of
the Dorsey Brothers.
(And amazing jazz vocals-
from In The Garden,
to a marvelous comic piece I had never heard,
“take a tip from Shakespeare- a chicken is just a bird”
And all topped with a skyward glance
and an honest thanks to God that she, Denise,
could be there that night with the others,
the music topped all expectations.
This is one of our traditional nights of joy each year-
the October Friday Night
when three Frankfurt lawyers and businessmen-
the Barrelhouse Jazz Band,
who started playing together as young students-
along with their younger
by the fervent and huge jazz club
of a very small village in the middle of the prairie,
to come and play-
and bring along anyone they wish-
all expenses paid.
Fans for years,
and used to excellence,
including Winston Marsalis’ fantastic trombone player doing St. James
Last night still topped,
Raised on the music of the jazz clubs in Saint Louis-
the yearly tours of the greats of the Preservation Hall jazz band,
and the live Dixie of the riverboat bands,
as the paddlewheelers arrived,
cradled in the beauty of real gospel,
sung by real believers,
was coming home.
(And we even got to sing along-
the others good-naturedly forced the clarinetist to sing)
And I learned more than a few things I had never,
even after all my years on a stage-
rapt attention to what the others,
even the youngest beginners,
raising the praise level for another performer.
at one point,
the trombonist walked over and convinced the guitarist to turn up
the volume and take three-
Boy, was he was right.
This happens only occasionally where I have worked,
usually among the best,
but these were the best of the best.
They didn’t have to do it.
But they did.
Ie traveled from NY, England, and Scotland
at sixties to over eighty years old,
worked three hours plus,
gave their all,
and their absolute best,
and watched the crowd go home happy.
Because they are pros.
And because they are trained to absolute discipline
and to shrugging off,
what is happening on stage-
Mikes not on,
drums too loud,
a brilliant pianist
who never works with glasses,
and had to find a pair when they gave him unknown sheet music-
he was great-
and best of all:
no idea of the free-flowing line-up-
“You wanna do A-train?”
“Fine with me?”
Then a quick turn to the audience-
“F o.k. with you all?”
F was definitely o.k. with us all.
And then, of course,
the final moment-
when the founders,
also seventy to eighty-
who had worked the first half of the program,
then signed programs,
overseen the recording,
returned to the stage for double soloist versions of the final numbers.
And to pick up the traditional fringed umbrella,
and lead a final circle around the hall.
One final time.
After they had done their final circle the year before.
And the year before that.
And this time,
the final number
was “rock around the clock.”
It takes real conditioning,
and hard work,
and just plain joy of living
to do that.
At that level.
And that age.
See you next year, guys.
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