the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order
only tune they play in 4/4 is 'Take Five'
unknown, talking about the Don Ellis band
The Magnificent Delaney
Saturday, 23rd May, 2004
Today was his birthday party. So there he was, and there we were, at the Cisne, in Benidorm. The Cisne is a most beautiful antique shop. The large grounds hold an open-air market, a bandstand, bar, lots of other goodies and you have a job to get in there on a Sunday when the market is open. So it was at Eric's party, and this was only a Saturday. The place was packed with Eric's friends and fans. This is the place I used to play every Sunday with Mike Smith's band, so I knew most of the people. They all sure as hell knew mebut there againhow could anyone ever forget me?
The Blues Band was playing when I walked in. It's mentioned elsewhere on these pages and I always enjoy hearing their music and seeing the guys. I was early, and a stunningly attractive blonde girl in shorts was moving around with an armful of lais, draping them over the trees, shrubs and chairbacks. Later on people were wearing them around their necks, as if they had just stepped off the plane in Honolulu. Later still that same girl appeared again, but now she had been poured into a dress. I don't know who poured her into it, and there wasn't really an awful lot of dress there to pour into, if you know what I mean. I stepped up to take a closer look and somebody said, That's Eric's daughter, so I stepped back again pretty sharply.
One of his sons was there, too. A carpenter by trade. I suppose you could say there's been a bit of his old man handed down there. Carpenters hit things. This reminds me of the old Morecombe and Wise joke, I say, are there any more at home like you? Yes, I have a brother. What does he do for a living? He chews hammers. Oh, really, professional? No, just hammerchewer.
We were royally supplied with food and drink. There were several enormous sizzling paella pans, presided over by smiling Spanish cooks, and long buffet tables groaning with all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies. I chose very little, as I'm trying to lose some weight, so I just settled for some potato salad that later insisted upon flying over from the plate on to my trousers, don't know how that happened, and a large portion of fried golden brown chicken nuggets that turned out to be a plate of bones, but very tasty bones.
There is an attractive waitress at the Cisne, whom I have known for years, but I had never seen her in civilian clothes before. She wore them today and I didn't recognise her at first. Butyou're wearing a dress! I cried. And makeup! She had her dog with her, a kind of large Sealyham with impeccable manners, and also her husband who sat down beside me. I had always thought her to be a Scot, my ears letting me down, as usual, but they both came from Redcar, and damn me if they didn't know Charlie Amer. Now Charlie is well-known by British musicians, and he also appears elsewhere in these pages, so I won't go on about him here. But here am I, looking forward to spending an enjoyable afternoon, and I'm sitting beside someone who is talking without taking a breath about Charlie Amer, how he started off as a bus conductor, fell off the bus, got compensation and wound up owning half of Redcar, started a big band and there's nowhere else for me to sit.
My younger brother played trumpet for a time and I went home to Coventry to see my Mum once and she told me that he had taken a job with a band up in Redcar. Not Charlie Amer? I gasped. I think that was the name, she said. I jumped in the car and drove like a bat out of hell to Redcar, on the north-east coast of England. I found my brother just as he was about to go on the stand and play and I dragged him out, we got his stuff out of the digs and we drove like hell away from the place. No goodbyes, no notice, no nothing. I found him another job at the Astoria in Nottingham.
While I was getting my ear bashed the dog sat quietly under the guy's chair, eating my chicken bones. When the guy got up to dance with his wife the dog jumped up on the chair, looking around anxiously for them. I pointed them out over by the band and he gave a happy bark. They waved back.
Opposite me was a girl who said that she had once sung with Ivy Benson's band. I tested her on several things I knew about that band and she was genuine. When Eric stopped by to ask me something I said that I'd once had a girlfriend in Ivy's band. He said that everyone had a girlfriend in Ivy's band, often the same one.
We had all brought presents, of course, and they were all laid out on a table. I had given him a bottle of old brandy, in a box. There were a great many packages on that table that looked remarkably like mine, so I guess he'll be OK for old brandy until his 90th birthday.
The afternoon progressed nicely, the Blues Band played, people sang, including my friend Graham, who once owned a marvellous restaurant in Altea, where he did all the cooking and played only jazz records all evening. Graham sang All Blues. I have never heard the words before, maybe he made them up himself, but he was cool with it, and he had soul.
All this time the sun shone, the birds sang, the diamond flashed regularly and it was marvellous, it really was. Meanwhile, back home, on the other side of the Sierra Bernia mountain, it was raining big boss monsoon. My wife told me later that she had feared for me in the downpour.
An old friend of Eric's went up to sing with the band. He sang something he had made up, a comic song about Eric, I guess, to a jolly old-fashioned-waltz accompaniment. Then he went on to sing more songs, all in the same quick waltz tempo until Eric suddenly strode up to the band, grabbed the mike and shouted, IF THAT'S THE BEST YOU CAN DO F___ OFF!
He got applause for that, just as he gets applause for everything he does, because he does do everything so well, and the band settled down to the blues again. The trumpet player from the Tailgate Band came in, my replacement he was. He had a cornet with him that looked to be sharp pitch to me. At any rate he had the tuning slide pulled out so far that it kept falling out. He played some tunes with the band, with his bandleader, another Graham. Graham's wife had previously told me that she had heard, on the radio, while they were coming in, that the police would be waiting for us when the party ended. Well they've been doing that everywhere I've played all over the world and I've yet to see them anywhere. Still, I don't want to damage my new car, all automatic, of course, see Absolutely Brilliant, but it doesn't do automatic drunk, and I haven't yet fully mastered that front-wheel drive on these coastal road bends so I went easy on the liquids.
Graham the Bandleader got me on my own later on and told me, with the utmost conviction, that I was a really great arranger. Well, he should know, because his library consists of a great many of my scores. He said that I manage to make a small band sound like a big band, and I said, well that wasn't really the idea, but he insisted. I thought I might just mention that here. His wife came over. He's drunk, she whispered, as she passed by. Wicked.
Let's see, what else happened this weekend? Ah! The Monaco Grand Prix. When Schuhmacher's wheel broke my wife leapt in the air screaming and gave the victory salute with both hands clasped high above her head. When Trulli took the flag we both segued into the song, I love you Trulli, Trulli dear. About time somebody else won, am I right?
Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved