Jazz Professional



Continuing the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order

When I left Kenton last year, I told Stan
that I had to get off the road for good.
Stan didn't understand. He's one
of those rare birds that can exist happily
out of a suitcase. He thrives on
bus exhaust.
Milt Bernhart

Chapter Twenty-eight

Cat and Dog

February 2005

Over the past few months I've been writing some saxophone quartet pieces for Dave Allenby up in Darlington. I asked him recently whether they had ever performed any of them before a live audience, and, if so, how they were received. He sent me this picture. Click the pic to enlargeSax Quartet

Of course, animals are always fascinated by musical sounds. I remember the wartime bandleader Jack Jackson, who later in life appeared as a solo act in many variety shows all over Britain. Jack used to bring a dog on stage with him and play the trumpet. The dog threw its head back and howled pitifully throughout the concerto, turning it into a duet. This had the entire audience in stitches and as far as I can recall that was the best part of the act.

My cats are usually very interested when I play the trumpet, and show a distinct affinity for the Harmon mute. The muted buzzing sound seems to hold all the attractions for them of Nepeta cataria, or Catnip in aural form. It does for my Kartäuser Igor, at any rate. He was brought back from Gröningen as a child fifteen years ago and given to me for my birthday. This race of cats is well-known to be frivolous in the extreme and Igor is no exception. Since he arrived here he has never been known to purr, doesn't like to be touched and will tolerate being picked up for a good two seconds before fighting his way free. The only part of him I am allowed to touch is his tail, and he will graciously sit with his back to me from time to time to allow me to hold it.

Of an evening, though, Igor sits in front of my chair and stares at me. He does so unblinkingly and is prepared to go on like this for hours. It is very difficult to enjoy a television programme, or, indeed, any leisure occupation if your cat is sitting staring at you like that. I know what he wants, though, because Igor is a masochist. He likes nothing better than to be walloped on the backside with a rolled-up magazine and will go into hysterics, running around twisting, spitting and screaming if this is properly applied, only to return when one stops, take up position, and resume staring.

One of his other many idiosyncrasies is his morning paddle. First thing in the morning, or, indeed, whenever I go into the kitchen to make a pot of tea he is up there, beside the sink, waiting for his dip. Nothing one does can dissuade him from this. Even the proximity of the boiling kettle does not deter him. I have to put about a quarter of an inch of water in the sink and leave. He won't do anything if I'm watching him but I cheated a few times to see what he does.

He gets down into the sink with his front paws and spends a good five minutes just staring at the water in amazement. Then he tries it a few times with his nose, has a little taste, before scratching and paddling away with delight like a kid at the seaside. When he finally leaves the area he takes a trail of watery Igorfootprints with him. The only way he seems to be able to get back to our fireside in order to resume his staring-at-Ron position involves coming over the back of the couch and placing one wet paw on my shoulder before leaping down. This is the long way around but he does it every time.

Taking Igor to the vet used to be a nightmare, trying my patience, and my vocabulary, to the limit. Come here you little bugger, I used to shout at him, until one day the vet, a charming young German lady called Frau Bachman suddenly said, He's not a little bugger. This surprised me no end, as it was the first time I'd ever heard her speak English. It had a profound effect upon Igor, too, for, from this day on, he was as good as gold whenever we visited that particular vet.

He is sitting at the moment on the desk beside my monitor, staring at me with those enormous orange eyes. Now where did I put that rolled-up magazine...?

Don Rader recently sent me Ralph Pyl's new CD Pyldriver. You can read about it in the CD Reviews section. The Sydney All Star Big Band is world-class and it has made me want to emigrate there. I have contacts and friends all over Australia and they are telling me constantly what a wonderful place it is. An added incentive, at this time of year, is to look at the temperatures there on television: Perth, for instance, hovers around the 32 C mark.

I met Graham the other day in the Benidorm Cisne market, first time I've seen him since he sang that wonderful version of All Blues at Eric Delaney's 80th birthday party there. (See Chapter Seventeen for that.) I knew he'd had some pretty serious operations some time back so I asked him how he was.

"I've just had a hip replacement", he said.

"Fell over, did you?"

"No," said Graham, "It's the result of too much sport when I was younger."

I looked at him for a moment. Medium build, white hair, white beard, a lovely man, great cook, good singer - but sport?

"What kind of sport?" I said finally. Then he started.

Motor racing, first, sports cars, rallies, hill-climbing, safaris, the lot. Then motor bike racing until he had the nasty accident. After that powerboat racing, very bumpy that is, and competition water-skiing.

"Skydiving?" I asked. After all that I wouldn't have been at all surprised. "No, I didn't try that one," said Graham. "But all that vibration, not to mention the crashes - well they wear out your bones after a while. Wore out the old hip bone anyway. Good as new now."

I thought about all the people who'd suffered through their involvement with sport - Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan in so many films, is a good example; he ended up in a wheelchair. Wore his bones right out. When asked how he'd managed to live to such a ripe old age Winston Churchill is reported to have answered, "No sport." Graham had got off lightly. And yes, just as I thought - he had made up those words to All Blues himself. He'd seen Joe Williams do it once and had been impressed enough to try it himself. Did a great job of it too, give him the chequered flag for that.

My nephew Eros down in Johannesburg has just spent a week in Mozambique. Here's what he wrote:

Briene and Judith have left again on Saturday after a really stunning week in Mozambique.
We had great weather, calm ocean, great scuba diving and of course superb company.
Lots to see underwater as well as on the beach. The view is magnificent and the wildlife abundant.
We saw rays, dolphins, sharks, lion fish, sea turtles etc etc. too much to mention.
Picked up a nice tan and some extra kilos from all the sea food. Great prawns!! Briene and I had kilos of those :-)

Briene is Eros's older brother, Judith is Briene's wife. They live on a wonderfully converted barge moored by their own island near Amsterdam, travel the world scuba-diving. Eros and his wife Anina are studying to be safari rangers. Here in sunny Spain the thermometer on my terrace has halted its downward plunge at zero. A couple of weeks ago we had snow, first time since 1981. What am I doing here?

Chapter Twenty-nine>>>

Copyright © 2005, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved