the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order
Anyone who plays the baritone saxophone
I received the Coda Club Newsletter last week, and looked in vain for a mention of my Coda Club website. I assume that the editor didn't know about it, so sent him a gentle reminder five days ago. No reply yet, but you can take a look at it here. You may recognise some of the people.
I had Eric Delaney over to stay the night last Sunday. We all went for a Chinese meal with Conny's sister and her husband. Eric had a great time, talked his head off. Conny says he drank two whole bottles of red wine all on his own. I didn't notice because I was having trouble with my chopsticks - they are made of plastic these days and the food keeps slipping out of them - and busily working my way through all the bottles of weird Chinese schnapps. The Chinese beer is very good, suspiciously similar to the Spanish, but with a different label. The waiters here are so suave and intelligent that I'm sure they are future brain surgeons, moonlighting to pay for their studies. I always kiss the waitresses, for good luck, you understand, and one of them has taught me some Chinese words, useful for all occasions.
Anyway - Eric enjoyed himself so much that he was taken ill the next morning and I had to drive him home to Benidorm. His car is still in my driveway. He went straight to his doctor afterwards and is now in bed for a couple of weeks with tranquilisers. Stress, the doctor told him, but I do seem to have that effect on people. In fact, were it known that he had been taken ill at my place that would have given the gossips something to talk about, eh?
There is a drummer, whom I have never met in my life, played with various bands, but never in any of the ones I was in. One day a bass player who had worked with him for a while showed me a letter he'd just received from this guy. In the letter he had written...you are playing with Ron Simmonds? Haven't they put him in prison yet?
Rather like when I met a certain British trombonist for the first time. "Oh, I know all about you!" he cried, immediately he saw me. "About how you punched up Harry Parry on stage, right in the middle of a concert." Now I had never met the clarinet player and bandleader Harry Parry, certainly never played with him. He ran a sextet and I only played in big bands. Don't believe he ever had a trumpet player. I have no idea where the man got that story. He tempered things slightly by adding, "I've heard quite a lot about you, probably most of it greatly exaggerated." Well that was a relief.
We were on a concert tour in Germany at the time. He refused to get up one morning so we left him at the hotel and drove on to the next town. When he didn't turn up at the concert that evening the drummer, who had booked us all for the tour, fixed a local player to take his place. (We were in Stuttgart and the local player just happened to be the late, great, Bobby Burgess, Stan Kenton's first trombone player in that wonderful Russo, Rosolino, George Roberts section of the 1950s.)
The trombonist turned up in the interval, screaming with fury at being left behind. During the ensuing argument in the bandroom he picked up a plate from a table and dashed it to the floor with rage. The plate broke and a large piece of it flew through the air and embedded itself in the drummer's leg. There was blood everywhere. The drummer had to be given medical aid. Absolute chaos. Our Italian band boy wanted to kill the guy.
"Well," I said, "Now I know all about you, too." Shortly after that he went back home and punched a policeman. We read about it in the New York Herald Tribune, Paris edition.
Musicians, when they meet, rarely talk about music. They talk about other musicians. Have a laugh, shoot the breeze, tell some lies. Absolutely normal behaviour, just like any other people.
I recently received a letter from a girl I used to know when I was eleven. She said that someone had told her I couldn't read music. Ha-ha!
Anyway - if anyone was thinking of going over to the Blackpool festival to see Eric play with the Squadronaires at the end of this month I can tell you that he has cancelled that, but he'll be playing at the end of next month at an End of World War II celebration in the Benidorm Palace. I'm writing the big band opening number for the show, lots of bang bang and rattling side drum, so he'll need to get his strength back for that.
The score I'm writing is of The River Kwai March. Now I know it has nothing to do with the end of the war, victory and so on, but there are hundreds of tunes celebrating victory that most people don't even remember. Written by Lieutenant F J Ricketts under his pseudonym Kenneth Alford, and published in 1914 as the Colonel Bogey March this one is a rouser, with plenty of opportunities for whistling, foot-stomping and singing "Bollocks............and the same to you...." as we all did on the march. I think the audience, pensioners and all, will identify with this one.
Someone has taken the trouble of searching the Jazz Professional website to see how many times the phrase 'on the other hand' appears in its pages. It can be found 48 times. Another useful phrase for all occasions, and as it is said here by very many famous people I seem to be in good company. On the other hand...
I had a very nice email from composer John Keating, thanking me for the pages I have of him on my website. He had to go to New York to see them on producer Tony D'Amato's computer, so I guess he has blown up his Macintosh again. So nothing changes - except here, because I am now Mr. Nice Guy. Better late than never. Tell your friends.
While writing this I've just heard that Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson has died, at only 58 years of age. Niels was our bass player in Peter Herbolzheimer's band. A lovely man, sensational bassist. He left after a year or two to go and work with Oscar Peterson. To realise how much of a compliment that was to Niels you should take the time to read an article in Jazz Professional where Oscar discusses his method of playing piano, and how important the bass player is to him. Click here for the article.
Copyright © 2005, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Ron Simmonds