Jazz Professional



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

Syncopation is when the note that you should hear now happens either
before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don't hear notes when they
happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of
music can be jazz, but only if they're the same as something different
from those other kinds.
Yogi Berra

Chapter Thirty-one


August 3rd, 2005
My sister-in-law and her husband returned from a holiday in South Africa last week to find the big beautiful front window of their Amsterdam house all smashed and boarded up, with neighbours and police in attendance. Of course it isn't funny, and they have a lot of hassle getting everything fixed, but the story of the break-in is pure Keystone Kops.

A neighbour had previously noticed a small boat moored in the canal just opposite their front door. There were two men in it, obviously watching the house. They sat there all afternoon. Suddenly, while it was still broad daylight, there was a loud crash. The neighbour phoned the police and rushed out to take a look. One of the men was still sitting in the boat, but the other one jumped out of the broken window and ran out of the garden when he saw the game was up. With the neighbour in hot pursuit he had nowhere else to go, so he plunged into the canal and began swimming, fully clothed, towards the bank on the other side.

Meanwhile, as if by magic, several police cars drew up, haw-he-haw-he-haw-he, just like on television and a police helicopter began circling overhead. COME OUT OF THERE! LAY ON THE GROUND! LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS! LOOK AT ME! they shouted at 3,000 decibels. But the man kept on swimming.

Then police cars drew up on the opposite bank. Then police boats appeared. He tried to swim upriver, and, to cut a long story short, he got nicked. The other guy didn't even try to make a run for it, just sat there with his mouth open. They both turned out to be 19-year-old Germans, and surprise, surprise, they were wanted back home for various misdemeanours of a similar nature.

Here's my question: How come the police appeared so quickly, and in such force? Almost as if they were waiting in the wings for this to happen. Maybe they had staged the whole thing! Who cares! What a performance! Brilliant!

A new pub has opened up near me on the Costa Blanca, called The Shamrock. Big parasols in the garden with Guinness written all over them. Blandishments and enticements of an Irish nature all over the entrance. I made a note to pay them a visit, fond memories of my time in Dublin when the Kenton band was there, and of the Garryowen Club right there beside the Hammersmith Palais.

I bought some fish and chips next door; piece of cod and a handful of those scampi in breadcrumbs. Extra chips, of course.

"Here," I said to the fish and chip man, nodding at The Shamrock, "Are there any Irish waiters in there?"


"Hear any Irish music - accordions and all that?


"Do they slide the beer down the wet counter at you at high speed."


"Does anyone suddenly start to sing, and they all shut up and listen?"

"Of course not."

"Big fights every night? You know — You played a bum note there, Paddy! Nobody tells me I played a bum note! Take that! No, you take that, and that..."

"Not at all."

Never an Irish pub, that one.

Back in the 1950s I had a hotted-up Volkswagen. Bob Adams and his brother Norman made a twin-carb conversion and you could wind up that motor until it whistled. Reversed the wheels to increase wheelbase and added Porsche brakes. Used to do the ton in that funny little car. Frightened the life out of other VW owners, who didn't know what was happening when I blasted by.

The brilliant alto saxophonist Peter King asked me for a lift to the gig one day. We were staying out in the country somewhere with Jack Parnell's band. To get to the gig I wound up that VW in the usual manner and was happily cornering with a series of perfectly controlled power slides in the narrow twisting lanes when Peter asked me to stop the car for a moment. Then he got out and said thanks but he'd like to walk the rest of the way. Get some much-needed exercise, you know.

I thought Peter would never have forgotten that ride, but when Jack Dawkes told him about it the other day he couldn't remember it. It turns out that he has actual racing experience - done the odd laps at Brand's Hatch, knows Mika Hakkinen and Johnny Herbert well, and stuff like that. He told me that Heinz Harold Frentzen's dad used to run a funeral parlour and Heinz's favourite trick was to leave everyone standing at the lights in one of the family hearses. People would have the shock of their lives. This old hearse would pull up beside them at the lights and then blitz everyone.

My colleague and good friend Benny Bailey died back in April. I didn't know too much about the circumstances until just recently. Apparently he lay dead in his Amsterdam apartment for fourteen days before anyone missed him. Benny was always touring around playing with different bands, doing clubs and concerts, so it was only when someone phoned up from London to ask where he was that the alarm was sounded.

Nobody seemed to know who he was. He was just about to be buried in what we'd call a pauper's grave when a Dutch musician saw a small notice in the newspaper that a man called Ernest Bailey was to be buried that day and stopped the ceremony. The funeral was put off for a couple of weeks to allow Benny's sisters to come over from Cleveland.

There was a tribute on Dutch television last month, produced by Marianne van Genabeth, the long time partner of saxophonist Ferdinand Povel. She has sent me a copy of the programme, but it can be viewed by clicking here. Run fast-forward a bit to find Benny's tribute. The programme is in Dutch, but you'll see and hear the great man.

On a lighter note—you'll remember the lovely picture of my niece Noor that I put in Chapter Eleven, where she hit her head on our fireplace and grew a bump on it? Looked like a unicorn for a few hours? Well she learned how to swim the other day and sent me this photo.

We went around to see her and while we were there I'll swear that she jumped in, swam, got out, jumped in, swam, got out, jumped in, swam, in that pool about five-hundred times, laughing fit to burst all the time. She can also write my name now, easy because it's more or less her own name backwards.

The Magi
Some friends were were here for coffee the other day and talk got around to another friend's wife who was expecting a baby. Due in the middle of May, they said. Wait a minute, I said, it's the middle of August now. There was a silence, and I could see everyone's lips moving as they worked it out. Better tell her old man to get home, quick, I said, and they all fell about.

It reminded me of the time I was on holiday in Cattolica and the hotel owner asked us to take one of the guests to his doctor. She was a very quiet German girl of about 25 years of age, very slim boyish figure, very pleasant to talk to, a librarian, not married, on holiday alone, and she was complaining of stomach pains. We took her to the doctor. She told us not to wait, she'd take a taxi back to the hotel.

About an hour later the hotel owner called me over. Apparently the doctor had taken one look at her and started to shout. "You're wasting my time with your silly stomach pains," he roared. "Do you take me for a fool? You are about to have a baby at any moment!"

"But she was flat," I said, "Flat as a plank."

"That's right! he said, "But the doctor delivered the baby right away while she was in there. She said she had no idea of how it could have happened."

"Did he go and look out the window when she said that?"

"What for?"

"Well the last time that happened three wise men rode up out of the East."

"Oh that! Yeah! Ha-ha-ha!"

Conny opened the glass door of our fireplace to give it a polish the other day and a couple of bats flew out. Can't imagine how they got in there, but they were swooping around the room uttering their radar signals and the cats were going crazy, leaping up and down trying to catch them.

Conny rushed out and came back with the enormous net she uses when she transfers the goldfish from one pool to the other.

"If they bite you you'll get bubonic plague," I said.

"Don't be silly. These are babies and it's rabies you get, anyway." She caught one and it was about the size of a large butterfly. She let it go free outside. We didn't find the other one. Probably building a nest in some dark corner of the house, or whatever they do, and hatching out our own private vampires. I'm surprised that she let that one go. Conny feeds any and every animal and bird that turns up on our doorstep. Good job there are no dinosaurs around any more.

Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved