Friday, November 16, 2012

Here's to trombones and clarinetists

"Some of the wise boys who say my music is loud, blatant and that's all, should see the faces of the kids who have driven a hundred miles through the snow to see the band." — Stan Kenton

LAST NIGHT WAS the second Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert of the season, directed by Andy Classen and presenting the music of Stan Kenton. It was ab fab. 

I discovered two new tunes I really like: one is called Intermission Riff by trumpeter Ray Wetzel, who played with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, the Charlie Barnet Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey, before he died in a car wreck in 1951 at the age of 27. The other tune I especially enjoyed was Decoupage, written in 5/4 time, by Hank Levy.

Kenton seems to have been particularly fond of low brass. His repertoire contains many pieces that rely heavily on a trombone section and at times call for a second bass trombone or even a tuba; in our case both were played by the excellent Mike Short. The other bones in the section were Grady McGrannahan, Richard Early, John Benoit and of course Paul. Paul played a fast, high, long feature on Grenada Smoothie and performed extremely well, as he did throughout the program. Nah, I'm not biased.

I'm mentioning clarinets not because there were any parts for them last night; actually, I've been wanting to say something about the rigors of clarinet playing ever since the previous TCJO concert. That was the one featuring jazz standards by Ellington, Basie, Miller, Dorsey and Herman, and at least two of the pieces had big, big clarinet features played by John Morgan and Drake Department of Music Chairman, Clarence Padilla

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed those clarinet-dominant compositions; you just don't get to hear a clarinet much unless you listen to classical music. I also learned something intriguing. After the performance, I complimented John and Clarence on how well they played, and both of them said in unison, "Holy moly, it was so much work!!!" Of course I wanted to know why. They both said that it's because playing the clarinet is way, way, WAY harder than playing the sax; a clarinet is harder to keep in tune and much harder to blow, and since they play both instruments, they know from comparison. They were tuckered, and now I know why. 

So here's to the trombonists of the world; they play the same stuff as trumpets, but trumpets have buttons — and to clarinetists who don't get nearly enough notoriety or respect.

BTW, tickets are already being purchased for the next TCJO concert featuring Scott Smith on December 20, so get yours now just to be on the safe side. 

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