Clarence Clemons, RIP

June 18, 2011

I read today via the Power Line crew that Clarence Clemons, the powerful saxman who added so much to Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, has passed away at the young age of 69. I was never much of a Springsteen fan, but Clemons’ saxophone work always stood out.

Clemons had suffered a stroke last Sunday and was unable to recover. The music world has suffered a great loss with the passing of Clarence Clemons. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Big Man.


Heliconology, Part II

June 16, 2011

I have long desired a helicon, as I have previous discussed in my post on Heliconology, Part I. I’ve been considering several instruments, including a beautiful four-valved European (from the little-known maker Ernst David) instrument from circa 1890. However, as I prefer American-made horns, I have finally settled on a Holton from roughly the same vintage as my Holton Special trombone. The trombone is 1912; the helicon is from 1917. Both are Chicago-made instruments. In fact, the helicon’s serial number identifies it as one of the very last instruments made in Chicago before the company moved to Elkhart, Indiana in 1918. I purchased the horn from the fine folks at Dillon Music in New Jersey and the horn arrived in California a week or so ago.

In appearance, the horn is silver-plated. At present, it is entirely tarnished to the point of appearing nearly black in color. I am having the instrument cleaned and brought into playing condition by the wonderful folks at Dick Akright’s Best Music Repairs. Although Dick’s guys do excellent work, I expect to put in some serious elbow grease before the horn returns to its natural beauty. But eventually I shall have some pictures to post here at Newcomb’s Notations.

The repairs themselves will involve a fair amount of work. To begin with, the horn is missing the neck, the bits, the third valve stem and button and some bracing. Dick’s crew started work on it a couple of weeks ago and they estimated approximately two weeks to do the work I am requesting, so I hope to have the instrument in playable condition before too long. I shall post more when I receive it.

Subbing with Silicon Gulch

June 16, 2011

Dave Kawamoto is a very fine reed player. I occasionally have the pleasure of working with Dave as we both are part of Pat Dutrow’s Jazzmeisters ensemble. However, Dave also leads his own band and a couple of months ago, I took advantage of a break from my regular Tuesday night rehearsal with the East Bay Stompers to travel over to San Mateo and sit in with his Silicon Gulch Jazz Band. The band plays every Tuesday at The Swingin’ Door pub in San Mateo. It was a very enjoyable experience – Dave calls some tunes that are not played all that often. And it was a lot of fun to play some dueling trombones with the fabulous Jon Schermer. Last week, I received an email from Jon asking if I would care to substitute for him this coming Tuesday and of course I jumped at the opportunity.

So if you are interested in some good old-fashioned jazz played by a bunch of old pros, drop by The Swingin’ Door and spend a few hours with the Silicon Gulch Jazz Band this coming Tuesday, June 21, 2011.

I’m not sure yet how many (or which) horns I shall take to this gig. Certainly the little 1912 Holton Special trombone, and I might bring along my 1953 Reynolds Contempora baritone and my 2002 Jupiter slide trumpet as well. We’ll see – a lot depends on the weather. If it is nice, I’ll leave most of my horns at home and ride the motorcycle!

Upcoming Performances – June 2011

June 8, 2011

June 2011 is looking like a fairly active month from a musical perspective. My upcoming performances are as follows:

Please see my site for complete details.

Piano Lessons – Part IV

June 8, 2011

As readers of this blog will have noticed, I have been studying piano as time allowed with a wonderful man named Philip Charles Zahorsky. He has been leading me through the mysteries of the instrument and while I never expected to become a good pianist, I have noticed some improvement during the past year or two that I have been working with Dr. Zahorsky.

Unfortunately, our association has come to an abrupt end. Phil passed away last month, at the shockingly young age of fifty-nine. I will miss him intensely – he was a perfect teacher for me and he understood my difficulty in practicing due to my other commitments. He was also very skilled at finding pieces that were good fits for my skills and my desires. And we got one well. Perhaps it was his nature – I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone, or perhaps it as because we were both low brass players. But whatever the reason, we clicked.

So it was devastating for me to learn that Phil has passed on. With his passing, my piano studies too have come to a close. With Phil it was more like a conversation between two afficianados of music and I doubt I shall ever attain that with another teacher. Nor am I really interested in looking – my studies with Phil were always a hobby and now that he has gone, I don’t really have the desire to start all over with someone else. Perhaps if my son begins to study, I might do some work again, but for now, I think this chapter has come to a close.

So I’d like to dedicate this post to Phil’s memory. I only knew him for a couple of years, but in that short time, he became a real friend. Goodbye, Phil, and thanks for everything!