the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order
We never play anything the same way once.
My Friend Richard
When Peter Herbolzheimer invited me to a concert in Blieskastel, near Saarbrücken a few years ago, I sent my friend Richard Krueger a fax asking him to look me up some train times from Frankfurt, where I'd be landing. He never answered and he never turned up at the concert. He didn't answer the phone either. There were a great many people from the Saarland radio station at the concert and they were all asking me, as if I should know where he was. After I returned to Spain I had a call from one of the department heads in the radio station to say that Richard's cleaning woman had gone into the house and found him sitting up dead in his chair. He had died of a heart attack. Richard had been staying with a friend, but the friend had gone away for a couple of weeks and there was no one else in the house. In the fax machine lay the message I had sent him, unread.
One of the producers in the radio station made much of all this and wanted to have a copy of my fax to put in the report of Richard's death in the internal radio magazine. I had to check the fax out, and make sure I hadn't said anything untoward about anyone high up in the station. Luckily I hadn't and they printed it as part of the farewell tribute. Richard had been active in the German jazz world for many years, helped organise concerts and festivals and had run his own jazz club in Düsseldorf after the war.
The band in Blieskastel I'd gone to see was one of Peter Herbolzheimer's youth bands, the BuJazzO. I sat there enthralled when they played. The band was magnificent, world class. My old bandleader Eberhard Pokorny was also there, with his wife Annie, and the lead alto of our radio band, Günther Haehre. We were all completely knocked over by the youth band. The following night Peter's regular band, with Heinz von Hermann, Erik and Bart van Lier, Ack van Rooyen, John Ruocco, Andy Haderer and all the others played a concert in Stuttgart, so I saw them all again. Very nostalgic that was. Quite a few of Peter's previous youth band musicians had now joined his regular band, and many of them had gone into the other big German bands. The young up-and-coming musicians in the country were terrific.
Peter invited me over to Majorca where he would be in a few weeks' time. He didn't say why, but all expenses would be paid. I flew over to the island when the time came and he met me at the airport with his wife Gisela.
It turned out that he was there with the Alfred Lauer Big Band for a week of rehearsals, ending with a big concert. I knew most of the guys in the band. Alfred lived near Saarbrücken, so there were some of our old band there, and his regular lead trumpet, the Austrian Andy Haderer was also there. Andy had only recently been in New York and had sent me a new Schilke mouthpiece to replace my old one. I had cleared out a load of dirt from the bore of my old one and couldn't play it any more after various attempts to fill it up again with nail varnish and stuff. In my defence I have to say that a whole lot of famous trumpet players have had the same problem at some time or other. You're sailing along fine, forget to clean the horn for a few weeks, then do it and BAM! can't play any more. It also happened to me once when I sent a mouthpiece to be replated. Don't do it guys! It was never the same afterwards. I played better on the brass rim and they had polished it into a different shape before plating.
Alfred Lauer was actually a psychologist, with a large clinic employing a great many people, but he takes time off now and then to record in the large basement studio in his house in Losheim and also to take various jobs with his big band. Alfred has a very interesting website all about the band. (Click here to see that).
Peter drove us right across Majorca to a holiday resort called Robinson's. This is a very exclusive place for rich people, as far as I could make out. Little blocks of luxury apartments, all self-contained, shops and bars with a wonderful restaurant where the staff line up to greet you when it opens for dinner. Really sumptuous. Peter had brought me there to write the cover notes for his new CD Colors of a Band.
Before I even started the notes I devised a list of colours that might be appropriate for jazz music: Candy Stripe, Desert Yellow, Aquamarine, Deep Space Indigo Violet, Rainbow, Bronze, Burgundy, Old Gold, Fire-Engine Red, Apple Blossom White, Butterscotch, Lilac, Rush Green. In the event each one of them was found to fit one of the titles perfectly.
I sat for hours listening to the tape Peter gave me. Dianne Reeves was the featured vocalist on some of the numbers. One of them, Body and Soul, made such an impression on me that I had to ask for the score because I couldn't make out what was going on at first. It was a beautiful recording. Later on Peter adapted the score slightly to be sung by his stunning vocal group from the youth band, recorded on a CD called Focus on Vocals. Both recordings of Body and Soul never fail to move me greatly when I hear them.Another nice thing for me to hear was when Peter told me that one of his earlier recordings, on an LP called BandFire, had sold more copies than any other recording of his. This was very gratifying because he had asked me to write some scores of Earth, Wind and Fire tunes for the session. I'd written five titles, Peter had asked Chuck Findley and Don Rader over to play on the session, and it all came off very well. Chuck is a lead player after my own heart. It's easy to see why he is so successful in the Los Angeles studios and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, back on the Costa Blanca I'd got into the habit of turning up at the Cisne in Benidorm on a Saturday to meet Eric Delaney, and to listen to a Rhythm and Blues band run by the drummer Dave Horn. This was made up from many members and ex-members of the Tailgate Band, but these guys also sang. Chris was on guitar again and they had a really sensational keyboards player there. Eric had told me that I had to come and hear the band. To my surprise the band was very exciting to listen to. I don't normally go for this kind of music, but they made it interesting and highly entertaining. Most amazing was that the people who came to listen, mostly middle-aged couples, all knew the words to each song, and sang them with the band.
One Sunday, while I was sitting listening to Eric, who always played a couple of numbers with the band, a young man came over to talk to me.
"I know who you are," he said. "I used to enjoy your articles in Crescendo magazine very much. Why did you suddenly stop writing like that?"
"It's a long story," I said.
"I've got time," he said.
"Well I haven't, because I have to take Eric down to the restaurant for his dinner after he finishes. So I'll give you the short version." And while Eric thundered away expertly in our ears and the band sang on, I told him.
It wasn't a pleasant story; most people would find it absolutely disgraceful. I had already been writing for Crescendo for about 35 years, and had contributed over 200 free articles to the magazine. When the digital age arrived I suggested to the editor, Dennis Matthews, that it might be to his benefit to advertise the magazine on the Internet. I offered to design the website, pay for it, and take care of any other expenses. He agreed, so I bought the domain name crescendojazz.com and started publishing on the Web. I had previously asked the editor to make suggestions for the website, thinking that his publishing experience and comments would be valuable.
In the event, the editor, instead of helping, spent his time bombarding me with sarcastic phone calls and bitterly complaining emails right from day one. The site never became mentioned in the magazine at all. I published six issues on the Web, but as I was only allowed to mention the titles of the articles in the current issue, and nothing of their contents, the result was pretty boring. The site never received any more than 57 visits from viewers in one week. Jazz Professional has between 7,000 and 19,000 readers each day.
After I'd put my sixth issue of CrescendoJazz on the Web the editor published a disclaimer in the current issue of Crescendo magazine saying that my website no longer reflected the views of the editor or other contributors to the magazine. No explanation was ever given for this, but it was made clear to me soon after that my contributions to the magazine would no longer be welcome. There was no mention of my departure in the magazine, no word of thanks for my past service. Nothing.
"Are you telling me that this guy had taken everything you've been giving him for all those years and didn't even have the common courtesy to say thank you afterwards?" said the man, indignantly.
"Yeah, well, it probably slipped his memory. My mistake entirely. I should have known better than to get involved with him in the first place. Put it down to experience. He was sneaking around the Coda Club in the background at the Tommy Sampson Reunion. Never even said hello. Some of the guys there wanted to clobber him. I actually feel sorry for him."
"You must be some kind of a saint," he said.
"Well I must be an invisible saint, then," I said. "Because since then he has systematically removed my name from every article he publishes on the big bands in the magazine. Everyone else is in there in the lineupsonly I am missing. He is trying to write me out of jazz historyThe Man Who Never Was. Luckily a hell of a lot more people are reading my website than are looking at his magazine and my exploits are pretty well catalogued in there."
When Eric came off the man had gone away, shaking his head and muttering angrily.
"Well you seem to have upset him, all right." said Eric. "What were you talking about?"
I gave him my best smile. "Nothing much."
I wandered over to the barbecue and bought myself a hotdog. Lots of onions. We saints have to eat, too.
View a concise version of the final issue of the CrescendoJazz website
View a list of my free contributions to Crescendo & Jazz Music from 1964 to 2000
Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved