Wednesday, March 27, 2013


            They called Al Grey Fab because that's what he was, fabulous. One of my prize possessions is a vinyl copy of an album he recorded with J.J. Johnson, Thing Are Getting Better All The Time.  I've had it since the mid-1980's and it was an introduction to one of the all time greats.  At the time, my horn had been gathering dust since high school and my knowledge of trombonists was limited. When CD's came out, a couple of the first I got were Count Basie's with Al Grey solos. From then on, if I were granted the wish of being able to play like just one guy, it might be him.
            The first time I ever heard Al live was at the old One Step Down, in Washington, D.C.  Sometime in the '90's, I was visiting a friend in Alexandria and, by chance, saw an ad in the Washington Post for Al's performance that night. I told Cindy (that's our friend Cindy, not my wife Cynthia) that this was one of my musical heroes and we absolutely had to go hear him. Off we went to Foggy Bottom and when we got to the club, the only seats left were at the small bar. As we sat down and ordered drinks, I glanced at the smallish guy to my right and realized this was the man himself. All of a sudden I was like a giddy little kid and nudged Cindy, "That's him, that's Al Grey."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We built them good in Bordeaux, eh Heinie

     This week I decided it was about time to get back to Bordeaux. After all, I started writing this blog as an account of our move to France for family and friends. If anyone else tripped over it, fine, but from the beginning I've known that blogs about expats living here are approximately equal to the number of  annual worldwide airplays of "Hotel California." Hence the name of this thing and the departures into music and bitching. Still, we are in France.
     A few weeks ago, in one of her opening posts, Cynthia gave you the story and all the architectural details of what's known here as the base sous-marine - the U-boat garage the Germans built during World War II. They left a lot of this kind of shit laying around France after they bugged out in 1944. In fact, there's four more leftover U-boat bunkers up the coast in La Rochelle, St. Nazaire, Lorient and Brest. Das Boot was based in La Rochelle.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Buster Cooper

            There's one man who falls under a heading of famous trombone players who know me if I remind them how.  One of the first pieces I had published was an article in the April 2008 ITA Journal.  Some day everyone at the home will be hearing about the day I spent talking to Buster Cooper about Duke Ellington.
            Buster Cooper spent ten years with Duke Ellington and for that reason alone qualifies as American musical royalty. The first time we met was during a Florida vacation. Cyn and I went to hear him at the Garden (downtown St. Pete where he still plays every Friday night) after reading an article about him in the St. Petersburg Times. I had known about Buster from reading Kurt Dietrich's Duke's Bones, about the great Ellington trombone sections, and had his only album but didn't know he lived in St. Pete. When we got the chance to say hello, it was like he'd known us all his life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How To Get Rid Of Your Butler, Really

      One of my posts on Barcelona described an encounter with local folk instruments called  grallas and this reminded me of something I wanted to go on about. A few posts ago (Trombone 101), I appended things with a video in which Jeeves the Butler puts in his papers over Bertie Wooster's playing of the trombone. In the original Wodehouse story, Thank You, Jeeves, the offending instrument is a banjolele and why the screenwriter thought a trombone would be better, who knows?  Irrational prejudice is something trombone players have been dealing with since before Arthur Pryor's time and it's why we don't look down on accordions.     

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tom Brantley

            In between ravings I've decided to do posts on my favorite trombone players, My Trombone Heroes, as it were. Like everything else, I'll probably decide who and what as I go along but I wanted to start with the theme of trombonists-I-dig-who-have-paid-my-bar-tab.
            The first, actually the only one, is Tom Brantley, the trombone professor at the University of South Florida. I got to know Tom after I retired from the FBI and decided to go back to college to study music.  He was the first teacher I ever had who was born the year I left high school and probably deserves some kind of medal for sitting through my lessons for 2 1/2 years. Plus, he's just plain good people.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bleepless In Barcelona

            Okay, now that the bitching about street thieves has been taken care of, I can tell you some good things about Barcelona. First of all, if you want to make a city look even better, put it on a large body of water like the Gulf of Mexico or Mediterranean Sea. This strategy isn't foolproof, as any normal person who's ever been to Holly Beach, Louisiana, can tell you. On the other hand, if it weren't for the Atlantic Ocean, almost every place on the Jersey Shore would be just another town full of Garden State shitheads.