VanPort Jazz

Big Band Jazz

Another time at band camp...

So in 1974 I rode the Greyhound from Eugene OR to Sacramento for the Stan Kenton band camp. The trip was interesting in that we had to stop the bus at one point because the luggage compartment had come open. Which greatly concerned me because I had brought the school's new Selmer MK VI bari and a bass clarinet. Luckily they did not end up in the weeds, but some people's luggage did.

Anyway I got there and hooked up with some folks I had met the previous year, one of whom was another bari player named Norman. He was from SFO and rode out on his Honda to Sacramento with his bari strapped to the back. Brave man.

At the end of the first day of the week-long camp we had been assigned bands and charts to work on during the week. My band had as its feature a Hank Levy chart called Indra, which was a kind of exotic sounding piece in 9/8 if I remember correctly. AND it had a soprano sax solo in the bari part. I didn't have a soprano, so I had no idea what to do. But Norman saved me - he had just bought a new Selmer soprano, which he quickly loaned to me as he wasn't going to use it that week. It was a beautiful horn and played like a dream. It was amazing how easy it was to play, and fast. A lot less metal moving around. I had never played soprano sax before, but I quickly learned the horn and brought it with me on Friday to the closing concert.

So there I was in front of Stan and many others onstage on Friday, wailing away on the soprano during Indra. I remember sitting down at the end, and playing it back in my head, and wondering if I had become a little too much excited by the ability of the soprano to bend notes. But people clapped, and that was that. But I kept thinking about it, and became convinced that I had played a terrible dissonant solo, and that became stuck in my head. I had played a crappy solo in front of Stan Kenton.

Fast forward 40 years. Kenton is long dead, and I had mostly forgotten all about it. I played a Hank Levy chart one night in another band, and got to thinking about Indra. So I found the Kenton band recording and listened to it. Brought back some memories, and you know what? That soprano solo was pretty dissonant too! It sounded a lot like what I remembered playing.

So maybe I wasn't so far off the mark after all back in 1974.