Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jazz Band Heroism—or—How The Southside Aces Showed Pluck

Do you want to read a story of Jazz Band Heroism? When I say the Southside Aces were “heroes,” I don’t mean firefighter pulls kid out of burning building hero, or Medal Of Honor recipient hero. I’ve never had to discover if I am in possession of that kind of bravery, and for this I feel fortunate. I believe, however, heroism has several different levels, and frequent use of the word is just fine, as long as you understand how quickly the situation can reach parody. For instance, if, after an exhaustive search, my bartender found the last bottle of Blanton’s bourbon in the back of the storeroom, you might hear me exclaim, “My hero!” The definition of hero, in this case, is just a man holding this:

In today’s story, however, I’m talking about Jazz Band Heroism. This kind of valor, depending upon your views on bourbon, falls slightly higher or lower on the Hero Parody Scale than the above pub scenario. Bourbon was made America’s “native spirit” by an act of congress, after all. And June 14th was National Bourbon Day. So in conclusion, I love bourbon! Wait, what was I talking about?
The Southside Aces were hired for the Twin Cities Jazz Festival this year. Yesterday, we played over at Episcopal Homes, otherwise known as Iris Park. This action does not speak of heroism, although we intrepid men did pull off a pretty ripping version of Jelly Roll Morton’s “New Orleans Bump,” which certainly exhibited some musical bravery. No, I’m talking about today. I stood under the sun and enjoyed four of the Twin Cities finest vocalists take the stage right in front of the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul. 

You might say they were “pillars” of Twin Cities jazz vocalist society. Lucia Newell, Maud Hixson, Debbie Duncan and Prudence Johnson, all backed up by the Wolverines Quartet. This was some good music, I can tell you true. Rick Carlson, pianist of said quartet and the villain of the piece, finished playing his last notes, walked up to me and laughed an evil laugh as he said, “We used up all the weather!” 

Sure enough, as various Aces men assembled, the deluge began. The people handling sound rushed around throwing tarps at anything that used electricity, and the whole thing was shut down on account of the lightning. The lightning…it seems like there’s something a person should remember about standing on wet aluminum staging during a thunderstorm. What was it? Anyway, for some reason the band decided to remove ourselves to beneath the overhang of the depot behind the stage. Many of the folks who had come to listen to the music were gathered there between the pillars as well. Erik looked at me and said, “Let’s just play right here. All these people are still here. Come on, let’s do it.” He had his sousaphone up on his shoulder faster than he can eat a sandwich. Before you know it, my clarinet was out, and “Bourbon Street Parade” was echoing up and down the pillars. Dave pulled out sticks and began pounding on the pillar stage left. He was playing the Union Depot, literally. It has to be the largest drum in his arsenal. Soon Steve’s trombone joined the fray, Mark Kreitzer slung his guitar over his shoulder, and Zack put his trumpet to his lips. We had a concert! What mettle! 

You can tell it was raining by how wet Dave's shirt is. This is also when he began beating upon our CD suitcase. Resourceful.

Accounts of most heroes involve them risking life and limb. The Southside Aces can’t claim that. Although Erik is 6’5” and had a large metal lightning rod in the shape of a sousaphone wrapped around his body. But we did save something today. We resuscitated a drowning concert. The folks, thank them up and down, stuck around. Collected beneath the front porch of the depot with the band, or underneath umbrellas out in front or, as in the case of Stan and Mercedes, just swing dancing out under the rain. A word of advice to all you outdoor jazz festival promoters: If you’re going to have torrents of rain hit your festival, make sure you have the Southside Aces hired during that slot. 

On second thought, I'm not THAT heroic. This was fun but let’s not get ridiculous. 

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