SAINT CROIX STEEL
Some time in the '70s, I stept out of my Saint Croix hotel to take a
walk. One way was busy with shops and restaurants and bars catering to
my fellow tourists. I went the other way.
………A few blocks up a gentle grade I came across a plaza lined with
food vendors and filled with people. I saw no face that wasn't black
but they could have seen one.
………Enjoying the milieu, I soon learned the reason for the crowd:
………At one end of the plaza was an 80-piece pan band that gave a
thrilling concert that included works by Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin,
Ellington, Tchaikovsky, and included numbers from the US Pop and
Broadway song books.
………The musicians included children as well as a few who could have
been their great-great grandparents. Some were in normal business
wear, others dressed as workmen, and others obviously very poor. There
were pans of every conceivable description playing the parts written
for other instruments.
………There was neither amplification nor sheet music but there was a
highly animated and very enthusiastic conductor. The musicians might
have been amateurs in the strictest sense of the word but their
performance could have proudly shared a concert stage with any
orchestra on the planet.
………It was a joyous and musically thrilling evening. I was a bit
saddened by the apparent absence of my fellow tourists but the thrill
of that lovely evening's full and swinging sounds lingers and will no
doubt stay with me 'til I die.
On August 19, 1995, I said
“Not all Swing music swings and not all music that swings is Swing music.”
Gardens' excellent orchestra was small, perhaps forty musicians. I made it a point
to be there for its philharmonic concert each of the six Thursdays of my Copenhagen visit.
………One evening they played Georges Bizet's L'Arlésienne.
Some time during the
performance, something happened. Everyone, audience, musicians,
conductor could feel that the room become electrified. The best way I
can describe what was happening is to say that the orchestra was
the piece ended, there was a stun'd silence of three, perhaps as long as five,
seconds before we, the audience, leapt-as-one out of our seats
cheering and applauding. The conductor was applauding his musicians and us,
the musicians were applauding each other, us, and the conductor.
was an incredible moment that I cherish dearly.
19 March 1992
Dear Mr. Hampton,
The oldest memory I have is of you!
You were performing at the Golden Gate Theater and provided
what, for me, remains one of the most exciting and memorable days of my life:
You had a drum battle with Curley Johnson
You danced upon the stage and upon a drum.
And, for the finale,
you played Flying Home
with the band striding up and down the aisles
while Illinois Jacquet
, wearing round steel-rim glasses, stood almost
motionless at the center-stage microphone blowing the house down.
In a recent interview on National Public Radio
's Fresh Air,
commented that the balcony of the Golden Gate shook. I don't remember
that but I had an aisle seat in the orchestra and couldn't have cared
less about anything else going on at the time. But a theater employee
later told me about that balcony shaking.
Illinois told me he left the band [a very
long time ago] but doesn't remember the year you were at the Golden
Gate. Regardless of when it was, I remember nothing in my life before
seeing you and hearing your band.
I saw virtually
every show at the Golden Gate Theater because the janitor would let
me in to the theater through a door near the downstairs men's room. It
was a form of baby-sitting.
I remain a fan to this day. You have provided me with much pleasure and excitement for, literally, all
of my life!………
Thank you very much.
above letter was handed to the addressee at Kimball's East on the date
Lionel Hampton died on August 31, 2002, at the age of 94.
During a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony Number One, I laughed. The conductor turned to see who had. At intermission, he found me to say “I'm glad someone got it!” What? Mahler's hilarious dirge.
From: Icono Clast
Subject: It don't mean a thing
A few years ago, my Partner and I went to San José to hear the
Johnny Lampson band. During that gig, they played, and we danced to, Moten Swing
It was the hardest swinging playing of that number I've ever heard.
When the number ended, I went to sit, and burst into tears (they're
welling with the writing).
She went to Johnny to complain: “Don't play so well” pointing at me. “You made him cry.”………
No, I can't explain that strange reaction. I guess I was just overwhelmed.
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