Nice Work, Bone Daddy
The time has now come to reveal a little factoid about my dad that hasn't been told much outside the house.
I found about it when I was around 11 or 12, when my mom gave him a copy of a jazz/fusion album called "Mr. Hands" for Christmas that year.
My dad positively gushed over it...and then explained why he was so taken with the gift.
During his college days at Grinnell, he played jazz trombone in a local combo with the guy who made that album.
A guy named Herbie Hancock.
It's just one of those little things you find out about someone by accident, because they don't like to blow their own horn about it (pun fully intended).
A few years later, my dad somehow managed to get tickets to a concert thrown in tribute to Thelonious Monk at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
And man, EVERYBODY was there...Roy Haynes, David Amram, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Holland (Bill Cosby, too -- he was the host), a whole bunch of others whose names I do not now recall....and Herbie. It was too cool for words.
After the show, Dad tried to check backstage to see if he could chat with his erstwhile college buddy. Sadly, security wouldn't allow it.
But the look on my dad's face as we watched his old friend on stage was enough for me. He was in heaven.
My dad died in March 2001 during treatment for prostate cancer, when he had a relapse and it basically ate him alive in the space of a year-and-a-half. He died when my son was five years old.
Thus, my now-10-year-old son was largely cheated out of the experience of growing up with a grandfather. It's always been one of my great regrets when it comes to my son's upbringing. My dad was a hell of a man, and he would've made a stellar grampa.
I told you that story to tell you this one.
About a week ago, my son brought home a flyer from school advertising signups for this year's incarnation of the middle school's orchestral band. He evinced interest in it, so we signed on the dotted line, and went with him to the school music room the other day for the initial conference with the band teacher.
The band teacher had (wisely, I think) brought in several local professional musicians to help out with the crowd of kids that came in to try out several instruments. One guy (the trombone-man with a local band that opened for Three Dog Night not too long ago)
tried my boy out on a trumpet and a trombone.
Son-of-mine did pretty decent on the trumpet, and was able to produce something quite resembling a note or two, amidst the bleatings and fuzz-bombs usually attendant when someone tries a brass instrument for the first time.
Then came the trombone. My kid licked his lips, blurted one little false start, took a deep breath...and flared out a good, long, clear blast from all the way downtown that made the pro's eyebrows jump skyward.
"Whoa," said he. "We've got a natural here."
My son was as impressed as he was, and took only a moment's thought before declaring the trombone as his instrument of choice.
But that's not the best part. This is.
I called my mom down in Texas last night, to see if she might still have Dad's old Conn trombone kicking around somewhere. (She had said not too long ago that she was considering giving it to a local high school band department, since no one was using it.) I was hoping to not have to shell out the bucks for a new one.
Thankfully, she still has it. In fact, she said, my brother had taken it out to the music store where he worked a while back and had it refurbished, so it is now in great condition, and she was absolutely thrilled with the idea of her grandson getting his hands on it.
She's shipping it to us as we speak, with the admonition that he practice long and hard with it...because "his grampa will be listening."
How 'bout that. There may well soon be a new bone daddy in the family...with the very same horn that my daddy played right alongside Herbie Hancock back in the day.
CAN I get a witness!