[Dixielandjazz] Band Set Ups

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Fri Dec 23 10:29:11 PST 2005

I guess I should have told you the whole story behind the Sheldon 
performance.  The leader of the band is a local doctor who does not play 
very well and his sole reason for being is to count off the band and insult 
customers.  He does have one talent that is outstanding and that is he can 
transcribe recordings note for note off of records and has a great library. 
He is a Stan Kenton Wannabe and sets up his band in the V configuration but 
usually sets it up straight line and not in the V where the band is more or 
less facing each other.  This was the configuration at the Sheldon that 
night with the brass facing forward, the rhythm in the center and the saxes 
facing forward in a straight line taking up the entire stage.  The 
remarkable thing was that I could hear the bass bone player.  To continue. 
There is an individual that I have had many years experience with who showed 
up that night in his tux carrying bongos.  This person is a piano player who 
is extremely nervous and talks so rapidly that it's difficult to understand 
him.  This could have been from his service in the merchant marine during 
WWII.  He went to sea at age 15.  When the AF was formed he joined the band 
which is where I met him.  He does all sorts of bizarre things like practice 
his clarinet while driving.  Anyway, this guy parks himself behind me with 
his bongos and commenced to play them non stop, even between tunes.  I went 
ballistic and told the leader if he liked bongos so much that he should have 
him sit behind him.

This guys rehearsals often turn into shouting matches between section 
leaders and endless repetitions of tunes because the singer (main squeeze) 
can't sing.  After repeating Minnie the Moocher for a solid hour I 
suggested, somewhat rudely, that he make a tape and tell her to go away 
until she could sing it.  This was the last straw and as it turns out was an 
act of gigacide on my part.

This was on the whole a bizarre part of my playing career.  Between the 
singers mother (@80)who reads soldier of fortune and carries a 9mm auto, The 
lead alto player who is never sober,  the drummer (bongo players son) who 
wanted to take me out into the parking lot and fight me, the conspiracy 
theories as to how the other band leaders conspire to steal jobs and put his 
band down and the radio stations that keep firing his singer girl friend. 
The singer is a DJ who has now been reduced to traffic copter reports.  The 
whole thing was nuts so getting fired was a good thing.  The Sheldon Theatre 
actually overcame all this which is why I thought it was a great place to 
St. Louis
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <Vaxtrpts at aol.com>
To: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 1:38 AM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Band Set Ups

> Without quoting a lot of Larry's response, I must agree with all that he
> said.
> 1. The "V" set up is much better for bands that play together all the time
> and know the music.  On Stan Kenton's Band, we played 350 days a year on 
> the
> road together.
> 2.We had a GREAT rhythm section, who knew how to play dynamics and 
> While I was on Stan Kenton's band, the drummers were: John Von Ohlen, 
> Jerry
> McKenzie, and Peter Erskine.  John Worster was the bass player and Ramon
> Lopez was the Latin Percussionist.
> 3.The V was angled so that the trombones and saxes were almost facing each
> other.  The trumpets were always on a riser behind the rhythm  section.
> 4. The musicians were always of the highest caliber.  It was an honor  to 
> be
> on the same stage with them every night.
> 5. Boy, was it fun!
> Mike Vax
> PS - I must also admit that with my Kenton Alumni Band, we use a more
> traditional set up, because we only tour a few weeks a  year.
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