Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Guys with Swing Show That Jazz Is the Thing

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Guys with Swing Show That Jazz Is the Thing

Article excerpt

What I loved about the trombone were all the things that Mr. DeVoe scorned: its large, slushy sound; how you could slide around the notes and up to them and away; its capacity to blat. J. C. Higginbotham and Benny Morton were my first heroes. The 3 Deuces and Cafe Society Uptown and Downtown were my would-be hangouts. Oh, to be Jack Teagarden! Or, the next year, Tommy Dorsey. Swing! Pure, liquid sound. "Marie," "Song of India." Even "Pardon Me Boys, Is That the Chattanooga Choo-choo?" The Glenn Miller band!

Mr. DeVoe was the conductor of the school band. I'd watched the band march and noticed that the trombones were out in front. The boy who played first trombone took his lead from the drum major, and the rest of the school followed him. What I wanted to be, at 13, was that boy.

"The note is F, Trowbridge. Not F sharp, not F flat. F! Take it again from measure 24." Even in the practice rooms, I was not free to play around. "You'd do better to stick to the score, Trowbridge," Mr. DeVoe interrupted, just as I was getting somewhere on my jazz version of "The Stars and Stripes Forever." In spite of Mr. DeVoe, I managed to work my way up from sixth to fifth trombone by Christmas. At the end of my second year, I was playing third, having hurdled Mr. Noble, the Latin teacher and head football coach. But the biggest event in my tromboning life was the birth of "The Three Shots of Rhythm" in my third year - and the musical haven of "The Sweat Box." "The Sweat Box" was a tiny room in the schoolhouse where Chas, Jock, and I were free to make as much noise as we wanted to on the drums, piano, and trombone, respectively. It was a hard-fought battle, but we had won it. It wasn't just Mr. DeVoe. The school itself was opposed to jazz. But Mrs. Crocker, the headmaster's wife, was on our side; and now we were rehearsing for an actual performance, the first jazz concert ever to be given at the school. Jock was a tall, lanky, curly-headed classmate from Minneapolis and a natural-born pianist. He could play anything: Bach, boogie-woogie, a Beethoven piano concerto, Gershwin. I don't know if he made it to the concert hall, or that he ever wanted to. He just loved playing the piano, no matter what the music was. Chas was from New York City, like me, but unlike me he was a person of exquisite suavity and sophistication: swarthy in complexion, dark of hair, and a subscriber to both Metronome and Down Beat. He knew all the Manhattan night spots, some of the head waiters by name, and at 15 he had a string of girlfriends, any one of which could have been competition for Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, or Dorothy Lamour. …

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