By Jim Collins
The moment that Dave the mailman dropped off the little square brown package, I knew I was in for a treat.
And as soon as I looked at the return address on the package that was exactly the size of a compact disc, I was certain that its contents would bring an extreme measure of joy.
Since we are in the Christmas season, the timing could not have been better.
The return sticker said Don Miller of Eastlake.
Since I now knew the package contained a CD, I was confident that it would be most welcome, since Don and I share a interest in the same kind of music.
What was even better was the very kind note enclosed with the CD.
Don always has something very nice to say when sends along a copy of something he wanted to share, and this time was no exception, especially because of my own particular set of circumstances over the past couple of months.
If you are a regular reader of this space, you are aware that I was “out of service” during October and November.
Some day I will fill you in on the details.
For now, I will just say that for anyone who is in need of a rehab session, there is no place in the world that could be better that Breckenridge Village in Willoughby.
As my good friend, Dave Schell, who runs the place, is quick to point out, “It is the best place you never want to be.”
But I digress.
The note in the package from Don Miller began: “What a pleasant surprise I was the recipient of Sunday.
“You’re back in the saddle again.” (This column had been missing for two months and the first one I wrote upon my return was about the passing of Rocco Scotti at age 95. Rocco gained international fame with his renditions of our National Anthem, and I pointed out that many purveyors of the song in recent years had butchered it.)
“Wonderful having you back writing your column,” Don said.
And he added: “A lot of the interpretations of the National Anthem I have heard lately have been awful.
“One of the best I ever heard was by The Lettermen at the old Cleveland Stadium. But that’s a story for another day.”
Then he described his enclosure. As always, it was something awesome.
“I have enclosed,” he said, “what I think is a unique and unusual record. It’s Urbie Green and 20 of the ‘world’s greatest.’ It’s called “Twenty-one Trombones.”
“Who would have ever thought anyone would record 20 trombones backing a solo trombone and that it wouldn’t be a mish-mash?
“But then a very remarkable thing happened. For the first time in their lives, these top-ranking trombonists were on a recording date. The trombone was the focus of all interest.”
Don went on to describe the quality of the recordings, the balance in relation to Urbie’s solo work, the sensitivity and the dynamics of the session.
Getting the 21 trombone players together for three recording sessions in New York City was quite an accomplishment in itself.
I read over the list of participants. Many of them were quite familiar, including Wayne Andre, Will Bradley, J.J. Johnson, Lou McGarrity, Buddy Morrow and Kai Winding.
Among the tunes are “Here’s that Rainy Day,” “The Look of Love,” “If He Walked into My Life” (what a great and tender song that is, from the Broadway show “Mame”), “Stardust,” “Watch What Happens,” “Stars Fell on Alabama” and several other great selections.
I couldn’t wait to slip the disc into my living room Bose player. I needed no introduction to Urbie Green.
I sat at a table with him many years ago when he played at the former Mentor Inn, which was a Ramada Inn then and was built by my best friend, Victor Hugo Bouse.
My favorite Urbie story was about the time he took four days off from the Woody Herman Orchestra because his wife was having a baby.
The band manager sent over to the union hall for a replacement, and the guy who showed up was Carl Fontana.
(He was without question the greatest jazz trombonist who ever lived, but at the time no one had heard of him.)
Someone asked who he was. He said he was there to take Urbie Green’s place.
“Yeah, he’s going to take Urbie’s place,” said a tenor saxophone with a great dose of sarcasm.”
“Yeah, right,” said another sideman, “he’s going to take Urbie’s place.”
Well, Carl played just enough to make everyone’s jaw drop, and that was the beginning of a legend.
Thanks, Don, for the great CD. And thanks for welcoming me back. I appreciate it.
Now, back to the record player, as we used to call them in the old days.