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David Russell

God likes Be Bop?

June 2, 2007 at 1:48 PM

My father was a very special musician. He was a truly great jazz trumpet player. His favored style was Be Bop. He had immersed himself in it in the Jazz clubs in Harlem in the 1950s, but after settling down in Pensacola, Florida to raise a family and be an all-around solid citizen, this big-city sophisticated musician found himself in an environment which favored dixie-land and swing music. He adapted and became a celebrated member of the musical life on the Gulf Coast.

His skills were truly remarkable. I remember occasions as a child when he  would take our family to a 'gig' in the park. When his solos started, the crowd would be whipped into such a fervor they seemed to be riding the very edge of the music, reacting spontaneously in unison! At the end, the eruption of cheering was wild! His family was so proud.

But his artistry was most apparent to me at home, on our own back porch. This was truly his favorite place to be. He would sit for long periods of time each day, intermittently working a crossword puzzle and working out Be Bop riffs for his own gratification. His creativity was most apparent in those times. He would dissect a musical line and improvise on the smallest part of it, flowing along with whatever came to mind.

One unforgettable afternoon, I heard an amazing collaboration taking place. My parent's dog Martha would sometimes react to certain pitches he played on the trumpet,  barking in little staccato notes. That particular afternoon, my father picked up on her rhythm and pitch and began improvising a tune around her vocalizations. This excited Martha even more and she added some howls, to which my father added a really cool line! It was hilariously brilliant and unforgettable!

I love my father. I miss him a lot. Even though I do believe I will see him again one day, the daily walk through this life is diminished by his passing. One memory  in particular brings me sweet sadness:  One day during his final illness, when he was unable to play the trumpet any more, he was remembering the thrill it gave him to play for the crowds and how exciting it was to watch them light up at the music. He said to me (as if I could grant the wish): "I wish I could do that just one more time." If only I could have granted that wish!

After his passing, I received his trumpet to keep. It is the thing with which he was most identified and it is an honor for me to have it. Occasionally, at bedtime my oldest son Daniel would be missing and mourning the loss of  his beloved "Pa-Pa". At those times, he would ask to hold his trumpet for a bit and  I could not deny such a tender, heartfelt request. Then, after a time he began asking if he might play a note on it once in awhile. And then...eventually...he asked if he might have trumpet lessons.

Today, my son is playing the trumpet and making wonderful progress with a great teacher in CIM's Prep division. He practices (almost) every day, and is first chair trumpet in his school's band. The instrument he is playing on is my father's very own. So, once again the sounds of my father's trumpet are heard daily in my home. This time, they are sounds of someone working out the basics, but the sound he is making in the process is reminiscent of my father's. Isn't life wonderful in that way? It seems God is quite the improviser--and could it be that His  favored style is Be Bop?! ;-)

So far, our dog has shown no musical talent. But stay tuned... you never know.


From Patricia Baser
Posted on June 2, 2007 at 3:32 PM
You need to see "The Three Little Bops"- a Warner Brothers 1957 jazz retelling of the Three Little Pigs (narrated by Stan Freberg).

From David Russell
Posted on June 2, 2007 at 3:59 PM
Thanks! I'll look it up.
From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on June 2, 2007 at 6:30 PM
Trumpet and dog duet sounds wonderful. I have a cellist friend who related a similar story. His father was playing violin, Tchaikovky VC, when their canary picked a phrase from the piece and sang most beautifully. He claims the bird was right on pitch.


From Albert Justice
Posted on June 2, 2007 at 7:22 PM
Thanks for sharing that.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on June 2, 2007 at 7:19 PM
Somewhere I figured out you and I are about the same age. My Father is still alive, but elderly. Several years ago, he gave me a photo I hadn't seen before. He's wearing his WWII Marine fatigues, sitting relaxed on some rocks with his wind blowing his hair. As he gave it to me, he just said "This is how I want you to remember me." He realized he was slipping, and that we had had big differences in the past.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on June 2, 2007 at 7:27 PM
That should be "the wind." Although he could be windy :)
From Scott 68
Posted on June 3, 2007 at 1:03 PM
bird lives

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