Today marks the first full day of my Spring Break (although I’ll still do a bit of grading, so the term is slightly inaccurate.) However, today also was the day for the College’s 60th annual Jazz Festival. We host various high school and middle school ensembles, along with the All-State High School Jazz Band, and the college’s own jazz group does a set as well, typically backing up a visiting performer/clinician. This year’s special guest is Delfeayo Marsalis, the trombone-toting member of the family that has become synonymous with the genre in popular culture. Admission is free, so the Spawn and I walked over to the college chapel to check things out.
We got there just in time to catch the conclusion of the kids from the All-State band, and the Mondoville kids were queueing up in the narthex. Quite a few of the kids are former students of mine, and a couple even have me this term. They know that I’m into music, and so I get a lot of invitations to their shows. I like coming out to support the kids, whether they’re on the athletic fields or, as in this case, on stage, so I’m glad when I can make the gig, and a couple of smiles and greetings let me know it works both ways.
Not that my attendance was necessary. The chapel was about 90 percent filled (and as one of the larger venues in Mondoville, that’s pretty good), and the Spawn and I found a spot at the back as the kids got set up. After a few minutes, they were ready to go. They opened with Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)”, and stuck pretty close to the Fletcher Henderson/Goodman arrangement. That happens to be a piece dear to my own heart, and one that I played during my one year of high school jazz band; when I got my first drum kit, my dad said he know I could play if I got to where I could do “Sing, Sing, Sing.” When I came off the stage after a concert (which I still have on a cassette), Dad approved — and that was one of the best moments of my musical career. Mondoville’s drummer, a young woman I’ve taught in Freshman Comp, did an admirable job, and another former student of mine worked in a trumpet solo that quoted from Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse.”
They followed that up with Lerner and Lowe’s “Almost Like Being in Love” from Brigadoon, a number that featured the group’s vocalist. The Spawn was impressed — “She’s really good.” Then it was time for the special guest, and Mr. Marsalis came onstage.
Nattily attired, laid back, and cheerful, he led the band through a couple of original charts and a nice version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark.” But the topper was a version of “Put Your Right Foot Forward”, from Mr. Marsalis’s Make America Great Again CD. Once the second-line groove was established, he led the mobile members of the band in a slightly belated Mardi Gras parade through the chapel. It pulled an ovation from the crowd, and reminded the people in attendance that for all the cultural stodginess the genre has accumulated in the past few decades, jazz can actually be the soundtrack for a really good time.
After the set concluded, the Spawn and I walked back to the house, and observed another rite of Mondovillian spring, as the local shaved ice/snowball stand opened for the first day of the new season. Because snowballs are one of the Spawn’s favorite treats (she’s been anticipating this day, really since it closed for the season last fall), we stopped by and fueled up.
There’s a church across the street from the snowball stand, and a number of cars were in the parking lot. Closer scrutiny revealed that a funeral service would be taking place in a short while. “When I die,” I told the Spawn, “I think it would be neat to serve snowballs at the funeral.” It would, you know.
People were still arriving at the church as we drove home, where I found that my membership card for the MWA had arrived in the mail. Not a bad day — let’s see if the rest of the break can keep up.