Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Not Just Another Musician

Rufus Harley died the other day in Philadelphia. He was billed as the world's first and only jazz bagpipe player. Bagpipes, even in the traditional manner, are an acquired taste and I am happy to be one who likes them. But I'm not sure how I would go for Rufus' rendition of the Mary Poppins song, "Chim Chim Cheree," from one album. The bagpipe does not have that wide a range, nor delicate a tone; he must have been very good.

Fellow named Tommy Pederson once did "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the trombone, a fact noted in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as "a near-impossible novelty version." I used to own that recording and, yes, it was amazing. Originally, it was written for violin but most instrumentalists have tried it, including the tuba player in the Canadian Brass.

Somewhere around here, I have a tape of a gent playing "Sweet Georgia Brown" at some speed on the musical saw. He was on Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion" and I happened to be taping the series for a couple of years. Musical saw with piano accompaniment; not to be missed.

I liked to play my trumpet with a trombone mouthpiece. It gave a mellow sound, assuming you could keep it in the regular trumpet register; the thing kept trying to drop an octave or two. But it was interesting going down into the cellar, so to speak, and taking the instrument places it was not designed to visit. When I'd switch back to the regular trumpet mouthpiece, I'd almost swallow it because it was so small relative to the trombone mouthpiece.

One time, I was playing the trumpet with my right hand and an organ with my left. Not as hard as it seems; you just do the song's chords on the keyboard with your left hand and the vocal line (transposing down one full step) on the trumpet valves with your right hand. If you have a transposing organ, it's all the easier; just drop it from C to B-flat.

As I head off to bed for the night, perhaps I will dream of being in Mary Poppins Land and hearing a bagpipe stirringly rouse us to arms with its rendition of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."


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