As I always do on the Tuesday before Easter, I went to Lab Band Madness at UNT last night, accompanied by "now officially mean and green" Halfling and "eventual Eagle" Dingus. As has been the case for many of the past several years, we were only able to see the second half of the concert because of my college big band rehearsal, but we got a good "sampler" nonetheless.
The concert, which has happened for 57 years now, is a near-marathon that's run according to a time-tested formula: Instead of having the bands play in reverse order towards the top (Nine O'Clock, Eight O'Clock, etc.), it goes like this...
1) The Two O'Clock closes the first half, the Three O'Clock opens the second half, and the One O'Clock closes the entire thing.
2) Those three bands listed above (the only ones directed by full-time faculty) are the only ones identified by their "O'Clock" numbers.
3) The rest of the bands (directed by graduate teaching fellows) go in alphabetical order by last name of director. (I can't begin to tell you how cool this was when I had a band and it was in the program under "Kevin McNerney, Director.") This allows the "identity" of these bands to remain a mystery to those coming in from outside the program, so they won't have a preconceived notion of what, say, the Seven O'Clock is supposed to sound like. (This year, however, Neil Slater broke the "code" for a second when he acknowledged that the band preceding the One was in fact the Nine. He did so in the process of giving them a huge compliment, and as he said, it just points to great things in the future.)
This concert was also, for many years, a showcase for new student compositions/arrangements, though lately it's often departed from that ideal in favor of whatever makes the band sound best. I can't argue with that, because all of the bands did in fact sound good.
Arriving right at intermission, we got to hear four bands: the Three O'Clock; a band of unknown clockage directed by the One O'Clock's pianist; the Nine O'Clock (I knew the identity of this one because J-Guar plays in it); and of course the One O'Clock.
According to the program, J-Guar was supposed to have a flugel solo on Hank Levy's "Pegasus," but when solo time came, it appeared instead to be coming from...an Asian guitarist? Now there's a cool trick. I congratulated him later on that particular rendering spell; not even the mighty Fizban has shown the wizard chops to transform both man and instrument in one fell swoop like that.
As I said, the bands all played well; I was especially happy that the Nine and the Three did a good job, since I used to direct the former and play in the latter when I was in school there. The One did a mixture of old and new (much like their personnel, two of whom I was in school with at one time). Sophomore tenor phenom Clay Pritchard dazzled as always on multiple tunes, and lead alto Jonathan Beckett (who has slid over one chair from second tenor last semester) raised the roof on "Cherokee." All this served to remind me that I really, really, really need to get some serious practice in this summer...
Oh, and the One did a composition by the obscure composer "H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej," who turned out to be the reigning King of Thailand (the H.M. thus standing for His Majesty). The band returned a few weeks ago from a spring-break trip over there at the king's request; they played a concert for him and then he jammed with them for hours on end. As might be expected from a Southeast Asian composer, and royalty at that, his tune sounded like...Dixieland? With a little 40's swing mixed in? Yup, that's exactly how it was. Who knew? But hey, it was great, and it proved the old adage that music is a universal language.
After the concert, we secured copies of a certain big-band chart and then Halfling, Dingus and I went to the Tomato (of course). J-Guar and some of his friends were there eventually to join us. As we left, an old friend of mine who's up there now met up with us to loan us a spare tenor. A new chart? A spare tenor? I'm not going to divulge any details now, but Halfling and I have something cool in the works for the final LMOJO concert. I'm sure we'll plug it shamelessly as it gets closer.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: (said over pizza at the Tomato)
HALFLING: I'm the first one in my family who actually learned to read music.
DINGUS: Nobody in my family is musically talented...including me.
ME: Well then, I guess it's a good thing you play trombone.