Thursday, December 02, 2004

Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!

True aficionados of the One O'Clock Lab Band (or the Stan Kenton Orchestra, for that matter) may recognize the title of this post as a representation of the four fat opening chords of Pete Rugolo's big band composition "Machito," which serves as an exciting opener to the One O'Clock's Kenton tribute CD, With Respect to Stan. Recorded at a time when the trombone section included the amazing Steve Wiest (who's known for his high chops), the tune is quite a challenge and isn't played live that often.

For several semesters on end, the running joke at Lab Band Night at the Syndicate is that the well-meaning hecklers (pretty much the same guys every week) shout out requests for "Machito" no matter which band is playing. (They'll also occasionally ask for a tenor battle, and sometimes "Free Bird." Heh.) Halfling and I had been joking for weeks that one of the "lower" bands ought to learn those first four chords and play them at the Syndicate just to see what the hecklers' reaction would be. (UPDATE: My friend Jim, in the comments to this post, notes that the tradition of shouting out "Machito!" at Lab Band Night goes back at least a decade!)

Last night was the final Lab Band Night of the semester, so it certainly was our post-dinner destination during The Hang™. The Nine closed the evening, and before the last tune, the director said that there was a certain tune that people had been requesting all semester, so they wanted to fill that request. We figured maybe someone had taken our idea, and sure enough...POW! POW! POW! POW!....except they actually kept going. That's right, the so-called "bottom" lab band learned one of the hardest tunes in the library. The hecklers loved it; some of them (J-Guar included) went up front and either faked conducting or cued all the horn hits. Some of the screaming trombone stuff at the end wasn't quite there, but my hat is off to them for pretty much pulling it off.

Oh yeah, and after that...they played it again. Equally as well. It just goes to show that the old quote from Leon Breeden (who led the One O'Clock to prominence in the '60s and '70s) still rings true: Once the rehearsals start, the "numbers" on the lab bands go away to some extent, meaning that they all sound great.

So I wonder, now that they actually got their wish, what the hecklers will scream for next semester? I bet it's still "Machito," just because.

Hear a clip of "Machito", including the famous opening chords, courtesy of the UNT Jazz Studies website's recordings page.

Diggin' in the archives: Some of you may know that I directed the Nine back in the day, and during that time, I sent a letter in to the old "drive-in movie columnist" Joe Bob Briggs, taking playful issue with his assertion that the Nine was the "bottom of the barrel." You can actually read it here (scroll down to the letters section); I had no idea it was on the Web until I Googled myself one time. It's also funny to note that the column ran on Halfling's birthday, though we of course were years away from meeting at that point.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't believe they are still shouting Machito. They were doing that back in '94 in the RBL when I was still at NT (along with the standard one more time after April in Paris and then every tune played there after).

I remember another year when there were a ton of "ringers" (some from the one o'clock) to fill out the non sax/rhythm sections of the 9. Played crazy stuff that year (if memory serves me right, I think they played either Overture to the Royal Mongolian Suma Foosball Festival or Donna Lee??).

Thanks Kev - I got a giggle out of your post tonight.

Jim P.

Anonymous said...

Future hecklers could take a cue from me. Any time Kris asks about new music for the TI Band, I start clapping the intro to First Circle. One of these days..... [sigh]