Sunday, March 28, 2010

This Was a Great Weekend, No Bones About It

Actually, that headline isn't true at all; Bones was a really big reason that this weekend has been great so far.

It was time for our annual jazz festival at the college, and our guest was Tom "Bones" Malone, best known for his work with the Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Live, and his current gig with the CBS Orchestra on the Letterman show.

As his nickname implies, Malone's main instrument is the trombone, but he plays quite a bit more than that:
A versatile musician, Malone plays piccolo, flute, alto flute, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, piccolo trumpet, trumpet, fl├╝gelhorn, bass trumpet, euphonium, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, electric bass, and synthesizer programmer.
And I'm pretty sure that list is incomplete, because Bones himself says that he plays a total of 41 instruments.

On Friday night, Bones joined the college faculty in a re-creation of his 1992 CD Standards of Living (which appears, sadly, to be out-of-print). It's a septet date with unusual, Gil Evans-inspired takes on eight familiar standards that featured lots of room for blowing, and that's how we approached the gig as well. The only things rehearsed were the heads and endings; even solo order was not determined until Bones pointed at someone.

During the big band portion of each evening, Bones did something that was very much expected from someone who plays the number of instruments that he does, but the crowd (especially last night's roomful of middle- and high schoolers) still ate it up: During a blues tune, Bones would alternate soloing with different members of the band, but each time he came back, it would be on another instrument. After opening on trombone, he also soloed on tuba, piccolo, trumpet and baritone sax (I should mention that all but the piccolo and trombone were borrowed, since current airline regulations make flying with multiple instruments very cost-prohibitive; he just brings mouthpieces for the rest). It was fun to watch the crowd's reaction every time he came out with a new horn.

I had gotten to meet Bones a few years back when he was initiated into Sinfonia at UNT, but it was great to spend a good part of the weekend with him, both on- and offstage. He's a really great guy and a fabulous musician.

The weekend isn't over yet; I have one more gig tonight that's completely unrelated to the festival, and after that, I'll be looking forward to a four-day school week and a very unscheduled Easter weekend.

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