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Check our the courses below for in-depth information about the history of our band and some tips for listening to traditional jazz.
Early Band Members--QC Hist 101
I want to tell you about a former QC musician who was vital to the band in the early days, Herb Ordelheid. I met Herb before the band played their first gig at the Mon Vue Village in February of 1958. In the fall of 1957 Harney Peterson, a chemist at Coors and host of a jazz radio program, held a jam session at the Coors hospitality room for Denver area musicians who were interested in playing 'Dixieland' jazz. I knew Harney and his wife Jean because he was mentoring our Golden High School Dixie band the Futile Five. Harney called me and asked if I would be willing to loan my tuba to a guy at his jam session and I said sure, if I can attend with my Futile Five buddies.
Ordelheid made friends with my big-brass-bass-horn immediately. Alan Frederickson was there along with Bob Cooke, Bill Murray and a few more guys who jelled right away playing standard tunes. Free beer flowed and the spontaneity of strangers playing successfully together for the first time was fertile ground for the beginnings of a fourteen-year gig that started just a few months later. Herb’s wife Lou was a pistol. She asked me to dance which was pretty cool for a high school kid. Then she said “If you want to dance with other women, I’ll pimp around for you.”
Over the next decade, QC fans heard Herb playing tuba, banjo, clarinet, piano and trumpet. It really didn't matter so much what instrument he played, because his heart was packed with music. (Reminds me of our current clarinet player John Bredenberg.) At one point I remember hearing Herb doing a solo act singing and playing piano five nights a week in Larimer Square.
The early band was a tight knit crew. Herb hosted their weekly poker games in a shed behind he and Lou’s home. I heard tales of cigars and whiskey. But it was back to business on Friday evenings when the QCJB rehearsed at Harney’s and Jean’s living room. The musicians would learn one new tune a week from 33 and 78 recordings spun by Harney. The Futile Five was welcome at these rehearsals and I remember how well they worked together. Herb was often THE guy who could identify the correct melody note or chord by ear. When Bob Cooke took a break from the band to return to collect in Seattle, Herb switched from tuba to cornet and I got the call to fill in on tuba. Not even old enough to drink, I needed help and Herb was a kind mentor. Hats off to this man with a musical soul and a great spirit. There is a good picture of Herb with the early band on the introduction page of our “Celebrating Fifty Years of Memories” publication. (Do you have some Herb stories to share?)
Early Band Members--QC Hist 102
I rejoined the band at the Back Room at the Oxford and Jack Cook was holding forth as the drummer in those days. Played with Jack for several years. When he retired Alan refused to add a new drummer and after a few months the band revolted and threatened to strike. That is when we hired the great time keeper Marl Shanahan.
But let's talk about Jack Cook who apparently in Alan's mind was irreplaceable. Jack was the mystery man type. Easy to talk to, but not given to sharing much about his personal life. He was married with children as it turns out and the following heart-warming recollecting by is daughter Donna came to us recently. Please give us more material so we can add to our information about Jack Cook.
Yes, my Dad is still with us. He retired from the U.S. Park Service last year and is enjoying the life of a hermit at the moment :) Memories? Some of my earliest memories are of QCJB. I remember one gig at that place on Larimer Square (?). I was about four, I think. I was leaning up against my Dad's bass drum while the band played. The place was packed. I remember a mime in the audience. At one point, I noticed a styrofoam cup at the bass of Al Fredrickson's microphone. Hmmmm. I'm a bit thirsty, I'll just take a sip of that while he's busy playing. Whoa! Instant fire in my throat! Probably whisky! That was a lot to process in a four-year-old's brain. All I remember after that was the thump-thump-thumping of my Dad's bass drum in my head! Al Fredrickson probably never knew the influence he had on my life. When it came time for me to choose an instrument in grade school, of course, I opted for drums. My Dad said, "No-you have to be the first to gigs to set up and you're the last to leave after tearing down the drums, pick something else." Well, I always loved watching Al play "Ory's Creole Trombone" during rehearsals and on stage-so, I picked that :) It was a good match. I made lots of fantastic friends in high school and college because of the trombone. I played in many Citywide bands, including marching band. Through the marching band I learned about an audition for the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps. I taught myself Baritone Bugle, memorized their music and tried out three months later. I made the Corps and that summer we traveled to England, France, Holland, Belgium, Canada and most of the eastern U.S. for competitions. I was 15 years old! I played off and on with "Jumping for Joy" bands in Denver and through the music director I was matched up with a jazz band of retired professional musicians who let me sit in with them and play at many of their gigs around town. There was a brass band in Denver which I practiced with regularly, I remember learning tenor clef and we played a lot of Christmas carols and charitable events. I've still got my trombone. Every now and then I dust it off and recall many good memories. If I'm ever feeling down the surest way to put a smile back on my face is to play some Dixieland or Ragtime :) Thanks, QCJB!
Follow-up on the above from Maurie Walker, Early QC Drummers
Just reading the new "history" stuff, and thinking I remember some things differently.
I don't know what was in Alan's mind about not hiring a drummer when Jack Cook quit, but I do remember how hard it was on the rest of the back line, which was you, me, and Ray Leake. It became painfully obvious that each of us had learned to play with Jack, but not with each other. I'm thinking it took us three months before we got to where we were playing well with each other -- but it was worth the work when the three of us gelled. (Professor Bill: When I first stated playing the tuba, it took me three years to notice that some of the other band members were just playing omm pah like me.)
Next drummer after that was not Marl, but Gus Johnson. He was undeniably a great drummer, but he played as loudly as if we were a sixteen-piece band. I couldn't sit in front of him and wound up many sets standing off to the side of the stage. He stayed with the band until we were booked at St Louis, for the Jazz and Ragtime Festival on the riverboat. Gus declined to go (and quit the band over it), so Duane (Sutfin--long-time manager) looked to get a St Louis drummer. I thought of an old friend from my St Louis days named Bob Kornacher, but by the time I got to Duane, he had already lined up somebody. "Oh," I said, "who did you get?" "A guy named Bob Kornacher." "Good choice," I said.
Next drummer after that was still not Marl, but Johnny Montagnese. (Professor Bill: These were the times of John Denver, so we all called him Johnny Durango.) I remember Johnny being on trips to Indiana and Montana. One thing Alan and I agreed on was that Johnny was the best drummer the band ever had. Johnny swung like no other. (Professor Bill: swing, swang, swung--Maurie's grammar is impeccable)
Next drummer after that was still not Marl, but a friend of Wes Mix, from New Orleans. It is an understatement to say this did not work out well. My mind has defensively blocked out his name. He always played the same drum solo. He told many stories, most or all of which involved him in some way. I later bought a book of jazz anecdotes and stories, and found every one of "his" stories in it. And they didn't involve him.
When Johnny left -- if memory serves -- that is when Marl joined the band.
Wilbur De Paris at Symphony Hall
Go to Youtube and search for Wrought Iron Rag, Wilbur De Paris at Symphony Hall. Listen once and then begin reading and refer to the recording as you read.
This recording captured me as a teenager. QCJB has been playing a version of Wrought Iron Rag inspired by this 1956 recording for at least 30 years and we all are lifted to a musical high every time. “What do you want to play, boys?” “Wrought Iron Rag!”
Queen City has rehearsed the introduction many times. It is a descending chromatic scale that starts with horns, blends into trombone and ends with piano flying up a chromatic scale. Everyone is razor focused with their fingers crossed as we all must come in together with first strain. The main melody (A section) (in the key of Eb) is based on an ascending major scale with two measures (a measure = two beats) on each tone. This melody repeats after sixteen measures. After thirty-two measures we arrive at the bridge (B section) which is in a different key (B) and is jammed hard by the pianist Sonny White who then takes a final A section to complete the AABA form.
Next a really cool thing happens. There is a new section, the verse. It is in a different key, (B-five sharps), presents the horns in unison and has a great break played by the horns only without the rhythm section. As in many songs this verse is never repeated. Next comes the solos and each one is AABA.
First is a flawless and driving clarinet chorus by Omer E. Simeon. Listen for the banjo of Lee Blair-like a rock on every beat. The clarinet solo has two breaks where Simeon plays completely alone with perfect timing. Can you hear feet tapping in the background? Great players like Simeon can float over a really intense rhythm section and sound completely relaxed. To end the solo there is a break for Sidney DeParis to start his cornet solo.
Sidney uses his plunger mute to make this one of most ‘goose-bumpy’ solos I have ever heard. The last note of the break that starts the solo is what could be called a poot as the plunger is tight over the bell. Listen closely to hear the poot notes followed by the more open plunger notes (paa) that end almost every four-bar phrase. The in and out of the plunger adds rhythmic component to the music that is very exciting. At the bridge the Wrought Iron theme from the Anvil Chorus from Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore is quoted and Sidney gets in a couple growls. Another plunger sound is the ‘waa’ which Sidney uses for the beginning note of each phrase in the bridge. Check out the prominent drum break coming out of the bridge while Sidney takes a breath. But there is more--listen to the other horn players add back-up riff during the solo and the audience applause at the end.
It is Wilbur’s turn next with a driving but relaxed trombone solo. The rhythm section now sounds a little different with prominent bass and drums. Accents by the horns outline each step of the major scale and at the bridge the horn players clap on two and four and sing “Yum de doo dow” at the perfect time. Wilbur uses two trombone idioms during his great solo. One is the tail-gate slide we all know about and the other is a ‘lip-trill’ where the slide stays in the same position and the player slides up an interval of a third and back. There are two lip-trills at the end of the first eight bars. At the end of the solo there is another two-bar break for the horns followed by a bass solo with the horns riffing up the Eb major scale.
Now listen for the insistent 1-2-3-4 by the whole band ending with a plunger trumpet and trombone slide and the perfect clarinet ‘holler’ note into the final ‘shout’ chorus. Wilbur now plays the major scale while brother Sidney plungers the melody and Omer wails over the top and the crowd (in my mind) jumps up for a standing ‘O’ while Wilbur’s trombone powers the whole band into an ending befitting this stunning live performance.