Oy gag me with a trombone!

Mort Drecher, my classmate in the aging Prof Ellis Ustinov’s Orchestration and Comp 302 class knew two things very well:
1) He had to receive at least a ‘B’ on the final project in order to pass.
And 2) He hated trombones.”...’the accordian of the brass family” he called them.
And so it was unfortunate that old Dr Ustinov made their appearance in the final composition mandatory, at least by the letter of the law.
Mort thought he could plea-bargain a workaround:
“If I have to write for ‘bones’ it’d be a horror-fest of noise. ‘Farts from a maddening crowd’, I’ll call it” he told me bravely.
“So what ya gonna do?’ I asked him.
“Trust me.” he just smiled. “This oughta work.”
And as the weeks before the deadline went by and he had me helping nights with the task, I had to admit that he did have a Plan.
First of all, he based the piece on a Ukranian folk song, to maybe get on old Ustinov’s good side.
Neither of us cared for the man all that much. In class we often played with his approaching deafness by stage-whispering ‘Ellis… is an Island.’ or “Ustinov… but not so much anymore these days.’ Maybe he read lips, I don’t know but anyway, we had a task before us.
Mort carefully modified the main theme so that the second half, bars 13-24, was an exact mirror image of the starting 12 bars. I thought it was clever, and perhaps alone worthy of a pass on the trombone requirement. My buddy also took my suggestion and named it “To ‘B’ in the ‘C’ of A-zov, in ‘D'” More Ukranian heart-string pulling.
Ok we turned in our projects. Mine, called ‘Tribute to Brubeck‘ (which I just found a week ago up in the dusty attic, got an ‘A-minus’ and a scribbled ‘nicely done’.
Mort, whose college carreer depended to some extent on his grades that term, was nervous as he picked up the graded work. The old professor, who knew very well the cruciality of a high grade, was, as it turned, out ‘not amused’ nor even ‘touched’ as it were.
To the ‘C-‘ grade was appended a scribbled:
‘nice try, but ‘NO TROMBONE NO ‘B’, MORTON’.
Ed: OK some of this is made up. I’m a sucker for a palindrome, and even a short one tromps factuality in my book.
‘Mort’ was in truth Roger Williams the keyboard player in our band ‘Sky-Blue-Pink’ during a house band gig in Niagara Falls NY, shortly after we both dropped out of school that year. Most of the rest is true, actually.


Wu: Only an odd fellow would follow a fallow site like yours, so why worry?
Me: Wuzie!! How’d you find me after all this time?
Wu: Easy. You left a link back on the old Xanga site, where we used to hang out. I did have to wipe the dust off the post to read it though.
Me: Yeah. Sad. We had coloured backgrounds, font-sizing, a Front Page awaiting your every snarky word, all kinda stuff like that there.
Wu: Oh well. Let’s just try to make the best of this trombone of a site.


14 thoughts on “Oy gag me with a trombone!

    1. solberg73 Post author

      At least it’s in the proximity of your head which is something. And I wouldn’t call it especially abstruse: just a palindrome-driven memoir…

    1. solberg73 Post author

      …and some of my friends play accordion. Teaches a guy to smile and bear with it for the larger cause of friendship. Thanks for reading.

  1. eleanorio

    Mountains may crumble, blogging sites may disappear, but you, my friend, are still on top of your game. Bravo!

    1. solberg73 Post author

      Thanks el. That’s the wisdom of inhabiting only a modest shoal, an atoll, a tidal mud-pie. My cathedral is always at least 6 inches above being engulfed.

  2. happierheathen

    As one of the odd fellows in residence, let me say Well Done! I was looking for the palindrome before it landed and wasn’t disappointed. A perfect three pointer and no spilled drinks in the passenger cabin either. 🙂

    1. solberg73 Post author

      Thanks bro. I just took one night’s random inspiration and set it down. Mentally searching for two-way phrases has become my method of tuning out the real world when demanded.

    1. solberg73 Post author

      I recall that tune like it was just yesterday. Now to find out from the net which ‘yesterday’ it was exactly. I do believe we had the record, and played it on the RCA his master’s voice Victrola

  3. bursted

    Someone already wrote bravo, so I’ll have to settle with Ole! The comparison of trombones to accordions is cruel, if somewhat appropriate. Must be murder to play well when some notes seem so far away from the rest. And I have to wonder: Could Mort be the same Roger Williams of “Autumn Leaves” fame? I grew up with some of his records in my parents’ collection.

  4. solberg73 Post author

    You are entirely correct about the difficulty of managing a simply chromatic scale on the instrument.I’m assuming that the original inventor countered customer-resistance by mentioning that the device could be used as a squirt-gun in extremis.
    At any rate, my Roger Williams was simply “a’ Roger Williams and not ‘the’..
    Google lists his hit record with the tune as 1955 when Roger and I were both 6 years old.
    (To me it’s incredibly empowering and enlightening to be able these days to confirm dates. and cross-check with my feeble and cloudy memory..
    On the grade-school bus radio I heard for example
    ‘Sugar in the morning/
    Sugar in the evening/
    Sugar at supper-time/
    Be my little sugar and love me all the time.’
    And now, withing seconds I shall know what grade I was in. I do the same trick with remembered eclipses and Hurricanes, to astounding effect..

  5. Roadkill Spatula

    At one of my daughter’s high school band concerts, the trombonists got up and played a piece called Lassus Trombone. It was amusing and fun. But the trombone has never figured high my list of favorite instruments. I did learn to appreciate the oboe, though, when my daughter played it.

    Good palindrome, although I don’t profess to understand all the rest of it.

    I somehow missed this and your previous post; I don’t always have access to WP (it’s blocked at one of my worksites) and don’t read my feed as constantly as I maybe should. Nice to see you posting at least occasionally.


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