My Musical Equipment Closet

An opinionated collecton of short reviews of saxophones and woodwinds and the accessories which they require.

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Location: Santa Cruz, California, United States

"Other cultures are not failed attempts at being us. They are all unique manifestations of the human imagination and the human heart." Wade Davis

Thursday, November 23, 2006

CSI San Antonio

It all started almost exactly two weeks ago, when our band was booked for a wedding in the Alamo City. We started at around twilight, and it was one of those Texas fall evenings that starts out as a day in he high eighties, then the wind changes and all of a sudden it's 40 degrees and blowing a Force Seven gale. Any Texan has been through the majesty of the weather changing dramatically and gained knowlege and respect for its force thereby.

I was looking forward to this wedding, which paired up a groom from Switzerland (like Andre, a trumpet player we used in the past) and a Tejana from the valley (there being one valley around here, the Rio Grande). I had a feeling that this would be an interesting wedding. I was right, but for some of the wrong reasons.

I was looking forward to the gig because Tony Campise was playing with us. I've known Tony since the earth cooled. When I joined the Kenton band, Tony pretty much left the day before. Since I moved to Austin I've played every chair in his big band at one time or another, and I have a whole lot of respect for Tony's abilities as a player. So when the need arose to perhaps do a couple Italian numbers from the low saxophone chair, I knew only Tony woud do. Nobody sings the various versions of Che La Luna better than Tony. (That's Tony on the left with his eyeglasses--ochiali--defying gravity, next to Monte Mann, intrepid guitar player and all-around professional musician.

So there we were, the horn section of Jimmy Shortell on trumpet, Urlican Williams on trombone (a new grad student at UT, and a tremedous player, a swell guy and a ships' bandsman to boot on Celebrity and Norwegian), Tony, and me.

Now if you're like me, let's say I'm sorry for you. I keep a canvas shopping bag around and when I get to the gig I often place inside it all the important small things inside which defy organization. In this case my piccolo, wallet, checkbook, some sheets of music I'd written last minute, a couple fake book pages I ran out on the way out the door, and god knows what else I stuffed in there as I was stepping into the dinner set. (This was the first time I'd played the new Pearl Alto Flute on the dinner set. Add to that an alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute.)

Remember that canvas bag. I got it when I worked at South by Southwest a few years back, as their database manager. The job was a curious mixture of terror and kicking back. I had a whole different definition of the word "musician" than my co-workers. The peak expereince was talking my boss into bringing Dr. Demento to the show in 2002 and willingly and enthusiastically taking the side job of Dr. Demento's handler for his time in Austin.

The thing about SXSW is they give away a LOT of canvas bags, with colorful designs submitted by artists all over the world, who get paid nothing when they win. It could have been a Central Market or Trader Joe's bag, but it was a SXSW bag that I grabbed that day.

We played the dinner set. I will write a little homage to the alto flute's ability to shut up the rhythm section soon. But it was time for the band dinner, to be served in the basement of the venue. We were set up outside, by the pool, and it was just a few steps to the basement. The basement looked like a gambler's rumpus room, and no wonder, for this venue was the Red Berry Mansion. Red Berry was a notorious gambler, and that's why there were blackjack tables and one-armed bandits in the basement.


We were fed after the guests, which was fine with me. My brother had a chance to practice his check-writing skills. And, remembering we had some tunes in the canvas bag we needed to review, I pulled them out and Jimmy Shortell and Leroy pulled out their accordions.

What happened next was a boneheaded mistake on my part. When we got called up to the bandstand, I spaced out on my canvas bag. The one with my wallet and chargecards in it.

I didn't think of it again until we were outside the fence and down the hill by the AT&T Center, where the Spurs play. I came this close to turning around and going back, but I thought surely Jimmy (Fenno), who always does the idiot check, would have gone back and recovered it.

I called him on his cel, but he said he didn't remember picking it up. So back to Austin the horn section went, me worried.

On Saturday, after looking in my van and not finiding it, I started calling the venue, but nobody picked up my frequent voice mails.

By Thursday I cancelled one of my charge cards and started getting worried. Then a funny thing happened. Turns out, the groom from the wedding we played the preceding Friday night was the party planner at the Mansion. He had gone out of town briefly with his new bride right after the wedding. So he contacted me. He said he'd looked for the bag in the basement without result. Then he said that he wanted me to have a look at the tapes the security cameras made that night. No problem, I'd be coming down the following day. With a time agreed to, I hung up the phone thinking that things would be changing big time in a hurry.


Next day I downloaded some photos I'd taken the night of the gig and discovered a shot with the bag itself showing up. That's it over to the left of Javier, the young guitar player, right before we were called back.

We reviewed the security tape soon after I arrived at the mansion. And there was nothing conclusive, because of the angle of the two cameras shooting the furniture where the band was sitting.

I was distraught. Not so much for my wallet, but my piccolo is an Opperman that's really worth something. How much? I was about to sell it so I could buy the alto flute I was playing AND a pic AND have a little left over.

A couple hours later my phone rang. It was the groom/detective from the Mansion. He decided on his own to review the tapes made the NEXT night. when there was another wedding in the Mansion. And there it was, the smoking gun. The Saturday bride's mother was walking out with my bag! He said he got on the phone and called her right away and she admitted she had it and promised its timely return. He suggested that she run it by his house sometime on the ensuing weekend. She agreed.

And that was the last he heard from her, despite repeated efforts on his part to raise her on the phone. Then I had a stroke of brilliance. I told him to leave a message that I was pissed, a crazy man musician from Austin, and that I would be calling the police because we had that tape of her walking out with my bag and its contents. A couple hours later (by now it was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving) Well, that did the trick. Unfortunately, by then I was entering the Austin City Limits. But I called my sister in San Antonio and she and Larry were kind enough to meet the groom at the Mansion and get that bag, its contents intact.

Tomorrow I go down to their house for day after Thanksgiving. And I will finally be reunited with my bag. And I will be giving a thank you gift to the groom--perhaps a gift certificate from HEB?

It's a brave new world when you can figure all this stuff out from surveilance tapes. The question remains, though: why did the Saturday bride's mom take my bag, and why did she keep it? And if we didn't have those tapes, would she have ever contacted me?

1 Comments:

Blogger Maurine Sullivan said...

You're great! I'm a friend and master student with the great Tony Campise! Take care,
Maurine Sullivan

6:11 PM  

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