I had heard the tune before; but never played like that. He stood up on the small stage—all by himself, closed his eyes, & proceeded to blow softly through his horn. His tone was airy & his thoughts flowed out nimbly through his fingers; effortlessly & articulately. The lack of any accompaniment wasn’t even missed. And the sparse audience of maybe 20 people or so—1 in particular for sure—was completely mesmerized.
Jimmy Hill was an old-time sax player. With a lack of any real formal music education, he couldn’t read notes, but his improvising skills were impeccable—crafted through years of intense listening & on-the-job work experience. He was a friend & colleague of my trumpet teacher, Bob Arthurs, who once remarked to me that he had never heard Jimmy make a mistake. Bob is a stickler too—with an incredible ear for the fine details of the craft of Jazz Improvisation—so I believe him.
Jimmy used to gig steady with Etta Jones, a popular jazz singer. And yet while he lived in the area, he used to come into the Westchester Conservatory once in awhile to sit in with & offer his coaching skills to the Jazz students there. He was a gentle soul who had nothing but nice things to say about anybody & their playing. That was the way he offered his constructive criticism—more like constructive encouragement.
The Conservatory, while at its former location on Soundview Ave (in White Plains NY), used to hold a Jazz-Wednesdays jam session in its small auditorium—thanks again to Bob Arthurs, the Dean of Students at the time. Every session would first feature a different working-Jazz Artist, before opening it up to the actual jam session; this way it still connected the jam to actual Jazz education & performance improvement. It was during one of these Jazz Wednesday evenings that I heard Jimmy open up with ‘Polka dots & Moonbeams.’
He had made several CD recordings before he passed back in 2004—I have them; all are great & showcase his incredible talent, but none included this song. I wish he had. Even after 20 years, his simple performance of it remains etched in my mind—one of those significant moments in my own musical journey of discovery. After that, I started playing it solo myself—trying to capture the same sense of ‘feel’ he had achieved on it.
On another, but similar, note:
For over the past 20 years, I’m blest to have been a part of a fine working dance band called ‘the Spitzbuam’. During the 1st 3 years of my tenure, I was fortunate to have worked with another great & influential sax player to me, Vinnie Gugleotti. Also an Old-School ‘cat’—Vinnie was incredibly tough on me; maybe at first he didn’t even like me. But there is no doubt that because of him, my musicality grew compounded-ly by leaps-&-bounds. Unfortunately, he too has passed (in 1996), but I still remember how he used to begin his solo every time we played the Elvis tune ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. In his honor, I have borrowed the opening phrase of my solo here from the way Vinnie used to play on it. Because of it, I think the 2 pieces—although completely different in genre styles—work incredibly well together.
I hope you enjoy this unique combination-tribute to the influences that sax-players Jimmy Hill & Vinnie Gugleotti have had on my own music development.
Jimmy Hill (1928 in Tuckahoe, NY – June 9th, 2004)
Vincent Gugleotti (July 3rd, 1937 – September 26th, 1996)
By no means should any inference be made of my actual political sway—from the inclusion here of First Lady Michelle Obama’s photo. I’m sure that President Barrack Obama is a very nice guy who is trying his hardest at what HE THINKS is best for our country; after all, he also has 2 children that he is trying to make America ‘better’ for. But I honestly do not subscribe to or agree with Obama politics, AT ALL.
Rather, I just think that Mrs. Obama is a very beautiful woman who looks absolutely stunning in polka dots, & whose radiant smile in this particular photo completely emits the warm glow of a moonbeam. Regardless of our blatant political differences, how could I NOT include here this beautiful photo of her?
The audio recording portion (only) of this video is copyrighted by Peter J Blume, © 2014. It was arranged & performed by solo trumpeter Peter J Blume.
Although not the 1st take, it WAS done all in 1 take—without any overdubs or punched-in corrections. There are also no electronic enhancements—other than some straight reverb that was used directly at the time of the recording. Hence, my recording here is obviously far from perfect & there are some spots that are definitely not articulated as clearly as I would have liked. But the trade-off value is that I felt something in its authenticity would have been lost if I started poking myself back in to try & clean things up; & thus to me the benefits of just leaving whatever is there in the original take far outweighs the alternative.
Just like Jimmy & Vinnie would have, I recorded this ‘Old-School’.
Thanks for listening & hope you enjoyed…