A half-wit once tried to change the name of the Baldy Mountain Jazz Band, which plays at The Press Restaurant in Claremont. The building used to house the local newspaper’s printing presses, but it’s now the home of an adventurous and tasty chef (last night quail was on the menu) who is almost worth driving the nineteen miles for. It’s definitely worth it when Baldy are there playing New Orleans-type jazz (which is hard to find in Los Angeles).
Mount Baldy rises 10,000 feet above where we live. It’s where we can most often see snow, and where Leonard Cohen spent five years in a Zen monastery before coming back down and touring again after his manager made off with his money (so we owe her a debt of thanks; maybe even Leonard does). I like to picture the band trekking down the mountain to play and then trekking back to resume their jobs as tree-fellers or whatever. To encourage that impression, one or two wear plaid shirts, and one wears a cap and suspenders (braces in Brit-speak).
Actually they are bank managers and builders and the like. The leader and trombonist used to be a retired science professor, but alas he passed away last year. They include a father and son duo (in their seventies and forties) on guitars, a trumpeter who plays drums to do them a favor, and a pianist who is the band’s musical arranger and indispensable heart.
The odd thing is that they almost seem to make a point of never having what I was taught was a “proper” New Orleans front line—trombone, trumpet, clarinet. In Britain in my teens, the great controversy concerned whether the addition of saxes was an act of betrayal. Nowadays saxes have an unquestioned place (but this is California). The new leader also plays flute, and Last night claimed that one of the numbers had never been played on flute before.