What do you do? I ask the old soldier sitting in my chair. He’s come to me for an eye test. I’m a musician in the army band, he says. Aha! Cool! What do you play? asks I.
The Saxophone, he says. The best of all the instruments! I flatter. How long have you been a soldier? Not long, he says, I joined a couple years ago and I’m just about to retire on a small army pension. What did you do before?
I was saxophonist in big bands. I toured the world. Mario Montereggi’s Big Band? I ask. Yes, indeed, I played with Mario.
And then he drops the big one:
I was with the African Jazz Pioneers for years. Wow! African Jazz Royalty in my chair!!
He might even have played with Mario at my fiftieth, where Aitch surprised me by getting Mario’s small ensemble to blow me away:
Aitch doesn’t mess around. Suddenly a big marquee was pitched on the front lawn. What’s that for? I ask. We’re having a party, says me wife. Oh. OK. So tip-toe’ing discreetly past my half century mark is not going to happen?
So I help the guys lay down a dance floor; and I carry chairs. And I carry chairs. Do we need so many chairs? I ask. Carry chairs, I’m told.
Then a minibus arrives and musical instruments are carried out – a trombone, a saxophone and a guitar – and one of the guys looks familiar. Big, braces, white hair. Mario!? I say / ask in amazement. Yes, says he in an Italian accent. What are you doing here? I ask, onnosel-y. He just smiles. I spose he’s used to that.
Mario Montereggi! When he’s not marshaling his Big Band, he runs a trio, Music Unlimited, for small events: Him on trombone, a guitarist and a saxophonist.
WOW!! Aitch certainly does NOT mess around!
The theme was Africa, but Brauer thought it was Out of Africa, and of course he took it literally. You know how he is . .
Instead of a solemn speech full of half a century of carefully censored praise . .
Terry and Pete sang a song full of scurrilous exaggerations – and duped the rest of the mense into singing the chorus! Everyone knows Billy Joel’s Piano Man tune . .
Then Jonathan and Aitch said some words and I had to correct everyone and put them straight.