Welcome to the first group of Devil Mountain RAG articles from the past few years. I'll soon be adding a section about the Friends of Jazz (history and perspectives), and maybe some of Jean's "Jazzin' Granny" stories.

For now, here's five articles written by band members/spouses, showing their varied perspectives on the band and the traditional jazz scene:


In about August, 1985, Devil Mountain JB became famous! We were invited to the Concord Jazz Festival! Wow! We were included in a picnic concert in Todos Santos Park, thanks to band chairman, Earl Scheelar. It was a free concert. We weren't as famous as the internationally famous Jazz artists featured in the "big" festival at the Pavilion. Our presentation was part of a nod to Dixieland as the root of the "real" jazz at the big ticket concerts.

We arrived at the park and went backstage with the boys and the beer. Guest artist was to be Wild Bill Davison. I was ignorant of his fame, but our trumpeters, Bob Enos and Tom Cantrell were saying such things as: "My God, isn't that Wild Bill Davison?" "Wow, really?" "Yeah, it is!" "Wonder who he's playing with."

Well, he was guest artist with all of the bands in the concert, including ours. Tom and Bob went a little pale. Ken trotted up to Mr. Davison and said, "Here's our tune list. Which ones would you like to play with us?" The Wild One checked the tunes: Emperor Norton's Hunch, Sage Hen Strut, Delerium, Smokey Mokes, Big Boy, Deep Henderson, Alabama Stomp, Duff Campbell's Revenge .....

Davison's red nose snuffled; his whole face went red. "I don't know a goddamned one of these tunes!" he roared. "Can't you guys play Chicago or Lady Be Good or anything like that?"

Bill joined us on a rather shaky version of Lady, Be Good. We hung our heads in shame. So much for fame.



I can't say I didn't know what to expect.

Andrew and I had planned our second date without consulting our calendars. The next day, Andrew called to ask if we could go to our Saturday dinner just a bit early - say 4 p.m. He explained that he had a gig in San Francisco that night. And to beat traffic and arrive in time to change clothes, set up and warm up, he had to leave Alameda by 6 p.m. I wasn't insulted. I was impressed. By making time for our date and keeping his prior commitment, he proved he was a gentleman and a good businessman. And his business is music. After that phone call, I understood that, for him, being a musician is not a hobby, or a way to sidestep adulthood, or something to do until he gets a "real job."

I get a variety of reactions when I say that my husband is a musician. Some people fold their arms and furrow their brows. "Can he really make a living at that?" they ask. Others glow with dreamy smiles and visions of Vegas billboards. "Do you go on the road with him?" they wonder out loud. The truth is we live comfortably between counting the change tossed in a trumpet case and living out of a suitcase.

I can understand why people expect musicians to be poor. Many musicians I've met seem pretty fussy about what they play. "I only do fusion," or "rock" or "reggae," they chant. Consequently, they eat only beans or peanut butter or noodle cups. Andrew is successful because he offers diverse services instead of specializing. He is as comfortable playing Handel's "Messiah" as Carmichael's "Stardust." He plays in styles to suit the job - West Coast with the Devil Mountain Jazz Band, hot dance with the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, and, when asked, a mean mariachi solo on "Tequila." He can read music and he can jam. Some folks wear a lot of hats. Consider Andrew's uniforms: tuxedo, Art Deco, every manner of red and black striped shirt, and Edwardian garb at Christmas time.

Like any successful businessman, whether dentist, accountant, or musician, Andrew has built a strong reputation and continues to grow professionally. Years of practice, study and experience have given him a name in his field. Clients seek him out by word of mouth. Far from resting on his good standing, he practices every day and learns new material. Andrew even goes to conventions. Except they're called jazz festivals. Think a convention is nothing like a jazz festival? Consider that at both, professionals show off what they know and sell copies of their latest work. Everyone in the field gets to hear what everyone else is doing. Amateurs and fans gather in hotel meeting rooms with dicey sound systems. Of course, the similarities end when ladies arrive in fringed flapper dresses. (Then again, I hear those dentists can be pretty wild.)

Most people don't assume that musicians are like nine-to-fivers. And they're right in many ways. For one thing, Friday and Saturday night dates are a rarity. But, Andrew and I use that to advantage; we never take a free evening for granted and we have better luck getting dinner reservations. While office workers cruise through the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year, Andrew is working three times as hard. Good news for his wallet, bad news for planning holiday get-togethers. Finally, I find Andrew's work entertaining. And I get to see him in a tuxedo at least once a week. How many wives can say that?

I have disappointing news for those starry-eyed folks who picture me "on tour" with Andrew. Not many people are willing to pay musicians enough to support a life on the road. Sure, almost everyone loves music. Educators and politicians herald the value of the arts. But, people often assume that musicians love what they do, and, therefore, don't mind doing it for little or no money. I wonder if a homeowner with burst water pipes would try to knock down a plumber's fee if he thought the plumber was living out his dream. Or if a patient would request free medical service because her doctor smiled a lot during the appointment.

I enjoy the times when I do travel to festivals with Andrew. I find traditional jazz audiences welcoming and appreciative. They know their music and they know how to have a good time. I've learned quite a bit from them in the last three years. Like…dancing will take years off your looks. And when to cheer during Emperor Norton's Hunch.

I feel blessed to live with someone who loves what he does. Before meeting Andrew, I thought of work as a simple trade - my life for someone else's money. My co-workers shared that view, waiting for the weekend to recharge their batteries. Andrew's work energizes him. He keeps up with a full schedule of teaching and playing and rarely seems tired.

I offer this quick checklist to anyone considering marrying a musician. Do you appreciate that music is his or her business? Can you handle evenings and weekends on your own? Can you be flexible about when you go out with your mate? Are you prepared to do all the Christmas shopping? If so, you'll find that a musician's occupational hazards are not marital hazards.

This article first appeared in the May, 1998, Devil Mountain Rag. This reprint tells Suzanne's complete story, and we hope that friends of Devil Mountain Jazz Band will enjoy it. Suzanne married Andrew Storar in 1995. She is pursuing a career in technical and creative writing since leaving her job with EBMUD in 1997. She is a registered professional mechanical engineer.


Cruisin' and Stompin' (and Sightseein' and Relaxin'...) by Suzanne T. Storar (December 1998 DMRAG)

Dixieland at Sea is always a fun time. September's cruise to Alaska was my favorite to date.

The top feature of every Dixieland at Sea is a solid line up of traditional jazz bands in a more relaxed setting than land based festivals. Of course I enjoy the chance to see out-of-state and international bands at bigger events. But the pace at a typical jazz festival can be exhausting. Some folks do the smart thing at big festivals - camp out at one site and let the bands come to them. But I like to explore the sights as well as the sounds of a jazz festival.

Typical Jazz Jubilee quote: "I'm going to see Golden Gate Rhythm Machine at Cal Expo this afternoon. Then I need to catch Uptown Lowdown in Old Town because the only other time I could see them is tomorrow at the Radisson. But that's when Royal Society plays the Crest Theatre." You know the drill. So many wonderful bands and sites, so little time.

On a jazz cruise, especially those of five or more days, music and sightseeing mix with relaxation. Typical cruise quote: "I think I'll catch Golden Eagle before dinner. Or, maybe I'll take a nap and see them tomorrow afternoon."

Another key cruise feature is the no-hassle, no-worry dining situation. How many vacation hours are spent deciding where to eat and figuring out how to get there? For those who don't want to waste time on basic sustenance, the choices are often narrowed to fast food or the over-priced hotel coffee shop. On a cruise, you know exactly where you're going to eat and when. Which leaves more time for listening to music. Or napping. This year's festival combined the usual topnotch music and stress-free dining with wonderful ports of call.

Fall gets underway early in the great north. The September landscape was a blend of gold and red leaves, white snowcapped mountains, and evergreens. On two separate days, we were treated to close-up views of blue-white glaciers. The towns offered a pleasant blend of shopping and historical exhibits. I look forward to a return trip and excursions like nature cruises that several folks told me they enjoyed.

The musical highlight for me was the amazing transformation of the Devil Mountain Jazz Band into Uptown Lowdown. One of Devil Mountain's sets went right up to its appointed dinner time. The Uptown Lowdown gang arrived early at the lounge to assemble their clarinets, saxophones, trumpets and tubas. On Devil Mountain's last tune, each musician was replaced by his Uptown Lowdown counterpart. Bill Manginis picked up the beat from Allan Grissette. John Goodrich glided in for Pete Main. Not even one eighth-note was left out as Rose Barr scooted onto the piano bench and Tex Wyndham, subbing for Jean Keeler, scooted out. The only word to describe the metamorphosis was "seamless." The event was a tribute to the fine musicianship of both groups

The Dixieland at Sea Cruise to Alaska was the perfect combination of fun times, beautiful sights, and traditional jazz.


It's ALL good! (At least in some way!) by Jim Lee (Music Director, trombone - DMJB) (December 1997DMRAG)

As 1997 approaches its close, I find myself thinking about my 11+ years in DMJB (impossible!!), remembering all of the people I've come to know through this band, and that I've shared this experience with. Some are no longer with us, while others are recent additions to the wonderful world we call Traditional Jazz.

Thinking back, I seem to be more appreciative of the opportunities I've had, including making friends, playing regularly, traveling to festivals, going on cruises, etc. I also am more aware of opportunities wasted, when I couldn't be bothered to take 10 minutes to talk between sets, didn't want to play a request that wasn't "trad" enough, etc. With all of the great times that we all share, I wonder what we miss?

One of the best things about this whole scene is the chance to develop an interest in something with a unique sense of history, which has room for many different tastes and levels of knowledge. Some people have become quite expert in certain areas of Traditional Jazz, and play an important part in passing their secrets on to others.

While this is a great source of strength for the Trad Jazz scene (after all, the controversies in style and history are part of the fun!), it seems that this is often divisive. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the one niche of this music that we like most or know best, that we deprive ourselves of many new or enriching experiences. This is equally true among musicians and listeners alike.

Any of these phrases sound familiar? "They actually played the Saints!". "They're the only REAL band at this festival!" "I can't dance to any of this stuff! " "They're just a SWING band!" "They're only a DANCE BAND", "They're just a TRAD band!" "That's a SHOW band." You get the idea.

It's amazing to me how often I've listened to a band that I wasn't "supposed" to like, and found that I could find things about their performance that I could enjoy, even if it wasn't my cup of tea overall.

Sometimes it's an individual performer that I would have missed. Sometimes it's a new song or a different approach to an old one. Likewise, I've often been surprised at what happens when I play an old "chestnut" that someone has requested, only to have new things happen during the song that I never would have expected or planned. Those are some of the times that are the most fun!

After all, that's why we all got involved in this music, isn't it? It was fun! Some of us may need to rediscover the sense of adventure we had at the beginning, when we didn't know the "labels" or "reputations" of various bands or organizations, and we just went to hear new things and have fun!

To me, when I remember this season and the Gift that we celebrate, I think about the "gift" of music, the "gift" of friendship, and the wonderful opportunities that we have to enjoy them both. Let's not waste them in 1998!


TRAVELLIN' by B. Sharp/C. Natural; trumpet, DMJB (July 1997 DMRAG) I love the HELP WANTED ad which the Natural Gas JB placed in the American Rag, through which they are seeking a piano player. One line states... "Must be able to read music, enjoy traveling, and to tolerate hunger and poverty..."

Those of us who play in jazz bands understand fully both the sweet and sour associated with becoming a member of our league. The two "sweet" words with the sentence "enjoy traveling" describe why, despite the fact that we must "tolerate hunger and poverty" (sour words) our musicians play this genre of jazz. Partly it's because of the wonderful experiences associated with traveling.

Traveling somewhere to play music has all the elements of excitement that a musician craves, and musicians, in my humble opinion, are definitely "cravers"--they crave being among their peers with whom the camaraderie runs high in appreciation for the skills which they individually possess, and they crave placing collectively their talents before an appreciative audience. There's always a craving for the satisfaction gained from the performance, and the musicians get their thrill by doing their best to garner applause from the people listening.

Were audiences to be rated, Trad-jazz audiences would be at the top, and whenever a musician travels to a new "play-ce" to perform, these great audiences always give one the feeling that they have come to the right place. Each member of the audience appears to have his or her feet on a welcome mat. Off-stage, musicians and crowd manage to mingle to mutually express their love for this music, or just to amicably chit-chat about general topics, and the camaraderie expands even more - it becomes something which the collective group understands, which once again is why musicians like to travel.

Even waiting for planes at the airport (a good place to be if waiting for a plane) is never dull because during this downtime the musicians, in muted tones, play "catch-up" (Whatcha been doin') over wake-up cups of coffee. During up-time (flight), observing the land below becomes a geographical extravaganza, and our mental cameras snap zillions of photos to be looked at later.

Even for a musical event a couple of hours down the road the zing is again the thing- it's the fun derived by being with a crowd, watching their smiling faces, hearing them laugh and applaud, and watching the dancers tap a tattoo with their toes.

As trad-jazz musicians we can take the traveling because we're like elephants--we have thick hides and we do it for peanuts, but what the hay... Ask us why and first response is generally, "Because we love it!" The real payoff is on the inside where music meets soul.


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