Monday, August 14, 2006

Broadway Jake Makes The Bigs

123 Broadway Jake Makes The Bigs

Altoona. Broadway Jake Steinberg and his Big Jazz Band. Jakes about 80, maybe 85. Silver hair. Chubby. Plays a good saxophone.

He’s playing a store opening. The “Big Band” is Jake with his sax, his clarinet and his bongos. On drums, Manny, his brother-in-law. On keyboard, Bobby “Little Liberace” Steinberg (no relation.) And the vocalist, (“put your hands together to welcome one of Nashville’s top baritones, Jimmy McCaw.”)

Jimmy sings “Where or When” from the “Best Musical of 1937,” “Babes In Arms.” Ray Heatherton did it in the real show. He would be whirling in his grave if he hadn’t spent the last years of his career doing ads for a crooked bank and working as a greeter at the Garden City Hotel.

Jimmy does a pretty good Louis Armstrong on “It’s a Wonderful World.” In fact, he’s better as Louis than he is as Jimmy. He’s there in his “bling” necklace, his wide-frame shades and his Hawaiian style shirt. Doesn’t look or sound too Nashville, but after a few songs, he’s warmed up and does okay.

Little Liberace is really good. He can crank out the tunes from “God Bless America” to “Up on the Roof” like he was born to do it.

Brother-in-law Manny has a beat like a cop. Nobody home. Is that a toupee he’s wearing? Or does he really have hair like that at his age? It’s sort of grey, like everything these guys play. But it doesn’t look real, even though most toup’ wearers opt for the Huge Hair look, which fools no one.

Broadway Jake, as mentioned, is okay. No bad notes and a lot of feel. At least on the sax. The clarinet sounds like he has been using the same reed since coming back from Afghanistan. (“I’ve been in 56 countries, you know.”)

The bongos, he must have learned from Manny of the drum kit, because he, too, has a beat like a cop.

So, Jake’s talking with an onlooker after the set.

Onlooker: Lot of fun today, Jake. But don’t you know anything written after 1940?

Jake: Oh, yeah. I play everything.

O: Sounds good.

J: Toured with Bob Hope after Les Brown died.

O: Ah, so you must know Geoff Clarkson, right?

J: I know the name.

At the time of Hope’s death, Geoff had been his piano player and musical arranger for something like 50 years.

J: Played with the Dorseys, you know.

O: Ah then you know Henry Adler!

J: Oh sure.

O: Hell of a trumpet man, eh?

J: Oh, yeah, he got some wild notes out those horns!

Henry Adler was a famous drummer with the Dorseys and never played trumpet.

O: Well if you know Henry, you gotta know Marty Gold.

J: I know the name.

Marty Gold was a well known arranger, pianist and conductor. He had a string of minor hits in the 1940s and 1950s and appeared (along with Henry) in the Movie “Seeking Susan.”

O: Well, good show. What brings you to Altoona?

J: Oh, I do all this company’s store openings.

Welcome to the Big Time, Jake.

Play that thing, man.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

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