This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Monday, May 5, 2014


June 1962: Jim Robinson, George Lewis, Sammy Rimington
Photo by Tom Sancton (Sr.)
In the summer of 1962, a young English clarinet player appeared in Preservation Hall, instrument in hand, and sat in with the George Lewis band. He had learned to play by copying George's records and he did it so well that all the veteran jazzmen at the Hall were amazed by his playing. So was I. I was in the audience that night, all of 12 years old, recently introduced to this music by my father, and enthralled with the whole scene. Sammy was about 20, but looked younger. My father befriended him and showed him around town. When Sammy returned to London, he sent me one of his old clarinets. I hadn't thought of playing an instrument before that, but Sammy's gift put me on the road to becoming a jazz musician myself.

May 2014: Me and Sammy at Economy Hall tent. Photo by Turk Enustun
Sammy and I have met up many times over the intervening years, but our latest encounter, at Jazzfest 2014, was special. Sammy told me he was having trouble with the clarinet mouthpiece he has had for some 20 years. He suspected it had warped and it had a small chip on the edge. Over dinner at our apartment last week, I gave him one of my extra mouthpieces, a Vandoren 5JB model that many jazz players use. Sammy tried it and liked it. When I heard him play at the last day of Jazzfest, I was thrilled by his tone and volume. I was especially pleased by the idea that Sammy had given me my first clarinet and I was able to reciprocate more than half a century later, closing the circle.
Sammy's set at Jazzfest, May 4, 2014: (l to r) Chuck Beatty, Seva Venet, Sammy, Ronell Johnson

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