Note: If you haven’t already done so please read the Introduction to this book, first. It will be helpful to better understand these sample chapter extracts.
The Comisario’s Band – Atypical Talents
“You have been chosen to meet here with Mr. Levine, Mr. Holden, Mr. DiCicco, and myself,” Frank went on, “because you are the young folks who were mimicking the Count Basie Band the other afternoon. Do any of you know how to play the instruments you were holding?”
The group of young would-be musicians looked questioningly at each other, in response to the question.
“Well,” Frank continued, wondering if the youngsters understood enough English to know what he was talking about, “let’s get on with this meeting. If you can understand what I’m saying in English, please raise your hands. That’s fine.” he said, surprised to see all the children’s hands go up. “I want to impress upon you the hard work that lies ahead if this project is undertaken. If we,” he said, acknowledging the other three musicians “decide that any one of you is not qualified to continue as a student, he or she will be replaced immediately and without protest. Now, please tell us your names, your ages and what instrument you’ve been miming. We’ll begin with you young lady.”
A thin, light brown-skinned girl with, pretty, soft features nervously playing with her long black braid rose from her chair. “My name is Ana, Muñoz, Morgado,” she smiled. “I’m sixteen and I pretend to play the piano.”
“Next,” Frank said, nodding at a small, thin boy wearing a three inch elevated shoe on his crippled left foot.
“My name is Pancho, Aguilar, Roma,” the boy answered spiritedly in perfect English. “Pancho’s a knick name for Frank in Spanish, so you and I have the same name Señor Frank. I’m sixteen. I’m the drummer in the band and I can really play the drums. Ana can’t really play the piano though.”
“Pancho,” Ana exclaimed, pushing at him.
Frank remained standing, but Morey, Scat and Charley seated themselves on top of the desk, tired from standing and beginning to enjoy the occasion.
“Okay, Pancho,” Frank admonished, “just answer my questions. Next.”
“I’m Jesús, Mendoza, Corral,” a tall, lanky boy with extra long sideburns, dressed in black jeans and tee shirt, announced proudly, jumping to attention. I’m fifteen and a half and I really can play the guitar.”
Bounding from his chair, Pancho exclaimed arrogantly, “That’s nothing. We can all play guitar.”
The visitors laughed at the top of their voices while the four senior musicians looked at each other in confusion.
“Do you all have three names,” Frank asked, knowing he and probably the rest of the newly appointed teachers could never begin to remember three names for each student.
“Yes,” Pancho replied. “We have our first names, then our father’s name and then our mother’s maiden name, showing respect for both sides of our families. It’s crazy I know, but Mexicans are crazy anyway. Everybody knows that.”
“Well, for the sake of brevity,” Frank smiled, “just tell us your first names. Charley, write their names down and what instrument they want to play. Okay, who’s next?”
“I’m Eduardo,” a six-foot tall, young man with narrow features stated quietly, his voice cracking. “I’m sixteen. My instrument is tenor saxophone. I want to play like Lester Young.”
“He listens to Lester Young all the time,” Pancho laughed. “He spends all his money on cassettes of Lester Young. He’s always broke because of ‘The Pres’.”
Morey looked at Scat and Charley, surprised that any of the youngsters would know of Lester Young, whose musical knick-name was ‘The Pres’.
“Pancho,” Frank scolded, leaning down to face the boy who was twitching in his chair, “do you have a hearing problem?”
“Excuse me sir,” a plump, round-face, young man interrupted, from the second row of chairs, nervously adjusting his glasses, “my name is Antonio, Contu…, oh, sorry, just call me Antonio. Don’t be mad at Pancho, that’s just the way he is. He talks all the time. He can’t help it.”
“Okay Antonio,” Frank said, smiling at the boy dressed in jeans and a short-sleeve white cotton shirt. “How old are you, son, and what do you want to play?”
“He’s sixteen,” Pancho jabbered in, twirling his drum sticks, “and he was going to be a priest until I talked him into being a bass player. He can actually play the bass because he plays a bass guitar and he can be a priest when he gets older when….”
“Pancho,” Frank warned, “If you say one more word, I’ll have to ask you to leave.” “Who’s next?” Frank asked, hurrying the interviews along.
A tall, handsome young man, his black hair tied back in a pony tail, his thumbs stuck in his belt stood up to announce, “My name is Martín. I’m fifteen. Nobody knows what to do with me, so here I am. Oh yeah, I want to play the trumpet.”
“Oh great,” Morey whispered to Scat, “We have a delinquent on ours hands.”
A second young man, who looked just like Martín with his penetrating dark eyes, square chin and perfect teeth, wearing a pony tail, rose from his chair. “My name is Carlos,” he said, patting Martín on the shoulder. “Martín is my older twin brother and I go where he goes. He’s fifteen and fifteen minutes, and I’m fifteen. I like the trombone. Drrrr-rooo-ooo,” he gestured, playing his invisible trombone.
“Now we have two delinquents,” Scat grumbled, “and we’ll never be able to tell them apart.”
“My name is Pepe,” a short, stocky boy with a crew-cut announced, pulling nervously on the front of his bright blue t-shirt. “I’m sixteen and a half, and I’m here to learn to play tenor sax. If I don’t do that, I’ll be a mechanic, but I’d rather be a musician. Do, doodle-ee, ooh-da,” he sang, smiling at Frank.
“My name is Gloria,” a prematurely developed fifteen year old girl announced quietly. “I wanted to play piano, but my cousin Ana wants to play piano too, so I’ll play the trombone. It’s easier to carry anyway. “Oh,” she added, smiling, “I’m not married.”
The boys whistled and stomped, wildly thrusting their fists in the air.
Charley laughed and gently applauded their cheerfulness in spite of Frank’s warning glances.
Frank pointed to a young man sitting in the second row of chairs. His black curly hair hung down over his moist forehead. His muscled body suggested he was athletic. His voice cracked when he laughed. He wore khakis and a red cotton t-shirt on which the words, “I’m available” were printed. “I’m Raphael Gomez, Ortiz,” he announced, smiling devilishly. “I’m fifteen, and I’m a mean trumpet player. Well, not really,” he added. “But,” he bragged, “I’m going to marry Gloria someday.”
The girls screamed with delight while the boys whooped and hollered.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” Scat chuckled, watching Frank wipe the perspiration from his forehead, trying to keep the meeting in order.
Rising from her chair, a tall girl, weighing two hundred pounds made her proclamation. Clearing her voice she said, “My name is Yolanda Sanchez, Conchas, but everybody calls me “Gorda” because I’m so big and fat. I’m sixteen and I want to play baritone saxophone. I’m big enough to play one, and I’m big enough to carry it,” she bragged proudly. “Oh, Ana and Gloria are my cousins.”
Slapping his ‘Chicago Cubs’ baseball cap against his thigh, Manuel Vallejo, Gonzales, rose to the occasion announcing that he was almost seventeen, and wanted to travel and see lots of places and do it playing the trombone. Then he added, “Oh, Ana and Gloria are my cousins too. But then, almost everybody in this room is my cousin.”
The boys and girls roared.