This school year I am teaching part-time at Mount Allison University’s Music Dept. in Sackville, New Brunswick. Yesterday, as I was wandering around town, killing time before catching the bus back home to Charlottetown, I happened upon Dave’s Rock Emporium, a record store that opened just this summer, where I was greeted by the owner, Dave himself.
“What do you like?” Dave asks, “Classical? Jazz? Rock?”
“Well,” I say, “classical’s my main thing, but I listen to quite a bit of jazz and rock too.”
“OK, well that decides it then. I was thinking about putting on some Deep Purple, but I’ll play some classical instead.”
Thinking it’s probably going to be some lame classical pops crap, I say, “No, no, it’s OK, I’m fine with Deep Purple.”
But Dave insists, puts a record on the turntable, and from the speakers springs forth the glorious sound of some fine music for trombone and piano. I stop, and I look at Dave, and I say, “OK, either you somehow know I’m a trombone player, or this is an extraordinary coincidence.”
“Really? You’re a trombone player? This record just came in with a very mixed assortment of music, and I was just trying to figure out how to price it.”
I ask who it is, he shows me the jacket, and my jaw drops to the floor. It’s an old recording from the 1970s that I have been trying to find for a LONG time: Henry Charles Smith Plays Trombone, Volume 2, one of three solo recordings Smith made during his tenure as principal trombonist with the great Philadelphia Orchestra (not to mention some classic albums with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble). Smith was an excellent player whose beautiful, singing tone on these recordings served as an excellent model for me during my university years. In fact, these performances still compare favourably with anything else that’s been recorded since.
Many years ago I had acquired the other two LPs, but had never been able to find this one – until now! And yesterday’s experience fills me with wonder as I think about the synchronous set of coincidences that led to me finally finding this record. Being in the right place at the right time – serendipitous in Sackville.
For further interest:
Smith’s three solo recordings have been remastered and released on a 3-CD set over here at Potenza Music. These would be a great addition to any trombonist’s CD library.
Henry Charles Smith is the trombonist on the famous recording of Hindemith’s Brass Sonatas with Glenn Gould (Sony 52671). In an interview here, Smith recounts some details of his experience recording the Trombone Sonata with Gould in 1976. See the International Trombone Association Journal, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 23-27 (2009) for even more details about the recording session – an essential, insightful read if you plan to perform this Sonata.
Smith would be around 86 years old now, and I believe is still active as a conductor in Minnesota.