In March, or April of 1981 I went to hear Doc play with the Plano High school concert band, since I was not working that night. Doc had played at my high school in 1967 with the concert and stage band, but only played with the concert band every year when he would come to Plano. I was disappointed he didn’t use their stage band, but instead hired a rhythm section of Dallas professionals for his jazz part of the show. Plano either didn’t have a stage band, or wasn’t good enough for Doc.
Doc was not known as a classical musician, so whenever he played classical music it was a little bit of classical and pop together. Because of that, the classical musicians didn’t appreciate Doc, and the jazz musicians didn’t appreciate him, either. He was in a world of his own musically, and he was good enough to make it that way. Doc could have been anything musically he wanted in life, but he decided to be a showman in order to make more money. He knew what he was doing. Also, he was old school where a big trumpet sound was necessary to be heard across the ballroom floor.
This was the classical side of Doc, except that no classical trumpet player in the world plays classical music like this. Whatever this is, this is Doc at his best, as far as I’m concerned. It’s also when he was in his prime, age 53. His sound and control of the instrument in all registers is something I’ve never heard from anyone. There are a few great players who could play this piece, like Allen Vizzutti, or Wynton, but they would not have this incredible sound. The piece is Concerto Barrocco.
It was so amazing, I’ll never forget where I was sitting that night, just off to his right side. His sound was filling the large gymnasium we were in so much that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He never missed a note, either. It was one of the greatest moments in trumpet history I had ever heard. I haven’t heard anyone play like this since.
He played two nights, and I think this was from the first night. At the end of the night I did something I had never done before, or since. I asked the sound man for a tape. He agreed and sent me two reel to reel tapes a few weeks later. I’ll post the second night on another post, but the microphones aren’t as good on that performance. But the playing might be better!
I’ve heard Doc play many times, and have even played in his back-up band three times in my career. Even Doc would like this night. The piece was commissioned for Doc by an Air Force band, and Doc had performed it with them a month, or two earlier. He had been working on this piece quite a bit, and it showed. This was never put onto a cd, and even though Plano High made a record of it that year, this is an example of a night in music that could disappear forever, if not transferred and saved. Most people, even Doc fans, have never heard this concert. It was amazing, and still is to hear it.
In 1981 I was already in the musical preservation mode without knowing it. If only I had known I would be running a music museum someday, I might have tried to video tape the night. But I wouldn’t be aware of that until 2005. At least we have the music.