Reader Correspondence May 2022

Remembering Tom Shea 

To the Editor:

What a pleasure to read the article by Brandon Byrne about Tom Shea.

Tom was an integral part of my career and that of the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band. I used to get together with Tom and Dick Saunders (sousaphone) to jam. I so enjoyed the sound of the sousaphone, piano, and clarinet trio that I decided to record an LP. Unfortunately, by the time I did it, both Tom and Dick had passed. Thus, I used the CJB’s tubaist Jamie Wight and the great piano player Mike Montgomery.

At Tony Packo’s Café, we would march around the place at some time in the evening. Some probably don’t know that Tom was also a banjoist. In fact, he was a sub on banjo with the CJB. One night we were marching around and Tom asked if I wanted to do something interesting. I agreed and he said to march into the women’s john. So we did. It became a tradition that has gone on since. Just so no-one gets to upset with such a tradition, in all the decades we have been doing it, only two women got upset. One lead to one of the greatest stories about the band!

Tom was a fantastic piano player and a really great person. He died way too young.

Ray Heitger
Toledo, OH

Has this Boat Sailed? 

To the Editor:

A great opportunity has been missed over the last 50 years of Trad Jazz festivals. It has been the opportunity to build the next generation of Trad fans. Our little boy attended his first festival in utero and until he left home at 19 he attended every event we did. But there was no childcare, at least none that I remember. What would the benefits of childcare have been? What can they be?

Parents of young children are so pitifully grateful for childcare that they will attend events in which they have no interest, yet.

Children might have grown up listening to our music. It would have become the soundtrack of their childhood.

As adults Trad would have been as familiar as it was to their grandparents. Our son is much better versed than his grandparents in this music.

It seems that youth jazz camps have borne some of the hoped for fruit. We listen to jazz camp graduates in current bands.

Is it too late? Is it too costly? We can’t know until we try. It doesn’t have to be free; parents will pay. Where else can they get away for a long weekend with childcare? Only a few places and I can’t name them.

Why not proselytize? Next week 150,000 people will pay $300 to $17,000 to swelter in the desert in Indio, California, at Coachella. This last weekend I sat outdoors in shade in a breeze in the Sierra Nevada foothills watching the mountains and cattle and the Kaweah river in Three Rivers California listening to brilliant musicians. And you get to talk to them, the stars.

Let’s face it, Traditional Jazz is a sensational product. I sit and listen to my favorite bands and think, “the only reason this concert isn’t mobbed is because people don’t know about it.” We can keep this secret too well and too long and then it will disappear for sure.

Matthew Ehrenberg
West Hills, CA


The Truth Hurts

To the Editor:

In Hebrew there is an expression “Kol Ha Kevod.” Loosely translated it means “All Honor” and is usually used in Israel to congratulate someone for an especially fine act or achievement. Reading April’s “Static” it was my first thought.

All I can say is “more power to you.” It takes real courage to speak your feelings. The truth hurts. There is little doubt that many of your readers will be upset by the comparison to our actions in Iraq. Obviously Bush was not Putin. This time there is little doubt about the evil that is playing out in Ukraine. Yet the scenarios are eerily similar.


We can only pray that the fall-out from this latest madness will not spread.

Frank Farbenbloom
Raanana, Israel

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