The Frowning Festival

The Frowning Festival

Einsiedeln, Switzerland is a charming, alpine village near Zurich and is the oldest and most important place of pilgrimage in Switzerland. NGJB performed there in 2004 as part of a Jazz-Blues-Rock Festival. We were accompanied by about two dozen fans from the US as part of a two week jazz tour of Europe.

Upon arrival, I was told about the performance times and our outside venue location. I was also informed that the band which would be playing adjacent to our venue just happened to be known as the loudest rock band in Europe and they certainly lived up to their reputation. The decibel output of that band overwhelmed the output of the Gasser’s to the point that our fans and others in the audience could barely hear what we were playing. It was only when the rock band was silent between their numbers that Natural Gas JB could be heard and appreciated. As a consequence this turned out to be the only festival during the band’s 50+ years of performing that the audience showed more frowns than smiles. The Einsiedeln Festival has been known ever since as the Frowning Festival.

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Quiet, Please

I once had the pleasure of having as my patient Zamir Menuhin, daughter of the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. She also is a gifted musician. When I first met her, she was seated in my dental chair waiting for our consultation. Her first words were, “You will have to turn off your office background music because I can’t concentrate on conversation when music is playing.” So I turned off the music and we continued the consultation.

I wonder if she had problems while shopping in stores that have background music playing.

I Got His Camera

The Kobe Harborland Jazz Convention 1992 in Kobe, Japan, featured numerous international traditional jazz bands including the Aussies of Bob Barnard’s All Stars. They were quartered in the same hotel as the Gassers and members of both bands would frequently get together at the end of the music day to have a few drinks and talk music. On one such occasion a member of the Aussie band burst into the room excitedly exclaiming, “I got his camera, I got his camera.”

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As was explained to me, one member of the Aussie group had planned this caper for some time and had finally accomplished it. He had managed to get the camera belonging to fellow band member, isolate himself, pull down his pants to take a photo or two of his “fun zone”, and replace the camera—all of this unbeknownst to the camera’s owner. Now you must remember this was before digital photography and therefore the pictures required processing before you could see them. Therefore, it must have been quite a surprise when he returned home, had the film developed, and then had his first look at his photos. I wonder what the guy’s wife thought if she saw them.


It was at the Ascona, Switzerland, Jazz Festival, 2004, that I heard the talented guitarist, violinist, and vocalist named George Washingmachine playing with a group of all-stars including Bob Barnard. Later, I asked Bob if this guy had changed his name or not. Bob replied slyly, “Yeah, it used to be Eric.”

A Historic Night in Japan

The following occurred on Aug 6, 1985, exactly 40 years after Hiroshima was demolished by the planet’s first atomic bombing of a city. The Natural Gas Jazz Band was being featured at the Evergreen Jazz Festival in Kobe, Japan and a small group of musician’s wives and fans traveled to Hiroshima to observe the 40th anniversary activity of this historic event and spend the night there. Meanwhile, the band members performed at the festival in Kobe and, in the evening, returned to their hotel for the usual “wind down,” which is a review of the day’s performances, libations, and general relaxation period.

It just so happened that on this particular night Junichi Kawai, who was the banjoist of the well known New Orleans Rascals from Osaka, was in town and joined the NGJB “wind down” at the hotel for a lively discussion of jazz and enjoyment of that good Japanese beer (which Junichi lovingly called “yellow milk”). Apparently, no one was paying any attention to the time because suddenly Junichi announced, “It is past 11 o’clock and I just missed the last train home to Osaka!”

None of the musicians wanted Junichi to shoulder the expense of an overnight hotel room so a late night discussion took place. It was quickly decided that since my wife was in Hiroshima attending the atomic bomb memorial, Junichi would simply stay in my room and the problem was solved. And that is exactly what happened. It wasn’t until the next morning that the realization hit me—40 years ago we were at war with the Japanese, were their enemies, bombing their cities, and last night I shared the same room with one. It occurred to me that we had come full circle. As the saying goes, “make jazz, not war.”


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