What’s In A Name — a short story

August 30, 2017

WHAT’S IN A NAME

a short story by

Bruce Crowther

Dennis hadn’t always hated people. For the first five years of his life he didn’t hate anyone. Five and a bit years. If he wanted, he could date it exactly. Even to the moment. A little past nine-thirty on a Monday morning in early September when the flat Kansas fields between his home and the schoolhouse were clouded with dust as tractors churned their way through the stubble left by towering combine harvesters.

And he knew precisely who it was earned that first flare of hatred. Mister Simpkins, the schoolteacher. Of course, Dennis hadn’t known that what he felt that morning was hatred. It was just an emotion he had never felt before. No, it was more than an emotion; it was physical. A snatching, tearing feeling in his stomach followed by the desire to cry, a desire that he fought off. But only just, and not for long. The other kids in his class saw to that.

Dennis had never thought much about names. Everyone called him Dennis. His Ma and Pa; the handful of neighbors on the other small farms along the creek; his aunts and uncles; the two boys his own age who lived on the farm down by a swampy patch that filled with frogs in the springtime and echoed with their mating calls in the summer, and was perfect territory for games of Cowboys and Indians; and one or two people in town, mainly at the hardware and grocery stores where his Pa and Ma called every Saturday morning.

Pa was Joe, Ma was Mary Beth but the way everyone said it was as if it was all one word – Marybeth.

Well, maybe not everyone called him Dennis. Aunt Mabel always called him Darling Boy and smeared red goo from her lips across his forehead; and Mr Buckley, the man who ran the hardware store, called him Soldier. But otherwise it was always Dennis. Just Dennis.

If he had thought about it he would have known that everyone had more than one name. He knew that there were given names and family names all right, he had just never thought about it. The boys he played with in the swamp were Roy and Billy. Their parents were Mister Wilson and Miz Wilson, so he knew that the boys were really Roy Wilson and Billy Wilson. He just never thought about things like that. There were too many other things to think about, games to play, chores to do around the house, books to read. Dennis loved books. He knew that when they played in the swamp Roy and Billy were heroes from the movies and television. But Dennis was always a hero from a book. Even if, most of the time, he didn’t let on to the others because he knew they didn’t read much. He had read since he was three, thanks to Aunt Mabel’s encouragement. She had a name for his ability, a name he couldn’t spell but eventually found in the dictionary. Precocious, she called him. Well, if that was what it was to be able to read and lose himself in books, then precocious was what he was.

And loving books meant that the prospect of starting school when he reached five was one that filled him with eager anticipation and excitement. There, they wanted you to read books. He wouldn’t need to do it secretly, hiding them from Pa and Ma.

That was why, on Monday, September 5, at nine o’clock in the morning, Dennis was almost unable to contain the thrill of entering the schoolhouse.classroom-1660223__340

For the first half hour they were talked at by the Principal about their routine for the next few months and how they were to act on the school premises and how there must be no running in the corridors and they should always be on time and clean and neatly dressed and how they should always be respectful to the teachers and call them ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. Around him, Dennis knew that some of the other children were giggling and passing notes and digging one another in the ribs and kicking ankles, but he paid attention, listening to every word, taking in everything, missing nothing. This was to be his new world for the next ten or so years and he did not intend missing out on anything.

Then they were divided into groups – classes – and Dennis went off with about twenty or thirty other five-year-olds into a classroom where a tall, thin-faced, gloomy looking man told them that he was to be their teacher and that his name was Mister Simpkins. Then, Mister Simpkins began to read from what he called The Register. The roll-call’s purpose was obvious. It was so that the teacher would know who was there and who wasn’t; Dennis could see how that would help the teacher.

The Register also served another purpose, one for which it was not designed. It taught Dennis the formality of names.

Everybody had two names, many even had three. There was the family name and in front of that came the given names, what they called Christian names. The first boy whose name was called was Ronald John Abbott. Until then he had simply been Ronnie. Then came McKinley Arnold, Mack to everyone. By the time Mister Simpkins came to Dennis he knew what he would hear but was not prepared for the way it sounded. Or the way that everyone in the class reacted. Or how Mister Simpkins reacted.

Of course, he had always known his family name. He knew that Pa was Joe Ennis and his Ma was Marybeth Ennis. But no one had ever called him by his full name and so he had never thought of himself by his full name. Which was why, when Mister Simpkins read out ‘Dennis Ennis’ from the register, his name sounded odd. Dennis Ennis. And it sounded odd to Mister Simpkins, too, because after he said it the corner of his thin mouth twitched just a little. Dennis saw it because he was watching the teacher with rapt attention.

Dennis Ennis, twitch.

And someone sniggered.

Mister Simpkins looked up and glared in the direction of the sniggerer and that might – just might – have been the end of it except that Mister Simpkins did not go straight on to read the next name, Lewis Charles Falk, or Chuck as he had been until then. Instead, Mister Simpkins went back and read Dennis’s name again. Only this time he rolled it all into one. Dennisennis. And again the corner of his mouth twitched. Dennisennis – twitch. No one sniggered this time, but neither did anyone miss the twitch. After that Dennis Ennis’s name was a joke. A joke repeated over and over again with the mindless, remorseless, relentless cruelty that is the special aptitude of five-year-olds.

Dennisennis. Dennisennis.

Dennisennissdennisennisdennissennisdennisennis.

From then on, Dennis ceased to be Dennis. He was Dennisennis.

And his life was changed.

Slowly at first but then with accelerating haste he changed from being a cheerful and friendly little boy, eager to learn and explore the world about him into being a morose and solitary individual, no longer able to immerse himself in books and day-dreams.

Dennisennis.

Dennis kept to himself. But he heard the sibilant whispers.

Dennisennis.

As the months passed by, things grew steadily worse. Even Roy and Billy started calling him Dennisennis the way everyone else did. And he hated them for it because, by now, he knew what that strange emotion was called. Hate.

Soon, he was aware of the futility of avoiding his name and how others saw and heard it. He learned how to conceal his hatred. To treat it all lightly; at least, that was the face he turned to the world. But he couldn’t fool himself. And he was always alert to the telltale twitch that followed him everywhere.

For as long as he could remember, Dennis had wanted to become a member of the public library, not the children’s section, the real one where the good books were; to have his own library card would be a dream come true. And so when he was old enough he went along there and filled in an application blank and the librarian, Miss Bennett, read his name. And there was the twitch. She didn’t even read the name aloud, just to herself, but the twitch was there.

Silencesilence-twitch.

He hoped that might be the end of it but every time he visited the library and handed her his card, there it was again. Silencesilence-twitch. Soon, he stopped going to the library. And he hated Miss Bennett for losing him all the books he might have read.books-1702790__340

Miss Bennett and Mister Simpkins and Billy and Roy were not the only ones he hated by this time. Almost daily his hate list was building.

But he didn’t hate his Pa and Ma. Not at first. Not until he had been suffering from the joke people made of his name for years did he begin to understand that it was his Pa and his Ma who were to blame. They had chosen to name him Dennis. As the painful months continued to pass he weighed all the possibilities. These ranged from, at best, that they might never have considered what would happen when he went out into the world, to, at worst, outright malevolence. As he grew older, mostly he reckoned that Joe and Marybeth Ennis had thought that Dennis Ennis sounded cute. But whatever the reason, their action was unforgivable. And so he came in time to reserve his special, blackest hatred for them, for his Pa and his Ma.choctaw-bluff-305932__340

When he was twelve Dennis began working evenings and Saturday mornings for Mister Buckley, who still called him Soldier. Actually, Mister Buckley called all the small boys and young men Soldier, simply, Dennis gathered when he went to work for him, to avoid having to remember their names. For the same reason he called all the little girls Treasure. As a result of this quirk, the old man was one of the few people in Dennis’s world who did not qualify for his hatred. A hatred that was becoming steadily more consuming, more central to his life.

Dennis wasn’t paid much by Mister Buckley, but he didn’t have much to do in the store so he never complained. The money was useful because it allowed him to buy worn paperbacks at the second-hand bookstore, where he didn’t need a library card or to fill out any forms.

Form filling was something Dennis avoided whenever he could. But as he entered his teenage years he discovered that forms snared his path like an endless tangle of barbed-wire traps. Looking ahead, he could see that the future would become very difficult indeed. If he filled out a form, there at the top would be his name and someone would sit in front of him and read it and there would be the now familiar twitch. Bank account, job application, drivers license, you name it, they had a form for it. And all of them designed especially to bring the accompanying twitch.

Some of these were things he could not avoid. Some form filling was necessary and so for a while he toyed with the idea of changing his name. Such a step might not have been necessary if he’d had a name that could be shortened or if he could have a nickname. Like Michael became Mike, or Edward became Ted, or William Wilson was Billy. And Charles was replaced with Chuck, or Bernard with Buddy. But there was nothing you could do with Dennis except, maybe, Den; and Den Ennis was no improvement. Even writing his initial didn’t work. D. Ennis was almost always misread as Dennis and he was back where he started. But he abandoned the idea of changing his name when he realized that to do so he would have to complete a form.

New name: James Ennis.

Previous name: Dennis Ennis.

Twitch.

So the day he left school and Mister Buckley fired him Dennis went looking for a job where he didn’t have to fill out any forms. The reason Mister Buckley fired him was because he could not afford to pay a proper wage and had to hire another twelve-year old who would work for four years for peanuts. Dennis tried in vain to persuade the old man to change his mind but it seems that there were laws and forms to be filled out and while Dennis didn’t care one way or the other about the laws he knew all about filling out forms and didn’t press Mister Buckley too hard. So he left the hardware store and disliked Mister Buckley for firing him. But he didn’t hate him because, after all, the old man had never called him anything but Soldier and he had spent a few idle summer evenings showing Dennis his gun collection and teaching him to strip down, clean and re-assemble just about everything from an old Frontier Colt revolver to a brand-new assault rifle.gun-306921__340

Dennis liked guns. The feel of them. Even the smell. Especially the look of them. Sleek, polished, gleaming with power and authority. And he had taken advantage of his job of storing and stacking in the back room to build up a little cache of ammunition and cleaning materials which he kept hidden in one of his old game-playing hiding places down in the swamp. The day he was fired, he left the store for the last time taking with him a ·38 Smith & Wesson Special that Mister Buckley had told him was worthless because it lacked a firing-pin and a spring from the safety-catch. The old man hadn’t looked at the gun but once in the four years Dennis worked at the store. It might be years before he looked at it again and when he did the blame could not be placed unerringly on Dennis. The thief could have been some other Soldier.

The first job Dennis took was as a driver for a pair of brothers in the next county who didn’t ask any questions of anyone just so long as no one asked questions of them. Dennis was a good driver. Filling out the application blank for a driver’s license was something he’d had to grit his teeth over because he knew that he needed the license. The twitch came; of course it did. But he did not show his feelings. He had become adept at that.

One day, but not yet awhile because he wasn’t quite old enough, he would need a gun permit. When the time came, he’d bite the bullet over that too because just as a man needed to drive a car he also needed to carry a gun. Preferably legally. Until then, he would have to take a chance with the carefully repaired Smith & Wesson he’d taken from Mister Buckley’s store.

He needed the gun because although the work he did for the Logan brothers was undemanding it was also mostly illegal. But he did it because they paid him well and because he enjoyed driving. He just needed to be careful in case someone decided to rip off the loads he carried. Of course, whether or not he would be able to fire the gun at someone was another matter.

The overnight stops before the return runs usually left Dennis with time to kill in other towns where no one knew him and where he could give a false name if he chose, or simply use his first name, safe in the knowledge that questions were never asked at the kind of place where he slept or ate or drank.whiskey-barrels-2290108__340

Some of the people he met on these overnights were girls and Dennis discovered that he had a way with them. They seemed to like the fact that he was a little shy and quiet and he learned to play on that. But when it came down to it, Dennis wasn’t much good at sex. Oh, he soon figured out the moves but he couldn’t hold on for very long before reaching a climax and he never really learned how to make the encounter pleasurable for the girl. So after a while, he stopped making himself attractive to girls of his own age he met hanging around the cafés and pool halls and dance halls and turned instead to the hookers who drifted in and out of the bars and truck stops. The physical side of things didn’t alter, he still came too quickly and the women he was with found no pleasure in what he did but at least they pretended to. And they didn’t criticize him, didn’t sulk. They just took their money and left.

Then, one night, it all changed. And it was entirely by chance. He was with a woman called Cindy, a thin, dark-haired former singer whose voice had given out through too many cigarettes. He’d picked her up a couple of times before and while the sex was no different from any other encounter, she had a bawdy sense of humor he quite liked. This night, they had finished, quickly as usual, and he was starting to clamber off the bed in the motel room when he accidentally hit her face with his elbow. He hurt her badly and she cried out in pain. Two things happened. Dennis suddenly felt himself become erect again, painfully, rigidly so. And Cindy smothered her pain with a quick grin and told him that if he wanted it that kind of sex was okay but it would cost more.

Dennis had never thought about that kind of sex. He’d read about it, of course, but he’d never thought it might be something he would want. He asked her how much more it would cost and they made a deal. Only he couldn’t make it work because he didn’t want to hurt her. Why should he? She had never done anything to make him hurt her and only hating someone was a reason for hurting them.

But Dennis knew about hatred.

For the first time since he had begun going with girls, and women, he gave his name. His real name. His full name. And Cindy repeated it. And the corner of her mouth twitched. And Dennis hated her. So he beat her. The sex, when it followed, was magnificent. Endlessly, he drove himself into her body, mindless of her cries, ignoring the blood on her face and breasts, exulting in the sense of power, the delight in making someone pay for laughing at him. This time, when he came after what seemed like, and maybe even was, an hour it was like the breaking of a dam that had stood for a hundred years. It was wonderful. Exhausting. Expensive.

Cindy made him pay dearly but Dennis didn’t care. The experience had opened up a new world.

During the next few months Dennis learned which of the hookers would accept him as this kind of client and their rates and just how far he could go. Cindy spread the word for him, at a price, but he didn’t care what it cost. The Logan brothers were expanding and Dennis was making more runs than ever before and his reliability was such that his pay kept going up and up. And all his extra money went on girls. On paid-for painful, bloody, endlessly exciting sex.

Dennis’s life, still secretive but in a different way, was better than it had been since he was five years old.

And then, one day, he met Jane Holley.

restaurant-1685876__340Jane worked at a diner in the county where most of the Logan boys’ customers lived. She was about Dennis’s age, approaching twenty, very pretty, bright, and he could tell that she was a cut or two above the joint she worked in. He liked Jane. Liked her in a way that was very different from the way he had liked some of the other girls he’d met during the past couple of years. He liked to see her, to talk to her, to smell the mingling of fresh soap and faint cooking smells, to feel the occasional touch of her fingers as he took the check or handed her a tip. Most of all he liked the flashing smile, the friendly sound of her voice as she greeted him, or sent him out into the night. After a while he found himself thinking of Jane as he drove along the night-clad roads, imagining what it would be like to go home after a long night’s work, a real home, his own home, his and Jane’s home. A porch for the summer evenings, a yard for the dog – yes, they would have a dog, maybe two – a kitchen where Jane would make food just for the two of them not the hungry, rowdy, vulgar mob who crowded into the diner where she worked. And a living room, with television and records and comfortable armchairs for burning logs. A room with books. Lots of books. And a bedroom.

A bedroom.

What would it be like to make love – because that is what it would be, not just sex – to a woman like Jane. No, not a woman like Jane because there were no other women like Jane, Dennis was sure of that. But Dennis didn’t know if he would handle that kind of relationship.

One night he asked Jane for a date and she responded with only the tiniest hesitation followed by a quick grin. They dated a few times and he learned that she was filling in time before going east to college where she planned to major in English. This was almost too perfect. They both loved books.

Their dates became ever more friendly, ever more affectionate, ever more loving. And Dennis enjoyed it, he didn’t feel the kind of needs that he had fulfilled with the hookers. Which was something for which he was desperately thankful. Because there was no way that he could ever raise a finger to harm Jane. He was sure that when the time came, he wouldn’t need that kind of artificial stimulation with her.

Life for Dennis was better than he ever dreamed it could be. But one night, something that he had been dreading came up. Jane asked him his name. His full name.

Until then he had just been Dennis. Now he had to tell her his second name. He could lie, of course, like he had done so often in the past. But he knew that what he and Jane had, whatever it was, was something special. The road they were starting out on was by far the most exciting and important of any road he had so far traveled. And starting out on a lie was no way for a relationship to have a chance.

But what would happen when he told her his name was Dennis Ennis? Would there be that tell-tale twitch at the corner of her sweet mouth? He would never know, until and unless he told her. So why take the chance? Why risk everything? But the lie would be worse. Especially if he wanted their relationship to continue and to grow. Dennis thought about that. There was no doubt in his mind that he wanted them to remain at least good friends. No, that wasn’t it. He liked her a lot more than that. Maybe what he felt for her was . . . well, love.

They had so many things in common. They read the same books, enjoyed the same movies, laughed at the same jokes. Both of them were quiet, self-contained, comfortable in silence and thought. Dennis knew that when Jane went east to college he would happily follow her, dropping his job with the Logan boys without a second’s thought, leaving behind his Pa and his Ma and the town he had grown up in and where he hated almost everybody.

He knew he was risking a lot, telling her his name. Maybe he was risking everything. But, somehow, he didn’t seem to have any choice.

So he told her his name and waited.

For a moment there was a flat silence. Then something gleamed in her eye and she repeated his name. Dennis Ennis. He waited, barely breathing. And then the corner of her mouth moved. Not a twitch exactly; but close enough. And then her face blurred as tears came to his eyes.

And then he left, telling her he’d forgotten something important he had to do, mumbling something about not being long, that he’d be back soon. Then he was gone, forcing the truck along the back roads the Logan boys always insisted he take, trailing dust. Forcing himself not to think. Not thinking about the – whatever it was that had touched Jane’s lips. No, he would not think about that. Not ever.

Dennis still lived with his Pa and Ma and he left the truck outside the house when he went inside. He had no plan. No thoughts of what he might do. Just the blank, anger-tainted feeling that occupied most of his brain. And his gun was in his hand. His mother came down the stairs and from somewhere a long way off he heard himself ask why they’d named him Dennis Ennis. Marybeth looked surprised, then smiled uneasily, looking at the gun and told him that they – herself and his Pa – had figured it was, well, kinda cute.

Cute, he repeated.

Then he shot her.

His Pa came out of the kitchen, a bottle of Coors in his hand, staring at his son and at his wife lying there, her head trailing over the bottom step, blood staining her lemon-yellow and white house dress. Joe Ennis opened his mouth to speak, then turned to run but Dennis shot him in the back of the head.

Outside, Dennis sat in the truck for a few minutes, thinking. Really thinking, for the first time since he had left Jane. The Wilson house was closest, then he would have to drive through town to reach the others he hated. But there wouldn’t be time for them all. Nor bullets. So he went first to the Wilsons’ place. The old man had died a few years back but Miz Wilson was there with his one-time friends Roy and Billy.

Afterward, Dennis reloaded his gun and drove away without looking back. He didn’t want any memories of the Wilson house or any other house or building or man or woman that were a part of his life before now.

On his way through town to the house where Mister Simpkins boarded he had to pass the library so he went in and shot the librarian. There were two other women in the library but Dennis didn’t know either of them so he ignored them, leaving one woman in a faint, the other screaming in a low-pitched monotone.book-933280__340

Mister Buckley was standing in the doorway of his store, idly watching the few people and cars passing by. He saw Dennis and nodded his head. Maybe he knew it was Dennis, maybe he just knew it was someone he knew: one of his Soldiers. Dennis lifted his hand in what was almost a wave. Then realized it was the hand that held the gun and saw the old man’s eyes widen before he straightened up to stare more intently as Dennis drove on.

The schoolteacher had retired and spent his days sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the boarding house where he lived. Dennis didn’t even bother to climb out of the truck or switch off the engine.

The force of the bullet hitting his chest pitched Mister Simpkins backwards, chair and all, but Dennis didn’t wait to see if he was dead. He could already hear police sirens.

Knowing that time was running out, he did not take the back roads but drove the highway fast and hard, back to the diner where Jane Holley worked, parked the truck out front and went inside.

Her smile looked almost like one of relief when she saw him coming in through the door. But the smile faded at his expression and at the sight of the gun which he pointed right at her.

He watched her face, saw a strange catalog of expressions run across it. But not fear. For some reason she wasn’t afraid of him. And in a sudden clear moment he knew why. He couldn’t kill her. He loved her. And she knew that he did.

They could go away together, drive together, see the country together, be together, live together, sleep together, make love together. Die together. But there was no reason for Jane to die. No reason at all. She had no hate in her; she had nothing to do with what he had done. But never, ever – however far they traveled together, however much they talked, however hard he tried to explain – would she understand.firearm-409000__340

So Dennis smiled at her. Then put the muzzle of the revolver into his mouth, bit hard onto the barrel. And squeezed the trigger.

 

Jane didn’t know how many hours she had to sit in the County Sheriff’s office waiting for him to finish all his telephone calls. She knew it was a long time from the number of pieces of wadded tissue in the wastebasket beside her. She felt limp, washed out. Totally drained of tears of emotion, of hope, of love.

From the one-sided telephone calls she heard she had gathered that over in Dennis’s town things were pretty bad. Dennis hadn’t had any choice in doing what he had finally done in front of her. But how she wished he had taken her with him.

Eventually, the sheriff ended his last call and prepared to take down her statement but first he began to write her name across the top of the page. Jane took a deep breath and stopped him. As this was official, she knew that she would have to use her real name.

Not Jane, she told him. That’s just what I call myself. My parents, they gave me one of those – cutesy names. The sheriff carefully wiped out her name with liquid corrector then blew on it until it dried. Then he looked at her. Waiting.

Molly, she told him, after a while.

She waited, knowing what came next after he finished typing.

Molly Holley, he read, silently.

And then the corner of his mouth moved and she knew that he was repeating her name to himself, the way everyone had done as she grew up and made her life miserable in a way that no one – no one, except perhaps Dennis – could ever understand.

Molly Holley.

Mollyholley.

Twitch.

 

 

 

Copyright © 1998 & 2017 Bruce Crowther

Bruce Crowther has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of the work

Illustrations courtesy of Pixabay

Jazz CD Reviews – early August 2017

August 5, 2017

The Mica Bethea Big Band Stage ’n Studio (indie release)

The origins of big band jazz can be traced back to the 1920s, through the 1930s and early 40s, when it was the pop music of the day (complete with superstars), into the much lower profile experimentation of the 1960s and 70s, and on to the present day where avant-garde improvised music rubs shoulders (usually if not always) congenially with elements that would be instantly recognized by past masters of big band jazz. Wholly compatible is the writing of Mica Bethea, an exceptionally gifted arranger who presents big band music that is very much of today, yet is filled with echoes of the best of the past. Mica’s second album, Stage ’n Studio, is a double showcase for his arranging skills, and four of the works heard here are his own compositions. The two discs each contain eight tracks and as the album title indicates, the music is performed in two settings, one in the studio, the other a live date, both at the University of North Florida. The musicians gathered for these sessions vary only slightly and among the soloists heard are trumpeters Dave Champagne, Ray Callender, Scott Dickinson, trombonists Lance Reed, Corey Wilcox, bass trombonist Gina Benalcazar, alto saxophonists Todd DelGiudice, Daniel Dickinson, tenor saxophonists Juan Carlos Rollan, Eric Riehm, Jose Fabio Rojas, baritone saxophonist Mike Emmert, pianist Joshua Bowlus, guitarists James Hogan (studio), Steve Gallatin (stage). In addition to piano and guitar, other rhythm section players heard on most tracks are bassist Dennis Marks (Stan Piper on some), and throughout by drummer John Lumpkin Jr, and percussionist Terry ‘Doc’ Handy. Other instrumentalists rounding out this exceptional big band are trumpeters Greg Baluts, Jay Forman, Jonathan Ward, Robert Vandivier; trombonists Ryan Bricknell, Michael Nunez, Wyatt Thomas; keyboardist Aaron Lehrian; vibraphonists Jonah Pierre, Ryan Slatko.mica

Mica’s original compositions are Jonesin’ For Thad, a tribute to Thad Jones, with a fluid solo by Todd; Frahm Out Of Nowhere, built on a musical quote by Joel Frahm, with inventive guitar and bass lines by James and Dennis, and scorching tenor saxophone from Juan Carlos; Coal, with more imaginative tenor saxophone, this time from Eric and Juan Carlos; and Birth Rite, with reflective piano from Joshua. These four titles appear on both CDs and also given two airings are Herbie Hancock’s Hang Up Your Hang Ups, with a fiery solo from Dave, and George and Ira Gershwin’s Our Love Is Here To Stay, on which the vocalist is Linda Cole. Also heard are Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s Stormy Weather, which also features Linda with an appropriately dramatic interpretation; John Klenner and Sam Lewis’s Just Friends, with solos by brothers Scott and Daniel; Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence’s Tenderly, which spotlights the trombones, notably in solos from Lance, Corey and Gina; Gary Willis’s Self Defense featuring Todd and a punchy solo from John; and Tom Schuman’s Wind Warriors, replete with solos by Todd, Ray, Joshua, and also by Doc and John, both of whom are powerfully supportive throughout. The duplicated titles provide an opportunity to hear differences in interpretation that are prompted in part by the setting. As Mica states: “This was a very interesting experiment. On the studio CD, I could control the environment and get exactly the sounds I wanted. There’s a very pleasing almost pristine quality to it. But on the live performance, you can hear that the musicians are more relaxed and stretch out more. The sound isn’t as clean, but that’s more than made up for by the vitality of the performance.” Mica’s thoughts on how a studio setting and a live performances affect the musicians and hence the music also echo the past, something we know from hearing in both settings many bands, such as those led by Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Don Ellis, and Thad Jones-Mel Lewis.mica old

Although not directly relevant to the music heard on this and Mica’s first release, yet of immeasurable significance, are some personal facts about Mica. In 2005, when he was still a music student, he was involved in a major road traffic incident that left him a quadriplegic. No longer able to play any instrument he resumed his studies, now concentrating on arranging and composing. Even this is fraught with difficulties – because he cannot write by hand, he has to use a computer. That Mica Bethea has faced up to these challenges and overcome them is for very nearly all of us an unimaginable achievement; that the music he generates is so breathtaking, profound and joyous is an inspiration.

For more on Mica Bethea including booking contact Mouthpiece Music.

All albums are at Amazon.

Mica Bethea: “I use Finale, the music notation software, for my compositions and arrangements.”

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