I was trudging up the hill from the country club, past million-dollar mansions, to the green where I was performing my second show with the Reno Jazz Orchestra, led by the affable Chuck Reider. Typically, the guys had left me behind and ridden golf carts back to the stage (because typically, I had disappeared for too long in the bathroom doing makeup/wardrobe). As I approached the stage from a dirt road, I came to two trumpeters lounging in a golf cart. One was warming up, the other having a smoke with his wife.

We started talking and it turned out that Mark Curry, the other trumpet player, had been in Ray Charles’s band for half a decade in the 80s. He told me Ray’s band had been based out of Los Angeles, and that in fact the recording studio he built there in 1964 was now a museum. I said that one thing I loved about big bands was how all the players had such interesting backgrounds, and how all the horn players knew each other.

The Ray Charles Museum in Los Angeles opened in 2011.

“Yeah, it’s a network,” his wife chimed in. “I was on the street in New Orleans and I saw a guy going to a gig with a trumpet case. I asked him where he was going, and he told me, and I said my husband plays trumpet too.” The musician asked her who he was, and when she said his name, he said, “Oh, you mean Mark Curry out of Reno, Nevada who played lead with Ray Charles and Woody Herman and makes mouthpieces? I know him. In fact, I need to call him for a new mouthpiece.”

I looked him up. Here’s a testimonial about Curry from trumpeter ‘Pops’ (Clint McLaughlin): “He has a line of mouthpieces based on Bach rims and diameters. These are very accurate and every diameter is available in several depths. All of the different depths have the same rim. (What a concept.) So you can have your Bach 1, 3 whatever with the very deep cup, deep cup, medium cup, medium shallow cup and shallow cup.

Mark also has a line of commercial mouthpieces with a softer bite on the rim in shallow and medium cups. These are in all sizes from .600 – .690

Mark also duplicates old mouthpieces… You have not lived until you play one of his flugel mouthpieces. The sound is like butter. He has REAL cornet pieces too.”

I love little stories like that, all the connections in the music world, and the details around how instruments are made and improved.

I also love musician humor. Couple of gems from the brass section at the sound check:

Trombonist: “If the audience here seems disinterested, it’s because they’re disinterested.”

Sax player, sitting down with the section: “So how the hell is everyone doing?” Another sax player: “Oh, you know, just living the dream.”

Tenor sax: “The bass low-end is overwhelmingly loud.” Sound man: “Oh, that’s just coming from the back of the sub over there near you. We can’t turn it down. Can you deal with it?” Sax: “Sure, but it’s making me extremely nauseated.”