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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Frank Rosolino

I was out and about in the cold today, looking for Christmas presents for my two adult children. I have always given these two the gift of music on Christmas, usually CD's that I find at the Jazz Record Mart I didn't feel like driving to downtown Chicago, so I hit the local independent record store, 2nd Hand Tunes. The selection was good - not Jazz Record Mart quality, but not bad. I found a reissue of a Frank Rosolino record from the 1950's - I had to buy it.

Frank Rosolino is a name that means a lot to jazz trombonists. He had incredible skills and the poured his giant Italian soul into the sliphorn. His playing rippled and sang. He did things that I thought could not be done on the trombone. As a high school trombone player, he was one of my heroes, along with J.J. Johnson. Since I grew up out west and Frank was a west coast guy, I got to see him play a few times. These were hair-raising experiences for me.

Rosolino was also a famous cut-up. He loved to get people laughing, and he was a wicked practical joker, victimizing and delighting his bandmates with his crazed antics. He was a caricature of the hyper-cool bebopper.

Well, even top knotch jazz trombonists scuffle to make a living. It is not an easy career path. In the 1970's, Frank had crafted a livlihood as a recording session man in LA, most notably backing up the Charlie Parker tribute band, SuperSax. But some terrible things began to happen, and Frank began to blow a tube. Frank's third wife, mother of his two sons, went into the garage one day, slipped a hose into the exhaust pipe of her car, ran it into the passenger compartment, started the engine and sat there to be poisoned by carbon monoxide. Frank apparently blamed himself for her suicide. And in late November, 1978, he lost it - he killed one son, seriously injured his second son, then killed himself. The insanity - he shot his kids so they wouldn't have to live without parents.

They say that dysfunction and psychopathic behavior thrives among gifted musicans. I haven't seen statistical studies backing this up, but the list of addicts, suicides, and antisocial behavior among musicians is very long indeed.

Rosolino was about 52 when he killed himself. I am 51. I don't play the trombone anymore......

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