The War of Filhe's ear?
- I've been having great fun reading the Filhe correspondence.
All I can make out on the basis of my professional experience as editor and translator is that Filhe was for hitting the road when his ear ceased to function.
This indeed means that he had an ear, of a kind not to be confused with the protrusions each side of the head and handy in some cases for supporting spectacles, or even a hat.
It is possible to have two physical ears but no ear of the sort I mean.
That's to say an decent awareness of details and characteristics of music.
The ear some people have been said to play the piano with...
Jay McShann obviously had this, but there was a time when he was caught out, when despite his exceptional abilities he was unable to disguise from his employer the fact that he'd never yet learned to read music.
Filhe, to take several things into account, may have needed to rely on his ear-for-music in order to function within the Oliver band of which he was a member. He might well have got by so far by what's been called Faking, like the young McShann.
Now since Oliver's music was changing, and the current approach becoming more and more different from what the already veteran Filhe had been used to playing, it doesn't seem a remote possibility that his limitations were about to stop him going any further with(in) the band. Presumably he was becoming uncomfortable, and had no real means of adapting.
It is interesting that when Bunk formed his little band of professionals he used East Coast veterans with strong legit foundations such as he himself had earlier in Louisiana. And one can raise all manner of interesting cases where for an instrumentalist a change to a newer development was like a leap of idiom. Bennie Moten for instance, even Alex Hill on recordings modern for the time, or indeed Rudy Williams.
There was also the occasion when Red Nichols was engaged as an emergency studio replacement with Coleman Hawkins and Vic Dickenson. The recordings did without him.
I would also have supposed that being idiomatic rather than (at the opposite extreme) virtuoso was the main issue for a trombonist liable to be compared with Jim Robinson.
Robert R. Calder.
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