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... the cardinal rule about the mellophonium-- IT'S ALWAYS OUT OF TUNE!!
Ron Lutterbie
perfect pitch: the ability to toss a mellophonium into a toilet from 40 yards without hitting the lid. Bob Hyde

Jazz 52nd ST.

Photo by Conn

Remember the mellophoniums—the glorious sounds produced by that sensational team of four in the Stan Kenton Orchestra? Now read on...Stan Kenton and his mellophoniums

Jiggs Whigham: I was in the '63 band, the mellophone band, and the most difficult thing I had to do playing first trombone in that band was to try to estimate where the pitch was going to be with the mellophones. It varied within roughly an octave on any given day!

The mellophones were not loved at all, and we used to call them elephant horns. We used to use the mellophone cases to play cards. That was, we thought, probably the best thing to do with them.

...we went to the band bus and got the mellophones out of their cases and threw all four of them in the swimming pool. It was great to see these things burble down to the bottom.
(Quotes from Artistry with everything: Stan Kenton with Steve Voce. Photo by Chris Ridley)

You can read all about that at Jazz 52nd St. but please come back here afterwards.
Bookmark and visit the great Kenton site at your leisure later on at http://www.52ndstreet.com/kenton


Now for the Good News

Whatever the mellophoniums sounded like in their teething stages, the end results, on all of the recordings I have heard, were sensational. If they had sounded as bad as is described above obviously Stan would never have used them.

Bob Curnow had this to say:

I played on the last mellophonium band for a year, sitting between Jiggs and Jim Amlotte in a wonderful trombone section. I must say that the folk tales and severe criticisms of the mello and the players, in my opinion, are nonsense.

Sure there were pitch problems, but that was true of every section to some extent. And those guys really worked HARD at playing in tune.

Check out Ray Starling's solo on Artemis & Apollo, and you'll never doubt the value and beauty of that instrument. In fact, the entire recording of Adventures in Time demonstrates that better than my words can.

I loved playing with them when things were right. And that happened much more often than we are led to believe.

The band was hot! And the mellophonium section played a BIG part in that.

Bob Curnow at sierramusic.com