Todd Hildreth.

By Todd Hildreth

(This month features a guest writer, Michael Ferraraccio, who is a local drummer and drum teacher at U of L. He's very funny. I hope you enjoy it. -- Todd Hildreth.)

By Michael Ferraraccio

Hello! First of all, I am NOT (as the photo will attest) Todd Hildreth (thank God). Todd is out of the country on a State Dept.-sponsored tour of the Middle East, as part of a new government program called "Accordion Diplomacy." This involves placing the opposing sides of any dispute in a room with Todd and his accordion. He then plays for them until either one side eventually snaps and makes acceptable concessions, or Todd is taken hostage (whichever comes first). One week into his tour, he has negotiated three treaties and been taken hostage 56 times.

Todd's absence has several implications:

Mike Ferraraccio

a. It means that perhaps for the first time since the column's inception, it will be written by someone who knows at least a LITTLE something about music.

b. The Louisville jazz scene will be spared its usual monthly diatribe.

c. There will be an entire column without a single mention of the Java M... oops. I almost did it.

Don't get me wrong. I like Todd. I think he is one of the finest, most brilliant, and creative musicians in the country. (In the city it's a different story.) Ha!

Few people realize the true extent and breadth of Todd's genius. His genius would be more widely known save for a few minor snafus which have plagued his most ambitious and deepest works. For example, there is Todd's masterwork "Canus Profundus," a piece written entirely for dogs, which I'm told (by Todd) is one of the greatest pieces ever written, save for the slight possible drawback that it is entirely inaudible to the human ear. (Other minor problems associated with some of Todd's compositions include a piece which could only be performed in zero gravity, one which requires the complete evacuation of New York City, and his "Christo-like" idea of having 3,000 English horn players simultaneously play "Wir bauen eine Stadt" in a human chain which would stretch from Maine to California. This had to be scrapped when not a single English horn player could be found between Missouri and Nevada.)

Did you also know that Todd has recorded over 40 albums in his name? Unfortunately, they all went out of print before they were ever issued.

Interesting Items From the Book Store

On a recent excursion to a local book store I was thumbing through the latest edition of "The Guinness Book of Jazz World Records" (McGraw Hill, $18.95) and was surprised to find that a couple of records were actually set here in Louisville. Interestingly enough, these too involve our hero:

Sonny Stephens performed at the Galleria during the intrduction of the Postal Service's series of stamps honoring jazz musicians. Photo by Jean Metcalfe

Longest Jazz Solo Ever -- Todd Hildreth, Twice Told Coffee House, June 3-13, 1992.

This record was later retracted when the Guinness people decided that one idea repeated endlessly does not constitute a solo. A solo, they decided, should progress musically, and contain new ideas, variations, and developments. (This new interpretation allowed Todd to then go on and set a different record: Shortest Jazz Solo Ever.) Also of note was the record for Most Gigs Played in a Single Day: Sonny Stephens: 2,126.

Speaking of books, be sure and look for my new series of children's books due to be released next month (Piaggi Press, $14.95). The stories revolve around a character named Tommy No-Gigs and, through Tommy's adventures, children will be taught valuable lessons concerning both life and jazz. Tommy is a character that children will immediately identify with. He is an unemployed alto saxophonist who has not been called for a gig in over seventeen years. To psychologically compensate for his rejection, Tommy creates his own imaginary gigs in his mind.

For example, an early volume in the series has Tommy getting accidentally whacked in the head by an imaginary trombone slide. Undaunted, and though bleeding from the head, Tommy finishes the gig before being brought to an imaginary hospital. (Strangely enough, Tommy received an actual bill from the hospital for $24,000.) Through this fantasy, children are taught the importance of standing behind the trombone player, as well as the importance of having a good attorney.

Another volume has Tommy on his way to a gig when his imaginary car breaks down on the interstate. Tommy spends three days on the side of the road wondering why no one will stop for him, before he decides to call a cab and go back home. Through this story children are taught that though an imaginary car may be more fuel efficient, real cars are generally more practical. (Strangely enough, Tommy later received an actual bill from the city for towing charges.)

The last volume has Tommy being fired from his imaginary steady gig when the club owner decides that he can no longer afford to pay for an imaginary drummer, especially one that didn't even keep good time. Rather than scale down the group, Tommy insists that he will only play if he can have a drummer on the gig. The club owner says "See ya," and Tommy is sent packing. The club owner then decides to hire a real band, only to fire them as well after seeing that the real band ate far more than Tommy's group. The message of this volume is unclear, and is meant to confuse the children, hopefully for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, with Todd out of town this month, there should be plenty of good music happening locally. Please go out and support it!