My Dad's Guitar...

My Dad's guitar.

This is a 1939 Martin 0-18 that belonged to my Dad, Richard Phillip Vanderbosch. Let me tell you about it...

My dad played guitar all his life and was quite good at bluegrass finger picking style and folk guitar and played Bob Dylan tunes. When my Dad was about to retire I took him shopping for a new Martin guitar as a retirement present, because he said he always wanted one. In conversation, he mentioned he had this little Martin guitar, but it was broken. When my Dad first move to California, he bought this guitar in a pawn shop in L.A., he played it for a while then the bridge pulled off. So he put it in the attic for 30 years or so.

I climbed up into the attic and pulled out the guitar. I took it to the best luthier in San Francisco and got it fixed for my Dad. He was able to play it for a couple of years before he died. Last February it needed another repair so I brought it back to SF. I visited my Dad in October, and he asked me to bring the guitar so he could play it one last time. It sounded great. When I left he told me to take the guitar, it was mine now. My Dad died two weeks later.

It's a very valuable guitar and is worth a lot of money, but the guitar will never be sold. I don't play guitar, but I am sure one of my nephews or nieces will, or their kids, and the guitar will eventually belong to one of them.

I am lucky enough to know several excellent guitarists. A guitar needs to be played, among my friends there is an open invitation to play my Dad's little guitar. I will enjoy hearing the guitar played and having the sound of it bring back memories of my Dad and his music.

MARCH 31, 1947 - NOVEMBER 19, 2012


Gon Bops Historical Catalog

The venerable conga makers Gon Bops have a rich history and have made their impact on Afro-Cuban percussion both here in America and worldwide. Long before the mass produced instruments of Latin Percussion / LP, Gon Bops of California were making great quality instruments from the 1950's on to the 1980's. The sound of Gon Bops have graced many a street corner rumba and are heard on numerous recordings; Funk, R&B, Disco, Rumba, Soul, the sound of Gon Bops can be heard in many styles of music.

Today original Gon Bops are sought after worldwide for their unique sound. That so many are still available is a testament to their enduring construction and authentic sound.

I am fortunate to live in California where many vintage Gon Bops can be heard, seen and played. I've been lucky enough to have owned several Gon Bops of different sizes and styles and eras and to have played on countless other Gon Bop congas of all types. Today I own two Gon Bops congas: a vintage IQ-4125 quinto with Deluxe hardware and one of the newer DW Gon Bops "super" quintos. Both are lovely drums.

Vintage Gon Bops come in a variety of hardware models and shell construction. I have collected a few pages of an old Gon Bops catalog and I am posting them here as a resource for congueros wanting to know more about their vintage Gon Bops drums and for percussionists looking to make online purchases of vintage Gon Bops congas and bongos.


A Tale of Two Ludwigs: A Bass Drum Story.

Well it's been a busy couple of months, I guess it all starts with getting ready for Burning Man! Last year I went to Burning Man and was a part of the Ambient Drummer's Collective. The Ambient Drummer's Collective is a group of drummers and percussionists that  accompany groups of Fire Dancer's that play just before they burn The Man.
Last year I brought my La Playa conga which a friend had given me for free. It was light and already kind of a beater drum, so I would not have to worry about it getting banged up, dusty or even burned!
Well the burn was really exciting and a great event. I actually led a group of drummers, about 8 in all. I had so much fun I signed up to do it again this year. However this year I was looking for more chances to play. There are very few rumbas if any at Burning Man, and I'm not much into the drum circle thing, but I did notice that there were a couple of marching and samba bands. I had played orchestral percussion in Junior High where I learned to play timpani, snare drum and bass drum. Snare drum takes a lot of technique, but bass drum not so much, so I went and bought myself a bass drum on Ebay for $100.
The drum I got was a 24" Ludwig marching bass circa 1980's. When it arrived it was a bit more scratched and scraped than the photos showed, several of the lugs had been changed, there were brand new ones, old ones, some original ones and some vintage ones, kind of a Frankenstein of a drum. I could deal with all these things, but then I noticed the cracks in both hoops! Not cool. I emailed the seller about the damage and asked for my money back, and they offered me a partial refund, we settled on a 50% refund. Now I was feeling good as I had a functional drum to play AND a drum refurb project for $50. I always say, I love tinkering on drums almost as much as playing them!
This new project also gave me the chance to research marching bass drums, particularly those from the New Orleans Second Line tradition. Apparently in that style the bass drummer mounts a cymbal on the bass drum! Excellent! Now not only did I have a drum project I had a wonderful new esoteric and obscure drum project! And lucky for me I was able to get a glimpse of such a drum first hand as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band were in town for the inauguration of the Preservation Jazz Hall West here in San Francisco.
This was a fun little design challenge, the more I looked the more it seemed that every drummer had a different method of attaching the cymbal to the bass drum. Luckily I have the excellent Sam Adato's Drum Shop. I make sure and go to his shop every now and then. I picked up a sweet Zil-Bel bell for a fraction of what they go for a while back and he has the best sticks for playing guagua/cata/palitos. Anyways, Sam hooked me up with some nice pieces of hardware to mount the cymbal to the drum.

Well the white wrap on the Ludwig shell was a mess so I decided to replace it, but when I took it off I saw the drum was made from a nice Maple ply, so instead of a new wrap I stripped the old wrap from the shell and the black paint from the hoops and left them a natural wood color with a simple finish of clear ployurethane. Next I drilled a hole for the cymbal hardware, and the drum was ready for Burning Man, and looking pretty good too.
So I was off to Burning Man with my $50 dollar Ludwig! I had contacted a couple of the marching bands and had several gigs lined up. The best two ended up being Mardi Gras at a very large theme camp called the French Quarter and the other was a whimsical event called The Billion Bunny March, where burners dress like bunnys to protest humanity and "The Man".

At Mardi Gra at the French Quarter I went as a member of The Burning Band which is the longest running marching band on the playa and famous for their flaming tubas!
This was a great gig, with a full band and an audience of around 300, with lots of people coming and going. The New Orleans brass band style of music really added to the atmosphere of the camp and the French Quarter folks were very appreciative.

My next favorite gig was the Billion Bunny March. I went there after the meeting for the Ambiance Drummer's I mentioned previously. I was very touched at the Ambiance Drummer's meeting. I offered to lead a group again. After I introduced myself and did a little audition, I got more people asking to be in my group than last year and more than any other group leader. Not only that, but two drummer's from last year's burn joined my group again.

Anyways, after the meeting the Billion Bunny March meet up spot was right around the corner. So I took my drum, put on my bunny ears and started playing along to the music. Just as the march started the two leaders came over and said to me "You're leading the march!". I am? Well okay, let's go!
This ended up being a very popular parade, with about 2,000 participants. I was joined by a woman on snare later and some kazoo players. Really a lot of energy and a lot of fun. You can check out the video, I make my appearance at 2:42

So that was Burning Man and my Ludwig bass drum. The best $50 drum idea I've had!

So when I get back, I'm taking a day off and just browsing through the Craigslist Ads and I stumble upon this ad selling several marching bass drums from different manufacturers and of a variety of sizes, models and ages.  I looked through the pictures and saw something that caught my eye; a large vintage bass drum in good and complete condition. Anyone that is into vintage drums knows they just don't make them like they used to and that is because they can't, The types and quality of woods just aren't available like they were 50 years ago.
Seems like a very cool furniture design studio called Ohio Design right here in my neighborhood of The Mission in San Francisco had bought several drums from Dixon Elementary school, and right there in the photo above is the drum that caught my eye. Among other drums they were selling was this 40" orchestral bass drum, which I admit tempted me, but my apartment is just too small for a 40" drum! But the 28 incher, that I could handle.

I made the call and went on over to Ohio Design. As an architect I was impressed with the quality of their furniture designs and the wonderful atmosphere of their old Mission District warehouse studio.

 I looked over the drum and it was in better condition than I had hoped, no cracks and all the lugs were present and straight with very little rust. A little haggling and the deal was done; sold for $80 with no shipping or waiting, what a deal!
A little digging around on the vintage drum forums and I'm able to date this drum to the 1950's. It turns out this drum is a WFL Ludwig with a 3 ply mahogany shell with thick reinforcing maple rings at the bearing edge and with maple hoops. Even though this drum is 28", because of the wood types and construction it is lighter than my 24" maple Ludwig. The drum was in great shape but it did have one torn head and the other head was for a timpani and not a bass drum head.

Well when you get an old drum the choices are; do nothing and leave it alone, refinish it and keep the patina intact, restore it to as close as original condition, or refurbish it with some modification. I figured I already had a light colored drum with the 24" maple Ludwig, so I decided to do something different with this drum. I chose to stain this drum a darker color to contrast with my maple bass drum and also to highlight the wonderful art deco stylings of the metal lugs. I stripped the drum of it's old finish, applied several coats of Watco Danish Oil to the shell and stained the hoops darker. Finally I applied a gloss polyurethane coat to the hoops for additional protection. I rubbed the metal down a bit, but decided against polishing it too much, as I liked the grey matte color. Finally I ordered some new Remo Powermax heads.

I think the drum came out really beautiful. And it sounds phenomenal; a deep dry bass thump! The oil really brought out the color of the mahogany. The matte oil finish of the shell is a nice contrast to the glossy rims and the dark stained color of the rims really highlights the floral shape of the lug hooks.
When I ordered new drum heads for the 28" Ludwig I decided I might as well order new heads for the 24" inch Ludwig. Actually, when I was refurbishing that drum I was influenced by the appearance of Keith Frazier's drum. Keith is the bass drummer for the Rebirth Brass Band. Keith uses a beautiful wood finish bass drum with black heads for a very striking appearance. I recently saw Keith Frazier and the Rebirth Brass Band perform here in San Francisco and I was able to ask him about his drum as I didn't recognize the manufacturer or model. Keith Frazier told me that he made it. Apparently Keith Frazier put his bass drum together himself! So the maple Ludwig got some nice black REMO Powermax heads as a kind of homage to Keith Frazier and the beautiful drum he has made and the music he makes with it.
Well in the meantime I had organized a band to play at San Francisco's Dia De Los Muertos celebration, an event I had played rumba at for two years previously. We always played rumba in Garfield Park where the altars for the dead are, and I hadn't yet joined the procession, so this year I formed a marching band to play in the procession jazz funeral style.
Since I had bought new heads and would be replacing the old heads the maple drum came with I decided to decorate the old heads in the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos, but I gave it a twist....one of the songs my band was going to play was Chopin's dirge, you know, dun dun dadun dun dadun dadun dadun. Well that song reminded me of the Imperial March from Stars Wars...so we decided to play that too.

As I was studying the Star Wars song, I remembered seeing art where a Stormtrooper helmet was decorated like a sugar skull. Sugar skulls are the theme for Dia De Los Muertos, so I painted a large Stormtrooper "Sugar Skull" on one of the drum heads.
Now I was ready for the procession. I managed to get around 15 different horns and a couple of percussionists, several of whom I had met at Burning Man, with three musicians traveling up from San Diego to play. I did miss playing rumba with the rumberos this year, but being in the procession with a marching jazz funeral band was awesome! The band all came out in costume and the crowd loved us. I'm sure we played for at least 2,500 people that night with a huge crowd following the band and dancing with us for several  blocks.

This drum was also an altar, I had some mementos and belongings from two of my friends that had passed away, KC Mitchell and Lisa Forman, attached to this drum.
Well the procession ended and I had some shiny new heads to put on my drum. Did I say I liked tinkering with my drums almost as much as playing them? Well the very next day the 24" Ludwig got the shiny black heads, and it looks great! I don't care if I am copying Keith Frazier! This drum looks hot. What I really enjoy is having the 28"drum and the 24"drum looking like opposites of each other, the vintage 28" has a classic look with dark wood and traditional white heads and the newer 24" drum has modern look with a blond wood finish and black heads.

Eventually the 28" drum will get a cymbal too, but I'm saving up for one of Frank Epstein's "Cymbelts" because the 3 ply mahogany shell is not quite robust enough to mount a cymbal by drilling a hole in the shell in the same way as my 24" Ludwig's maple shell.
One thing that has struck me through playing this new instrument and learning about the musical culture and tradition of  Second Line percussion and jazz marching bands in New Orleans is how similar the tradition is in many ways to the Comparsa in Cuba and Samba in Brazil. Of course a little research begins to show how and why they are connected. I'm currently reading a few books and articles on the subject, as well as comparing the rhythms of the three styles. I hope to be writing a more scholarly post soon on The Similarities of Samba, Comparsa and the Second Line soon.


SFJAZZ-Discover Jazz Course 2 Música Cubana: Jazz in Cuba and Beyond

Looks like the indomitable folks at SFJAZZ are at it again. Let me tell you how much I love these guys. Not only do they bring excellent jazz musicians from all over the world to my little town of San Francisco, they also promote local acts, smaller venues and very importantly provide educational classes on jazz and Latin jazz. I've taken a couple of these courses including a full series on rumba taught by John Santos, which was incredible.

This latest series  Música Cubana: Jazz in Cuba and Beyond is being taught by the lovely and incredibly talented pianist Rebecca Mauleon!

The subject of the series is the underexposed topic of jazz and Cuban music, both jazz in Cuba and Cuba's influence on jazz here in America. As a Latin jazz musician and conguero this is a topic I am absolutely interested in and will be sure to attend every lecture.

Música Cubana: Jazz in Cuba and Beyond

Of all the Antilles, no island has done more to influence the outcome of American jazz than Cuba…from the infectious mambo to modern-day timba and beyond. Jazz, too, made its indelible mark on the island’s music, exploring the perfect marriage of luscious harmony and dance-churning rhythms, and finding a host of innovators along the way who would share the wealth of this “new” music, much of which would evolve far to the north in New York City. From the classic sounds of Machito and Mario Bauzá, Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente to the explosive modernists such as Chucho Valdés, Irakere and Emiliano Salvador, Jazz and Cuban music continue to walk – and dance – hand in hand. Taught by pianist, musicologist and SFJAZZ Director of Education Rebeca Mauleón, this five-week series will explore the remarkable history of jazz in and out of Cuba, and will feature live performances by Mauleón herself along with many special guest artists! This course may be enjoyed as a series or individually.

Wednesday, October 3, 7:00PM • Jewish Community Center of SF
In this class we will explore the myriad genres that stand today as some of the world’s most popular and influential styles – from the conga and the mambo to the cha-cha-chá – and discover how Cuban music has made such an indelible mark.

Wednesday, October 10, 7:00PM • Jewish Community Center of SF
The vast repertoire associated with both jazz and Cuban music often crosses the line both harmonically and
rhythmically, creating virtually unlimited interpretations. In this class we explore similarity and contrast between jazz and Cuban music.
Cubano Be, Cubano Bop

Wednesday, October 17, 7:00PM • Jewish Community Center of SF
The explosion of the big band era would firmly cement the importance of dance music in both Cuban and North American cultures, with iconic figures at the helm including Machito & Mario Bauzá, Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo, Pérez Prado, Bebo Valdés, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente.

Revolutionary Fusion
Wednesday, October 24, 7:00PM • Jewish Community Center of SF
In the Caribbean, it is said music and politics go hand in hand. What took place in the years during and after Cuba’s revolution found musicians exploring new and often forbidden territory. Bold experimental groups such as Irakere emerged with a new sense of identity and sonic possibilities.
Young Lions

Wednesday, October 31, 7:00PM • Jewish Community Center of SF
Equally versed in classical music, jazz and Cuban folk and popular idioms, younger generations have burst on the scene eager to show the world their mind-boggling chops and stellar musicianship. From Gonzalo Rubalcaba to Alfredo Rodrdríguez, Dafnis Prieto and more, we will celebrate the young lions of Cuban jazz.