Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What's In A Name?

This is about--well, me. Les Benedict. My name has inspired numerous nicknames over the years, like Eggs Benedict, Les Benedict XVI (illegitimate brother of the Pope), Les Is More (sometimes abbreviated as Izmore), and others. Guitarist Doug MacDonald even composed an original song for his band, in which I play, that he titled "Leggs Benedict."

One of the most inspiring takes on my name, to me, anyway, stems from a student I had briefly about ten years ago. He quit playing trombone after high school (sound familiar?), but remained a huge fan of the instrument and its players. Barry has an old juke box which plays 45 RPM records (remember those? Man, you're OLD!) filled entirely with trombone recordings. I was amazed when I saw it, since I had no idea that there were that many trombone singles in existence. He decided to take up trombone again at about age 40, much to his wife's chagrin. He asked a friend in Texas whom he should study with in Los Angeles, and my name came up. Barry was serious about getting good on the instrument, and I became his "Teach." (His wife did eventually come around about his blowing 'bone again, but I don't think she has ever come to grips with his collection of vintage instruments and mouthpieces.)

I had talked to Barry about wanting to record a solo CD, so he decided I needed appropriate art work. He and his wife, Tracy, commissioned a CD cover from one of my favorite cartoonists, Dan Piraro, who draws the Bizarro comic strip, syndicated in many newspapers and published in books. Dan is a master of the bizarre, but very astute at coming up with a strange twist on an otherwise normal daily occurrence or situation. Barry asked me for a photo, and I gave him one of me playing which was shot by the great lead trumpeter, Buddy Childers, on a gig we were on together. Barry emailed the shot to Dan, who turned it into something I'm very proud of, on a number of levels.

Dan said the first thing that popped into his mind when he saw the photo and my name was something along the line of "Les is More," so his fertile imagination saw "Les Benedict, More Music" in an Eastern philosophical setting. He turned the photo of me into me personifying an infinity symbol, having no idea that I have studied Eastern arts, both martial and philosophical, and have utilized breathing techniques in my playing and teaching for many years, adapted from Qj Gong, Aikido, Gung Fu, Yoga, etc. The result of Dan's intuition represents to a great degree how I think of myself performing, and how I approach my practice sessions.

I recently contacted Dan with an update of my email address, even though I had had no contact with him for years, and he wrote back asking if I was the guy he did the CD art for. He told me he liked that one so much that he included it in his book, Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro, and he even told me the page number it appears on (22).

I'm honored to have been included in such a work by one of my favorite "artists," even though he is not known as well for that type of work. And someday soon I'll actually finally record that CD and utilize his wonderful art the way it was intended. Thanks, Dan, and thank you, Barry and Tracy.

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