by John Jordan
In 1992, Me Mom & Morgentaler had embarked on their second tour of western Canada. The controversy surrounding our name made touring the Maritime provinces tricky (Henry Morgentaler had made his stand and gone to prison in Nova Scotia), with many venues refusing to advertise our name. In hindsight, we should have had an “eastern Canada name” to operate under, but that is another story entirely.
We were booked to play Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina, Calgary and Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria, and I think we had a jaunt down the West Coast of the USA as well, trying to capitalize on our 1990 appearance at the Berkeley Earth Day Ska Festival with the Beat and Bad Manners (and a very young No Doubt).
As it was our second tour, our name had gotten out and the crowds were getting bigger. In the band at the time were me, Gus, Kim, Bix, JB, Sid, Matt, and Kasia, and traveling with us were sound man Pete, and roadies Jimmy and Claus. Eleven of us with all our gear were crammed into a fifteen-seat van with two roof racks.
In our second or third week we arrived in Calgary to headline at the Republik. We had played there the year before with a local band called the High Rollers to a decent crowd. The High Rollers had also followed us to Edmonton to open the show there. They were a groovy, funk-rock group, and they also had a saxophone player.
A saxophone player named Issa who, on that fateful second tour, I found standing before me during the soundcheck. I was happy to see him and could not remember his name to save my life. He had with him his baritone sax. We reintroduced ourselves.
I asked him if he would be coming up on stage with us on the bari, as he had the year before. “No,” he replied, “I brought this for you.”
I thought he meant “for you to play tonight.” I hadn’t played bari in a long time, and told him I wouldn’t be in great shape to play.
“No, this is for you to keep,” he said.
Flabbergasted, I thanked him profusely but was bewildered. “Why are you giving me your bari?” I asked.
Issa explained to me that he had been doing construction and renovation work. He got a contract to build a deck for a man who, upon discovering Issa’s musical background told a wild tale. “I love the saxophone and jazz. I have three daughters – triplets. When they were born I had a vision of them growing up to be a jazz sax trio, so I bought them Yamaha alto, tenor, and baritone saxes. They never showed any interest and the horns have never been played.” They struck a deal and Issa provided the labour on the deck in exchange for the three saxes.
I was still perplexed. “That’s a great story – congrats. Why give your old horn to me, though?”
“Because,” Issa answered, “of all the bands we have ever opened up for, you were the only person to ever invite me onstage to play with you.”
And that bit of generosity was the most surprising random act of kindness anyone has shown me.
The Buescher 400 baritone sax has had quite a life. It is a 1950s era horn that went through who knows what before winding up in a Calgary high school and with Issa. It has a massive bell and dark tone. When I got home Charles Papasoff gave me a bright metal Dukoff mouthpiece to use with it and the two went together great.
About three months after receiving it from Issa, Me Mom & Morgentaler were in Silent Sound Studios doing some recording. One night, very late, with only two band members present, the studio owner asked us to clear out our gear before his son’s visit in the morning. They loaded the gear into the van but decided to leave it in there until more members were available to lift the gear up the four flights of stairs to our loft.
The van was robbed overnight. Taken were two guitars and two saxophones. The bari had not been added to our coverage, but even if it had been it would not have made up for the devastation of losing Issa’s gift.
I searched pawn shops and music stores for months, but nothing turned up. Eventually I gave up on finding it and moved on.
Read the conclusion here
ABOUT = JOHN JORDAN played sax in Montreal ska band Me, Mom & Morgentaler as well as Montreal ska band The Kingpins. He currently heads his own ska project called Osmosis Unlimited. He has also done terrific artwork for a lot of Montreal ska releases!