9 December 2017


Way back in the early months of 2008, Shaye Cohn was still a beginner on any kind of brass instrument, though she was already improvising on one very well.

She had a pocket trumpet in those days.

Later she was to acquire from Ed Polcer the old Yamaha cornet with which she has won thousands of devoted fans all over the world; and the Yamaha is the instrument she is still playing to this day.

But back then in 2008, with her pocket trumpet, she would busk in various groups on the streets of New Orleans. One of these groups was the Sweet Nothings, led by Aurora Nealand.

What a piece of good fortune that a video-maker codenamed bixerbecke filmed them at this time. His video is a valuable historical document. Not only do we see Shaye playing her pocket trumpet - and improvising a simple but decent chorus from 1 minute 10 seconds to 1 minute 44 seconds; we also have an amusing episode from 2 minutes 38 seconds when Shaye discovers for the first time that it is conventional to provide the response 'got no pants on' when someone is singing 'The Sheik of Araby'. She finds it hilarious, and joins in.

Aurora, leader of the group, was already playing brilliantly (but dare I say that she too has gone on majestically improving in subsequent years?). And it's fun to hear Aurora struggling to sing the highest notes of the song. They could have pitched it in a lower key for her, instead of Bb, as used by most bands. But this would have been a change hardly worth making.

However, another point of interest in this video is Aurora's use of the extended leg to signal to the band when they are on the final chorus.
Aurora extends the leg to signal the final chorus
This is a device used so much by Shaye when leading Tuba Skinny in the years that followed. Many of you, I am sure, believe that Shaye 'invented' this signal. But as this video shows, Aurora was using it back in 2008. My guess is that Shaye picked it up from her and that Aurora was the 'inventor'.

I am indebted to my friend Phil Lynch in the USA who reminded me of the existence of this video.

You can watch it BY CLICKING HERE.