Al “Madman” Baitch

I read on my Baltimore Sun app this morning that Al “Madman” Baitch died on March 24th at the age of 89. He was one of the great Baltimore club and concert musicians who played for nearly seventy years. His instrument was the saxophone. I had to call my Dad to let him know because Dad knew Al. They had played some music together, my Dad was a singer, and they also knew each other from the racetrack. My Dad loved the horses and so did Al.

So tonight Jeni and I watched  the Barry Levinson film, Diner, because Al makes an appearance  towards the end. He’s in the wedding scene and of course he’s playing in the wedding band. There’s a singer singing Blue Moon, and Al gives this great look in reaction to the singer.  Being a singer myself made me wonder if I’ve ever had that look from any of the musicians I’ve performed with. Probably so.  My Dad told me tonight on the phone that Al used to tell my Dad that I was a hundred times better than my Dad.  Now I gotta say I’ve always thought my Dad was the greatest singer and composer. My Dad would make up little tunes and sing songs that he would make up to my sister, brother and me when we were growing up. And then there was my Dad’s band, Bill Kemp and the NuTones. He sang songs from the American popular songbook. Check out the recording below. That’s the NuTones with Dad. The recording was done by an amateur recordist  fan on a cassette recorder in 1968 at the Howard Place in Baltimore. The basement of our house on Symington Avenue in West Baltimore was where the NuTones would practice sometimes. Lucky for me and my brother we got sit on the sofa and listen and watch the rehearsals. We had an upright piano in the alcove of the basement that John Yeager would play. He made it sound so good. He mostly played by ear in the NuTones, though I’m sure he could read as well. My mother, Marcia, also played that piano but she played piano pieces by Bach and probably other German composers. My mother’s mother, Vera, was from Germany and she taught piano as well as being a player herself. But my mother would make the piano sound  good in a different way than John Yeager. She would always have the music score on the piano and made the notes sing that were written on the lines and spaces. John Yeager seemed to pull the notes from out of  thin air, somehow magically making them all work nicely together. It was my early education in music. Informal listening sessions with the NuTones and informal, but very serious tinkering on the piano while I sat and played with my mother. She would let me “sit in” with her on a minuet by Bach and I would somehow find notes that seemed to go along with what my Mom was playing.

So tonight my thoughts are about my early days spent in the basement with Bach and the American song book. And here’s hoping Al “Madman” Baitch is playing in that Angel band with all of his friends and heros. Goodnight Al…

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/obituaries/bs-md-ob-al-baitch-20140403,0,4117319.story

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