Alan Frederickson by Jim Cullum Jr

Alan Frederickson in the mid-1960s with the Queen City Jazz Band, of which he was the founder. Photo courtesy Jim Cullum.

Trombonist Alan Frederickson died about 10 days ago. I know that some of you cats reading the Jazz Me News didn’t know Alan. And your reporter (that’s me!) is here to tell you all about him.  

Alan said these things, “It’s fun to laugh. It’s fun to be funny. Kid Ory was the man.” And he would grind out a tailgate from a trombone that usually had some dirt in it.

Taking the stage, Alan Frederickson poured out the trombone smears. And, his natural charm and wit and command of clever phrases became magnified. His monologues between his band’s numbers and band sets were wonderful to experience. Alan took the dullest, dreariest material, such as the Farmer’s Almanac, and just by pauses, a few comments, and quizzical looks upward, Alan worked his hilarity. These things became known as “the reading of the word.”

Fans came as much for Alan’s readings as they did for his music. Then he invented involved fictitious stories and characters. For example, here is an approximation of Alan’s story of Gumperson’s Disease: As Alan’s band desired to “give back,” they cast around for a disease to sponsor. And they found that the good diseases were already taken, but finally they settled on Gumperson’s Disease.

Alan said, “Gumperson’s Disease is one of the rarest diseases known to humankind. There are no known symptoms of this disease. In fact, if you feel good right now you may have Gumperson’s Disease. Gumperson’s is so rare that the only one who ever suffered from it was old man Gunperson, and he lived to be 101.”

So Alan and his band were sponsoring the disease to find out how to catch Gumperson’s Disease.

Alan Frederickson and I mostly met about once a year in Denver, where he lived for years.

“Hey Alan,” and I'd say this every year. “ Would you like to go down to the Brown Palace Hotel and allow me to buy you a straight up dry Martini with four olives and the fancy gin that has that real juniper taste…how about it?”

Of course I knew the answer before I asked the question.

He would look me straight in the eye and seem irritated.

It would flit through my mind that he must be having a problem but then at the last second his upper lip would begin to quiver, and I’d know.

Okay, I’d say to myself, of course he wants to come.

“What’s that?” Alan would say.

We’d do this same dance every year. “What’s that?” Alan would say, “Are you asking me if I’d like to go with you for a Martini at the Brown? Does a frog have a water-tight ass?!