Five Xylophone (more or less) Songs #atozchallenge


I have to thank Janet Miles, who blogs over at Janet’s Smiles (and yes, you should go to her blog and read it, it’s great), who today came up with a portmanteau that ties into that theme, and also gave me a fantastic idea for my afternoon theme:

xylorimba =
xylophone + marimba


A xylorimba, from Emil Richards collection (source:Wikipedia/Xylosmygame, Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

The xylophone, Wikipedia tells us, is a percussion instrument which has tuned wooden bars that are struck with mallets. The xylophone proper has a higher pitch range than the marimba and is the instrument used in orchestras. A third instrument, the vibraphone, has metal bars and resonator tubes with butterfly valves on them that give it a wobbly sound, and a sustain pedal like a piano. The xylorimba is a combination of the marimba and xylophone and has a range that covers both instruments.

I’m going through all this because xylophones, marimbas, xylorimbas, and vibraphones, as well as glockenspiels and bell lyres, are essentially the same, and get called xylophones even if they aren’t. Also, it makes this work, because the videos I’ll feature are of either marimba or vibraphone players. So, let’s get to the music, darn it…

Giant Steps – Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco: I first saw Terry Gibbs when he was the bandleader for Steve Allen’s syndicated late-night talk show. One night, I saw he and Steve playing a song together on the vibes; it was pretty fantastic stuff. In the early Eighties Terry and clarinetist Buddy DeFranco began working together, as in this video. They’re joined by John Campbell on piano, Todd Coolman on bass, and Gerry Gibbs on drums.

Bags’ Groove – The New Gary Burton Quartet: I saw the original Gary Burton Quartet, featuring Pat Metheny on guitar, at Amazingrace in Evanston, Illinois roughly forty years ago. This performance at the Sava Center in Belgrade, Serbia, features the new quartet, which at the time consisted of Burton, Julian Lage on guitar, Jorge Roeder on bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums.

Taco Belle – Baja Marimba Band: This band was discovered in the Sixties by Herb Alpert, who had his own south-of-the-border thing going, and as with the Tijuana Brass, none of the members were from Mexico. You have to admit, they had a pretty good time. The band was fronted by marimbist (it’s a word now) Julius Wechter and their music was almost as good as their clowning around.

True Blues – Modern Jazz Quartet: Milt Jackson is one of the better-known vibraphonists and has been fronting the MJQ for years. This performance is from London, though I don’t know what year. Joining him are John Lewis on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Connie Kay on drums.

Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck: Yeah, I know, I yank this out anytime I can make an excuse to. So? Bruce Blackman (keyboard and vocal) and Bo Wagner (marimba) fronted this band, which had the one hit in 1976. Would it have been a hit without the marimba? I doubt it. This was taped at Chastain Park here in Atlanta, which is Blackman’s home base (also mine) and where he still pops up from time to time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this escapade. Are you familiar with any other xylophone etc. players?

10 thoughts on “Five Xylophone (more or less) Songs #atozchallenge

  1. Hi John – enjoyed the history of the various instruments here … I hadn’t realised there were so many … thanks and cheers Hilary


  2. J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird’s A to Z Ambassador Team.
    Have you enjoyed the challenge? Did you hop to other blogs? The end of the alphabet here! Reflections sign up is May 9– mark a calendar.
    My blog’s giveaway is still going. I’m encouraging everyone to visit more stops.
    Great job with a difficult letter!


  3. You want xylophone? I give you Frank Zappa. He used xylophone in so many of this compositions. I don’t know if it was because the xylophone tends to have a somewhat comic sound or just a matter of Zappa’s diverse taste in musical sound, but his use of xylophone is among the many things that drew me to his music. Zappa was such a musical genius.

    Here’s one:

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out


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