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The Legend of Los Trombastardos

Radio 4
1999 (three episodes)

Having first devised the astonishingly silly premise behind this show, writer Graeme Rigby deserves some kind of medal for bringing the idea to fruition.  The series, unusually recorded on location before an audience at Live Theatre, Newcastle (and with a characteristic live stagey feel), related the exploits of the Thirteenth Mounted Trombone Attack Squad, a band of revolutionary insurgents operating in what was described as "a fictitious South American country, somewhere south of Tyne and Wear".  The treatment of jazz was even more innovative than that found in Kailyard Blues the previous year: here, the trombone was a deadly weapon, and our heroes were a crack unit dedicated to the overthrow of the reactionary President Raoul Montoya's Big Band for the Unity of the Fatherland.

Having adopted the unique revolutionary command structure of three captains and a corporal, the Attack Squad had as its officers Lorenzo Carpentier Flores McCready (David Whitaker), Alexandro el Bara Vasconcelas (Derek Walmsley) and Luis Amador (Trevor Fox), who together commanded the unit's drummer Corporal Iquran (Donald McBride). On the run, the Trombastardos holed up in the small town of San Antonio of the Broken Slide, where they encountered the beautiful, if severely height-restricted, Rosita Baranca (Charlie Hardwick), who won Captain Amador's heart, and a shadowy "two-bit saxophone player" named Bit-Bit (McBride again), whose true loyalites remained unclear until the final reckoning, and who bore a marked resemblance to Jack Elam.  Much of the Trombastardos' revolutionary discussion, in fact, concerned who would play which of them in the Hollywood film of their lives, and the remainder of the script was a jaw-dropping blend of politics, action, love, death and muso jokes ("Ah, why is it at these romantic moments we always seem to hear the singer at the door?"  "Because they cannot find the key and they never know when to come in").  There was also a great deal of music, of course, composed by Rick Taylor and performed by numerous musicians.  Among the songs (lyrics by Fred D'Aguiar, Gillian Allnut and WN Herbert) was possibly the only revolutionary anthem ever to contain a reference to 'sustain pedal B flat'.


© JB Sumner 1999.  Created 27/6/99