[JPL] A Trumpet, a Struggle, and a Musician’s Broken Arm..."The musician, Valery Ponomarev..."

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 10 14:37:18 EDT 2006

October 10, 2006
A Trumpet, a Struggle, and a Musician’s Broken Arm 
PARIS — As international authorities strive to
harmonize a myriad of rules for carry-on flight
luggage, a Russian-American jazz musician is nursing a
broken arm he said he suffered in a struggle with
French airport police over his right to board with a
prized trumpet.

The musician, Valery Ponomarev, 63, a former member of
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was preparing to board
an Air India flight on Sept. 9 from Paris to New York
City, where he lives, when a routine airport ritual
erupted into a fierce dispute over his 1961
Connstellation trumpet.

“If you’ve ever played a musical instrument, then you
should know how strong the bond is between the
musician and the instrument,” Mr. Ponomarev said. “You
wouldn’t give your baby away to anybody, and so you
wouldn’t give away your horn.”

In his case, the ties were so powerful that he simply
would not let go of his trumpet case, which also
contained a fluegelhorn.

But the authorities were not sympathetic and maintain
that the trumpeter was uncooperative with airport and
airline officials in a time of heightened security.

According to Mr. Ponomarev, when he arrived late to
board an evening flight, a flustered Air India
employee retrieved his trumpet from a luggage belt at
a security checkpoint without explanation to place it
in the plane’s hold.

Mr. Ponomarev protested vigorously, he said, because
he had hand-carried the instrument on an earlier
connecting flight and also had noticed that another
passenger was carrying aboard a sitar. His angry
complaints attracted the notice of an Air India
supervisor, who summoned the police.

Four officers came running to take his trumpet case,
but Mr. Ponomarev refused to give it to them, and one
of them subdued him by wrenching his arm behind his
back and, according to the musician, breaking it.

The airport authorities and the police confirm that
the episode took place as Mr. Ponomarev was boarding
the flight at Charles de Gaulle airport. But in the
view of the police, the musician bears responsibility
for his injury. 

“The officers tried to subdue him, and you can say
that he hurt himself by rebelling,” said a spokesman
for the airport police.

H. Rana, the regional manager for Air India’s Paris
office, said airline employees called the police
because Mr. Ponomarev insisted on carrying his music
case on board. She said that Air India requires the
check-in of large instruments.

In Europe, carry-on luggage rules vary among airlines.
Last week, the European Commission moved to
standardize the rules with new regulations taking
effect next spring that restrict the amount of liquids
carried aboard for personal use and limit carry-on
luggage size. But there may be exemptions for some
cameras and musical instruments.

The rule change comes too late for Mr. Ponomarev, who
said that after his arm was broken he was held in
detention without treatment for six hours and was not
allowed to make any calls.

Ultimately, he was taken to a hospital where one of
the doctors loaned him a cellphone to contact the
United States Embassy.

After surgery, Mr. Ponomarev returned on September 13
to the United States on another Air India flight. With
a metal plate holding the bones of his left arm
together, Mr. Ponomarev said the break had an
immediate effect on his career: He was forced to
cancel a musical engagement and limit his daily
practice because it is too painful to hold the trumpet
with a weakened arm.

By late September, though, he decided to participate
in a long-scheduled jazz concert in Russia, where he
was born, although he has lived in the United States
since 1973. The announcer, he said, explained to the
audience that Mr. Ponomarev was playing despite a
struggle with the French police.

“I think the audience thought that he was joking,” Mr.
Ponomarev said, but he still took the microphone to
correct the announcer: “They didn’t win the battle.
They broke my arm. But the horn is still with me.”

Ariane Bernard of The New York Times contributed


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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