802 Bookshelf: A Different Drummer

by Herb Wasserman, Writers Club Press, 2000, 267 pages (trade paperback), $14.95

Volume CI, No. 3March, 2001

Bill Crow

Herb Wasserman was one of the musicians who populated the world I knew when I first came to New York City. I ran into him regularly at Birdland, Charlie’s Tavern, the Turf Restaurant, the B&G Coffee Shop, Nola Studios, and on the old Union Floor. While hustling up club dates, we often found ourselves in the same rhythm section. Sometimes we played at the same jazz club in different groups. Herb was always on the scene, a native New Yorker who knew the ropes. I enjoyed chatting with him and listening to his stories. I picked up a lot of information about the music business from him.

The last few times I ran into Herb, he talked about the book he was writing. It was difficult for him to tell me all about it, since he had lost his voice to throat cancer. He communicated in whispers, but they were the most enthusiastic and entertaining whispers you could imagine.

Herb was a fighter, as many union members remember from his fiery speeches at Local 802 membership meetings in the years when he still had his voice, and he fought his cancer the same way. He had his first operation in 1984, and kept that fearsome malady at bay for nearly 17 years.

Unfortunately, he never got to see his book in print. He passed away the day before the copies arrived. But he knew it was on its way, and he made sure a review copy got to me for Allegro.

Herb’s writing has the same charm that his conversation used to have. He overflowed with an eager desire to communicate. In his book he takes you by the elbow and wittily confides his history and his personal point of view. He sketches a captivating image of the life of a freelance New York musician during the past 50 or 60 years, filling each chapter with entertaining personal details. Along the way he settles a couple of scores, preaches a sermon or two, and asks a few questions which he answers with other questions. He has included a few snapshots from various stops along the way.

Herb’s son, bassist Ron Wasserman, tells me that the book can be ordered from online booksellers or at any bookstore using the ISBN number 0-595-14726-7. It is also available in the Local 802 library.