The Band Room

Volume 122, No. 4April, 2022

Bill Crow

When I was on the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, back in the 1960s, Gene Quill was our lead alto and clarinet player. Most of the reed players on that band spent some time before we played, preparing their reeds, warming them up, maybe soaking extra reeds in a glass of water. One night at the Red Hill in Pennsauken, I was in the men’s room when Gene walked in. He said hello, fished around in his jacket pocket and came up with the mouthpieces to his alto and his clarinet, each with a reed in the ligature and a mouthpiece cap to protect it. Gene turned on one of the taps in one of the sinks and tossed the mouthpieces in under the stream. He used one of the toilets, came back to the sink and retrieved his mouthpieces and went out to the bandstand where he shoved them onto his instruments and started the first set without any further preparation. And he sounded wonderful.

Keith Bishop told a Quill story that he got from Bobby Shew: Bobby said when he was on the road with the Buddy Rich band, Ernie Watts went in early one night and sat on the bandstand trying out a box of alto reeds. As he picked out the ones that he liked, he threw the discards on the floor behind the music stand. After Ernie left, Gene Quill came in to set up his horns and noticed the reeds on the floor. He picked up a couple and tried them. Nodding with approval, he gathered up the rest and stashed them all in his sax case.


Keith Bishop got this story from Mike Barone. Mike wrote a chart that he called “Shawnee” for the Tonight Show library, a contrafact on the tune “Cherokee.” For some reason, baritone saxophonist Don Ashworth despised the arrangement, and when it was called, he would always claim that his part was missing. It became a standing joke, and the guys in the band began to play practical jokes on Ashworth, sending him copies of the bari part. Once, when he was vacationing in Hawaii, they sent a copy of the part to his hotel. Another time, he returned to his parked car to find a copy folded up under his windshield wiper like a ticket. When the show went out of production and the set was struck, they found many copies of the bari part crumpled and stuffed under the bandstand.


One December when the Gerry Mulligan Quartet was playing at Storyville in Boston, George Wein suggested that the trad band at his Mahogany Hall club on the floor below us might come up at midnight on New Year’s Eve and play “Auld Lang Syne” with us. Gerry said, “Great, I’ll write a little chart for the four horns.” George called a rehearsal that afternoon, and Pee Wee Russell, the clarinetist with the other band, expressed discomfort at having to read his part, but he read it okay. That evening, just before midnight, the trad band came up and joined us on the bandstand, but Pee Wee couldn’t find his part. Disappointed, Gerry said, “Okay, we’ll just fake it.” And we did. When Pee Wee got up to go back downstairs, I saw that he had been sitting on his part.


When Jack Schatz was playing for “Damn Yankees” at the Marquis Theatre, he used to chain his tuba on its stand to a pole in the pit and leave it there overnight, secured with a padlock. One night Alan Raph, who was subbing for him, forgot to unlock the tuba, and when he tried to pull it off the stand, the chain resisted and pulled the bottom bow off the instrument. Half of the band was laughing so hard that they couldn’t play. Alan got a roll of duct tape from a stagehand and taped the horn back together so he could play it, but he neglected to call Jack and tell him what had happened. Jack found out, to his horror, when he came to work the next night.


Jeff Eastep attended a Renaissance Festival where a group called the Bawdy Boys was getting ready to play. One of the group was tuning a banjo. Jeff dropped a dollar in the tip bucket, and when he was asked why, he told them it was for tuning the banjo. He said they laughed pretty hard.


Danny D’Imperio posted this story on Facebook:

Frankie Dunlop was playing with Sonny Rollins before he was to join Maynard Ferguson’s band. He had all of Maynard’s music on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Sonny told Maynard that he was happy that Frankie was joining his band, so he would no longer have to hear all that big band music all night long in his hotel room, while Dunlop was studying the book. At the first rehearsal, Frankie nailed all the parts. Slide Hampton was sitting beside the drums, and was impressed. “Nice eyes, baby,” he said to Dunlop. Then he noticed that Dunlop’s music was upside down on his music stand. He had played everything from memory.

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