The Band Room

Volume 124, No. 4April, 2024

Bill Crow

When I was in the 2nd Army band in 1948, we toured to Cincinnati. I went over to Covington, Kentucky, and heard a very good pianist playing solo in a gambling joint. I went back to my hotel in Cincinnati and got my baritone horn, and sat in with the pianist. When someone asked for “Ace in the Hole,” I knew it from an Anita O’Day record I had at home. I played it, and I got a lot of tips from the gamblers. It was their lucky song. They threw the money in the bell of my horn. Those were my first tips!


Mark Morris posted a sign on Facebook that he found in Florida. It reads:



Jack Segal, a songwriter friend of mine, once told me that when he married his first wife, Lillian, they took a plane to Maryland, where it was possible to get licensed and married on the same day. When they returned to New York, Lillian called her mother. “Ma, Jack and I just got married. We flew down to Maryland and got married there.” Her mother replied, “You flew! Why didn’t you tell me? I would have worried!”


The late trumpet player Johnny Carisi now has a good reputation as having been a fine jazz composer, but during his lifetime he often had difficulty making enough money to pay his bills. He told me that a friend of his had a connection to Sammy Kaye, and had set up an interview with the bandleader so that John could show him some of his arrangements. The Kaye band played pop dance music, without a trace of jazz. John said he bought a few Kaye records and tried writing that kind of music. He said, “I discovered the formula. If I wrote four bars that I liked, I would erase them.” Armed with three or four arrangement that he thought might fill the bill, John went to the meeting that his friend had set up with Sammy Kaye, and he told me that the encounter was cordial, but didn’t produce any offers of work. And he committed a faux pas as he left. Sammy Kaye was wearing a monogrammed shirt, and the large K on Kaye’s chest may have been what caused John to say, as he shook hands when they parted, “Thanks very much, mister Kyser.” He had subconsciously come up with the name of one of Kaye’s worst competitors, Kay Kyser.


Kalman Gancsos posted this on Facebook:

I was just a beginning bassist working a club in Youngstown, Ohio. As I was tuning my bass to the piano at 440, I kept hearing a hum at around 436 or so from above and behind me. There was a raised dining area just back of the stage separated by a railing. I turned around to try to see where the hum was coming from and an older guy, sitting with his wife sat there smiling. He was the bassist on the Arthur Godfrey show, on vacation, having a little fun with a budding bassist.


Ken Berger sent me this one:

On a busy afternoon back in the 1970’s, Burt Collins, Joe Shepley and I decided to stop at the Carnegie Deli for lunch between dates. The place was packed, but we managed to squeeze into three seats at the end of a large table. Soon after we sat down, a customer returning from the ladies’ room found her path blocked by Joe’s chair, which was protruding into the aisle. She tapped Joe on the shoulder and politely asked, “Can you please push in a little?” She seemed a bit nonplussed when Joe replied, “Why, am I flat?”


John Altman posted this on Facebook:

A few bon mots from Al Cohn, my favorite house guest:

  • On hearing that Stan Getz was playing in London, Al said, “Let’s book front row seats and see how long until he gets rattled!”
  • On being asked whether “Cats,” the musical, had any chance on , he said, “Only if they change it to K A T Z!”
  • On learning that I had watched the two-hour documentary on the notoriously egocentric Artie Shaw, Al asked, “Did he mention himself at all?”


Many years ago, I was playing a party at the Sherry Netherland hotel with a little band that Al Cohn had put together, with Joe Wilder on trumpet, Bernie Leighton on piano and Joe Cocuzzo on drums. As we were playing, bandleader Elliot Lawrence and his wife danced by. At the end of the tune, Elliot came over to the band and said, “Guys, I don’t usually dance, but this band is swinging so much that I just had to!” I laughed and said, “You know, the music most club date bands play today is a style that started out as jazz, back in the day. It got frozen into that two-beat style that became the standard ‘businessman’s bounce.’ But most of those people are dead now, so I think it’s okay for us to go into four!”