The Band Room

Volume 123, No. 2February, 2023

Bill Crow

David Keeney posted this on Facebook:

I was at an open rehearsal of a major orchestra. The director was interesting, and talked and joked with the audience. But even as a degreed and professional musician, I could make NO SENSE of his conducting! Neither could the orchestra. Their ensemble was ragged and imprecise, and these players were the best! I thought, “Is this just me, or what?” I closed my eyes to listen (so as not to be distracted by his seizures) and realized, “No, the rhythm IS ragged, entrances ARE uncertain, tense, what gives?”

Then suddenly, the music jelled. It came together, there was a groove! Even the tone quality of the strings relaxed and got warmer. I basked in the beautiful sound. Then I opened my eyes. HE WASN’T CONDUCTING!

He had stepped off the podium to walk around and listen, leaving the orchestra to just play together, and boy, did they ever!

It was too good to last. Soon he was back . . . conducting . . . or whatever he thought he was doing, and the group’s confusion was again clearly audible in the sound. It was an experience I’ll never forget.


Jason Bennett posted a Shorty Sherock anecdote on his birthday:

On a picture call with Nelson Riddle, the orchestra was rehearsing some source music. (Keep in mind, with source music, anything goes.) After some run-throughs, Nelson said, “Shorty, what are you doing over there?” Shorty replied, “Well, I’m playin’ the part.” Nelson said, “Well, it’s supposed to be a whole tone up. Couldn’t you hear that? It’s curling my teeth!” Shorty’s answer: “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.”


Jon Walters posted this:

During the holidays, at my solo guitar upscale restaurant gig, a patron was watching me play, and seemed to be enjoying it. He came up to me and pulled out a huge wad of cash. My heart briefly jumped with anticipation, hoping for a nice holiday tip. He flipped past a lot of big bills, handed me two dollars, and said, “Great job! Sorry I only have two ones.” Merry Christmas!


From Kalman Gancsos:

We were playing a 6pm to 10pm wedding at one of the country clubs in Westchester when, after the first set, the leader Al and I walked up to the bar to have a drink. A gentleman in a tux came over to Al and said, “Man, you guys are great, and the party is having a blast. I’m the groom’s dad, and the music is my gift to my son and daughter-in-law. So, how much would it cost to go an hour over?” Now, this was back in the 1980s. Al thought for a moment and said $210. I thought the guy was going to choke on his scotch. He asked Al how he came up with that number. Al said, “Well, the side men get $35 an hour, and as the leader I get $70.” With a puzzled look, the father said, “Are you kidding? This bartender is making $10 an hour and your guys get $35?” Al looked at his watch and said, “We have 12 minutes left on our break. I’m going to watch your bartender really close, and while we play the next 45 minutes set, I want him to watch me really close. On the third set I’m going to tend bar, and he can play my tenor. Then you can decide who should get $10 per hour and who should get $35.” The man smiled, and, said, “I get it.”


The late Jim Hall and I used to do a lot of laughing together. One day he told me and Dick Scott that he had found a new Armenian restaurant in the Village, and took us there for dinner. A beautiful young woman, Mary Barsamian, was our waitress, and Jim introduced us to her. “Bill Crow!” she said. “Dick Scott! Jim Hall! Three guys with one-syllable names!” I guess that was rare among Armenians.


Jack Stafford sent me this story, which he got from Rick Kilburn, a bass player from Vancouver:

Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, while playing a run at the Black Hawk in San Francisco, were trying to outdo each other seeing who could get a parking spot closest to the club. One night after he arrived at the club, Dave looked out the window and saw Paul parking right across the street in an illegal space. As Paul walked in with a big smile on his face, Dave said, “You don’t win this one, Paul. You’re parked illegally in a police zone. Didn’t you see the sign that says SFPD? That stands for San Francisco Police Department.” Paul replied, “Oh, I thought it stood for Save For Paul Desmond!”