In the early 1970s, John Perilli was working in Boston at the Schubert Theatre, on a pre-Broadway break-in with the show “Molly.” He was playing drums and Freddy Buda was playing percussion. Freddy mentioned one day he would be out of town on a matinee day for two shows. He brought in a student to check out the book. The guy played the show well, but he rushed everything he played. In the middle of the first act Ray Katwika, the lead trumpet player, asked John, “Can’t you do anything about that guy’s rushing?” John replied, “You can’t do anything about that, Ray, that’s innate.” Ray replied, “In eight? Well, tell him to take it in four!”
Another show that Perilli worked on was “Superman.” Eddie Sauter was the orchestrator. They recorded the original cast album at the 30th street Columbia studio. Goddard Lieberson, the president of Columbia records, was in the booth directing the date. John said that Lieberson made dramatic changes to almost everything they recorded. One of the charts required a Latin feel. Lieberson said, “John, play this with a stick and a brush.” John asked, “Mr. Lieberson, which hand do you want the brush in?” Lieberson said loudly, “Take five!” During the break, conductor Hal Hastings said, “John, you just told a $100K-a-year-man to go f*** himself!”
On the same date, Roger Middleton was in the trumpet section with lead player Ernie DiFalco. He said that Lieberson came down from the booth and asked the brass to play a passage softer so the singers could be heard. Ernie said, “Use straight mutes.” They did, but Lieberson wasn’t happy. They tried cup and harmon mutes, still without pleasing Lieberson. Finally, Ernie said, “Hold the horns up. Go through the motions, but don’t play!” After that take, Lieberson came out of the booth and gave the trumpets a big smiling thumbs up.
Clarinetist Johnny Mince told Herb Gardner that, when he was with the Artie Shaw band playing concerts for the troops on the Pacific islands during World War II, they suddenly came under attack from enemy bombers. They were huddled in foxholes, fearing for their lives, when they heard Artie say, “It’s all right for you guys, but I’M ARTIE SHAW!”
In 2009, Steve Wilson played in the Saxophone Summit at the 92nd Street Y “Jazz in July” series curated by Bill Charlap. The front line players consisted of Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods, Harry Allen and Jimmy Greene, and Steve felt that he was in the presence of saxophone royalty. After the concert, while getting into a taxi, Steve’s back stiffened up, and the muscles were in spasms all the way home. The next day he went to see his chiropractor/acupuncturist who cured the spasms. When he asked Steve what he might have done to cause the strain, he had to think about it. He told me: “Playing next to Phil Woods, I literally could not hear myself. Phil was then 77 years old, with emphysema, and an oxygen compressor in tow, but he had not lost any of his huge sound. I realized that I had strained my back exerting too much effort to play my second alto part while Phil just buried me. A couple of years later I reminded Phil about it, and he just chuckled and replied in that classic voice, ‘Yeah baby, that’s lead alto for ya!’ Though I had been on the scene for over 20 years, I’ll always consider that moment a rite of passage, and one of my greatest honors in playing music.”
Around 1980, Kalman Gancsos was playing bass with a 10-piece band which included tenor saxophonist Carmen Leggio. At one point. Carmen turned around and said to Kalman, “Man, do you know why I dig you?” Kalman expected him to say something complimentary about his time or his choice of chords. But Carmen said, “You still smoke! Nobody smokes any more!”
In the mid-80s, Steve Alcott sometimes subbed for Ron Markowitz at Gregory’s with Joe Puma and Hod O’Brien. On a break, Steve asked Joe for a cigarette. Joe replied, “Sure, man. This could be the start of something old.”