The Band Room
Volume 122, No. 2February, 2022
I once got a call to put on my tux and take my bass to the Tavern on the Green for a movie shoot. It was a Mike Nichols film featuring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. The script included a wedding scene, and they needed to have a band on the bandstand in case the cameras shot in that direction. They didn’t want us to play anything, we just had to be there.
After we waited around for about an hour, we were given a break, and the band went into the kitchen, looking for coffee. When we returned to the bandstand, I found that Nicholson had moved my bass from the bandstand to the dance floor, laid it on its back, and was tentatively poking at the strings with my bow.
I rushed over and snatched the bow from him, and told him that my bass was not a toy. As I returned my bass to the bandstand, Mike Nichols walked over and asked if anything was wrong. I told him that it was okay, but that I didn’t want anyone fooling around with my bass. Nicholson said, “I’m always very gentle with this sort of thing.” I told him, “Okay, but it’s better to ask first.”
Mike Nichols called for the next scene to begin, and we went back to waiting, until we were dismissed a couple of hours later. The cameras were never pointed in our direction.
At a school demonstration in Connecticut, the trumpet player demonstrated his instrument. Then the trombone player said, “This is a trombone. It can play almost as high as a trumpet, and it can go way down low.” One of the 4th graders raised his hand and asked, “Then isn’t it a waste of money to buy a trumpet?”
Jack Stafford posted this on Facebook recently:
When Lee Konitz lived out my way for a while near Monterey California, Jim, a friend of mine, decided to have a sax lesson with him. Jim had to save up his money because in those days, $50 for an hour lesson was a lot of loot.
When Jim got it together and went for his lesson, he never even got to take his sax out of the case. Lee had him start the lesson by learning to sing the low B flat on the horn, without any help from anything. When the lesson was over, Jim said he felt cheated, but later said he felt it was worth it.
Barry Nitikman posted:
Many years ago, a friend of mine did a New Year’s Eve gig and was warned that they were really old folks. The guys were prepared with all of their old folks material. But when they got there, even their old folks music was too modern for the crowd. After three songs, a lady got up to the microphone and said, “What do you say, how about we get rid of these guys and just play records?” The band was paid off and they went home.
A story from Chuck Erdahl:
I used to do the Ringling shows when in the summers they would do four weeks in the general Los Angeles area. The leader for many years was a monster trumpet player named Keith Greene. He would conduct, and play all of the high note solos. (Doc Severson was so impressed with Keith that he got him a guest spot on the Tonight show playing Malaguena.) Those that have done the Ringling gig can attest to the amount of playing you do during one two-and-a-half-hour show. And you sometimes would do three shows per day on the weekends.
One Tuesday night, the first show after the one day off, Keith came in with a gash on his upper lip, just off center. He had been fishing that morning and, during a cast, put a fish hook in his lip! He took it out, cleaned up the wound, and came in to work. He could have had his lead player conduct and play for him, but he didn’t. He just rubbed some KY jelly on it and played his tail off!
Dave Ryan was touring with the Glenn Miller band in 2016. The band was laid off for a couple of weeks a week before Christmas, and when the tour resumed there were some new faces on the band. The bus left the Edison Hotel and made a stop to pick up the drummer where he had his equipment stored. Dave went in to help him, and found out the new drummer was Mel Lewis. When they got Mel’s drums stowed on the bus and got inside, Mel started greeting some of the new guys, who had been playing with him on the Village Vanguard band. Dave asked Mel, “What the heck are you doing on the Glenn Miller band?” Mel said, “Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re rich!”