The Band Room
Volume 123, No. 1January, 2023
In 1975, Johnny Morris played two weeks in a New Orleans jazz club with Roy Eldridge. On their last night, a waitress told Johnny that two guitar players wanted to sit in. Johnny asked Roy if it was okay, and Roy said, “One guitar player is bad enough, but two? No! Tell them NO!” Then the waitress told Johnny that the guitar players were opening there the next night. Johnny went back and pleaded with Roy to let them sit it, as he was afraid the management might not like it if he didn’t. Roy reluctantly agreed, and the guitarists were invited to the bandstand. One of them extended a hand and said, “Hi. I’m Barney and he’s Herb.” It was Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis.
Bill Stanley once came to sub in the pit of a Broadway show dressed in an opera cape and top hat. When the intermission was nearly over, Merv Gold knocked on the harp case in the band room and called out, “Five minutes, Mr. Stanley!”
An item from CBS News:
A musician had a brain tumor removed in Italy this week in a nine-hour surgery during which he not only was awake and fully conscious, but was playing his saxophone. The 35-year-old male patient had the procedure at Rome’s Paideia International Hospital on Monday and was discharged early Thursday morning. Dr. Christian Brogna, a neurosurgeon and expert in awake surgery, told CBS News that the tumor was removed successfully, and that there were no negative impacts on the patient. Brogna led a highly specialized 10-member international team for the procedure, using state-of-the-art technology. “The tumor was located in a very, very complex area of the brain,” said Brogna. “Moreover, the patient is left-handed. This makes things more complicated because the neural pathways of the brain are much more complicated.” The doctor said his patient, who has been identified only as C.Z., played the theme song from the 1970 movie “Love Story,” and the Italian national anthem, at various times throughout the surgery.
Grady Tate once told me about a night when he stopped by a jazz club uptown to see some friends. When he came out and got back in his car, he looked up and saw a guy standing there holding a gun on him. Grady rolled down his window and gave the guy his watch and his money. The guy pocketed the loot, and then said, “That ‘Windmills’ was a bitch!” referring to Grady’s hit vocal recording of “Windmills On My Mind.” Grady said, ironically, “I’ve got some copies of my new album in the trunk, if you want one.” Grady said the guy sniffed and replied, “I can buy my own!”
Michael Lawrence was playing the guitar part with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on a piece commissioned by Seiji Ozawa and written by William Russo for the Siegel-Schwall band, “Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra.” Lawrence wrote: “The orchestral parts are well delineated, but the blues quartet parts are more improvisational. The concertmaster was seated directly behind me during rehearsal. At one point, offended by either my playing or the volume, he kicked my amp over. The orchestra, the hall, went silent. I picked the amp up, set it back in place and checked it. Then I looked at him as he sat there smirking. I bent over and said quietly, ‘That fiddle? I suggest you never leave it unattended.’ I turned to the conductor and told him we were good to go. There were no more problems.”
Erik Lawrence was walking down the street of his old hometown, Nyack. “I saw a guy coming toward me with an old King trombone case, rectangular with the fake alligator on the corners. I didn’t recognize him, but I said, “Trombone, right?” He looked at me like I was crazy. I asked again, “Isn’t that a trombone case?” He stopped and thought for a minute and suddenly realized what I was saying. He said, ‘Actually, I used to be a trombone player 20 years ago. But I couldn’t make any money, so I became a plumber. I got rid of the trombone, but I kept the case because it fits my plunger and snake perfectly!’”
Herb Gardner posted his favorite Dill Jones story: When Dill first came to New York from Wales, he was hired to play solo piano at a private party in Harlem, where he assumed everyone was a connoisseur of authentic stride piano. A beautiful lady sauntered up to him and murmured, “Can you please play ‘Fiesta’?” Dill didn’t know the tune, but desperately trying to please, played every Latin-American tune he knew. The woman returned, displeased. “Can’t you play ‘Fiesta’?”
“I’m sorry, I just don’t know that tune.”
“No, no! Yuzz’r playin’ too slow! Cancha play fyasta?!”
Dave Graf posted this story from Doug Ramsey’s biography of Paul Desmond: Desmond was sitting in with some British musicians. Pianist Dill Jones said, “I don’t know ‘Take Five,’” to which Desmond, who wrote the tune, replied, “Good.”