The Band Room
Volume 122, No. 3March, 2022
Computer programs that have a spellchecker in them often create funny substitutions for words you have written. On one comment page, I wrote something about pianist Tomoko Ohno, and found that the spellchecker had changed her name to Tomato. And in a recent Facebook exchange, someone intended to discuss a certain musician’s heroin problem, but it came out “heroine problem.” That may have left some people wondering if the guy was involved with the leading lady of some Broadway show.
Herb Gardner reminded me of this one:
Some years ago the band from Condon’s was hired to play jazz versions of Christmas carols for the tree lighting at Lincoln Center. The leader had brought a book of holiday music so he could sing the ones he didn’t know.
Out of the very enthusiastic audience came a bespectacled young woman with a request: “Could you play Good King Wenceslas?” Hastily checking the book, the leader assured her that he could. Because of his concentration on the words, the leader realized that he must have sung the wrong melody, when he sang, “Good King Wenceslas looked out,” and the crowd eagerly answered, E- I – E – I – O.
Chuck Erdahl told this one on Facebook:
This involves my old friends Bill Byrne and Henry Cuesta. Henry was quite a clarinet player, having toured with Jack Teagarden right out of high school, and having been featured regularly on the Lawrence Welk show.
One night Bill Byrne and and I were in the sax section at the Ambassador Theatre in Pasadena CA, backing up Henry as he did a tribute to Benny Goodman. The place was packed with about 1500 people, and Henry was getting ready to kick off his big closer, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
Henry turned and handed me his clarinet so he could adjust the microphone and tell the audience a brief story about Benny, to get them in the mood. Bill Byrne said to me, “Chuck, give him YOUR clarinet instead!”
I said, “Are you kidding me?” and Bill said, “Don’t worry, he’ll figure it out right away and it will be funny!” So I handed him my clarinet, which besides being a different make, also had a different type of mouthpiece, reed, resistance, and keys!
As Henry launched into the rest of his Benny story, he had my horn in his hands and he was fingering the keys, but he didn’t seem to notice that it was not his clarinet! Bill and I were trying desperately to get his attention by stage whispering “Henry, hey Henry, psssst!!!” Too late. The drums started, the horns came in and then Henry’s first eight bar solo. I was horrified!
His first note or two were kind of stuffy, and he realized something was different, but he dug in and started wailing like it was his own axe. After that little eight measure solo he came over and looked at me and said “Chuck, you’re a dirty dog!” but at least he was grinning a little. I tried to exchange horns, but he said, “No, I’ve got it,” and boy did he ever. He played an extended solo with amazing licks and flourishes, ending with a double B at the end, and it all sounded as great as it always had. When the song finished, he bowed to the audience, grabbed his own clarinet as he handed me mine, exited stage right and never said another word about it afterward!
Most people know that the musician Bono is an activist and philanthropist for African causes. Bob Millikan posted this one on Facebook:
During a U2 concert in Belfast, Ireland, Bono asked the audience for total silence. Then he slowly started to clap his hands, once every few seconds. Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.”
From the front of the crowd, a broad Irish accent pierced the quiet: “Well, stop doin’ it then, ya evil bastard!”
Arnold Schnitzer told me about a time when he was playing a society club date. When the band took a break to eat, a fork fell on the floor. Mark Slifstein, the guitar player, quickly called out, “F sharp.” The pianist, Philip Orr, corrected him: “It’s a little flat.”
Another Facebook post, from Danny D’Imperio:
Frankie Dunlop was finishing a gig with Sonny Rollins before he was to join Maynard Ferguson’s band. He had all of Maynard’s music on a reel-to-reel tape recorder and was memorizing the book in his hotel after the gig every night. Rollins told Maynard that he was glad Frankie was leaving with his band, so he would no longer have to hear all that loud big band music playing all night long in his hotel room.
At the first rehearsal, Frankie nailed all the parts. Slide Hampton, sitting beside the drums, was impressed. “Nice eyes, baby,” he said to Dunlop. Then he noticed that Dunlop’s music was upside down on his music stand. He’d been playing the whole thing from memory.