Back in the 1950s, when I was living in Greenwich Village, Les Elgart booked me on a club date in Brooklyn. I looked up the venue’s address and saw that it was near a subway stop, so I got on a train with my bass at West 4th Street and traveled to that stop. When I got off the train, there were no people on the subway platform, and the only exit was a rotary turnstile about seven feet high that barely had room for one person. I could see no way that I could get the bass in there with me. Then I noticed a wider space at the bottom, designed to give a person someplace to put their feet while walking through. So I turned the bass upside down, crouched down in the foot space and, holding it upside down by the neck, balanced the bass above me while slowly crawling through.
That turnstile was also an entrance from the other direction, and I worried that someone would come crashing through while I was crouched down there. Fortunately, no one came, and I got out the other side without mishap. When I finished playing the job, I walked several blocks with my bass to a busier subway stop that had an attendant, and normal turnstiles.
Mark Stryker started a Facebook conversation about funny things said intentionally on the microphone at live performances. He started out with a report of John Mosca introducing members of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2016: “I think you’ll find it’s easier to buy the guys a drink if you know their names. (pause) We’ll start with the guys who are still drinking…”
Steve Lambert added a comment Lee Morgan made: “Now we’re gonna do a request for a couple that just left…”
And Bill Benjamin added that he heard Pete Christlieb at a club in Los Angeles dealing with a table of three that were talking loudly during his performance. He announced that the next tune would be “Old Folks,” and then added, “Let’s make that Loud Folks. Incredibly f…ing Loud Folks!”
English tenorman Ronnie Scott was famous for comments he made in his London jazz club. He would announce, after hearing no applause at the end of a number, “And now we are all going to join hands and attempt to contact the living.” Or he might say, “You’ve just made a happy man very old.” Once, when the audience was very small, he announced that they were going to play “Tea for One.”
David Regan told Scott Robinson about an orchestra that was flying somewhere. A cellist didn’t want to check his instrument. He tried to walk on the plane with it, but was stopped at the gate and told that he couldn’t bring it on unless it was on their list of approved instruments. The cellist said, “It’s a violin.” The guy checked his list, looked up and said, “Okay, that’s fine. Have a nice flight.”
Bob Mintzer got this story from Herb Alpert: Herb and Stan Getz were friends. At one point, Herb asked Stan for a jazz lesson. His first question to Stan was, “Should I work on my ii-V-I progressions?” Stan responded, “What’s that?” Stan had improvised over Eddie Sauter’s score for the album “Focus,” and played every harmonic nuance perfectly. He just didn’t use Herb’s terminology.
A young musician who sat in where Bill Wurtzel was playing called “Indiana.” He told Bill, “It goes like Donna Lee.” On another occasion, when Bill left a little space in his solo, a young bassist yelled, “A minor.”
When Wurtzel was producing TV jingles, he met Lenny Hambro at the coffee machine where they were working in adjacent recording studios. Lenny said he was fed up because an ad agency account executive had complained about the jingle music Lenny had written. Lenny told him, “The guy said it doesn’t sound like hamburger.” Bill says that Lenny left the business soon after that.