Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CIII, No. 6June, 2003

Bill Crow

Abba Bogin sent me a clipping from a California newspaper which contained this story: One of the late John Cage’s compositions from 1967 is titled “Organ2/ASLSP.” ASLSP stands for “as slow as possible,” and a normal performance would last about twenty minutes. But in Halberstadt, Germany, at St. Burchardi church, the timing has been planned a bit more literally. Using the age of the church organ, 639 years, as the time span for the piece, the performance was begun on what would have been Cage’s 89th birthday, September 5, 2001. On that day, the organ motor and bellows were switched on, but the piece began with a rest, which translated into an eighteen-month pause. The first note was sounded last February 28 at 11 p.m. Other notes will follow in coming years. The final note will be played in the year 2640. I hope there are no mistakes along the way. It would be disheartening, say in the year 2503, to have to take it again from the top.

Trombonist Larry Farrel told me that Randy Andos was getting a haircut one day, and the barber asked him what he did for a living. “I’m a trombone player,” said Randy. “Gee,” said the barber, “I thought most people gave that up when they leave high school.”

I got a call from Butch Miles, who is now living in Austin when he isn’t on the road with the Count Basie band. He told me that, when he was living in New York, he once ran down from his apartment on Third Avenue to pick up something from the Italian delicatessen across the street. In front of the deli, a very scruffy looking down-and-out man shambled over and asked if Butch could spare some change. Butch laid a couple of bucks on the guy, who said, “Thanks&say, aren’t you Butch Miles?”

Butch also told me about a trip he made to Santiago, Chile, with the Basie Band. The musicians had lunch at a tennis and swim club there. Butch looked at the spectacular mountain view behind the club and asked their host, “Are those the Andes?” He was assured that they were the Andes. “Then,” quipped Butch, “where are the Amoses?”

A friend of mine who teaches music at a ritzy private school in New Jersey was recently called on the carpet by the headmistress, who expressed concern because my friend had told some of the kids that they weren’t practicing enough. She said, “Of course, I confessed to this heinous transgression. Imagine, a music teacher having the gall! I wonder if the math or English teacher gets a lecture if he tells the kids to do their homework?”

Geoff Roach sent an e-mail describing an encounter with James Moody in the early 1980’s. At a club where Moody was playing, the mount for one of the palm keys came unsoldered from the body of his tenor sax. Geoff loaned him a tenor to finish the night with, and picked him up the next day to drive him to a local repairman. In return, Moody offered to give Geoff a lesson. They went to Geoff’s house where they had dinner and a two-hour music lesson. When they finished, Geoff was surprised to hear Moody thanking him for his time. Moody said, “The most precious thing you can give someone is your time. You can always get more money, or more things, but you can never get more time.” Geoff said it gave him a new outlook on life.

Herb Gardner remembers a night at the old Red Blazer when Nighthawks bandleader Vince Giordano informed the audience that it was Bix Beiderbecke’s birthday. “If he were alive today,” said Vince, “he would be ninety-two years old. And he’d be playing here on Thursday nights.”

Gary David told Bill Kirschner this story: One of Gary’s dearest friends was Curry Tjader, the brother of the late vibraphonist Cal Tjader. He told Gary that when Cal had a heart attack while he was on the road, his doctor advised him to stop traveling, and said that his days on the road were over. Cal thought a minute and said, “Well, Doc, what if I went on the road, but didn’t take any solos?”

Trumpeter Tino Gagliardi told this story about a record date that took place in a New York studio. The conductor, imported from England, was a little nervous, and the first run-through of the music reflected his insecurity. At the end of the piece, the conductor looked up at the orchestra and asked, “Are there any questions?” After a pause, trumpeter Bob Millikan raised his hand. His question was, “Is Scotland a separate country?”

Guitarist Joe Beck told me about a date on which the conductor revealed an extremely high level of incompetence. Sitting at the drum set behind Joe, Grady Tate muttered, “This cat couldn’t conduct if they wrapped him in copper wire!”