Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVII, No. 11November, 2007

Bill Crow

In late 1979, Zoot Sims had a gig with his quartet at Gulliver’s in New Jersey. Turk Mauro went out to hear him, and Zoot invited Turk to sit in on the second set. Turk chose “Body and Soul” as his feature number, and got into such an emotional rendition that there were tears in his eyes when he finished. Turk cracked up when Zoot went to the microphone and said, “That was very nice, but you’re supposed to make the audience cry!”

Turk also told me of a backstage conversation with Zoot at the Village Vanguard. Zoot heard someone say something about feeling paranoid, and said, “I’m just the opposite…I have a feeling I’m following someone.” After everyone laughed, in order not to take undue credit for the line, Zoot said, “I heard that somewhere.”

Here are a couple that I picked up on the Internet: Jeff Thompson said he played a jazz gig with a small group at an old folks’ home. Afterward, many of the guests came to the bandstand to tell the musicians how much they had enjoyed the music. One lady said, “I knew ‘Makin’ Whoopee, and that other song, ‘Girl from Iwo Jima.’”

In response to Jeff’s post, Larry Routt replied, “I am now in an old folks’ home because of my wife’s condition. Recently I was telling an elderly lady that I had played in dance bands and did a big band radio show. She said, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful. When I was young my favorite song was ‘I’m a Dreamer, Montreal.’”

William Zinn tells me it has long been standard practice for symphonic musicians to warm up backstage before a performance using openings and tidbits from popular violin concertos. One day Zinn put together a short work for solo violin using the bits and snatches heard repeatedly backstage. Since he started the piece with the familiar opening of the Niccolo Paganini concerto in D Major, he gave it the name “Niccolo Concerto.” It consisted of one page of music. Zinn made a legible, large note original and had hundreds of copies made. He carried them in his violin case, along with tape, thumb tacks and glue, and whenever he played a concert, he posted his Niccolo Concerto backstage. After ten years it had become the most played work in the country. Now, 50 years later, it’s a collector’s item no longer found on backstage walls, but crumpled copies can still occasionally be found in old violin cases.

Joe Levinson, in Chicago, sent me this one: Guitarist Pat Ferreri asked Ron Kolber, the baritone sax virtuoso, if he had ever played the shofar. Ron said he wanted nothing to do with it because the performance scale hasn’t been raised in 5,000 years.

Ron DiCesare, the senior recording engineer over at Ultra-Sound, told me about a jingle date that was being done with a large orchestra. The ad agency’s client came in to listen, and during one of the sections he noticed that the French horns weren’t playing. He asked the producer about this and was told, “They are resting.” “Resting!” exclaimed the client. “Not on my time!”

Ron said that on another jingle date, during the mixing session, an agency client was trying to impress everyone with his knowledge of the recording process. When the producer said to the mixing engineer, “Add more reverb to the horns,” the client said, “Yeah, that’s what the horns need. Add more reverb to them.” The producer then asked the engineer, “How about brightening the vocal with a little 10k?” The agency guy chimed in, “Yeah, brighten up those vocals… 10k should do it.” Then the producer said, “Now, bring in the pizzicatos.” The agency guy looked around and said, “Who ordered the pizza-catos?”

I found the following one on the Internet, on a Web site called Composers Datebook. (For you lawyers out there, this is copyright American Public Media. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.)

Here it is:

Thursday, August 23. On today’s date in 1944, the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky completed an orchestral score he titled “Scenes de Ballet” or “Ballet Scenes.” Now, considering Stravinsky had achieved international fame for his earlier ballet scores for “The Firebird,” “Petrouchka” and “The Rite of Spring,” perhaps the generic title “Ballet Scenes” was not all that surprising. What was surprising was that the commission for this 1944 score came from an unusual source: Broadway.

New York impresario and nightclub owner Billy Rose had achieved fame the previous year for his Broadway production of “Carmen Jones.” Rose decided to capitalize on this popular success with something more “upscale and highbrow.” He conceived of a stage review titled “The Seven Lively Arts” and for the dance component decided to commission the most famous living composer of ballet scores, Igor Stravinsky, who was then living in Los Angeles.

Rose liked the score when he heard it played on the piano, but he thought Stravinsky’s orchestration a bit too far-out, and this led to a famous coast-to-coast telegraph exchange. After a preview performance in Philadelphia, Rose sent this message to Stravinsky: “Great success, but could be sensational success if you would authorize Robert Russell Bennett to retouch orchestration.”

Stravinsky telegraphed this reply to Billy Rose: “Satisfied with great success.”