Bill Crow’s Band Room

Bill Crow

I played some jazz demonstration concerts at several Connecticut schools recently with Bob Riccio and John Cutrone. On one of them, Glenn Drewes showed his trumpet to the kids, talked a little about how it worked, and then demonstrated its sound and range. Then John Fumasoli did the same with his trombone. John said, “This instrument is in the same family as the trumpet, but it goes much lower,” and he demonstrated the low register. “And it can also go up into the trumpet’s range,” and he played some very high notes to illustrate. A young boy raised his hand and asked John, “Then, isn’t it a waste of money to buy a trumpet?”

On the Jazz West Coast Internet group, Noel Wedder often tells stories about his experiences as a member of the Stan Kenton orchestra. Here’s one he posted in April. During a grueling tour, on the way from one gig to the next, Stan made an announcement from the front of the bus. He was disturbed that, while packing up the night before, someone had shouted out the “F” word, and an older couple a few feet away had nearly dropped in their tracks. He asked the band to watch their language in public. Noel said that after Stan’s lecture, a pall settled over the 21 band members. The next day, while Stan had flown ahead to New York to take care of some radio publicity, the bus was filled with discussion of how to deal with his “pep talk.” Dalton Smith suggested making a list of every vulgar word they could think of. He and Bob Fitzpatrick assigned a number to each word. Twenty-one xerox copies of the list were made and the band spent the rest of the trip memorizing the numbers associated with the words.

That night Dalton Smith passed Kenton on his way to the bus and said, to no one in particular, “Boy, this was a seventeen night! What a thirty-one audience! Five, I need a taste!” To add to Kenton’s bewilderment, Fitzpatrick strolled by with, “Seventeen you, Stanley. Another thirty-one town! How about telling those seventy-threes in New York who book this six band to give the forty-seven a rest?” Kenton assumed that this had something to do with his announcement the day before, but he held out for a couple of days before finally asking what the numbers meant. He laughed when the musicians explained the joke and said, “I had a feeling you guys were a bit pissed at me the other night.” One of the trumpet players yelled out, “Hey, Stan, on this band we say ‘two!'” Kenton got a copy of the list and committed it to memory. He was later heard to tell a promoter he was having trouble with, “And a good seventeen to you, too, you eighty!”

A lady called Robbie Scott to book a band for an affair she was planning. When Robbie gave her a price, she seemed to think it was too much money. Robbie told her, “You have to understand, the musicians I use are first-class professionals. Each one is a virtuoso on his particular instrument.” She thought a moment and said, “Don’t you have some others that maybe aren’t so good?”

Steve Voce told me about a gig that blind pianist Eddie Thompson once played at the old Birdland. As he felt his way into the tiny back dressing room, Eddie heard a voice say, “Watch out for the saxophone on that table.” Eddie quipped, “Why, is it loaded?” “No,” said the voice, “but the guy who owns it is.” The voice belonged to Stan Getz.

Erik Lawrence told me about a club date bandleader who had prevailed on saxophonist Peter Furlan to play a “benefit” with him. The benefit turned out to be a standard fundraiser at which hundreds of raffle tickets were being sold. Peter bought two tickets before climbing onto the bandstand to start the festivities. When the drawing was held, both of Peter’s tickets were drawn, for a color television set and a mountain bike. When he stood up to claim his prizes there was booing from the assembled guests, and the leader whispered furiously, “You’ve got to give the prizes back!” Peter shouted, “No way!” He leaped on the bike and began riding it among the tables, screaming, “I won! I won!” while the rest of the band howled with laughter. I called Peter and asked, “Did you keep the prizes?” He said, “Sure I did. I wasn’t on good terms with the leader anyway. He didn’t speak to me for a while after that.”

Joe Davis told me he once worked for a new bandleader, and after a month had gone by with no check, he called to see why he hadn’t received it. The bandleader said, “You didn’t send me a stamp.”

Herb Gardner told me about a jazz trio gig that Joe Hanchrow, Bruce McNichols and Randy Reinhart were working. Joe and Bruce had a later engagement that required wearing lederhosen, long stockings and little German hats. Since time was short, they decided to change into their costumes before driving to the second gig. Reinhart said, “You can’t do that. What if you’re in an accident?”