Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CX, No. 2February, 2010

Bill Crow

When multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson performs, he usually wears shirts made by his wife. The shirt materials he favors are loaded with stars, planets, galaxies, etc. While Scott was appearing with the Maria Schneider Orchestra at the Jazz Standard, a conversation took place in the dressing room between Ryan Keberle and Greg Gisbert. Ryan asserted that a brass player’s chops can get fatigued due to a buildup of lactic acid. Greg pointed to Scott’s shirt and said, “…or in his case, galactic acid.”

Scott also reported a Gisbert quip during a European tour with Maria’s band. Their bus driver in Barcelona got lost, took a road that climbed a hill and got so narrow that they couldn’t go on, and couldn’t turn around. The driver found a slightly wider spot, and indicated that he was going to turn the bus around. The musicians quickly got off and watched, amazed, as the driver inched back and forth between the cliff behind and the precipice ahead. When he was finally successful, Greg Gisbert declared: “This driver has incredible chops… he just doesn’t know any tunes!”

Turk Mauro sent me this one: Trumpeter Johnny Amoroso often does an imitation of Tony Bennett during which he puts on a pair of glasses to which is attached a large fake Roman nose. One night, when the band consisted of Johnny, Turk, Eddie Montiero, Ron Traxler and Denny LeRoux, John put on his nose glasses, and so did all of the other members of the band. Turk said that the odd thing was, they had each bought a pair of the joke glasses without knowing the others were doing the same thing. A spontaneous group spoof! Turk said it caused one of the biggest bandstand laughs he’s ever had.

Jon Berger told me about Ray Desroche, who was once a department head at William Patterson University. His resident percussion ensemble had made historic contributions to contemporary music. One day a staff member of the college’s athletic department suggested to Desroche that he start a school marching drum corps. Ray quipped, “That’s like asking Picasso to paint your house!”

From the JazzWestCoast newsgroup: When Herbie Hancock recorded a jazz version of Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G,” a copy was sent to the notoriously difficult Ravel estate for approval. When no reply was received, the record company urged Herbie to call the venerable Edition Durand, Ravel’s publisher, to try to speed things up. Herbie speaks no French, but he rang the publisher, and after many miscommunications was put through to the current M. Durand. Herbie introduced himself and made a lengthy appeal for permission to use his treatment of Ravel’s work on his forthcoming recording. After a long pause, the voice at the other end said, “Wow! Herbie Hancock!” He got his approval.

A while ago I played a Sunday brunch with Al Astone and his lovely wife Lucia. She told me about a gig they did with Jerry Bruno and Bucky Pizzarelli in New Jersey. Jerry called to give them directions and said, “The gig is in Closter, New Jersey.” Lucia replied, “Close to New Jersey? Come on, just tell me where it is!”

From Randy Sandke: A relatively inexperienced trombone player was leading a swing band in a series of concerts in Germany. On the first night, he introduced a tune by saying, “This tune is from 1939. Who here remembers 1939?”

At an orchestra rehearsal for Elaine Stritch’s one-woman show, she pointed to John Campo and asked Jonathan Tunick, “What instrument is he playing?” Jon replied, “It’s the bassoon.” Ms. Stritch asked, “Do you think that he could play that on something… smaller?”

John Altman told me about a session that took place in the old studio at Chappell’s in London with the great master of string orchestration Robert Farnon, The music he had written was in support of Lauren Bacall, who was having trouble with her part. After several screw-ups, she announced to the control room and the orchestra, “It’s not my fault!” She pointed to Farnon. “It’s that man… he doesn’t know what he’s doing!”

Many years ago, when Dave McKenna was in London, preparing an album in tribute to Harry Warren, John Altman took him to Chappell’s Music to get sheet music copies of Warren’s songs. There was a piano there, and John asked Dave if he would play something. Dave began to play “This Heart of Mine,” and John says, “Half a chorus in, every door along the corridor opened and heads popped out of rooms. It was just like a cliche Hollywood musical with all the cleaners stopping to listen. You could have heard a pin drop as the audience feasted on every note.”