Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CX, No. 10October, 2010

Bill Crow

Herb Gardner passed along a story he got from the late Arvell Shaw, who was Louis Armstrong’s bass player for many, many years. Arvell told Herb that the first tune of the night on Louis’s concerts was always “Back Home Again In Indiana.” He said that, after years of opening every gig with that tune, he was really looking forward to a change when he finally resigned from the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. His first local gig was with a bebop band, and wouldn’t you know, the first tune they played was “Donna Lee,” which, of course, is based on the changes to “Indiana.”

Herb also told me that Randy Reinhart was complaining to his colleagues one night about a particularly grim evening he had spent the night before with another band that he felt left much to be desired. Howard Alden listened to his complaints, but said, “Gee, I’ve played that gig, and I didn’t think it was so bad.” Randy’ retort was, “Yeah, you should be there sometime when you’re not there!”

Dan Block performed with his sextet last August at a jazz festival in southern Italy. The concert was in old Craco, a ghost town which, between 1959 and 1972, was so badly damaged by earthquakes and landslides that it was abandoned, and the population moved to a nearby location. The ruins of the old town are still a tourist attraction, and the concert, held in an abandoned monastery, was officiated by the local mayor. Drummer Duffy Jackson quipped, “The mayor ran unopposed, and won by a landslide.”

John Campo told me about a jingle date he did some years ago with a full symphony orchestra. The client was the maker of a brand of aspirin. They finished the recording, and a couple of days later, the orchestra was called back for a video shoot. During the date, the producer kept saying, “I want more timpf. I want more timpf.” After the musicians laughed at his pronunciation, Romeo Penque yelled, “It’s not timpf… it’s timp. Like pimp!”

John also told me a story he got back in 1950, when he was studying bassoon with William Polisi, of the NBC Symphony. Arturo Toscanini, the conductor of that orchestra, often spent time at the Waldorf Hotel, sipping champagne. When the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was at the Waldorf, the famous trombonist was introduced to Maestro Toscanini, who told him, “You’ve got a wonderful orchestra. But you’re a little sharp.”

While Frank Amoss was Kai Winding’s drummer, many years ago, they were at the Maryland Hotel on Rush Street in Chicago, playing behind a large oval bar. A customer at the bar asked Frank, “Are you local?” “No,” said Frank, “Express!”

Denny LeRoux told me about a conversation he heard behind him at a jazz performance:

1st voice: “What time is it?”

2nd voice: “8:30. Why?”

1st voice: “I forgot how long jazz is.”

I found this on the Internet, in a conversation between Bruce Raeburn and Brian Priestley. Bruce remembered that a friend in New Orleans heard a radio announcer on station WWOZ refer to the jazz clarinetists Omer Simeon and Jimmie Noone as “Omer Someone and Jimmy No One.”

Joe Luciano, out in Rapid City, South Dakota, called Marian McPartland in New York and asked her if she would consider coming to the Rapid City Central High School to be a guest artist with their jazz band. Marian said, “Are you nuts? Me, travel from New York to South Dakota? That’s worse than a trip across town!”

After playing a solo piano gig for a wedding reception in Corning, New York a few years ago, Jim Ford stopped at a coffee shop before driving home to Binghamton. Still wearing his tux, he knew that sooner or later he would be asked the question, and had his speech all prepared. “Been to a wedding?” the young lad serving coffee asked. In his best deadpan delivery Jim responded: “Yeah. I’m a professional best man. A guy wants to get married, doesn’t have any friends, he gives me a call. Business has been good. There are a lot of losers out there.” Jim savored the look of astonishment on the young man’s face.

Back in the early 1970’s Jim was in the Army, stationed in Germany. Their small detachment was visited by George Jessel with his piano accompanist Ben Oakland, who wrote the music for “I’ll Take Romance” and “Java Jive,” among other songs. After the performance Jim was talking with Oakland, who turned to Jessel and said, “Hey, Georgie, don’t you think this guy looks like a young Jerry Lewis?” Jessel looked at Jim appraisingly and said: “Don’t worry, kid, you’ll grow out of it.”