Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume 111, No. 7/8July, 2011

Bill Crow

Scott Robinson got this story from Bill Mays. When Bill was with Gerry Mulligan’s group, they had a project with a symphony orchestra for which they had scheduled a rehearsal at their hotel. It was a very hot day, and Bill arrived at the rehearsal wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Gerry said, “Come on, this is a symphony orchestra… go back and put on something more respectable.” So Bill went back to his room, and returned wearing the same shorts, with a tuxedo shirt.

This one was posted on the JazzWestCoast newsgroup by England’s Steve Voce:

When planning Stan Getz’s appearance at the Nice Jazz Festival, the organizers asked Stan’s friend Ruby Braff to sit in with the Getz quartet. Ruby declined, saying, “I’ll get up there and Stan will call ‘Cherokee’ or something with a rocket tempo, just because he knows I can’t keep up.” “No, I won’t,” said Stan. “We’ll play something medium tempo, or a ballad or something.” So Ruby agreed to sit in. When he arrived onstage, Stan introduced him to the audience and then announced, “We’d like to start off with ‘Cherokee’…”

Chuck Christiansen has been the drummer with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme since 1981. When Hollywood planned a tribute to Frank Sinatra in 1995, Steve, Eydie and Vic Damone were slated for a Sinatra medley at the Greek Theater as part of the show. Chuck flew in, did the show and headed back to Sacramento the next morning via the Burbank airport. He checked in and took a seat in the waiting area before boarding. Then he heard his name called on the pager, returned to the ticket counter and was asked for his ID again. He returned to his seat, but was paged again. This happened three times.

Chuck asked what was wrong, and was told that there was no problem, but when the passengers lined up for boarding, suddenly cars drove up to block the plane from moving, and armed men rushed to the waiting area. Chuck was surrounded, taken out of the line to a small side room and questioned about what he was doing in Los Angeles. The interrogators didn’t seem to believe Chuck’s story, and it turned out that he had been identified as a desperado named Kaczynski who was known in the media as the Unibomber. The girl at the ticket counter had seen a pencil sketch of the Unibomber in the papers, and thought that Chuck, in his hooded sweater, moustache and sunglasses, matched the drawing.

Chuck told them that his stick bag and his backstage pass from the previous night’s concert were in his suitcase, and they took his bag off the plane and examined it. Once they realized that he wasn’t their man, they said, “Okay, you can go, but we’ll be watching you.” No “Sorry, sir,” or anything to indicate they had made a mistake. The word that Chuck had been mistaken for the Unibomber was soon all around southern California, and by the time he moved back to Chicago they were calling him the Unidrummer.

Back in the days when the Merv Griffin Show broadcast on television from New York with a live band, Howard Danziger was walking down Broadway one day with some of the band members. Suddenly, a manhole in front of them exploded, flipping the heavy iron cover high into the air. As it descended, trumpeter Danny Stiles shouted, “Heads!”

Barney Bragin told me that, when he was with the Glenn Miller Air Force band, he wrote an arrangement for them. When they tried it out, Barney was pleased when Glenn said to him, “Nice, Barney.” And then Miller went on to say, “…but maybe you should read my book on arranging.”

While John Arbo was playing the show “Miss Saigon,” he noticed Lynn Cohen sitting in the band room after the show one night. He asked her why she was there, and she said, “I’m waiting for my old man.” (The conductor, Constantine Kitsopoulos.) “Constantine?” asked John. “Yes,” replied Lynn. Jack Gale, at his locker nearby, said, “How can he be your old man if he’s a constant teen?” There was stunned silence of disbelief in the room, and Jack said jovially, “Yup, sometimes it worries me that my brain works that way.”

When Dan Block was invited to perform at a jazz party in Norwich, England this spring, he took along several charts he had written in the style of the old John Kirby band. He told me they were difficult, but after some intense rehearsal, the band played them well. After the rehearsal, reedman Alan Barnes said to Warren Vache, “Generally I suffer from writer’s block, but now I’m suffering from Block’s writing.”