Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVIII, No. 4April, 2008

Bill Crow

I played a school concert with Art Baron’s quartet at Lincoln Center recently. Jackie Williams was the drummer, and Richard Wyands was the pianist. Art did a nice job of getting a roomful of elementary school kids to participate in some fun with jazz. After some handclapping on the afterbeat and call and response scatting on “C Jam Blues” and some group “doo-wahs” on “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” Art brought some of the kids up to the microphone to ask questions. One boy asked Art, “Did you guys play rock before you got old?”

Retired music teacher Douglas Ocharsky has been an 802 member for nearly 50 years. He is a large man, 6’4” and over 300 pounds. For the last 22 years he has been the director of the New York City “All-City” High School Marching Band, which was hired this year to kick off events at the fundraiser that the National Football League holds for the United Way. Before the festivities began, Doug was standing around backstage where a crowd of football stars from the Jets and Giants, past and present, were gathered. He found himself standing next to Giant hall-of-famer Harry Carson, and they chatted for a bit. Then current player Kareem McKenzie came over to say hello to Carson. He apologized for interrupting, and then said to Doug, “So, what years did you play?” Doug said, “I’m sorry, Mr. McKenzie, but I’m still playing today. I’m here with the band!” The three “giants” enjoyed a good laugh.

Back in the 1960’s, Rod Ruth was leading a trio for an afternoon wedding reception at a restaurant in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. Rod, on tenor, had hired a drummer and an electronic keyboard player. While setting up, they discovered that the keyboard wasn’t working: not a sound came out of it. As the keyboard player frantically tried to repair his instrument, they started the reception with Rod announcing the introductions to drum accompaniment. Then the music began with just tenor and drums, and stayed that way for half of the reception, until the keyboardist finally was able to complete his repairs and join them. After the party was over, Rod approached the bride’s mother and asked how everything had gone. She said, “Okay, but we really had wanted an accordion for the party.”

Bud Burridge sent me some Bob Millikan lines he has collected:

  • After cracking a note on a job (something Bob doesn’t do very often), Bob said, “It’s the equipment, Bud… I’m lucky to be playing as well as I am with this equipment!”
  • After sitting on the bandstand at Fat Tuesdays for an exceptionally long time waiting for the show to begin, Bob said, “I hope we start soon. I have to get back to the hospital. They don’t even know I’m gone. I told them I was going up on the roof for some air.”
  • An extended piano solo by Bill Charlap began to include the use of his elbows, and other sound effects. Bob commented: “Sounds like the cocktail hour at Bellevue.”
  • After a recording take with the Bob Mintzer band, the engineer said, “Okay, let’s listen to that.” Bob said, “I’ll be right back. I gotta go into the control room and cough at the appropriate moments.”
  • A conductor once told Bob, “The number of notes you’re missing is unacceptable.” Bob asked, “How many is acceptable?” Surprisingly, the conductor gave him a number!

When John Whimple plays guitar and sings for senior complexes on Long Island, he usually throws in a crowd pleaser, giving away a lottery ticket to the person with the closest birthday or wedding anniversary. At one performance, he asked the crowd who had a wedding anniversary closest to that date. When there was no response, he asked who had an anniversary in the last couple of months. Still no response. He expanded it to the last six to eight months. No answers. Finally, a woman slipped up to him and whispered, “You might as well go on with your playing. Nobody is going to acknowledge a wedding anniversary. This is the Forge River Senior Singles Group.” 

Saxophonist Ken Simon was doing a single at a South Street Seaport restaurant, playing his soprano sax outdoors on the veranda. Three scruffy looking men were sitting on a bench near the restaurant. They looked like they had been up all night, without benefit of food, sleep, or bath. Ken thought they looked like trouble. After he had played a couple of tunes, one of the men, wearing a mean scowl, waddled over and stood in front of Ken while he was playing. When Ken stopped, the man said politely, “My friends and I would like to know what instrument you’re playing.” When Ken told him, the man thanked him and returned to his bench. The second man walked over and stood looking at Ken with an even meaner and nastier look than the first. After a while he wandered off, and the third man came over and put four dollars on the table beside Ken. “This is for respect!” he said. Then he asked for “Blue Moon” and went into the restaurant to use the facilities.

Larry Kart sent me this one: Bandleader Jack Parnell looked over a new arrangement and asked, “How does this number go?” Tom McQuater, his trumpet player, said, “For you, one, two, three, four!”