Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVIII, No. 10October, 2008

Bill Crow

Frank Tate has been in and out of the hospital with some problems lately, but when I called him recently, he sounded very chipper, and even gave me a story: Frank was carrying his bass down the stairs to the Iridium club one Sunday afternoon. A guy who was going down the stairs ahead of him suddenly turned around and came back up. As he passed him, Frank said, “Change of heart?” The guy growled, “I don’t have one.” Frank laughed and said, “You must be the owner.” “I am,” said the guy.

Larry Benz has been with the Brooklyn Philharmonic since Seigfreid Landau was its conductor. During the years when that orchestra was under the baton of Lukas Foss, Benz occasionally introduced himself to Foss, hoping that eventually, instead of saying “third trombone, would you be so kind,…” Foss would say “Larry…” He once did a sub for Vince Belford with the New Jersey Symphony in Trenton for a three concert series that Foss was conducting. Foss had lost his bow tie, and the only one available was not pre-tied. Larry was asked to tie it for him, and went into Foss’s dressing room. “Hi, Lukas,” he said. “Oh, yes, yes, tie this for me!” Larry tied the tie and adjusted it, and they went on with the concert. Afterward, the concertmaster told Larry that Foss had said to him, “You know, your bass trombone player looks just like mine in Brooklyn!”

Several Internet friends sent me this 23rd Psalm for Jazz Bassists:

The Lord is my drummer, I shall not rush,
He maketh me to lay out in tasteful places,
He leadeth me beside cool meter changes,
He restoreth my “one.”
Yeah, man, though I read through the
trickiest of charts, I will fear no train wrecks,
For you are with it.
Your ride and your snare they comfort me,
You setteth up a solo for me
In the presence of mine guitarists,
You anointeth my lines with drive,
My groove overfloweth.
Surely good feel and swing will follow me
through all the tunes of each set,
And I will dwell in the pocket
the whole gig long. Amen.

At the Drake hotel in Chicago, Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman were playing a duo gig at the Coq d’Or. A well-dressed man and wife listened all night, sending up requests. Chatting with them during a break, Greg learned that the man was a very successful doctor who flew all over the world to give lectures to other doctors about surgical procedures. His requests were a bit obscure, but Greg and Judy played most of them for him. At the end of the night, the doctor came to the piano and put a five dollar bill in the tip jar. Then he reached in and took out a dollar change.

Bernie Bragin told me about a recording session with Tommy Dorsey’s band long ago. On the song “Marquita,” Bunny Berigan was supposed to play the bridge, but he hadn’t shown up for the date, so Tommy assigned the part to Chris Griffin. On the take, Bunny staggered into the studio, just a few bars before the release, three sheets to the wind. He grabbed Chris’s trumpet, played his solo, and then passed out.

I got a call from Luther Rix a while back. He told me about a gig that guitarist Richard Frank had booked at a senior center where he often plays. Frank got a call from the entertainment manager, who wanted to cancel the booking. “This is for the Alzheimer’s group,” he said. “You played for them last week.” Frank replied, “And your point is?…”

Kenny Berger was an admirer of the late Gene Allen’s baritone sax playing. He remembers sitting in Joe Harbor’s bar late one night with Danny Bank, another fine baritone player. Gene Allen walked in and announced that he had just quit his job at the Copacabana. Ken and Danny wondered if it was because of the money, or personality clashes with the leader. Gene said, “No, it just suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t played a melody in two and a half years!”

Denny Leroux told me about a wedding that he made a proposal for. It was to take place at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. He heard that they had auditioned about 60 bands, and was surprised that his band was chosen. He asked the employer, “How come I got the job?” The guy told him, “You’re the only one none of the others said anything bad about.” On the job, the bride and groom wanted “Moody’s Mood For Love” for the first dance, but the requests for jazz soon turned to requests for Israeli music. Leo Ursini wailed on Israeli tunes for about 30 minutes, getting the whole place dancing. An old guy limped up to the stage and asked Leo, “Are you Jewish?” Leo said, “No!” The guy said, “You’re lying!” Leo said, “Thank you!” The guy said, “You’re velcome!”

When Joe Lang used to work in a record shop, a lady walked in who was obviously upset. When Joe asked what was troubling her, she said, “I was just at a record store over in the Mall, and I asked the clerk where I might find Edith Piaf. He replied, ‘Lady, I don’t think she works here anymore.’”