Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVIII, No. 9September, 2008

Bill Crow

Dan Barrett lives in California now, but when he was around New York he occasionally played at the Cornerstone, in Metuchen, NJ. One night there, a guy cornered him between sets, bought him a drink, and said, “I’ve been watching you for two sets now, and I think I’ve got it figured out. I’m a good observer. You change all the notes with just your lip, right?” Dan said, “Not exactly,” and began to explain the overtone system to him. But the guy wasn’t interested. “You change all the notes with your lips, and this thing…” He made the trombone slide in-and-out motion. “The slide,” said Dan. “Yeah, the slide. That’s just there for show. You move it back and forth so everybody has something to look at, and when you want to get the audience all revved up, you move it back and forth real fast.” With a straight face, Dan asked, “You figured all that out after just two sets?” The guy said, “I told you, I’m observant.” Dan leaned toward him conspiratorially. “Look, the other folks here are not nearly as observant as you, and they’re still mystified by the whole thing. I’ll ask you to keep it a secret, so you don’t blow the magic for the others, okay?” The man smiled wisely and shook Dan’s hand. “Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.” Dan returned to the bandstand and made sure to move his slide back and forth real fast on the next set.

A friend of Sandy Schaffer’s has the Mendelssohn violin concerto as her cellphone ring tone. One day when her phone rang, a man asked her, “Is that the Mendelssohn violin concerto?” When Sandy’s friend said it was, the man asked, “Who’s playing?”

Les Dreyer, a retired violinist of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, often played shows at the Copacabana when he was a young man studying at Columbia University. He remembers a rehearsal for Tony Martin’s show that went overtime. He said, “Tony apologized for the late hour and told the bandleader, ‘Take the boys out for dinner… my treat!” The hungry musicians invaded a nearby East Side restaurant and ordered everything from lobster to champagne. As promised, Martin paid the tab, which was quite large. During the show that night, Les remarked to a band member that maybe they should thank Mr. Martin with a gift, for his generosity. “Kid,” he replied, “this was nothing. Last time we played for him, he bought the entire band new tuxedos.”

Dave Larsen, a friend of Linc Milliman’s, told Linc he saw a bumper sticker that read: WHAT IF THE HOKEY POKEY IS REALLY WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT?

My old friend Dave Frishberg has a nice Web site: Among other wonderful stories there, I found this one told to Dave by Pinky Winters: 

During the 70’s, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented Benny Goodman playing Aaron Copland’s clarinet concerto. The Goodman band was featured first, and Pinky was backstage, listening to the music from the wings. Standing near her was Aaron Copland, and they exchanged polite greetings. On one of Benny’s charts, George Benson was playing an extended guitar solo. Copland couldn’t see that part of the stage, and asked Pinky, “What is that instrument I hear?” She responded, “Why, that’s a guitar.” “No,” said Copland, “I mean the solo instrument.” Pinky explained, “It’s a guitar with an amplifier.” Copland, astonished, said, “What will they think of next?”

In 1988 William Zinn was interviewed by someone at Condé Nast publishers to see if he was photogenic. They decided that he was, and gave him the task of contracting a group of equally photogenic string players to appear in a tuxedo ad for Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) magazine. Zinn and his chosen group of fiddlers arrived at the photo shoot with instruments, music stands and music, but only the instruments were required. They posed with a male model who wore a new style tuxedo, and three nude French models, who splashed each other with blue paint and made body prints on a wall by pressing themselves against it. A lavish buffet kept everyone happy, and no one complained when the session went into overtime.

Zinn’s wife Sophia worked as a bookkeeper at Publishers’ Clearing House, where she was shown a copy of the GQ spread featuring Zinn and the naked ladies. At home that night, Zinn says he had a lot of explaining to do.

Wally Dunbar told me about a leader in Toronto, Al Hirsch, who called pianist Maury Kaye for a gig. Kaye informed him that he had broken both knees in an accident. Hirsch said, “So, I guess you can’t play.” Kaye replied, “Oh, I can play. The only thing I can’t do is take communion!”

John Altman got an e-mail from the British Film Academy offering “An Evening of Charlie Parker.” He opened the message eagerly, hoping it was the elusive video from Canadian Television he’d heard about, with Brew Moore and Paul Bley. With his glasses better adjusted, he realized that the message was really offering “An Evening of Charity Poker.”