Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVIII, No. 11November, 2008

Bill Crow

In the early 1970’s, Bill Zinn’s Ragtime String Quartet booked a media concert held at O. Henry’s Steak House in Greenwich Village. Dick Hyman was to be their special guest, but when he arrived, they discovered that there was no piano for him to play. Zinn remembered a piano shop not far away, on Broadway. He called and asked the owner if he had an old upright, slightly out of tune. “We have exactly what you want in the window,” said the owner. He wanted $190 for the piano, delivered to a ground floor in Manhattan. Zinn offered $200 if he would get it to O. Henry’s within the hour. Soon a beat-up white piano arrived, just in time for the gig. Zinn told Hyman he had arranged Maple Leaf Rag in A major instead of A-flat, to make it lay better for the strings. Hyman said he would play it in any key, and tossed it off without missing a note. Afterward, when the restaurant wouldn’t even accept the piano as a gift, Zinn had the movers ship it to his home in Bayside. Since he already had a grand piano on the first floor, he chopped a hole in the side of his house and put the instrument in his basement.

When Jim Hall was on the road with Chico Hamilton’s group, he discovered that Woody Herman’s band was staying at their hotel. Jim had breakfast one day with Vince Guaraldi and Bill Harris, who were with Woody at the time. Vince talked about playing in New York with the band. Woody’s bassist, Chubby Jackson, had told Vince he could save some money by staying with him at his mother’s house. Vince slept the first night on an uncomfortable couch, but Chubby had told him there was a spare mattress in the attic. When he awoke in the morning, he decided not to wait for Chubby, and headed for the attic to get the mattress. Being unfamiliar with attic construction, he didn’t realize that between the beams was just the plasterboard ceiling of the room below. Vince stepped there, broke through the ceiling, and found himself back on the couch again, surrounded by broken plasterboard. He said Chubby nearly had a heart attack when he found him there.

Frad Garner sent me this one: Eddie Henderson’s family relocated to California when he was a boy. He began studying classical music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He told Frad, “Miles Davis was staying at our house during the period when he had Coltrane and Cannonball in his band. I actually once told Miles that he didn’t play trumpet correctly. That didn’t go over too well.” Once young Eddie learned who Davis was, and began listening to his records, he was drawn to jazz and began to imitate Miles’s sound. “During a later visit, Davis asked me if I was still copying him. I had learned that Miles himself had copied Freddie Webster. Miles whispered in my ear, ‘Everybody’s a thief. I just made a short-term loan.’”

Some years ago a friend of Al Regni’s, David Gilbert, won the New York Philharmonic’s conducting competition. The orchestra gave him a week’s engagement consisting of four concerts that he conducted, and he was made assistant conductor for the entire season. To celebrate his opening night concert, Al and some other friends took David to a watering hole called the Monk’s Inn (now defunct) on West 64th Street, near Lincoln Center. It was designed for late night fare and after-concert socializing. The waiters, all great jokesters, wore monk’s robes.

During the evening their waiter kept the group amused with one-liners and witticisms. After he made a joke at Dave’s expense, Al said, “Please treat this gentleman with some respect. He’s the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic.” The waiter picked up a butter knife and chimed a water glass. “Can you tell me what note I just hit?” he asked Dave. “No, I’m afraid I can’t,” replied Dave. “Well,” said the waiter, “that explains why you’re the assistant!”

Al Cardillo told me about a winery gig he was booked on in the Hamptons. When he got to the venue it was raining so hard Al couldn’t get out of his car. He called the leader on his cell phone and was told that they had moved everything indoors, but not before the keyboards and the musicians had gotten soaking wet. When the rain subsided a bit, Al dashed indoors, leaving his bass in his car. He found the leader, who looked like he had showered with his clothes on. He told Al he was going home, and that the gig was cancelled. The party was for a group of neuro-spinal doctors. Al wasn’t sure if he would be paid, and since he was starving, he decided to collect a little food on account. He blended in with the guests, eating their food and drinking their wine. The wife of a doctor introduced herself and asked if Al was a doctor. Al replied, “Doctor Cardillo, proctology.” A bit later she introduced Al to her husband, as “Doctor Cardillo, a proctologist.” The husband expressed surprise that a proctologist had come to an event for spine doctors. Al told him, “Where the spinal cord ends, my work begins.”

Herb Gardner found a good Web site for musicians who are looking for a place to park when gigging in New York: It is: Just follow the prompts. All the rates are listed, and you can even make a reservation online.