Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume 112, No. 5May, 2012

Bill Crow

Joe Hanchrow keeps his string bass, bass guitar and tuba in gig bags in his laundry room. That is also where he keeps crunchy dog food, in a bag enclosed in a garbage can. One day he unzipped his string bass and heard a rattling sound inside. Looking through an f-hole with a flashlight, he saw a dozen or so pieces of dog food inside the bass. With his wife’s help, he shook the dog food out through the f-holes. A few days later, there were twice as many pieces of dog food in the bass. He emptied it again, and moved the instrument to a different part of the house.

A couple of days later, Joe got his tuba out to warm it up for a gig, and couldn’t center his notes. When he rotated the horn to put it down, he heard that rattling sound again. He found over thirty pieces of dog food inside the horn. It took him quite a while to get it all out.

Joe figures the mice in the house had been getting into the garbage can, into the sack of dog food, and carrying each piece to the bass and tuba, slipping into the zippered cases and hiding the food inside the instruments. Joe has moved the dog food container outside on the driveway, and is waiting to see if the mice have any further plans for his bass and tuba.

Violinist Joe Gallo called from Williamstown, Mass, where he and his wife Barbara now live, to give me a story from his days in New York with Lester Lanin. They were playing an affair at the Plaza Hotel during the Clinton administration, and there was a great stir when it was announced that the president was about to enter the room. Lanin had the orchestra play “Hail to the Chief,” according to protocol. But then, someone rushed up to the bandstand and told Lanin that the vice president was also about to come in. Lanin panicked. He asked his musicians, “What do you play for the vice president?” One of the trumpet players quipped, “Play the same thing, a half tone lower.”

Wikipedia says that the appropriate music for the vice president is “Hail Columbia.” But Joe, who says he misses the wit of club date musicians, would still like to know the name of that trumpet player.

Herb Gardner passed this one along to me:

Dan Levinson thought Stan Rubin sounded a little strange on the phone, so he asked, “Stan, are you O.K.?” Stan replied, “Of course not! I’m in the music business; how could I be O.K.?”

Tony Middleton sent me a story he got from a Web site, about trumpeter Bob Carey. Bob said that one day Billy May was walking by the Westlake school in California and heard a big band rehearsing inside. He stopped and listened, then walked into the school, found the band, and leaned over and corrected a note on the second alto part.

Jonathan Tunick met Arthur Schwartz’s younger son Paul at a party. The son told Tunick that his father had composed “Dancing In the Dark” in as much time as it took to play it through on the piano. “If that’s so,” asked Tunick, “how come it’s taken me 50 years to figure out the chord changes?”

Here is some advice attributed to Thelonious Monk, transcribed by Steve Lacy (1960) and posted on the Internet by Shaun Usher:

Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.

Pat your foot & sing the melody in your head, when you play.

Stop playing all those weird notes (that B.S.): play the melody!

Make the drummer sound good.

You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

Don’t play the piano part, i’m playing that. Don’t listen to me. I’m supposed to be accompanying you!

The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.

Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important that what you do.

Always leave them wanting more.

A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.

Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.

When you’re swinging, swing some more!

Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.

These pieces were written so as to have something to play, and to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.

(To a drummer who didn’t want to solo): You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it!

Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it.

A genius is the one most like himself.