Bill Crow’s Band Room

September '12

Volume 112, No. 9September, 2012

Bill Crow

David Wundrow sent me a link to an interview, published on the Internet, that James Tarmy had with the composer Elliott Carter in his Greenwich Village apartment. Here’s a bit of it:

Tarmy: How long have you lived in this apartment?

Carter: Since 1945, right at the end of the war. This part of the city was my favorite. When I was in high school there were speakeasies down here, where we would drink wine in teacups. It was a real slum. Now the area has been discovered by Wall Street, so while we paid $15,000 for this apartment, it’s now worth $2 million.

Tarmy: What was your favorite restaurant?

Carter: La Cote Basque, now sadly closed. I took Igor Stravinsky and his wife there. We got a table in the middle of the room, speaking French, and a man came in, and said in rather good French, “Will the maestro please give me an autograph?” Stravinsky said “Certainly not.”

His wife did a great deal of talking in Russian and finally he agreed, but took forever to write out his name. The man waited and waited and by this point the whole room was watching. Finally Stravinsky was done and the man thanked him and walked away. We asked Stravinsky if he knew who he was and he said, “Certainly, I see him on television all the time.” The man was Frank Sinatra.

George Young sent me a quote from alto man Hymie Schertzer:

“When I first joined a band, it was illegal to play soprano saxophone. Then it became optional. And now, it’s legal. I’m getting out before it becomes mandatory!”

Ron LoPinto told me about a gig in Boca Raton, Florida, with Phil Silberman’s Avery Lane Big Band. In the sax section were two players in their nineties, Sid Jekowsky and Al Feldman. An audience member asked them how they could account for their longevity. Jekowsky replied, to the delight of the crowd, “I keep my bowels clean and my mouth shut!”

Greg Thymius was subbing one night for Ed Joffe on the Reed One chair at “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The book called for alto and soprano saxes, Bb and Eb clarinet, flute and piccolo. As Greg passed some pedestrians while carrying all that luggage, one of them asked him the inevitable question, “Have you considered playing the piccolo?” As he walked on, Greg called back, “That’s the problem, I do play the piccolo!”

Since then, Greg has found a giant, wheeled suitcase that holds everything, so he doesn’t get asked dumb questions any more.

Bill Mays sent me this note: “Last week at the Trumpet Guild Conference I ran into Doc Severinsen. We were reminiscing and laughing about the infamous Al Lapin, music contractor at NBC back in the day. Al was known for his legendary malapropisms. (When a trumpet player hit a clam and asked for another take, Al would say, ‘Well, nobody’s human.’) In the 1970s I had compiled a list of Al’s sayings. It had been missing for several years, but Bob Magnusson just forwarded that list to me.”

Bill’s collection is too long to print in its entirety, but here are the ones I liked best:

“This situation is abdominal.”

“That’s your provocative.”

“This is a real dilemon.”

“He’s a real bon voyant.”

“I flew back to New York on a TWA Consolation.”

“A bird in the hand is worth two around the corner.”

“I got Bill Mays to come and play his sympathizer.”

“When you can get those top-notch players, you’re really scraping the top of the barrel.”

A leader suggested that Lapin hire Al Vizzuti. His service told him, “Al Vizzutti is out with Chick Corea.” Lapin told the leader, “Al Vizzutti is out with some chick in Korea.”

Wayne Goodman passed along a story he got from trumpeter Chuck Bumcrot at a rehearsal for a Pit Stop Players concert. Chuck said that bassist Joe Russo was on his way to a gig, dressed in a tux and carrying his instrument. He was approached by a homeless man in need of some spare change. As Joe began searching his pockets clumsily with one hand while holding his bass with the other, the man brought him into better focus and said, “Hey, man, are you a musician?” Russo admitted that he was, and the homeless man backed off, saying “Oh, sorry, man!”

Joe Hanlon tells me that a grace note is the technique you use to gracefully get to the note you should have played in the first place.