Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CIII, No. 11November, 2003

Bill Crow

Chris Kimball is a drummer from the Pacific Northwest and the son of my old friend the late Ken Kimball, pianist and teacher. Chris was looking for a way to raise money for the International Rotary Club’s Polio Plus program. Noting that the Guinness Book of World Records listed the most drummers performing together simultaneously as 120, a record set last year in Spain, he decided to set a new record for charity. He arranged for the donation of an airport hangar in Tacoma, spread the word on the drummers’ grapevine, and was able to assemble over 300 of them to play his six-minute composition titled “The Broken Record.” Maestro Gerard Schwartz of the Seattle Symphony volunteered to conduct the piece, and drummers Alan White of Yes, Bun Carlos of Cheap Trick and Mike Derosier of Heart took part in the performance. The participating drummers donated $10 each and also solicited pledges, and the audience all contributed. They not only set a new drumming record, they raised $22,000 for Polio Plus. Kimball said, “The Rotary is already talking about a similar event for next year. They mentioned something about bagpipes.”

Don Robertson reports that, at the New Jersey Jazz Society’s Atlantic Mutual JazzFest last June, Jay Leonhart was onstage telling one of his stories, about a plane trip to Los Angeles with Leonard Bernstein, when his cell phone rang. He interrupted himself and answered it. It was Marian McPartland, wanting to talk to him about an upcoming gig. He told her he was in the middle of a performance and had to go. He said, yes, he’d see that Grady Tate made their gig. Jay turned off his phone, told the audience that Marian wished them her best, and continued his story right where he had left off.

Lee Evans sent me two more items culled from his term papers at Pace University:

“Glenn Miller went into the Army Air Corpse.”

“Debussy utilized the whole tone and catatonic scales.”

Steve Cohen forwarded this one from singer Marilyn Harris in Los Angeles: A teacher was telling her class of seven-year-olds about ants. “Worker ants,” she told them, “can carry pieces of food five times their own weight. What do you conclude from that?” One child had the answer: “They don’t have a union.”

Herb Gardner sent me a quote he found from Walter Piston, who was asked by one of his students if there was such a thing as a tuba mute. Piston said, “Oh, yes. It’s an imposing-looking device, rather like a large wastebasket. In fact, one of my pieces has a passage calling for a muted tuba. During the fortissimo orchestral climax that just precedes it, you can see the tuba player standing on the top riser with his arms fully extended toward the heavens, lowering the mute into the bell of his instrument. Of course, when he plays, you can hardly hear it, but the installation is a magnificent sight.”

Gene Gamiel was looking through an old scrap book and found the following clipping from 1983:

The chairman of the Board of Directors of the local symphony orchestra, who was also chairman of the board of a large corporation, found he could not attend a symphony concert. He gave his ticket to one of his employees, a management consultant. The next day he received a memo:

Comments and recommendations re: the live performance of Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony,” as observed under actual working conditions:

  • For considerable periods, the four oboe players had nothing to do. One player could perform all the work if it were spread more evenly over the entire piece, thus eliminating peaks and valleys of activity.
  • All 12 violins were playing identical notes with identical motions, an unnecessary duplication of effort. The staff of this section should be drastically reduced. If larger volume of sound is required, it could be obtained through electronic amplification.
  • Much expertise was required in playing sixteenth notes, which are beyond the ability of most listeners to appreciate. It is recommended that all notes be rounded to the nearest eighth, thus allowing lower grade operators with no loss of efficiency.
  • No useful purpose would appear to be served by having the horns repeat passages that have already been played by the strings. If all redundant passages were eliminated, the elapsed playing time could be reduced by 35 percent, with commensurate savings in salaries and overhead.
  • In summary, if the first two movements had been written more concisely, Schubert probably would have had time to finish his symphony.

Jack Adams told me about a drummer he worked with in his early days. Gigs payed around twenty-five dollars then, when they could be found. One day a drummer friend informed Jack that he had raised his price to forty. “Are you getting much work?” asked Jack. “No,” answered his friend, “but I’d rather not be working for forty dollars than not be working for twenty-five.”