In June, I participated in a 90th birthday tribute concert for Milt Hinton at the Kaye Auditorium at Hunter College, as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. Many of Milt’s longtime friends came to play for him and wish him a happy birthday. The concert ended with three numbers played by a choir of 19 basses under the baton of John Clayton. With all the basses assembled onstage, I told John, “This is the way it used to look around here before they cut down all the trees.” I also played in two trios, one with Dick Hyman and one with George Wein, the producer of the festival. George grew up in Boston, and still speaks with the broad vowels of his native turf. I told him, “If Tony Bennett had grown up where you grew up, he’d have left his hat in San Francisco!”
Backstage I ran into Joe Bushkin, whom I hadn’t seen for several years. “How’ve you been feeling?” I asked. “Well,” said Joe, “I wasn’t sleeping so well there for a while, so I saw my doctor and he gave me some pills. I took one, and I had a dream about Buddy Rich! I called the doctor back the next morning and told him I wasn’t taking any more of his damn pills!”
Andy Harp sent me a copy of an item he found listed on eBay, the internet auction website. In the jazz listings, a Herb Pomeroy record was up for bidding. The description read: “Herb Pomeroy ‘Band In Boston’ United Artists Records UAL4015 MONO 1959. Red Labels. Somewhat modern swinging big band type jazz from Herb Pomeroy backed by band composed of Italians mostly.” The “Italians” on the record were American jazzmen: trumpeters Augie Ferretti and Nick Capezuto, trombonists Gene DiStasio and Joe Ciavardone, saxophonists Charlie Mariano and Joe Caruso, pianist Ray Santisi and drummer Jimmy Zitano.
Multi-reed man Mickey Shuster works primarily in the computer industry up in Connecticut, but he plays a bit at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. One of the shows he did called for alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute and piccolo. One night, just before the show began, a patron in the front row leaned over to ask, “Why did you bring so many instruments? Is it in case one of them breaks?”
Russ Moy passed along a story he got from percussionist Gary Rynar. In a piece he was performing in New Jersey with the Livingston Symphony, Gary was required to play a pair of 19-inch concert cymbals. He picked them up and awaited the conductor’s cue. But as he raised them in preparation for a mighty crash, he pulled a shoulder muscle – so at that performance the cymbal crash was replaced by Gary screaming, “Aaaaaaagh!”
Dan Barrett, now living in Southern California, went with his son Andy to get a haircut at their usual budget barbershop. Dan was served by a middle-aged Eurasian lady barber with a limited knowledge of English. She seemed to want to practice her conversational skills, so Dan obliged. In answer to her curiosity about his not being “at work” in the middle of the day, Dan explained that he was a musician. She didn’t know that word, so he added, “I play music for people.” She was delighted, and asked what kind of music he played. “Jazz,” said Dan. “Yaz?” she asked. “Yes, jazz music.” “Oh, yaz music! Oh, that very old music, huh? Before the twist?” She went on to give her own musical chronology: “So, first there Classical, right? Then come Yaz. Then Rock and Roll. And then the Twist!”
Gim Burton passed along a story about a kid who told his dad he wanted to learn to play the bass. Dad hooked him up with lessons and, after the first one, asked, “What did you learn today, son?” “I learned the first four notes on the fourth string,” said junior. Second lesson: “What did you learn today?” “The first four notes on the third string.” Third lesson: “What did you learn today?” “The first four notes on the second string.” On the day of the fourth lesson, the kid came home very late. The father asked, “How was your lesson?” The kid answered, “I couldn’t make the lesson today, dad. I had a gig.”
Leo Ball gave me a story told by Larry Gelbart, the comedy writer, about the time he went to visit Jack Paar, who had been hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. He asked Jack, “What seems to be the trouble?” Jack told him, “I’ve got arhythmia.” Gelbart quickly replied, “Who could ask for anything more?”
John Barbe sent me the following e-mail: There are three kinds of musicians. Those that can count, and those that can’t.