Lester Lanin likes to use subject themes in assembling the medley sets he calls for his society jobs. For example, he might call “June Night,” followed by “April in Paris.” Or “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” might lead to “Chicago” or “New York, New York.” Nabil Totah says that one night someone at an affair asked for “Take Five,” and Lester’s band began to play it in 5/4 time. (Lester kept asking the drummer where the beat was.) After a few choruses, in the spirit of continuity, Lester called out the next tune: “Five Foot Two!”
Art Baron and Joe Shepley were standing at the back of the Local 802 Club Room one afternoon, listening to Mike Longo’s band rehearsing. When the band took a break Art said, “I guess I’ll go upstairs and pick up the new directory and see if my name is misspelled.” Shepley quipped, “So you think that’s the reason?”
At a Memorial Day parade with Bruce McNichols in Rockville Center, Long Island, Larry Siegel introduced himself while strapping on a bass drum. “I’m not really a bass drummer,” he said, “I’m a banjo player.” Herb Gardner quickly remarked that social climbing exists at all levels.
This one has been going around the internet. It was forwarded to me by Bruce Crowther, who got it from Mundell Lowe and his wife, Betty Bennett: Two elderly musicians met on the street, and one asked, “Harry, how are you doing these days?” Harry said, “Well, Moe, it’s a little slow right now. By the way, have you seen Fingers lately?” “Oh, my, I guess you didn’t hear,” Moe said. “Fingers passed away suddenly last winter.” “Gee, that’s terrible. What did he have?” “Well, he had the ice show, the circus, the VFW once a month, and two trust fund gigs.”
Doug Ramsey passed along this story he got from Bill Holman: Arranger Spud Murphy recently celebrated his 92nd birthday. At the celebration for him at Local 47 union headquarters, someone asked, “Spud, are you all right? You’re acting kind of weird.” “I’m not acting,” Spud replied.
At the Concorde Club in Southampton, England, British jazz fan Gordon Sapsed stopped by to hear the touring Candoli brothers, Pete and Conte. During the interval a gushy fan came up and said to Pete, “Can I thank you for all the pleasure and joy you have brought us over the past 40 years?” Conte said, “Pete, is it really that long that you’ve stayed away from here?”
Clay Moore, Joe Levinson and several others passed this one along via the internet: Three men died in a plane crash and were about to enter heaven. St. Peter asked the first man what he did on earth and was told, “I was a doctor.” “Go right through the Pearly Gates,” said St. Peter. The second said, “I was a school teacher.” “Right on through those Pearly Gates,” said St. Peter. The third man said, “I was a musician.” “Right,” said St. Peter. “Go around the back through the security entrance, up the freight elevator, through the kitchen…”
When Leo Ball was a young trumpet player in Brockton, Mass., he had already succumbed to the addiction of brass players: looking for the perfect mouthpiece. One day he drove to Boston with Lou Colombo, Dick Johnson and Izzy Gold to haunt the music stores. As they tried out mouthpieces, Lou suddenly cried, “This is it! I finally found it!” He happily played on his discovery for a while, purchased it, and the boys headed back to Brockton. On the way, Colombo praised the new mouthpiece so extravagantly that the other guys suggested he make a real commitment to it: “Throw the old one away!” The car happened to be stopped at a light when Colombo took out the old mouthpiece and tossed it out the window. They watched it roll to the gutter and vanish down the grating of a storm sewer.
After his gig that night, Colombo changed his mind. He called Izzy Gold. “Izzy, you got rubber boots?” They met and drove back to the fatal intersection, pried up the sewer grating and climbed down with a flashlight. The mouthpiece was there, right where it had fallen. Colombo retrieved it and continued playing it – but he never gave up the search for a better one.
Last August bass trombonist George Flynn called the checks department at Local 802 to see if anything had come in for him. I happened to answer the phone, and George said, “I’m calling from Jackson Hole, Wyoming! I’m out here mountain climbing, and I saw a great backpack I’d like to buy. I thought that if I had a check waiting at the union, I’d buy it.” I looked in his file and found one check. “George,” I said, “don’t spend any more than $248.91.”
Shelly Gordon plays a lot of Chassidic weddings at an Italian catering hall, and the caterers are used to seeing him dressed in black and wearing a yarmulke. When he showed up one day at the same hall to play an Irish affair, one of the caterers asked, “What are you doing here?” Shelly replied, “From one god you can’t make a living.”
A musician, now living out in Allentown, Pa., told me about the time went to a big band revival summer festival. A vocalist who was getting on in years sang “September Song” at such a slow tempo that, by the time she finished, it was October!