Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume XCIX, No. 10November, 1999

Bill Crow

John Arbo told me this one: Judy Albano was playing a single at Club 21 and, as she played a Michel Legrand tune, a woman came over and asked, “Is that Michel Legrand? I just love his music. Could you play another one?” As Judy began the next tune the woman tried to get the attention of her husband, who was across the room talking to someone. The woman alternated between gushing about Legrand’s music and calling “Lou, Lou, come over here!” He finally heard her and when he approached, carrying a drink and a cigar, his wife waved toward the piano and said, “This is Michel Legrand!” Lou stuck the cigar in his mouth and held out his hand to Judy. “Michelle,” he said, “how ya doin?”

Arbo also passed this one along, from pianist Mike Manishor. During a busy Christmas week, Mike brought his equipment to a midtown hotel for a club date and asked the security man if he could be allowed to go in the front entrance. When he was told that it wasn’t possible he asked to see the supervisor, hoping an exception could be made. The supervisor also denied his request. Exasperated, Mike said, “There are hookers walking in the front door of this place, and I have to use the service entrance!” The supervisor calmly replied, “The hookers aren’t carrying amplifiers.”

Howard Johnson gave me a story about the Mingus Band, which had a gig in Boston. The musicians were supposed to meet the bus at Manhattan Plaza. John Stubblefield was running late, and when his cab pulled up he saw an Academy Lines bus pulling away from the curb. Sue Mingus always chartered from Academy, so John shouted to the cab driver, “Don’t stop! Follow that bus!” The driver, having already stopped the meter, insisted that John pay for the first trip and then start a new one. John agreed, and the cab began to chase the bus. They pulled alongside, with the cab driver honking and John waving, but were unable to get the bus to stop. At a light, the cab cut in front of the bus. John grabbed his horn and suitcase and rushed around to bang on the door. When it opened and he dashed aboard he faced a busload of strangers, mostly elderly couples who clutched each other in alarm, thinking they were being hijacked. John apologized and climbed back to the sidewalk. After determining that he really had missed the band bus, he headed for the airport and the Boston shuttle.

After playing with Rosemary Clooney at the Governor’s mansion in Kentucky, Mark Vinci, Nick Clooney and Joe Cocuzzo were taking their equipment outside. As they passed the security guards, Joe wheeled his trap case over a bump and there was a loud metallic jingle from the hardware inside. Joe eyed the guards and said loudly to his friends, “Boy, this silverware is heavy!”

Joel O’Brien was part of a funeral band that played for dancer Peg Leg Bates’ interment up in the Catskills. He told me that Roswell Rudd, best known for his tenure with various “free-jazz” groups, was to be the trombonist. It was a cold day and several of the other musicians were standing at the cemetery shivering when Roswell arrived. “Cold day!” said one of them. Roswell replied, “Yes, but this is what I do…play outside!”

I’ve mentioned the demise of Hal Galper’s electric piano once before, when Bill Kirchner told me about it – but I recently tracked Hal down on the internet and got the rest of the tale. He had begun using a Fender Rhodes piano around 1970, finding it easy to play when his chops were down and enjoying effects he could get that weren’t available on the acoustic piano. He used it a couple of years later when he joined the Cannonball Adderley quintet. But after three years touring with Cannonball’s band, “getting tennis elbow from lugging two large, heavy hard cases around, up and down stairs, in and out of station wagons, and spending almost every intermission on stage repairing broken tines,” he told me, “I finally got disgusted with the whole thing.” He had also decided that it was time to make a real commitment to mastering the acoustic piano. One day, as a gesture of finality, he wheeled the Rhodes cases into his elevator (he lived on 34th Street near 10th Avenue) and down the street to a rotting old Hudson River pier. “I wheeled the suckers to the edge, tipped them over, cases and all, and with much relief and gratification, watched them disappear into the murky depths. I have never even looked at another electric keyboard since, and have refused all gigs on them, including Tony Williams’s invitation to join his electric band. I have had no regrets.”

Galper also told me about setting up a concert with his trio for a jazz society in Tulsa, Okla., a few years ago. He discussed the details with one of the society’s board members, a state congresswoman, who asked how many people were in his trio. “It’s a three-piece trio,” Hal said.