The late Vinnie Burke, a wonderful bassist, was well known among his fellow musicians for his principled and outspoken positions on swing, tempo and repertoire. A purist with demanding criteria, Vinnie could be scathing if he detected transgressions such as rushing the beat or losing meter. And he made no allowances for perceived lack of taste in his audiences. John Perilli told me about a job Vinnie had at a lavish club in Short Hills, N.J., called the Arch. One night a guest handed a fifty-dollar bill to Vinnie’s guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli, and requested “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Bucky passed the request on to Vinnie, who exploded, “Give him his money back! I’m not playing ‘Bye Bye Blackbird!'”
On a job Henry Newberger was playing at a New Jersey bank with Larry Siegel’s band, Barry Bryson looked through the striped jackets Larry had provided and said to Joe Hanchrow, “Here’s an extra large one that will just about fit you.” Joe deadpanned: “Cancel the following gigs.” Herb Gardner pointed out that “Joe, the way things are going, you don’t have any gigs to cancel!” Joe said, “Okay, Barry, if I get New Year’s Eve, cancel it.”
On a job we played together recently, Fred Stoll told me about a jazz brunch he once played on a Super Bowl Sunday. Since all the customers were abuzz about football, the musicians were trying to think of a tune appropriate to the game. No one could think of anything until Bobby Pratt suggested, “How about ‘Giant Steps?'”
Loren Schoenberg told me about a rehearsal he did with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra down in Washington, D.C. They were preparing a concert in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, using all the original orchestrations that now reside in the Library of Congress. Changes had been made in the parts after they were copied, and conductor David Baker was guiding the musicians through the resurrecting process required to get the music back to the way it was on the original recordings. At one point, Baker asked the band to tacet a few measures. “Shouldn’t that be ‘tasket’?” asked saxophonist Jay Brandford.
Don Abrahamson was the president of Local 236 in Aberdeen, Washington, until that local merged with the Seattle local. Don told me about an Aberdeen band with a two cornet lead. After running over a new arrangement, the second cornet player complained, “I should have a bigger part on this tune.” Taking him at his word, the tuba player put the second cornet part on a xerox machine and enlarged it about four times its original size. He put the “bigger part” on the cornet player’s stand at the next rehearsal, to everyone’s amusement.
John Kirkpatrick once ran into Clark Terry at a concert and told him he had an Olds flugelhorn just like the one Clark was endorsing in the music magazine ads. Clark asked, “How do you like it?” John said, “Well, to tell you the truth, I’m a little disappointed with it.” “What’s wrong?” asked Clark. John said, “It doesn’t sound anything like you!”
Clark is still very active in the jazz concert world, though his failing eyesight and other physical problems make it necessary for him to be helped onstage and settled onto a tall stool in front of his microphone. After he is handed his trumpet and flugelhorn, Clark grabs the mike and says, “I have an important announcement to make. The golden years SUCK!” The ensuing laughter quickly puts Clark in the driver’s seat, and he then proceeds to dazzle his audience with his brilliant playing and delightful singing.
Last Memorial Day I was with Harry Glogower’s band at the celebration up in Tuxedo Park. After we played a few tunes, a man in an American Legion cap stepped up to the microphone and announced that we would all join in observing the National Moment of Silence. Realizing that absolutely nobody would be talking or making any noise, I whispered to Harry, “What a great spot for a bass solo!”
On the jazz research list on the internet, Bill Kirch-ner and I contributed some comments on the late Al Klink, who graced the sax section of the famous Glenn Miller band. He was a great soloist, but rarely was given any solos by Miller, who preferred Tex Beneke’s work. Bill said, “I gather secondhand that the bane of Al’s existence was that in his long and distinguished career, his best-known recording was the ‘twos’ he traded with Tex Beneke on ‘In The Mood.’ Reportedly, at Al’s funeral, his daughter held a microphone to a Walkman and played a tape of Al’s favorite version of ‘In The Mood’…done by barking dogs.”