Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CI, No. 2February, 2001

Bill Crow

I’ve been working for a while with Nick DiVito’s jazz trio in an east side club that, about a year ago, had to be divided in half because of the city’s campaign against “adult entertainment.” The club’s main attraction is an endless parade of beautiful young women who dance in various stages of undress to loud disco music. Under the current zoning regulations, in order to continue operating at its current location, 51 per cent of the club’s area had to be devoted to enterprises other than “adult entertainment.” To comply with the code, the club owners put up a wall and divided the huge showroom in half. They built a smaller showroom for the dancing girls and, on the other side of the wall, a gourmet restaurant. Our trio appears there three nights a week, at a small bandstand behind the bar. We play straight-ahead jazz, and get very few requests from the mostly male patrons.

The young showroom dancers, dressed in evening gowns, spend their leisure moments in the restaurant, chatting with the customers or arranging themselves decoratively at the bar. One night one of the young ladies asked me, “Do you play any Madonna songs?” “No, dear,” I told her, “that’s children’s music. This is adult entertainment.” I meant it as a joke, but she accepted it with a nod and calmly went back to sipping her cocktail.

Joe Bennett told this story to Leo Ball, who passed it along to me: When the major New York radio stations had their own symphony orchestras on staff, Alfredo Antonini was engaged as the conductor of the CBS Symphony of the Air. CBS wanted Antonini to occasionally conduct staff orchestras playing popular music on other shows, but he refused to do so under his own name. He used the pseudonym Eddie Collins whenever he was required to lead a non-symphonic group. At a rehearsal for one such program, alto player Johnny Pepper took the maestro aside and told him, “When you try to conduct everything in a big band arrangement, you throw us off. Start us and stop us, and the rest of the time, just follow along with our tempo.” Later, during a rehearsal of an aria from Tosca with the Symphony of the Air, Antonini stopped the orchestra in the middle of a clarinet solo that Pepper was playing. “Mr. Pepper,” he said, “when I am Eddie Collins, I will follow you. But when I am Antonini, you will follow me!”

On the day after last November’s election, Mike Macchio and Howard Williams were discussing the election turmoil on the second floor of the Local 802 office building. Howard said he was surprised at the way the election maps on television showed the entire central and southern tier of states going for George W. Bush. “There were blue states for Gore on both coasts and up north, but the whole rest of the map was pink for Bush!” “Well,” Mike explained, “Bush is very big in the banjo states.”

Irving Fields tells me that when he was fifteen he played so inexpertly that the only place he could find to play was as a volunteer at a nursing home. After his concert ended he said to a little old lady in a wheelchair, “I hope you get better.” She replied, “You too!”

Steve Cohen sent in a short glossary of recording studio-speak:

  1. “Could we have more piano in the phones?” means “The singer is out of tune.”
  2. “This song has nice changes” means “It’s amazing what you can do with two chords.”
  3. “This song sounds like a hit” means “This song sounds like another song.”
  4. “I don’t think we’ll top the magic of the first take” means “Please don’t make me play this turkey again.”

A while ago Henry Newberger got a call from Larry Siegel, asking if he could play a gig the following day. With a certain amount of pride, Henry said he couldn’t make it; “I’m going to my son’s wedding.” Unimpressed, Larry asked, “Can’t you send in a sub?”

Nathan Durham told me about being called to play a ceremony at which the Queen of Spain was to be honored. After he set out for the gig his eight-year-old daughter, looking concerned, asked his wife, “Mommy, if the Queen is not pleased, will Daddy be beheaded?”

Ted Sommer ran into Ray Pizzi, a saxophonist who has often recorded with Henry Mancini. He told Ted that on a day that he had booked a date with Mancini, he noticed that Henry’s movie The Days of Wine and Roses was showing at a theatre nearby, and realized that he had never seen it. On an impulse he bought a ticket for the next showing – but time ran out on him, and he had to leave before the picture ended to get to the recording date on time. At the date he told Mancini that he had enjoyed the movie, but had to leave before it was over. “How did it end?” he asked. Mancini told him, “French horns on a high F.”