Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CI, No. 5May, 2001

Bill Crow

My wife and I flew to Florida for a week last February, taking advantage of a low fare offered by Spirit Airlines. When the plane arrived at La Guardia from Detroit and discharged its passengers, the pilot reported a mechanical problem. We were advised that departure would be delayed for half an hour, while the ground crew investigated. The delay kept being extended, until some passengers began looking into alternate arrangements, in case the flight was cancelled.

The attendants at the gate tried to be helpful but they had no more solid information than we did. Every now and then they would announce an updated estimate of the time required for investigation and repairs, but they weren’t able to say whether the flight would ever actually take off.

One gray-haired man, an East Indian, was taking it badly. He loudly harangued everyone he saw wearing a Spirit Airlines uniform, demanding a refund of his ticket money and a booking on another carrier. No one seemed authorized to do anything more than ask him to wait for the next report from the mechanics. As the delay stretched into its third hour he became more agitated, pacing back and forth among the waiting passengers and ranting about the situation which was causing us all to despair. He finally struck on the perfect epithet: “This is evil Spirit Airlines!” he cried repeatedly.

After three and a half hours, they announced that the problem had been corrected and that the flight would begin boarding immediately. They also told us we would each be given a discount on our next tickets with Spirit. The Indian man stopped raving and joined the rest of us preparing to board, evil spirits notwithstanding.

Bob Brookmeyer sent me a lyric that Jack Sheldon gave him. Hollywood blues: Woke up this mornin’ and both my cars were gone…

Mitzi Scott, Raymond Scott’s widow, read an item in this column about events at the Beverly Hills Club in Newport, Ky., which reminded her of an incident that took place in the same club in the 1940s. Mitzi was a dancer there, and also knew how to play the piano. When the Johnny Long band played the club, the dance director talked Johnny into doing a duet with Mitzi on piano. On the last night of the engagement, the dancers hid Johnny’s violin bow in the piano bench as a closing night prank. While Long frantically searched for his bow, the duet number went on. Mitzi played a solo that night.

Ken Arzberger worked at the Radio City Music Hall when the late Raymond Paige was the conductor. He tells me that Paige was in the habit of stopping every few bars during rehearsals in order to memorize his score for the new show. At one first rehearsal, the members of the wind section started a mini-lottery based on the bar number in which Paige would make his first stop. Everyone anted up about 50 bucks and cast secret ballots into a hat with their choice of bar number. When Paige gave the downbeat for the opening clarinet cadenza, Joe Camelleri grabbed his A clarinet by mistake and stepped all over his part as he tried to get into the right key. Paige screamed, “Da capo! Da capo! Stop! Stop!” Joe spun around and snapped, “Okay, stiffs, pay me! I had the first bar!”

When Dan Barrett and Howard Alden co-led a quintet in the mid 1980s with Frank Tate on bass, Chuck Wilson on alto and clarinet, and Jackie Williams on drums, they played twice at the Nice Jazz Festival in France. The outdoor performances took place on three different stages. One year their group was set up on a stage in the ruins of a medieval amphitheater, while a quarter of a mile away Miles Davis’ electronic band occupied the enormous Garden stage for an audience of several thousand. The volume of amplified sound coming from the Davis band was so loud that the quintet in the amphitheater was being totally wiped out as they played a quiet version of “920 Special.” Frank Tate started to laugh. Asked what was so funny, he said, “I always wanted to play with Miles, and I’m doing it right now!”

Bruce McNichols sent me a list of new guitar attachments that may be available soon:

Active pickup: (Amplifies “signals” to attractive members of the audience.)

Time distorter: (Makes solos seem longer. Can also be achieved by ineptitude.)

Blame shifter: (Drops mistakes down an octave, so the audience thinks the bass player did it.)

Depander: (Filters out popular cover songs.)

Overjive: (Makes a good tune sound like the latest garbage.)

Fluff box: (Filters out musical substance.)

Rehash: (Stores and plays back your favorite riffs forever.)

Feedback eliminator: (Removes constructive criticism.)

Depressor: (Changes any chord to E minor.)

Paralytic Equalizer: (Makes you as good as other guitarists in band by injecting them with nerve toxins.)

Hans van der Plas reports from the Netherlands on an appearance Lee Konitz made in March on a Dutch television program. During an interview between tunes, the television presenter told Lee that he had seen and heard him in the Netherlands, performing with the Kenton orchestra, in ’53. “Ah, that must have been 1853,” Konitz said.