Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CIV, No. 5May, 2004

Bill Crow

I was chatting on the phone with Vinnie Zummo last year, and we discovered a mutual interest…the legendary trumpet player Don Joseph. I knew and played with Don during the 1950’s, and Vinnie knew him during the last years of his life. We exchanged “Donnie stories,” some of which I have printed in this column over the years, and some that are not printable. A new one that Vinnie gave me: He and Don went to see a movie one evening, and stopped by the candy counter. The young girl behind the counter asked Don, “Can I help you?” Don replied wearily, “I doubt it. Many have tried!”

Vinnie said that Don was proud of having overcome his dependence on alcohol and other substances. During his drinking years, he cut quite a swath around New York. On one instance, he began telling a young woman in a bar, “Come away with me, you beautiful creature, and leave that brute you’re with.” The “brute” wasn’t too thrilled with this, and invited Don outside for a conference. Don said, “Sir, if we go outside, one of us will get hurt!” And he continued to importune the young lady. Her escort dragged Don outside and punched him to the ground. Lying there on the sidewalk, Don pulled himself up on one elbow and called after him, “You see, I told you one of us would get hurt!”

Jack Block told me about studying intermittently with Warne Marsh over many years. One day early on, Warne was a little late for Jack’s lesson, and Jack found out that he had just gotten married. He said, “I’ll always remember playing ‘Scrapple From the Apple’ with Warne, and the rice in his hair.” Years later, in Pasadena, Jack took some more lessons from Warne. He told me, “You often got the sense that he wasn’t entirely with you. One time I asked if I could have my lesson an hour later because the Dodgers game made the traffic impossible. From that time on, every lesson, he always asked how the Dodgers did. And once, when I played him a line I wrote on ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams,’ I said, ‘That’s one of my mother’s tunes,’ meaning her era. A few days later Warne told a guitarist friend, ‘You know, Jack’s mother wrote that song.’”

When Bobby Pratt used to send in a sub on his job at Jimmy Ryan’s, Johnny Morris told me that the owners always requested that he send in Bobby Pring. Though Pring is a fine trombone player, their choice had nothing to do with his musicianship. They liked the fact that when Pring filled in for Pratt, they only had to change three letters on the sign outside. They complained to Johnny when Joe Muranyi sent Clarence Hutchenrider in as a sub, “Why don’t you find somebody with a shorter name?”

Herb Gardner got this from one of the guys on Banu Gibson’s band: On an out-of-town gig, the musicians were calling each other for wake-up reminders after a late night of partying after their concert. The tuba player responded to his call with, “Oh, man, I got real sick and threw up all over the room!”

“Well, clean it up and get down here. We’ve got a plane to catch!”

“I can’t clean it up…I’ve already packed all the towels!”

Andrew Schulman, who plays solo guitar for Sunday brunches at the Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court, starts his day there at 10 a.m., trading half-hour sets with the Cantabile Trio. One pleasant autumn Sunday last year he took a stroll over to Central Park during his first break, and was surprised to hear the driver of a horse and carriage announce to his passengers, “And on our right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a New York City musician!” Who else but a musician would be wearing a tux at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning? Andrew has become a regular tourist attraction at the park entrance across from the Plaza, as various carriage drivers use his frequent presence to entertain their passengers.

Ray Cohen was entertaining about 35 people at a party at a posh Park Avenue apartment, choosing at random from his vast repertoire of songs by the great American composers, from Cole Porter to Johnny Mercer. As he played, he noticed that one blond lady kept nodding and smiling her approval. At the end of the evening, she walked over to the piano and told Ray, “I wanted to thank you for playing all those Rod Stewart songs.”

Ken Franckling reported that Sheila Jordan received the 2004 Lil Hardin Armstrong Jazz Heritage Award at the last International Association of Jazz Educators conference in New York. She participated in a panel called “Singing for Our Supper: Vocalists in the Jazz Marketplace.” Franckling says Jordan quipped: “For most of my career I’ve been singing for snacks.”