Local 802 sponsored a nice memorial party for the late Charlie Harmon in the club room last summer. Many of Charlie’s family and friends attended, and there was a lot of story telling around the clubroom tables before the program of music and tributes began. Wally Besser told me about a job he once played at the Riverboat with Charlie on tenor and Jeff Ganz on bass. The music was an earlier style than that which was being played by musicians Jeff’s age, but he did what he thought was the right thing. Charlie had some Chickasaw Indian ancestors, and owned a tomahawk that he had picked up somewhere. He turned around to Jeff after the first number and said, “Son, if you play in two behind my solo again, I’ll come after you with my tomahawk!”
Charlie was a pilot, both military and civilian, and had flown commercially in the Adirondacks while playing in a band at Lake Placid. In his later years, while he was working in the Recording Checks department at Local 802, he was delighted when Jay Schaffner, while on vacation, sent the staff a picture postcard showing an aerial view of the Adirondacks. Charlie saved the card, and when Jay returned, brought it to him. He said, “I flew the plane for the photographer who took that picture!”
Dave Finck bought a simple music notation program to print out lead sheets for gigs. After using it for a few hours, he discovered that none of the fonts held chord symbols for sharp eleven or flat thirteen chords. He wrote to the company, and they replied saying those two chords didn’t exist in the program. They had sharp and flat nine chords and sus chords, but no sharp elevens or flat thirteens. When Dave told his friend, jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke, Joe asked, “What is the name of the program?” Dave told him, “Mozart 2005.” Joe said, “There’s your mistake. You should have bought the one called ‘Bobby Timmons 1962.”
Jon Berger once joined a pipe band to learn about Scottish drumming. The band participated in the Scottish games in Delaware, where many attendees seemed fascinated by Jon, a Jewish guy in a kilt. Some of them asked him to pose for a photo, and as he hopped over a fence onto the field, a Scotsman knelt down and peeped under Jon’s kilt. He admonished, “No, mon, we don’t wear anything under a kilt!”
When Joe Rutkowski’s woodwind repairman Tony Cromeyn was a young apprentice in the 1960s working at Coret Music in Huntington, Long Island, a man with a wool cap pulled down to his eyebrows came in and asked for some number five tenor sax reeds. Tony asked, “Do you play jazz?” “Yeah.” Where?” “Around.” “What group?” “The John Coltrane Quartet.” Tony thought a second. “There’s only one tenor in that group…!” He pulled the guy’s cap off and recognized that it was Coltrane himself. “Hey, everybody!” he yelled, “Coltrane’s in here! The ‘Trane is here!” Coltrane lived nearby in Dix Hills, and became a regular customer.
Ruby Braff told Steve Voce that Nat Pierce, his old friend from Boston, was a put-on artist. He used to call Ruby occasionally in the small hours. He would pick up the phone, half asleep, and Nat would say, “Well, Ace, we lost another one.” Then he’d mention the name of someone Ruby never heard of, and would say something like, “He was the only baritone player in Ghana,” or “He played trombone in the Detroit Post Office band.”
Laura Taylor, who used to sing with her own piano trio at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, now lives in Las Vegas. She was recently the soprano soloist for the Las Vegas premiere of Duke Ellington’s “Sacred Concert,” presented by the Las Vegas Master Singers and featuring the UNLV Jazz Ensemble. During one of the separate rehearsals with just the musicians, Director David Loeb told them to be careful not to overpower the choir. Laura reminded him that there were sixty-seven singers in the choir, and said they might be hard to drown out. Drummer Henry Soriano laughed and said, “Oh, you can kill sixty-seven singers with one cymbal!” Saxophonist Andrew Lyon wryly added, “Yeah…it just depends on how you throw it!”
John Abercrombie played a gig in Poland recently, opposite a local group that calls itself “Pink Freud.”