Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVII, No. 2February, 2007

Bill Crow

Eddie Caine, one of the founders of the New York Saxophone Quartet, now lives in North Miami Beach. Eddie has been writing the story of his life, and he recently sent me his manuscript. One of the stories he tells took place while he was on the road with Alvino Rey’s band. They were in Galveston, Texas, at the same time that Ray McKinley’s band was in town. The musicians from the two bands hung out together, and sometimes played baseball. One day they all went to the beach. McKinley and was plinking different objects along the shore with a BB rifle while his wife was wading in the surf. On an impulse, Ray shot her right in the behind. She ran up the beach, screaming, “Why did you do that?” Ray said, “I couldn’t help it!”

Eddie also told about an incident during the run of the Broadway show “The Most Happy Fella.” The operatic conductor Anton Coppola had just taken over the baton, and the musicians considered him to be very strict, all business. At one matinee, Eddie’s friend Dave Kurtzer, the bassoonist, missed the overture. They played it without him, and then, during the ensuing ten minute break in the music for dramatic exposition onstage, there came a tapping on the trap door that provided entry into the pit. Someone lifted it, and Dave emerged from beneath it, sweating and totally stressed out. He had been caught in a traffic jam.

He climbed into the pit, lowered the trap door and began to take out his instruments as Coppola glared at him. As Dave worked feverishly and a bit noisily to assemble his bassoon, he somehow began to lose the change that was in his pockets. Coins kept falling loudly on the metal trap door. Coppola kept shushing him, but Dave couldn’t seem to keep things from falling and making noise. As he began to assemble his bass clarinet, a large bunch of keys fell from his pocket, making a final crash that completely unhinged the orchestra. Even Coppola began to laugh. Eddie said that Coppola turned out to have a sense of humor, and they soon discovered that he was a very nice guy to work for.

When William Zinn was eighteen years old, he joined the National Orchestral Association conducted by Leon Barzin. Barzin recommended that Zinn study with the great pedagogue Raphael Bronstein, who had over forty students, but agreed to squeeze Zinn in for a lesson every Sunday at 8 a.m. For his first lesson, Zinn arrived on time, but no one responded to the doorbell. The door was unlocked, so he let himself in, took out his violin and bow and warmed up, expecting his teacher to appear. After fifteen minutes of waiting, he walked through the apartment calling Bronstein’s name. He came to a bedroom, and there was his teacher sound asleep, with one foot protruding from the blanket. As he was still holding his violin, he played a lullaby, but Bronstein slept on. In desperation, Zinn tickled the protruding toes with his bow. His teacher awoke and apologized. He had been playing cards with the cellist Boris Besrodny until after 2 a.m. on Saturday night, and wasn’t in great shape to teach at such an early hour. He gave Zinn a shorter lesson without charge, and found a later time to schedule him in the future.

When Joe Wilder went to Philadelphia recently to participate in a clinic, the organizers put him up at a good hotel. The young lady at the desk said, “We have a suite for you on the 15th floor. Will that be satisfactory?” Joe gave her a glum look and said, “I don’t know… my doctor told me to stay away from sweets.” Joe said it took the girl a long minute to figure out the joke.

Moe Wechsler told me about a dance at Yale that he once played with Meyer Davis. There were two bands at the affair. The other one was led by Count Basie. After the Basie band played the first set, Meyer Davis headed for the bandstand and said to his musicians, “Let’s show ‘em!”

Bill Mays developed an ear infection last year, just before he was due to play a gig at the Iridium jazz club in Manhattan. He went to a local hospital emergency room and was interviewed by a receptionist, a nice-looking young woman in her early 30’s. She asked the routine questions, and Bill told her he was a pianist. “I’m concerned about this problem,” he said, “because I have to play in about five hours. Will the doctor see me soon?” She wanted to know where he was playing, and when he told her “Iridium,” she said, “I know where that is. I’ve been there before.” Bill asked, “Does that mean you’re a jazz fan?” Without a word, she pulled down her shirt far enough to expose the upper half of her left breast, on which was tattooed an alto saxophone. Bill gulped, smiled, and said, “Gee, I’m playing with a great alto player… Bud Shank!” The woman said, “Bud Shank! I’ll be down tomorrow night!”

Here’s a story that was posted on the “jazz-westcoast” Internet mailing list by Alwyn and Laurie Lewis:

Kirk Lightsey told us about a recording session he did in Paris with Chet Baker as guest soloist. He told Chet, “I’ll bring my charts and you bring a couple.” At the session, when asked for his charts, Chet handed Kirk a brown paper bag on which were written just the words for “Everything Happens to Me.”