Louise Sims has an unusual wood carving on her living room wall.
She told me that Zoot had carved it from an interesting piece of wood he found.
He brought the piece of wood home, saying, "I think I see an owl in
it." In his spare time, often late at night after a gig, Zoot would carve
away at it, making it more owlish every day. One night, after playing at the
Half Note with Al Cohn, Zoot went home and started to work again on the owl. He
was well oiled, and very tired, and Louise asked him if it wouldn’t be better
to get some sleep and carve the owl in the morning. Zoot said he wanted to stay
with it… he could see what the owl needed. Louise went on to bed, and shortly
afterward, Zoot came up and ruefully showed her the owl. His hand had slipped,
and he had damaged one of the eyes in a way that wasn’t repairable. Zoot felt
bad, but then he remembered that Al Cohn had one bad eye. He happily declared
the owl finished, and named it "Owl Cohn."
Wyn Walsh passed along a story he got from Vinnie Riccitelli:
The late Eddie Bert, who did a lot of big band, jazz and Broadway
work, was not one of those club date players who know a million tunes, but he
did his share of club dates. On one of them, a woman approached the stand and
asked the leader if they could play any songs from "How To Succeed in
Business." The leader asked Eddie if he knew those tunes. Eddie replied
"No, but I can play the second trombone parts."
Ian Royle sent me a cartoon from London. A man being interviewed
says, "Technology doesn’t give a damn for people. West End musicals used
to employ 20-piece to 40-piece orchestras, but once live music was replaced by
taped or digital accompaniment, my livelihood was killed stone dead." The
interviewer asks, "Were you a musician?" The man replies, "I ran
a pub next to a theatre."
Jim Ford e-mailed this one to me from Binghamton:
In 1979, Cornell University hosted the First International Romantic
Organ Music Symposium. At one of the lectures, an old recording was played of
operatic soprano Adelina Patti (pronounced "PAH-tee"). It demonstrated
the singer’s exaggerated portamento style, sliding from one note to the next.
A few students were chuckling during the song, and Jim thought he would add to
the levity. At the end, he raised his hand and asked, "Just exactly where
was Patti trained?" Amid the subsequent laughter, an organist seated in
front of Jim turned and said, "Potty trained, indeed!"
Dan Miller got called for jury duty in Brooklyn during the time
when PBS was airing Ken Burns’s ten-part documentary on jazz. During the jury
selection voir dire, the defense attorney asked Dan his profession, and he
replied, "Musician." The judge, who hadn’t said anything during the
previous half-hour of juror questioning, asked, "What kind of music do you
play?" When Dan answered, "Jazz," the lead defense attorney
turned to him and asked, "Do you think that the Ken Burns PBS series on
jazz focuses too much on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and not enough on
Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman and the avant-garde?" There was complete
silence in the courtroom, and everyone was looking at Dan. He offered:
"Other than Bach, Louis Armstrong is the most important figure in western
music in the last five hundred years." The assistant DA conferred with his
team, and then announced, "Dismissed with a peremptory challenge."
Dave Lambert once told me a funny story about a big band rehearsal
he attended. Pianist Blossom Dearie had written her first arrangement, and was
eager to hear how it sounded. As the musicians looked over their parts, one of
the trumpet players said, "You’ve got us changing to straight mutes at
letter B, but we’re playing in the previous measure, and don’t have time to
make the switch." Blossom looked at her score, and said, "The
trombones aren’t doing anything there, are they?" She called in the
trombone parts, wrote something on them and passed them back. She had written,
at letter B, "attack trumpets with straight mutes."
On an Internet discussion forum, Steve Voce remembered what was
called the Great James Raid back in the 1950s, when Duke Ellington hired three
of Harry James’s strongest players: Louis Bellson, Willie Smith and Juan Tizol.
Reportedly, James took it well. He said, "Can I come, too?"
Larry Benz got this one from one of his teachers, Alan Ostrander.
It is a quote from Phil Spitalny, who conducted an all-female orchestra in the
1940s. At a recording session, Spitalny said, "Don’t play any notes ya
ain’t got…there are enough missing already!"