June ’13

Bill Crow's Band Room

Volume 113, No. 6June, 2013

Bill Crow

Erroll Garner used to carry a New York City phone book with him on his concert tours. If he found the piano bench wasn’t adjustable, he would use the phone book to raise himself up to the height he liked. Sometimes, for a gag, he would place the phone book on the piano bench, sit down on it, and would squirm a bit, showing discomfort. Then he would get up, open the phone book and tear out a single page. Then he’d sit back down and look satisfied.

Facebook is a great place to share photos. I’ve been posting some from my collection, and enjoying those posted by friends. Marian McPartland posted a photo of a sign from a Canadian park. The sign reads: “NO JAZZ PLAYING PLEASE. Many people use this park for fun, exercise and personal enjoyment. Don’t wreck it by playing stupid jazz music. Jazz has been shown to make good people snobby and has even ruined the natural creativity of some good musicians. Just say ‘no’ to yucky jazz. City of Toronto Department of Parks and Recreation.” From the language choices, I get the feeling that the City of Toronto in this case is being represented by a junior high school girl.

Some years ago John Arbo worked for a New York club date office that booked gigs on Long Island fairly frequently. Since he lives in upstate New York an hour north of the city, this involved some schlepping.

John writes: “A fairly frequent occurrence on these gigs was that there would be a singer or horn player who lived in Manhattan who had taken the train to the gig but then would try to steal a ride with a band member for the trip back to town. I would always demur when asked, even though ‘It would only be 10 minutes out of your way,’ explaining that I had another hour to go after that. One summer, to my exasperation, there were several of these requests on consecutive gigs. Finally, there was a gig with a young trumpet player. I didn’t know him or where he lived. Our first conversation went like this:

“Trumpet: Hey man, I’m Jack Smith, trumpet player.

“Me: Hey – John Arbo. Nice to meet you.

“Trumpet: So, hey, man, where do you live?

“Me (seeing it coming a mile away): In the opposite direction from you!”

While I was preparing notifications about checks in the Local 802 Recording Department one day, I noticed an amusing e-mail address. Harpist Laura Sherman’s begins with: busytuning@…

Dick Burd told me that when he attended Yo Yo Ma’s “Silk Road” concert a few years ago at Michigan State University, the famous cellist entered the stage carrying a strange-looking Asian instrument. He explained, “I left my cello in a taxi.”

During the 1946-47 season of the Pittsburgh Symphony, William Zinn was playing first violin under the baton of Fritz Reiner. The soloist for one concert was Jascha Heifetz, performing the Beethoven violin concerto. Zinn noticed that, during the performance, neither Heifetz or Reiner showed any trace of nervousness, unlike the musicians in the orchestra.

At intermission, Zinn approached the two as they were conversing, and asked, “What is the secret to being so calm at the performance?” Heifetz answered as Reiner nodded in agreement: “I feel so sure of my technique that it doesn’t matter if I get nervous.” They both admitted to feeling nervous most of the time. Heifetz extended his hands to show that there was no sign of a tremor. Zinn said his hands were shaking, just talking to them.

Maria Judge has put together a nice book about her late uncle, Jake Hanna. Hal Leonard is the publisher. One of the stories she tells is about a gig Jake was doing with Woody Herman at the Detroit Auto Show. Afterward, they were heading out to a bar and passed the room where Bobby Vinton was entertaining. Woody said he wanted to catch the act, so they went in and watched while Vinton played the clarinet, then the trombone, the sax, the bass and the drums. Then he played the piano and finished with a tap dance. Woody looked over at Jake and said, “That kid can’t do anything!”

Here’s an ad from Craigslist:

“Bass player available for PAYING GIGS ONLY. I play G, C, D. If your songs are not in G, please transpose them into G. If your song has an Em or Bm or anything off the wall, I will probably sit out that chord. Or I could learn those notes for $30 each. If you want me to do fancy stuff like go back and forth between G and D while you hold a G chord, forget it because I’m a ‘pocket’ player. Minimum $100 per gig within a five-mile radius of my house. $5 per mile travel charge for other areas out of town. Please make sure your gigs are on my bus route, or you can pick me up at my place. Must be home by 11 p.m. due to previous legal hassles. No gigs within 500 yards of schools, parks or playgrounds.”