June ’15

The Band Room

Volume 115, No. 6June, 2015

Bill Crow

I sometimes play at a jazz spot in Greenwich Village called The Garage. When I first came to New York in 1945 that space was called The Village Nut Club, and it featured comedy bands. Sometime in the 1950s the place was turned into an Off Broadway theater, and it went through several different transformations as a theatrical venue.

When the current owners took over that space, they tore down all the old signs from the front of the building and discovered, worked into the brick façade over the windows, the word GARAGE. That must have been the original use of the building. So, to save themselves the cost of a new sign, the owners simply named their restaurant The Garage.


On the Friday before last Christmas, Brian Hill was playing with a double chamber quintet for employees and invited guests in the lobby of a Madison Avenue publisher. As they were playing Carl Nielsen’s “Bohmisk-Dansk Folketone,” an uninvited visitor entered through the revolving door and shouted obscenities for about 30 seconds and then departed as suddenly as he had arrived. The musicians played on, and when they finished the piece, the conductor calmly turned to the audience and said, “As you can see, Nielsen is quite controversial.”


Giacomo Gates sent me the following:

Having been invited to sing at a jazz festival, Aria Hendricks and I were picked up by a driver at the airport, and brought to a very high-end hotel. (I will refer to it as “The Five Seasons.”) The place was way over the top…chilled champagne flutes with a bottle on ice at the registration desk, and valets and staff waiting for our slightest desire. Beautiful leather furniture, marble floors and hip art deco sculptures surrounded us.

We announced ourselves, and while the clerk looked for our registration, we were offered glasses of champagne. The clerk couldn’t find our names listed. I gave him the name of the festival and he looked deeper, and found our names, exclaiming, “Oh yes, we have you in our adjacent hotel. It has the same name, so your driver must have been confused. We will escort you to it, just around back.”

Just a two or three minute walk and we were there. A nice hotel, but just an ordinary one. As we approached the desk, Ms. Hendricks reconfirmed that fact that she is very hip by turning to me and declaring, “Now, this is more like it!”


Ed Caccavale posted this story on Facebook:

In the early 1980’s, I was with Peter Nero, and we spent a lot of time in Philadelphia with the Philly Pops. (Peter was the director.) One night after a concert at the Academy, the stage manager mentioned that Arthur Rubinstein would be practicing the next morning at 10 a.m. for his concert on the following Tuesday night. If we wanted to hear him, we could go up to the balcony of the theatre, the back way. He said if we would be very quiet, it would be impossible for him to see us.

So Peter, myself, and Rich Nanista, the bass player, got up there around 9:45, sat real still, and waited. Wow! There he was, walking onto the stage. The only light was an overhead spot on the piano. It was exciting. He played for about five minutes, stopped, looked up, right at us, and stared. Oh! How could he have known we were up there? After some dead air, he said, “Excuse me, but if you remain, I will be playing and not practicing.” So, rather embarrassed, we left. I don’t think he knew who we were. But, it was five minutes of brilliance.


Bill Wurtzel sent me this note:

When I had hair, I was often mistaken for Stephen Sondheim. One day, my wife Claire and I went to an art opening and pocketed a fortune cookie they were handing out. Afterward, we went to a restaurant that had a jazz sign in the window and asked to be seated next to the solo pianist.

The maitre d’ annoyed me when he said that the guy playing now would be followed by a really good pianist. Despite the slur, the first pianist played well. Before he went home, the pianist said I looked familiar and came back three times asking me if I was this guy or that. He said it was driving him nuts.

Then the “really good” pianist came in with her fishbowl complete with a five spot, and went into a “Where ya from, Chicago? ‘Chicago’…” routine. We ate dinner tolerating the music. When we left, the maitre d’ asked how we liked the second pianist.

I answered “I preferred the first piano player, and when you see him, tell him that Steven Sondheim liked his music.” The pianist would finally know my “identity.” Claire said I was her hero. But the best part was that as we left, I opened the fortune cookie and it said “Your good deed will never be forgotten.”


Dave Hartl told his friends on Facebook about a contractor who messed around with the musicians’ money so much, they referred to him as “Moveable Dough.”