Frank Tate told me a story about the late Dick Sudhalter that he got from Dick’s friend Daryl Sherman. Dick had left his trumpet, in its case, in the bandroom at the back of the Red Blazer, while he visited with the musicians in the front of the club. When he went back to retrieve it, he found that it had been stolen. Furious, he hurled a chair at the wall, stormed out of the club and hailed a cab to take him back to his office near Carnegie Hall. He was on his way to an out-of-town gig, and hated the fact that he would have to use a horn and mouthpiece that were unfamiliar. In the cab, he looked in the front seat next to the driver and saw his trumpet case sitting there. He accosted the driver, telling him the make and model of the horn, and that his name was inside the case. The driver said, “I just bought it from a junkie on the street for forty bucks.” Dick threw two twenties at the guy, grabbed his horn and split, greatly relieved.
Some time later, Frank was on his way to a gig with his bass. He hailed a Checker cab and tucked the bass in the back seat. As they drove along, Frank and the driver discussed problems with transporting musical instruments, and in the course of their conversation, the driver said, “You know, a funny thing happened a while back. I bought a trumpet from a junkie on the street for forty bucks…” Frank interrupted to say, “And it belonged to Dick Sudhalter!” The cabbie pulled over to the curb and turned around to ask Frank in amazement, “How in the world did you know that?”
Frank laughed when he told me the story, and said, “Of all the thousands of cabs in New York, what do you suppose the odds are of Dick getting into the one that had his horn? And how even more astronomical are the odds of my getting into the same cab? Amazing!”
While talking on the phone to Jim Hall recently, he reminded me of a story he told me many years ago. I ran it in this column then, but it is so good it bears repeating. When Jim first came to New York City in 1957 with the Jimmy Giuffre Three, the third member of the group was Chicago bassist Jim Atlas. After playing a few gigs around town, Giuffre discovered that Bob Brookmeyer was available, and decided to change the instrumentation of his trio from bass to valve trombone. He explained his decision to Jim Atlas, and gave him his ticket home. Jim Hall went to Penn Station with him to see him off to Chicago.
Atlas later told Hall that when he arrived in Chicago he passed a newsstand where the local newspapers were carrying stories about the latest ICBM developments at Cape Canaveral. The huge banner headlines read: ATLAS FIRED.
Arun Luthra sent me this one: At rehearsal with the Bill Warfield big band for a concert of the music of Jimi Hendrix, Mike Migilore quipped, “We’re dropping acid before the gig, right?” Dave Riekenberg immediately replied, “No, man, we’ll be dropping antacid!”
Al Madison, who used to manage the Lester Lanin orchestras, sent me a letter from Florida last month. Al passed his 97th birthday last August. He enclosed a nice CD from the old days that features Deke Eberhard on piano. Al asked me to say Happy New Year to all his old friends.
Winston Byrd sent me a note reminding me of his first CD, on which the late John Hicks and I accompanied him on a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday.” Searching for the music, John had found a copy of it in a Baptist hymnal.
Winston said he had once driven Clark Terry to a doctor’s appointment. Clark’s nephew, who was with them, needed to stop off to see a relative, and so Winston and Clark were sitting in his car listening to WBGO while they waited. One of the things being played was Clark’s big band version of music from “Porgy and Bess.” And then, amazingly, the disc jockey played Winston’s “Come Sunday.” Clark said, “Hey, who’s that?” They listened together, and then the disc jockey announced the names of the musicians. Clark was complimentary, and Winston was delighted. He told me, “I almost cried in the car! That was a blessed day!”
Michael Garlick sent me this one from England:
Young Ronnie Scott came home one night and told his mother he’d just heard a record by Louis Armstrong. He said he wanted to become a great musician and then join a jazz band. His mother told him those things were mutually exclusive.
Bluegrass great Tim O’Brien sent this joke to Herb Gardner, who passed it along to me:
“They found the best kind of pickup to put on a banjo. A Ford F-150.”
Harvey Estrin once told Greg Thymius, “Your worst day on the bandstand is still better than your best day in an office.”