A few years ago, Howard Danziger had a solo piano gig in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The hours were 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., a “power breakfast” session. The piano was just outside the dining room. One morning, Howard began to play “One,” from “A Chorus Line.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a gentleman, in his late 70s, with a cane, doing a soft-shoe as he approached the piano. When Howard finished the tune, the man asked if he knew who wrote it. Howard told me, “For some reason, don’t ask me why, I said ‘Ed Kleban,’ and left out Marvin Hamlisch’s name. Tears welled in the old man’s eyes, and he asked me why I said Ed Kleban. I told him I went to the High School for Music and Art with Ed. Then he said, ‘Ed Kleban was my son, and you’re the first one to give him the credit.’” Howard added: “Ed Kleban’s father, Julian Kleban, was a lawyer by profession and a frustrated hoofer. He asked, ‘Mr. Danziger, would you mind playing me off with my son’s song?’ And like a cowboy riding off into the sunset, Julian Kleban danced his way out of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.”
In an e-mail to the online jazz research listserve, Dan Morgenstern shared a charming vignette. He told about Louis Armstrong’s solo on “Beau Koo Jack” having been written out for the trumpet section on Horace Henderson’s band, at the time when Roy Eldridge and Jonah Jones were in that section. Dan wrote: “I was standing outside Ryan’s with Roy between sets one evening. Jonah came down the street, and before any greeting, the two of them scatted that solo in perfect unison, then hugged each other.”
From Scott Robinson:
“I often call what I do ‘blowing into the metal tube.’ When I have a gig I sometimes say, ‘I’ve gotta blow into the metal tube tonight.’ If I ever write my autobiography, I’m going to call it ‘Behind the Metal Tube.’
“Anyway, tonight I was on the phone with my brother Dave (a cornet player in Virginia), outside the Jazz Standard before going on with the Mingus Band. I told him I couldn’t talk too long because I had a gig that was starting soon. We spoke for awhile, and then finally I said, ‘O.K., well, I have to go and blow into the metal tube now,’ and he said, ‘Oh, gotta take the breathalyzer test again?’ I thought it was pretty funny!”
Before the war John Altman’s mother was in a London pub with Fats Waller and a group of people. Someone asked Fats to play something on the pub piano, but as he made his way towards it, the landlord yelled, “Oi, don’t touch that – professionals have to use it!”
One Halloween many years ago, Bill Wurtzel was playing with The Countsmen at the West End Café. Disc jockey Phil Schaap, then a very young emcee at the club, dressed himself as Ozark Ike, and carried an old guitar without strings. When he pretended to play it, Wurtzel, behind him, provided the music. Later a woman in the audience told Phil how much she liked his playing.
Wurtzel and Gloria Cooper were playing a duo gig in a restaurant where the bandstand and the kitchen were separated by a thin wall. When one of the chefs began tenderizing some meat in the kitchen, the pounding could be heard clearly through the wall. Bill’s solution was to play Neil Hefti’s “Cute,” which alternates melody with drum fills. Bill played the opening figure, and said, “Give the drummer some!” The pounding in the kitchen filled in perfectly.
Larry Luger told Wurtzel that when he played for a singer, she called “My Funny Valentine” in C. Larry asked, “Is that C-minor for E-flat, or C for A-minor? The singer replied, “Listen, do you know the song or not?”
Dick Lonergan wrote, on Facebook: The late, great Ronnie Scott had serious dental problems which he finally had fixed. It took him several months to recover. After trying his tenor sax for the first time, he announced “I sound like Prez.” Someone asked ” Oh, like Lester Young?” Ronnie said. “No, like President Clinton!”
At the recent Zootfest at the University of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg, celebrating Zoot Sims’ birthday, arranger Marion Evans said a few words to the audience. He told about a time, when he was a young man, that he went to hear Woody Herman’s band. They played a new composition by Ralph Burns that featured trombonist Bill Harris. Evans was entranced, and when the band took a break, he stepped over to Harris and asked, “What was that, that you played?” Harris scowled at him and said, “It’s a trombone, you idiot!”