The Band Room
Volume 115, No. 3March, 2015
When Dave Lambert and I were living in adjoining buildings on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in the early 1950s, we collaborated on odd jobs to make a living while trying to get something going in the music world
One day while I was having coffee at Dave’s place, he mentioned an invitation he had received to a costume party. He wanted to go, but couldn’t afford to rent any kind of costume.
On Dave’s kitchen table were two dark green plastic place mats that had impressions of large maple leaves on them. Dave suddenly picked up one of them and looked at it with interest. “I can make a costume out of these!” He took a pair of scissors and cut out the leaf shape, and then cut a similar piece from the other placemat. He glued them together in a way that made a pouch. Stripping off his clothes, he slipped the pouch over his genitals. “It’s close enough to a fig leaf,” said Dave. “I’ll go as Adam!”
And he did. He glued the top of the leaf pouch to his belly. When he arrived at the party, he took off his hat, overcoat and boots and was Adam for the evening, dressed in nothing but the leaf pouch. I heard he carried it off with aplomb, greatly enjoying the shocking effect he was having on some of the other guests.
On a Saturday in 1944, William Zinn passed three auditions in one day. At 10 a.m., Zinn had an audition with Jose Iturbi for the Rochester Philharmonic at a hotel across 57th Street from Steinway Hall. He had another audition at 11 a.m. at Steinway for the St. Louis Symphony, so when Iturbi failed to show up, Zinn left the hotel and started across the street to the second audition. He saw Iturbi standing in front of the Little Carnegie movie theater admiring a life-sized portrait of himself that advertised the movie he was in, “100 Men and a Girl,” with Deanna Durbin. Zinn remarked, “I hear Durbin is good, but Iturbi is not.” Iturbi bristled: “Do you know who I am?” Zinn said, “Of course, you’re Jose Iturbi. But do you know who I am? I’m William Zinn, and I was supposed to have an audition with you an hour ago!” “Oh, my god!” cried Iturbi, “It slipped my mind! And I have an important meeting at 11!”
They rushed back to the hotel room where a violist was also waiting to audition. Iturbi asked the orchestra manager, “Do you have any violin/viola duets on hand?” The manager pulled out a Mozart duet, and they played it for Iturbi in the elevator as it descended. When they reached the ground floor, Iturbi gave them both a contract. But it was not very well paid, so Zinn turned his down.
He rushed over to Steinway hall in time for the second audition, which he passed, but then he saw that a young woman was in tears because she hadn’t been chosen. He felt sorry for her and asked the management to give the job to her. They agreed, and Zinn hurried to the third audition he had that day, at a hotel downtown, for the Indianapolis Symphony. He was awarded a contract with that orchestra, which provided him with a better salary and a better seat than either of the other jobs that he had auditioned for.
I get a lot of laughs from scanning Facebook online. There are all kinds of amusing video clips, photographs and stories. I’ve uploaded some of my own photos there. Recently someone posted a cartoon that will appeal to musical computer users. It has one character telling another, “We started a band called 999 Megabytes. We haven’t gotten a gig yet.”
Allen Lowe posted this on Facebook: When Dave Schildkraut got out of the Navy in the mid 1940s, he took his alto up to Minton’s. They were playing a tune he didn’t recognize the head on, so he asked Fats Navarro, who was standing there, “What are you playing?” Fats said, “‘Whispering,’” and so Dave got up and played. The pianist was Bud Powell. Afterward, Allen asked Dave, “Weren’t you nervous? You had hardly played for three years!” Dave said, “It was okay. I’d been practicing in my head.”
Also on Facebook, sax man Alden Banta said: Jack Bashkow told me about doing a show with Jackie Mason. The show unexpectedly closed after a couple of weeks. Mason asked for a meeting with everyone. He said, “Guys, I know it’s an unexpected closing, but I don’t want you to worry. I’m going to be all right!”
My friend Chris White, a fine bassist, passed away last Dec. 2. I met Chris in the 1960s when he was with Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet, with James Moody, Lalo Schifrin and Rudy Collins. I was working in a jazz club opposite them with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet, so I got to hear Chris a lot, and I liked what I heard.
Chris went on to play with many jazz groups, and we met occasionally as time passed. But in the last several years I saw a lot of him in connection with Lou Caputo’s “Not So Big Band,” when we played gigs around Greenwich Village. Chris wrote some things for Lou’s band which we still enjoy playing. He was always at our performances. He was always at the bar cheering the band on. Chris was a good musician and a good friend, and I’ll miss him on those gigs with Lou.