The Band Room
Volume 115, No. 5May, 2015
Brad Terry sent me a story about his friend Eddie Thompson, the blind British pianist. Eddie was doing a tour through the Midwest, traveling from town to town on small commercial planes. At one layover for fuel, most of the passengers got off the plane for a snack and a stretch. Eddie decided to stay on board. The pilot asked if he would like anything, and Eddie said his guide dog might need to go out. When the other passengers saw the pilot walking up and down the tarmac with a guide dog, they were reluctant to get back on the plane.
Brad says that Eddie’s favorite joke involved a blind man who sat in the same location at a railway station every day selling pencils. One commuter always dropped a dime in his tray, but never took a pencil. The blind man stopped the commuter one day and said, “You’re the guy who comes every day and drops a dime in my tray, but never takes a pencil.” The commuter agreed that he was the one. “Well, I just wanted to let you know, the pencils are 15 cents now.”
When Geoff Driscoll was a young saxophone player in London, he knew a venerable bassist named Benny Wright. Benny had worked with George Shearing at the Churchill Club for the 18 months before George left for the United States. Thirty years later, Benny paid a visit to his sister in this country, and saw that Shearing was playing at the local concert hall. He attended the concert and afterward went backstage and found Shearing’s dressing room. He knocked on the door and was called in. “Hello George,” said Wright to the blind pianist. “Hello, Benny,” replied Shearing. “How are you?”
Scott Robinson forwarded this item from Ted Nash’s newsletter, a story about Dr. Bob Litwak, an old friend of mine:
For many years, Bob Litwak was the chief cardiothoracic surgeon at Mt. Sinai. He was one of the greatest specialists of the heart, both professionally and personally. He also liked to swing on the drums. On Friday afternoons he and several of his colleagues gathered at a Manhattan restaurant to do what they were passionate about: play jazz. Every week they would invite a guest artist to join them. I did this probably about once a year and always had fun hearing these doctors, lawyers and publicists forget about their day gigs. One day I showed up wearing a new shirt. The label was irritating the heck out of my neck. The band was still setting up, so I walked over to Bob and asked if he had any scissors with him. He thought for a moment and said “Yes, I believe I have some in my bag.” I sighed and said “Great, because I have something back here that is really bothering me and needs to be cut off.”
Bob shook his head and said “No, Ted, that would have to be done in the office in a sterile environment. I can’t do that here.” He thought I was asking him to remove a growth or something from my neck. I shook my head an laughed, explaining what I had in mind. He joined my laughter and them proceeded to expertly snip away the tag in the back of my shirt. Later I laughed again when I realized I had one of the most prestigious surgeons in the world cutting out the label from my shirt.
Bob passed away a couple years ago. He was a great man, and I miss him.
I miss Bob too…he was a talented and generous man, who did a lot of pro-bono surgery for jazz musicians in need.
Doug Ramsey sent me this note:
Your James Moody story [from the February 2015 issue of Allegro] made me think of the time in the ‘70s when Charlene and I had dinner with Moody and his first wife at their house in New Jersey. Afterward, we got into our respective cars to go to his gig at the Half Note. We followed the Moodys’ Cadillac. When we got to the toll booth, I handed money to the attendant. She said, “No, that man ahead of you paid your toll.”
When I told Mike Longo about that, he said, “Oh, Moody does things like that all the time.”
Mel Narunsky passed along a conversation heard in a record store in Toronto:
Customer: “Hi, I’m looking for a gift for my dad. He likes jazz. What do you recommend?”
Clerk: “Well, Louis Armstrong is pretty popular.”
Customer: “Isn’t he the astronaut? Like, the first guy to walk on the moon?”
Clerk: “That’s Neil.”
Customer: “Fine, whatever…the first guy to kneel on the moon.”
A tour manager told John Simon that Neil Young did a concert of all new material. After about a half hour of it, a frustrated fan yelled from the audience, “Play us something we’ve heard before!” So Young played the last number over again.
At the old Charlie’s Tavern, sax man Al Thomson listened to a guy complaining about how hard it was to find a gig in New York. “Charlie,” Al called to the bartender, “give this cat a gig, and put it on my tab.”