Jerry Dodgion had just joined Red Norvo’s group in 1958 when they played a gig opposite the Count Basie band in Las Vegas. Jerry and his then wife Dottie invited a few of the Basie musicians to their home for dinner. Frank Foster, Joe Williams and Benny Powell sat down to a nice dinner, and Frank and Joe went back to the kitchen for second helpings. Jerry tells me he was a slow eater, and Benny Powell was even slower. When they finally were ready for second helpings, there was no food left.
Jerry ran into Benny a short time before his death, and told me they reminisced about that dinner. Jerry said, “Living in New York, with the faster pace, I guess I’ve learned to eat a little faster. How about you, Benny?” Powell replied, “No I’m still slow. I’m so slow, I chew water!”
During the 1945-46 season of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, when William Zinn was principal second violin and alternate concertmaster, the orchestra often gave three concerts in a row, and later in the week the first chair players would give a fourth concert of chamber music for string quartet. The main local critic, Armond Gemmet, was annoyed at having to hear Borodin’s “Polevetsian Dances” three nights running, he wrote, “If the ‘Polevetsian Dances’ would be played at the chamber music concert on Thursday, the cycle would be complete!” Zinn couldn’t resist the challenge. He borrowed the Borodin score from the conductor and spent the next three days writing an arrangement for string quartet. They played it that Thursday as an encore. The conductor explained the story to the audience, and announced that the arrangement was dedicated to the critic, who sat in the front row, red with embarrassment. The following day, in an article titled “It Is Now Complete,” the critic wrote, “The arrangement was well done and the quartet played with ill-concealed delight. May it now rest in peace!”
Rick Stepton posted this story on Facebook: Joe Romano was playing a gig with a piano player he wasn’t very happy with. As the job wore on, Joe finally stopped playing, pulled out a handkerchief and threw it on the piano and said, “Fifteen yard penalty for illegal use of the hands!”
And, also on Facebook, Vic Juris left this bit of philosophy: “Man cannot live by provolone.”
Jerry Botte told me about a club date that Leo Ursini was leading at a country club in Connecticut. Paul Ringe was setting up his drums, and decided to use some gaffers tape to secure the bass drum to the floor. While he was applying the tape, he added a few strips to the shoes of Linc Milliman, who was sitting next to the drums, adjusting his bass. Linc never said a word, and sat there with his shoes taped to the floor through the whole first set.
When the band took a dinner break, Linc slipped out of his shoes and walked around in stocking feet, slipping back into the shoes when they resumed playing. At the end of the gig, Linc removed the tape before packing up, but he kept a straight face, acting as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
Ronny White supervises the music at the Midday Jazz series at St. Peter’s church. He told me that a the blind singer Frank Senior had just introduced a song and was about to begin singing when a small child in the audience let out a little cry. Frank, without missing a beat, called out, “I hear you, baby!”
Bill Spilka has been playing with Mike Vax’s Kenton Legacy band. They showcase the brass-heavy arrangements from the Kenton era. The band director of a school where they played told Mike that during the football season, his band had a great success playing Kenton’s arrangement of “Malaguena,” and requested that Mike include that number on his concert. Mike was happy to comply, since he always closed his concerts with that number.
After the concert, the band director told Mike how much he had enjoyed it, but asked, “How come your 18 old guys can play “Malaguena” louder than my 200-piece marching band?”
When Vido Musso left the Woody Herman band, he was eventually replaced by Flip Phillips, whose name originally was Filipella. Woody once asked Flip if he spoke Italian. Flip said, “Sure…Vido Musso.”
In my September column, I ran a story from Herb Gardner, who remarked that “Cheek to Cheek” was by Cole Porter. Since publication, several callers and e-mailers have pointed out to me that the tune was written by Irving Berlin. (Bad fact checking on my part.) Herb sent me an e-mail saying that he realized it himself, too late. “My legacy is tarnished,” he added. I hope it doesn’t keep him from sending in more stories.