September ’14

The Band Room

Volume 114, No. 9September, 2014

Bill Crow

If you have called the Recording Department at Local 802 lately, you have probably noticed that the young women answering your calls have a slight foreign accent. The three newest members of the staff there, and one of the new temp workers, all came originally from China. Their names are Wen Lin, Tracey Gao, Rachel Chu and Kai Lin. They are from different parts of that country, and speak their local dialects as well as English, but they also speak Mandarin, the common language of China, and in that language they often chat among themselves at the office. Of course, the laughter is the same in all languages.

After listening to one of those very musical-sounding conversations one morning, I said to them, “If you tell any funny stories, you have to translate them for me.” Rachel laughed and said, “No way!”

Often, after a day at the office, where I am unable to understand much of what is being said by my colleagues, I play in a jazz trio with Hiroshi Yamazaki and Takeshi Ogura, who chat with each other between sets in their native Japanese, which I also am unable to understand. I have been studying Spanish lately, but that doesn’t help any.

My British friend Ian Royle told me about a trombonist he knew named Charlie Messenger. When Charlie was in the armed services, he played with a band called the Blues and Royals, which was part of the Household Cavalry. Riding in a car with Charlie, Ian played him a recording of trombonist Frank Rosolino. “Great stuff,” said Charlie, ” But I bet ’e couldn’t do it on the back of an ’orse!”

Charlie told Ian about a friend of his in the Royals who got a last minute call to sub at a West End theatre. (In London, this is called “depping.”) The Royals had a performance that afternoon, and there was just time to get to the theatre afterward. But traffic tie-ups slowed him down, and at the theatre he only had time to don the top half of his tuxedo before he had to get into the pit. To his horror, the pit elevated into full view of the audience, showing him immaculate above the waist, but below exhibiting his underwear, hairy legs and stockings.

As a youth, Herb Wekselblatt attended the High School of Music and Art. At one rehearsal of the concert band, there was a very difficult passage for the first clarinets. None of them could play it, and the conductor, Bernie Weiss, told them to take the parts home and work on them. At the next rehearsal, that passage sounded even worse than before, so Weiss had each clarinetist play it alone. All of them had difficulty with it, even the seniors, and as they got closer to the last stand, some of the clarinetists were unable to finish the passage. When the last victim began to play, the band members were surprised to hear a perfectly amazing performance of the excerpt, every note crisp and clear. The whole band began to stamp their feet and yell “bravo!” Herb was sure the clarinet teacher, Mr. Klotzman, was sitting in just for fun, but then Mr. Weiss moved the section over and had the last player move to the third stand. It was not the teacher, but one of the youngest freshmen, Stanley Drucker, who later went on to a great 60-year career as principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic.

Many years ago I ran an item in this column about a Dallas bandleader, Durward “Gotch” Cline, who was famous for his malaprops. A few more of his delightful remarks have surfaced on the internet. Gotch ran a music store in Dallas, where Phil Kelly went one day to borrow a set of timbales for a record date. Cline admonished him, “Be sure you bring them back in the same condition you left them.”

Cline was once discussing a singer’s age with another bandleader. He said, “Don’t know exactly, but I can tell you she’s no fried chicken.” Here are some of Cline’s other remarks that have been collected by Texas musicians:

“We’ll kill a bird with two stones.”

“Here and gone, today and tomorrow.”

“You can’t trust him with a 10-foot pole.”

“Stand back…give half a man a chance!”

“Six and a half of one, and a dozen of the other.”

“Be sure and leave early, so if you’re late, you’ll be on time.”

“Was it you or your brother who was killed in the war?”

“If you think I feel bad today, you should have felt me yesterday.”

Cline once told his band “Get up Stardust,” and then announced to the audience, “Now, here’s the most beautiful ballad of all time, number 67.”

He later complained, “I can’t get my big band work any more. All I can book is four and five piece trios.”

Kurt Kolstad sent me these, from comedian Steven Wright:

“I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.”

“Borrow money from pessimists. They don’t expect it back.”

“Half the people you know are below average.”

“99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.”

“82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.”

“A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.”