The Band Room

February '18

Volume 118, No. 2February, 2018

This note from Local 802 member Sarah Seiver was published in the New York Times “Metropolitan Diary” in December:

Dear Diary,

When I was born, my brother thought I looked like a doll. He nicknamed me Dolly. It stuck. My mother was an amateur cellist, and when I was 6, she started me on the cello. By the time I was 9, I had had enough of my nickname. I told everyone to stop calling me Dolly.

When I was 12 or so, I was big enough for a full-size cello. My mother said she would give me hers if I agreed to let her call me Dolly for the rest of my life. I’m a professional cellist now. And since March, I’ve been playing that cello in the Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!”

I’ve been enjoying posting and reading other posts on Facebook. Now and then a musical anecdote shows up. Here are a few that I’ve collected recently:

Jodi Wright posted this comment from Chris Crook: “At a funeral, I was playing a prelude as family members and friends were paying their respects at the open casket. Someone had evidently used their phone’s GPS to get them to the funeral home. Just as they approached the casket, the phone blared out: ‘YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR FINAL DESTINATION!’”

Carolyn Hiestand told her friends on Facebook about an acquaintance of hers who found a Loree oboe d’amore at a yard sale. She only paid $30 for it. The person who owned it thought it was a funny-looking clarinet that was found while they were cleaning out their grandparents’ house.

Julie Leder posted on Facebook that the drummer in her band had some electric drum pads stolen from his home. He found them in the local second-hand shop labeled “Electric Pie Warmer.”

Gaye Kurtz told about a gospel quartet for which her husband was the pianist. The lead singer, a young man who had an amazing voice, but who was rather naïve, came to a practice session one day and said excitedly, “I just heard the best gospel song on the radio. We’ve got to learn it. It’s called ‘One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus.’”

Margo Guryan was a student at the Lenox School of Jazz one summer long ago. She told this story on Facebook: “Ornette Coleman really shook up everyone at the Lenox School of Jazz. One night there was a jam session. It started with the teachers and filtered down to the students. Everyone was trying to get as far out as possible. I was standing next to a student bass player when he was called to play. He did admirably. When he returned to the observers, his friend asked, ‘How did you know what to play?’ He replied, ‘I just played my exercise book. Wen I finished one key, I went on to the next!’”

Dan Wilensky sent me a note from the Pacific Northwest: “When I was 18, I had the privilege of traveling with Ray Charles.  I was playing lead alto, and was flanked by tenor players Rudy Johnson and Don Wilkerson. Rudy practiced all the time, even on airport tarmacs, and could play anything in any key. Don came from a different school.  He took me aside one day and said, ‘All ya gotta know is two keys, C and C sharp.  That covers all the notes.’”

Peter Zimmerman was recently reading the Wikipedia entry for trombonist Vic Dickenson (1906-1984), who played with Count Basie, Sidney Bechet and Earl Hines. Wikipedia included this anecdote: “For all his lively musical talent, Dickenson was a laconic man who often liked to be alone between sets. During his long association with bands at Eddie Condon’s, he would often retire to a single chair that sat in a small alcove outside the men’s room, instead of gathering with fellow musicians in the band room. When men mistook him for the men’s room attendant and offered him money, he took it.”

On a restaurant gig, the musicians played “As Time Goes By.”  A guest came over afterward and asked Bill Wurtzel if she could sing a tune. Bill said he had to let her…he couldn’t turn down Lauren Bacall.

Bill once played a holiday season gig with Alex Gressel last year at the American Folk Art Museum. Bill’s guitar tuner had been flashing red and green, and at the end of a set, a lady pointed to it and asked what it was. Alex said: It’s for Christmas.”

Bill also told me about a night that guitarist Charlie Byrd came to his gig. On a break Bill asked if Charlie had some advice for a tremolo piece he was studying, “Recuerdos de la Alhambra.” Charlie said, “It’s very hard. I practice it every morning…for 40 years.”