The Band Room

September '13

Volume 113, No. 8September, 2013

Bill Crow

When Local 802 bought its own building in 1992, there was a rubble-strewn vacant lot adjoining it to the east that ran through to 47th Street. The property belonged to the Salvation Army, which eventually used the 47th Street end of it to build an office building. The vacant space next to Local 802 was transformed into the Marian S. Heiskell Garden, which has become an ornament to the block. The teachers at P.S. 212 up the street have become the overseers of the park, and they maintain it with the help of their schoolchildren. Their planting and decorating projects give the kids a chance to discover the magic of growing things, and the pleasure of watching how plants develop. During the summer months when there are no classes, the teachers and neighborhood volunteers keep the garden watered and tended to, so it is ready for more class projects in the fall. I’ve planted a few cuttings from my home garden there, and I’m glad to see that they are doing very well.

William Zinn has led an interesting musical life, and occasionally shares his stories with me for this column. When he was with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Leonard Bernstein conducted the orchestra for ten weeks and then took the orchestra on tour for about five weeks. At every concert he performed a piano concerto.

Strolling backstage one day, Zinn came upon “Lenny” warming up at the piano by running scales up and down the keyboard. Zinn noticed that the scales were somewhat uneven. He asked Lenny, “What concerto are you performing tonight?” Lenny answered, “The Mozart concerto.” Zinn made a face and said, “I recommend you play the Bartok concerto… your scales are too uneven for Mozart.” Bernstein took his advice and played the Bartok.

The next night Lenny called for Zinn to listen to his warmup. The personnel manager of the orchestra had gotten wind of this relationship and reprimanded Zinn for telling the soloist what to play. But Bernstein used what Zinn described as “vile language” to tell the manager off, and continued to ask for Zinn’s opinion. Zinn says, “That’s one of the reasons we loved Lenny. Music came first.”

Kurt Kolstad sent me his travel plans:

  • I’ve been in many places, but I’ve never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can’t go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

  • I’ve also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

  • I have, however, been in Sane. They don’t have an airport; you have to be driven there. I’ve made several trips there, thanks to my children, friends, family and my job.

  • I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump…..and I’m not too much on physical activity anymore.

  • I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

  • I’ve been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

  • Sometimes I’m in Capable, and I go there more often as I’m getting older.

  • I may have been in Continent, but I don’t remember what country I was in. (It’s an age thing. They tell me it is very warm and damp there.)

After moving to California, Dave Frishberg wrote a song called “Do You Miss New York,” a lovely bit of nostalgia for his old haunts here in the Big Apple. He now lives in Portland, Oregon, and although I occasionally chat with him via e-mail, I wish he were still around here where I could enjoy him in person.

One of the first of Dave’s songs that I heard years ago was titled “Van Lingle Mungo,” and the lyric consisted entirely of the names of baseball players of the 1940s, attached to a haunting melody. Frishberg’s song stirred up some interest in the retired ballplayer, and, according to Wikipedia, it was arranged by the Dick Cavett show for Dave to sing the song to him in person. Backstage, Mungo asked Dave if there would be any financial remuneration for the use of his name in the song, and Dave told him no, but maybe Mungo could make some money by writing a song called “Dave Frishberg.”

While playing a job with John Simon down in Princeton recently, I told cornetist Warren Vache how much I enjoyed his beautiful tone and melodic ideas. He said, “If pretty ever comes back in, I’m ready for it.”

Don Joseph was one of Staten Island’s most talented trumpet players, and was also well known for his wit. He’s been gone for many years, but Staten Island musicians still tell stories about him. One of his best lines was, “I’ve been banned from bars, and barred from bands!”

When Don and Brew Moore had a Sunday jam session gig at the old Open Door in the Village, there were a couple of drummers waiting to sit in. When one of them got behind the drum set and began pouring on the heat, Don turned around and asked, “What happened to that other drummer we had all nice and tired out?”