The Band Room

February '13

Volume 113, No. 2February, 2013

Jim Young in Baltimore posted this one on the Web:

For anyone who thinks Thelonious Monk was unable to play any style but his own, Leslie Gourse relates this story in her 1997 biography of Monk, “Straight No Chaser”:

“Unknown to Bud [Powell] and almost everyone else, Monk learned to imitate Bud’s style. Years later, Monk was hanging out with a younger pianist, Walter Davis, Jr. – just the two of them in a room with a piano. Thelonious pushed back the cover on the piano and started to play, sounding just like Bud Powell. Walter’s mouth dropped open. All of a sudden, Monk stopped, put the cover down, looked at the flabbergasted Walter, and said, ‘Don’t tell nobody.’”

Trombonist-photographer Bill Spilka, who was on the New York music scene for over 60 years, is now living and playing in Los Angeles. Among other things, he leads a small group of seniors that he calls an Orchestron, which plays for other seniors in the area. At a recent concert, Bill told his L.A. audience, “We rehearse every Monday, and last week, when Hurricane Sandy was devastating New York with winds, flood tides, torrential rain, fallen trees and power outages, I want you to know that every person on this stage showed up in time for the rehearsal!’

Bill Turner told me about a strange gig he played a few years ago. A New Jersey agent hired him for a funeral. The client wanted to honor her husband’s last request, which was to have a singing cowboy perform “There’s A Long Long Trail A-Winding,” a World War I song, at the funeral and the burial. She wanted him to be dressed in a cowboy shirt and tie, a Stetson hat and fancy western boots. At the funeral, he stood by the coffin in full costume, playing hymns on his guitar. The deceased was in similar costume, with his Stetson lying beside his pillow. As the service ended, Bill sang “Beyond the Sunset” and “Long Long Trail.”

As the mourners headed for their cars, the minister complimented Bill on his music and asked for his business card. At the cemetery, where Bill reprised “Long Long Trail,” members of the family also complimented him and asked for business cards. It seemed to Bill more like a nightclub appearance than a funeral.

Another of Bill’s unusual gigs was to provide a band for a family nudist resort in Virginia last June. They received a standing ovation, and within 20 minutes after the performance Bill had sold $175 worth of CDs and cassettes, even though none of the customers had any pockets.

Steven Silverstein was playing, in the 1990s, with the Adolphe Sax quartet, which included Bob Ackerman, Tristan Williams and Gary Smulyan. On a trip for a performance and recording in Slovakia, Gary was absent due to previous damage to his baritone sax on a plane trip. A clarinetist from the Bratislava radio orchestra had been enlisted to play baritone with them. So, when a Slovakian news team met the three traveling musicians at the airport in Vienna, and one of them asked the famous question, “How many are there in your quartet?” Steven gave her a hug and a kiss on camera for giving him the opportunity to answer, “Only three!”

Ed Rohrlich sent me some recollections of life as a club date musician: at one affair at which he played, the Viennese tables were wheeled into the ballroom while the band played the “Star Wars” theme. One of the table legs collapsed, and all the fruit, jello and cakes slid to the floor at the feet of the bride.

At another affair, at Alex and Henry’s, the flaming jubilee ceremony created a romantic atmosphere. As the bride and groom danced, waiters holding flaming bowls of alcohol slowly circled the dance floor. The lights were dimmed, and the scene was dramatic, especially when one of the waiters fell down, and set another waiter on fire.

At a wedding for a cousin, Ed regretted having offered his services as a gift. A fist fight broke out between the two families, and the police had to be called. As they hauled off a few of the wedding guests, the bride stood weeping on the grand staircase, as the groom berated her with, “I told you so.”

Jack Stuckey sent this one to Scott Robinson, who forwarded it to me:

Bob Newhart said, “I don’t like country music, but I don’t denigrate those who do. And for people who like country music, ‘denigrate’ means to put down.”

A saxophone player had just finished a long club date. Exhausted, he crawled into his car and called his wife on his cell phone to tell her he was on his way home. Out on the highway, his phone rang. It was his wife, who said, “Be careful on Route 80. The guy on the TV news just said there was a guy out there driving on the wrong side of the road.” The saxophone player said, “A guy? There’s hundreds of them!”