In a jazz cruise I once played, I was able to take my wife, Aileen. She already knew some of the musicians, like Clark Terry, Joe Cohn and Milt Hinton. She soon became friends with many of the others, and especially enjoyed Milt’s wife, Mona. They often sat together at the various concerts, and Milt and I joined them in the dining room at mealtimes. Mona always carried a large, heavy handbag with her wherever she went on the ship, and one day, while she and Aileen were sitting on a sofa near the dining room, Aileen offered to stow the bag behind the sofa.
“No,” said Mona, “I have to keep this with me. It’s got our money in it.”
“You mean, for the cruise?”
“No, it’s got all our money in it.”
Evidently Mona didn’t trust banks.
John Altman was booked to play a birthday party in the San Fernando Valley for a wealthy jazz lover. Although it was 115 degrees, the dress code was formal – tuxedos were required! John rode with the guitarist. They were both in T-shirts and shorts. John had his tux in his sax case, and they picked the guitarist’s up from the cleaners en route. At the party site they were made most welcome and they relaxed by the pool hoping the heat might wear off by early evening.
The musicians popped inside the house to change as the first guests arrived, and John heard a groan from the guitarist. His trousers must have slid off the hanger as he went from the cleaner to car. They were nowhere to be seen. The host was told of their predicament, and he said he had a spare pair of tuxedo pants in his wardrobe. The only problem was the guitarist was 5’6″, and the host 6’6
John found it hard to keep a straight face, playing a gig in evening dress in 110 degree heat with a guitar player sitting next to him with pants that draped onto the dance floor.
David Regan, who now lives in Switzerland, gave these stories to Scott Robinson, who passed them along to me:
David was playing alto sax in a big band, and they were setting up for a concert. They had a rock and roll sound man, and the monitor was putting out a horrible shrieking sound. Dave called the guy over and told him, “Listen to what’s coming out of this monitor, it’s terrible! Sounds nothing like my horn.” He played his alto, and the guy listened for a moment, then bent down to the monitor and listened some more. He checked over the cables and the connections, then straightened up and told Dave, “There’s nothing wrong with the equipment. It’s gotta be your trombone!”
David also told Scott about a recording session for a jingle. The client said they wanted a really good trombone player to be the main solo voice… so, the contractor hired one of the best available, and wrote the music to feature the trombone prominently. The recording came out great, but when they played it for the client, the response was: “But that doesn’t sound anything like Kenny G!”
These stories reminded Scott Robinson of the time he showed up for one of the hearings at City Hall to fight the old cabaret laws. He had his tenor sax in a gig bag over his shoulder. He said, “They had security goons at the front entrance, trying to keep musicians out of the hearing, even though we had a perfect right to be there, and the Local 802 president was slated to speak. The guard blocked my way and told me, ‘You can’t come in with that thing.’ I asked, ‘Why? It’s a personal item, that’s all, just like others have briefcases or handbags.’ He scowled and paused. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you might not like some of what you hear being said in there…and you might just decide to get that thing out and start banging on it! And then plaster could fall from the ceiling and hit someone on the head!’ I asked if it were really true that they were holding this hearing in a room that was unsafe for human habitation, and insisted on seeing the Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall finally arrived, and told the goon to let me in. So I finally made it into the hearing (late) with my tenor… but only after I promised not to ‘get it out and start banging on it!’”
Bill Spilka sent me this one from an interview he did with the late Jack Feierman on the West Coast:
Jack once played the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was still the host. Al Lapin – the contractor for the Tonight Show band – told them “Today’s show is going to have a lot of music. We have Tony Bennett and a guitar player named Joe.” Bob Bain, the band’s guitarist asked, “Do you mean Joe Pass?” “No,” Al replied, “I think his last name is Beam. He’s from Brazil.”
Fred Griffen found a nice video of the late Wayne Andre on Vimeo. It was created by Wayne’s son Keith, and is titled “Darn That Sentimental Dream.” There is some nice writing by Keith, an interview with Wayne, and some gorgeous trombone playing. Just go to vimeo.com and search for the title.