The Band Room
Volume 117, No. 10October, 2017
I started playing the bass in 1950, and in 1952 I was working sporadically with the Teddy Charles trio, with Don Roberts on guitar. Don left for a better paying job, and we were able to get Jimmy Raney to replace him. Jimmy had been playing with the Stan Getz quintet, but Stan had made a trip to the West Coast by himself, and so Jimmy was available for the summer. When Stan returned in the fall he called Jimmy and said, “We have a week in Boston at the Hi-Hat. Roy Haynes is living up there, and can make it, and I have a pianist, Jerry Kaminsky, so get a bass player and come on up.”
Jimmy asked me if I wanted to do the gig, and of course, I said yes. We took the train to Boston and checked in at the hotel where Stan was staying. Jimmy told me about the tunes that Stan liked to play, and showed me the chords to the tunes I didn’t know.
That night, for the first tune, Stan called “Lover Come Back to Me,” and kicked off a bright tempo. Halfway through the second chorus, my D string broke. (Bass players all used gut strings at the time.) I tried to finish the chorus by playing around the missing string, but I was having trouble finding the notes I wanted to play.
Under the piano was another bass, which belonged to the house group. I quickly laid my bass down and grabbed his. I immediately discovered that the guy was a left-handed bassist! His instrument was strung in the opposite direction from mine! I tried to rethink the fingerboard and play it anyway, but I sure played a lot of sad notes.
At the end of the tune, Stan gave me a minute to put a new D string on my bass, and we continued the set without any further problems. I guess I sounded so lame on the first tune that Stan was relieved at how much better I sounded on the rest of the set. At any rate, he kept me on the band for the next six months, and I got to learn from him and all the other musicians he hired from time to time, including Frank Isola, Duke Jordan, Kenny Clarke, Al Levitt, John Williams, John Mandel and Bob Brookmeyer.
Bass trombonist Tony Salvatori, who was in the house band at New York’s Copacabana from 1968 to 1970, told me about a night during Don Rickles’ second show. They had held the show for a while, waiting for Al Hirt and his party to arrive. Al had just played a concert at Carnegie Hall. Rickles finally went on, and five minutes into his act the waiters began setting up a special table at ringside. Then Hirt and ten of his friends came down the front stairs and were seated. Rickles started in on them. “Look! Here comes the fat guy! He couldn’t get here on time. Couldn’t you find a cab?”
The party was seated, champagne was served, and Rickles continued to rag on Hirt, who picked up a bottle, extracted the cork with his teeth, took a big swig, stood, and spit champagne all over Rickles. Laughing, Don sputtered, “You sonofabith!” and then continued his act.
Russell Alexander sent this to me:
Jazz musicians talk about “waiting for the call.” Whether it was from Benny, or Miles, or other luminaries. Rock musicians would also “wait for the call” from Frank Zappa.
Guitarist Steve Vai sent Zappa a transcription of the drum solo “Black Page,” so-called because that’s what the chart looked like. Zappa responded by inviting him to a rehearsal to audition. The following is from an interview with Vai:
So I’m 20 years old, and I’m auditioning for Frank Zappa, I’m thinking “this is ridiculous.” But I went down. He told me to learn all these songs, and of course he pulled all these songs that I didn’t know. He made it so difficult!
There was lots of things, but this one thing, during my audition…he plays something and goes, “Play that.” And I play that, and he goes, “Play it in 7/8.“ I say “Okay” and I play it in 7/8, and he goes, “Now play it reggae 7/8,“ and I go, “Um, okay,” and I do it. And he goes “Okay, now add this note,” and I do it, playing reggae 7/8 and I’m adding these notes, and he goes “Okay add this note.” And it was impossible. It was physically impossible – not just for me, but for anybody.
And I said “Oh, I can’t do that.” And he goes, “I hear Linda Rondstadt is looking for a guitar player.”
At the end of the rehearsal I went up to him and said, “Thanks for inviting me. I’m really sorry, I’m gonna go home now.” And he goes, “You’re in the band!”
Jay Leonhart sent me this one:
“I was in a recording studio with a bunch of accomplished studio musicians, among them the irrepressible Bob Rose on guitar. We were in the final few minutes of a jingle recording and were under the usual pressure to finish on time, when over our headsets we heard the control room phone ringing. In a few seconds the engineer informed Bob Rose that Stevie Wonder was on the phone and wanted to talk to Bob. Here we are in “crunch time gotta finish the jingle time” and Bob looks around the room and then tells the engineers “Tell him I’ll call him back’”.