The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 115, No. 3March, 2015

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words.


The article Maggie Russel-Brown wrote re: Winter Jazzfest stays within the facts. But the photo/caption reading “this year festival musicians asserted their rights when a French TV channel wanted to record the show” accompanied by my (and other festival musicians’) name and image is misleading. To clarify:

  1. Although I did perform at this year’s Winter Jazzfest, I wasn’t among the musicians who were filmed by KIDAM.
  2. As a member of the Winter-Undead Jazz Festival Organizing Committee, I was informed that negotiations were underway with KIDAM. Although I personally support upholding recording scale, the only thing I “asserted” at the time was that the union should consult the festival musicians directly involved on how to proceed.

–Marc Ribot


One of the most fascinating club date leaders ever to be a signatory at Local 802 was Lester Lanin. As his last pianist, I’ve written a new book about him, “Lester Lanin: An Intimate View of America’s Favorite Society Dance Band and its Leader.”

During my odyssey with Lester, there seemed little doubt about his views and policies toward the union. Lester would squirm, try to chisel, fight against new contracts, express his disdain, and yet pay the union wage (sometimes having to be “reminded”), plus a premium if you had special ability – and if you had the will to negotiate. I figured Lester felt that any musician who paid union dues, adhered to union rules, and held him to the contract was probably worth paying scale plus health and pension.

Only once can I remember Lester attempting to force his musicians to become independent contractors rather than employees. This would have reduced his costs and eliminated benefits for his players. The effort failed.

In addition, I remember an eventful evening when his band and union reps assembled outside the Museum of Natural History and declined to go in and play the job unless Lester signed the newly negotiated contract. After some drama, Lester signed his name to the document and added the words, “Under protest!”

From what I experienced, particularly in comparison with a number of other employers, Lester could have competed for an award from Local 802 and his players for being the best one might hope for in an employer, providing decent work and benefits for hundreds of musicians in all of his many bands through all kinds of business environments for years and years.

For more, you can order my book through (Search for “Lester Lanin Al Warner.”)

–Al Warner


How shocked and saddened I was to hear of the passing of Harold Jones. Although we haven’t seen other in years, he was always bigger than life, a presence that would never be extinguished, but distinguished for his tenacity, talent and love of music. Being a professional musician is not an easy path to travel under normal circumstances. He faced many challenges along the path, and with his eyes on the prize, he carved out his own direction with perseverance and dedication while bringing many others along with him. (I also remember his love for tennis, which we shared. Some people might not know about his love of tennis.)

–Elayne Jones

(Editor’s note: see our obituary for Harold Jones in this issue.)

Howard Williams

Howard Williams


This is Howard Williams with an update for my friends. Until my 85th birthday a year ago, I was going full speed ahead in New York, performing with my big band at The Garage in the West Village on Monday nights and working weekdays in the Recording Department at Local 802. Now I am living at Arden Courts, an assisted-living facility in Farmington, Connecticut, which is just two miles from my brother-in-law’s house. Many friends came to visit me in Connecticut last year, and those visits have been high points. Bill Crow drove up from New York to see me, as did Karen Koptiz, Roger Cumming and John Eckert. (Apologies if others visited and I’m not remembering their names at the moment). The award for traveling the farthest probably goes to my high school friend, trombonist Dale Hampton, who flew all the way out from Reno with his wife Patti. They stayed nearby and visited several times over several days, even attending a nice outdoor party given by Arden Courts in early September. Arden Courts (which gives lots of parties) has turned out to be a pretty good situation for me. It’s right off exit 39 of I-84, and I hope other friends will visit in 2015 when they’re passing through. A year ago, the idea of assisted living was very unappealing, but I have to say at this point that I kind of like getting three nice meals a day, sleeping in, and not having to rush off to work in the winter weather; life, in fact, is pretty good!

For fans of the Howard Williams Jazz Orchestra, you can still catch the band, now being led by John Eckert and other friends, on the first Monday evening of every month at The Garage (99 Seventh Avenue South in the West Village).

Best wishes for 2015!

–Howard Williams


I read with great pleasure the Stan Applebaum interview in the December issue of Allegro. I love seeing pieces about arrangers and orchestrators, and in this case I learned a lot about a man whose work I didn’t know well before. I would love it if such a piece could also include links to recorded examples of the work, and even to scores. What an opportunity to learn from one of the greats! Thanks for your work in putting this together and getting it out to us.

–Greg Pliska