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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE UNION IN 10 YEARS?
I write in response to outgoing Recording Vice President John O’Connor’s answer to the question, “Where do you see the union in ten years?”, which was the subject of the October issue of Allegro. Citing the Winter Jazzfest, where AFM musicians were recorded for European broadcast without being paid, doesn’t answer the question…or then again, maybe it does. But let’s look at some other examples of where the union is headed.
Between circa 2000 and 2010, the AFM lost approximately 30 percent of its membership. With our demographics being what they are, and with little to offer younger musicians, we’ll lose another 30 percent in the next ten years.
Across the country, AFM Local 47 in Los Angeles has proposed selling their historic Hollywood building. Once our most powerful and prestigious local, they’ve already entered into the endgame of the decline of the AFM.
However, the most telling glimpse into the future of the AFM has occurred right here in our very own backyard. One of the duties of Vice President O’Connor is to oversee employment in the hotel field. With the city attracting over 50 million tourists a year since 2012, well over a hundred new hotels have been constructed in New York City since he’s been in office, resulting in close to a 100,000 new jobs in the hospitality industry. Yet the number of musicians working under union contract in hotels has actually declined!
With performance like this out of our elected officials, the future of the AFM is very grim indeed.
JOHN O’CONNOR RESPONDS:
Brother Williams has every reason to be concerned about the decline of membership in the AFM and our relevance to younger musicians. It’s something we all need to be aware of. But he misses the point of my reporting on musicians who were stiffed by the French company Kidam. Under any other circumstances, musicians would not have a leg to stand on. Because the recordings were under a union contract, we will recover most – if not all – of the money owed those musicians. Most of the young musicians we talked to are delighted about how the union was fighting to get them their due for having been recorded. These are the musicians who are more likely to join the union and tell their colleagues to do likewise. As for the hotels, it is true that music employment had dropped in hotels but it is now on the rise again with hundreds of musicians playing the hotel scene. Local 802 is actively making sure this music is under a union contract and pays fairly. It’s a member’s right and duty to criticize his or her union leadership. That’s what I did 35 years ago when I first got involved in the musicians’ union. But then I got involved. And I have been organizing ever since. We welcome Brother Williams to come to us and ask how he can help. We can offer him plenty to do.
REMEMBERING CHARLIE McCARTY
I was sorry to read Charlie McCarty’s obituary in the October issue of Allegro. I was fortunate enough to do most of the work with Charlie’s unit on piano. Charlie was a true gentleman: laid back, jovial and musical. No one who has heard his vocal rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” can ever forget it. We had to drive to many of our jobs, so I would drive and Charlie would read the maps for us, making sure that if we went to Westchester, tolls would be avoided.We did a few New Year’s Eve jobs at the Red Lion Inn in Massachusetts. Charlie’s wife Marianne would always prepare an after-job party in Charlie’s hotel room, complete with food, wine and some noisemakers for the members of the band and the wives they brought along. She was very sweet.
A highlight of our going to England to play for Lord and Lady Rothemere’s daughter (the Lord and Lady owned the Daily Mail) at their farm was when the trombone player started to warm up at the fence where the cattle roamed. Fifty or sixty cows came ambling along to see which of their American cousins was creating the strange sounds.
At a date in Belcherville (Excuse me!), Pennsylvania, we parked in the motel parking lot. Overnight, the lot became a sheet of ice and my car could not leave the lot the next morning. Charlie called the Lanin office and we got to stay an extra day.
Then there was the estate outside of Chicago where the host set up gondolas with strumming guitarists in his swimming pool. When we went inside to the living room to play, we found that it was stiflingly hot with no air conditioning. I soon fell asleep while continuing to play and found out that the half of the brain in charge of playing could keep going while the other half could take a nap.
I miss Mr. McCarty and all of the fun we had.
(Editor’s note: we published tributes to Charlie McCarty
in our October issue.)
A TRIBUTE TO RAUL AZPIAZU
Adios, Raul Azpiazu
Elegant Latin Vocalist
Your beloved wife, Eleanor, told me you left us on August 28, 2015.
Why did you go?
Where did you go?
This is one of many pianists who played for/with you…Al Warner.
We worked together in the Lester Lanin Orchestra on perhaps 200 dates over 20 years.
Your ancestral land, Cuba, is opening to the U.S., with the help of the Pope and others. Did you get this news before you left?
I am listening to your music on computer as I write.
How sweet the sound of your voice!
You were always looking for new ways to present Latin music. And you found them! I do not know anyone who did not like and admire you and your appealing music. You brought your melodies and rhythms to a “gringo” society band. A warm, colorful contrast to our Broadway show tunes. You taught us of your illustrious father and mentor, Don Azpiazu, and his iconic selection “El Manisero” (“Peanut Vender”).
You and your devoted wife Eleanor had such a glowing love affair for so many years. You were proud as you told me of her work as a popular hair stylist! Too bad I had no hair!
In the Lester Lanin Orchestra band bus, as we headed for Washington, D.C. and the Georgetown University prom each year, you sat two rows in front of me, alone, probably constructing your next arrangement to be recorded. Those were long, tough bus rides, but the international student body of the university moved inspiringly to your vocals and conga playing!
You were justly proud of your music.
You sent me many wonderful recordings of your singing.
You never charged me a dime.
I appreciate that and much more.
(Editor’s note: we published Raul Azpiazu’s
obituary in our October issue.)