The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CX, No. 9September, 2010

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.

‘Eyes on the ball, please’

Regarding the announcement in the July/August issue of Allegro that “802 opposes anti-immigrant law,” I have long held the view that Local 802 ought not waste its time and finances on issues of national politics that have absolutely no bearing on the professional lives of Local 802’s members.

The scenario put forth in the article as to how Arizona’s S.B.1070 could hypothetically affect a hapless 802 touring member, “a Latino musician (who) goes out on the town,” and “who happens not to have her driver’s license (or passport),” is nothing more than a laughably contrived excuse for the Executive Board to get itself involved in a national political issue.

Surely, there are enough issues that do affect Local 802’s members’ professional lives so that the Executive Board should restrict its entire time and all of its members’ dues to deal with those issues.

I am not writing to express any opinion, pro or con, as to the beliefs of the Executive Board members regarding Arizona’s S.B 1070.

Rather, I feel this just happens to be a national political issue du jour concerning which the Local 802 Executive Board, like so many other E-Boards before this one, gets involved strictly for the “feel good” purposes of these elected officials.

Eyes on the ball, please.

Larry J. Rawdon

George Ricci, we’ll miss you

eorge Ricci was a superb cellist, who with his brother, the world renown violinist Ruggiero (Roger) Ricci, created the Stradivari record label in the early 50’s. He performed a slew of classical recordings while being a very active freelancer in New York. I last saw him in Florida where he retired and was teaching. He was a major figure in the cello world and I mourn his passing.

Janos Starker

Thanks to 802

n behalf of New York’s labor communicators, we would like to thank you for AFM Local 802’s hospitality during our recent convention held at your union hall. We would especially like to thank your staff for going the extra mile. Their energy and attention helped make the convention a success. We would like to thank Personnel Director Fran McDonald, Building Supervisor Amoh Essandoh and staff member Fran Kayne for their personal efforts.

Also, please accept our congratulations on Allegro taking first place for general excellence in this year’s awards for labor communication.

Thank you again.

Bill Hohlfeld and Dave Katzman

Remembering Danny Bank

Danny Bank, my childhood friend, passed away on June 6. We lived on the same street, and I remember when he contracted polio. Danny was perhaps the greatest baritone player of his time. He founded the original New York Saxophone Quartet around 1951. It was Danny on clarinet (nobody had a soprano sax!), Eddie Caine on alto sax, Al Epstein on tenor and Stan Getz on baritone. When Stan left, Ray Beckenstein joined on soprano, and Danny went back to his monstrous baritone. The quartet was the love of his life.

Danny made countless recording dates with every known star in the business. There were Broadway shows and the best big name bands. We played together on Benny Goodman’s great band in 1944 and 1945.

We will always remember the fabulous Danny Bank. His life’s struggles are over. Danny’s greatness will always live on.

Al Epstein

Looking for justice

I am a musician living in the Masonicare nursing home in Wallingford, Connecticut. Recently, I discovered a beautiful Yamaha digital piano in the lobby here and was soon playing regularly to large audiences despite the increasing loss of my right hand. I was listed in the weekly bulletin. It turns out that my fellow residents want to hear “Ornithology,” and “‘Round Midnight” – not tired sing-alongs for old people!

One morning, my audience demanded “Take Five.” How did I do that with one hand? I didn’t. They hummed it, even the bridge, while I played Eugene Wright’s base line.

Then it all came crashing down.

Just after debuting an evening series of “Sonatas, Ballads, and Torch Songs,” the administration cancelled my second concert. The reason I learned later was the crowd constituted a “fire hazard.” Also, the administration said they couldn’t move the piano because it might “go out of tune” – even though it’s a digital piano!

I believe I know why they really did this. Reprisal. Reprisal for my having reported a violation of standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, as well as health code violations in my room. Even the ACLU has become interested in my case.

However, it seems my playing and concerts are over for good. What’s worse is that with no playing, my hand has regressed. My fingers have begun to contract. (At this moment I am typing with only three not all five fingers.)

But residents of nursing homes have rights. I have formed an advocacy group. Those who want to learn more can e-mail me at

This letter is my own opinion. I’m sure if you talked to the nursing home administration, you can get their side of the story. But I stand behind my words.

Joe Luciano

‘It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t here to swing’

I’m a jazz lover, and for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been documenting the weekly rehearsals of Paul Cohen’s big band in Margate, Florida. (I wrote a story about this ensemble that appeared in the July 2007 issue of Allegro.)

The band is made up of many former New Yorkers and Local 802 members. Below is a recent photo of Barney Bragin, Eddie Caine, Jim Sedlar and Paul Cohen, each of whom spent many years as a renowned, first-call Local 802 musician in the New York City area. All four now reside in Florida.

Although Bragin no longer performs, he is a regular at Paul Cohen’s weekly rehearsals. Caine, Sedlar and Cohen keep their horns at the ready and their date books are always full. Their motto: “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t here to swing.”

Those who want to know more can e-mail me at or write me at 10315 Copper Lake Drive, Boynton Beach, FL 33437.

Mort Kuff