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Here’s a story Steve Brauner got from his dad, Buzzy: The Tommy Dorsey band bus was traveling over the Canadian border with Tommy’s mom aboard. At the checkpoint, a customs agent wanted to check Ma Dorsey’s bag. She refused, saying
Back in the 1940s Randy Brooks had a popular big band that featured his trumpet playing. He prided himself on his powerful high register. When they played an engagement in Montreal, Randy made a publicity guest appearance during the day
Stories heard from Orin O'Brien, Herb Gardner and John Clay (via Gene Perla)
By Bill Crow Do you remember double-talk? It was the clever use of nonsense words to confuse and amuse the listener. Professor Irwin Corey used it in his act, as did Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar and a number of other
By Bill Crow Lee Konitz, who left this world on April 15, was one of the first jazz musicians I met when I came to live in New York City in 1950. I was studying the valve trombone with Lennie
By Bill Crow With everyone forced to stay home and all our gigs canceled, the internet has become more and more a place for people to stay connected. Many musicians are posting live performances. I’ve watched quite a few of
I found this story in my old friend Gene DiNovi’s interesting memoir “I Can Hear the Music,” which you can read online at wattpad.com. When Gene was getting started in the music business, he went on the road with a
Back in the 1940’s, there was a club on Times Square called the Zanzibar. It featured headliners like Nat Cole and Louis Jordan. At the time, I was serving in the Army, based in Maryland, and got the chance to
Pianist Marty Napoleon was a good friend, and provided me with quite a bit of work over the years with his trios and quartets. But it was his older brother Andy, a drummer, who I first met when I arrived
It doesn’t seem possible, but I’m about to begin my 38th year of writing this column. It all started when I was elected to the Local 802 Executive Board in December, 1982, as part of the ticket headed by John
The Newport Jazz Festival was always the high point of the year for me during my years as Gerry Mulligan’s bass player. I not only got to hear some of the best jazz groups playing at the time, I got
Steve Herberman gave me this story from guitarist Mundell Lowe about playing with Charlie Parker: “Bird called me in 1950 to do this concert with him up in Harlem,” remembered Mundell. “We played ‘Just Friends,’ and he played the first
In the late 1960’s, Channel 11 (WPIX) showed Abbott & Costello films on Sunday mornings. One Sunday they ran a movie from 1941 called “Hold That Ghost.” In that movie, Ted Lewis’s band was featured along with the Andrews Sisters.
The late John Amoroso was a fine trumpet player and a great entertainer, both on and off the bandstand. He had a lot of schtick with which he entertained his audiences and his bandmates. And he often called his friends
Claude Thornhill had some very successful bands, but he was not comfortable with notoriety. Whenever it looked like he might have a hit record, he would take a month off, go fishing, and wait for things to cool off a
I inherited my musical ear from my mother, a pianist and soprano who loved light classical music. She started teaching me songs while I was just learning to walk, and she always encouraged my interest in music even though she
The New York Times recently published an obituary on an old friend of mine, Johnny Thompson, a musician who was also a magician, working under the name of The Great Thompsoni. He was 84 when he passed on March 9,
My old friend and songwriter Margo Guryan posted this memory on Facebook: “I was once flying home from Boston, feeling sad. All my high school friends were busy marrying each other, and I felt there was nothing for me in
Bill Kirchner told me a story about his high school band director Sam D’Angelo, who was a musical mentor to Bill at Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio, and who died last January. Bill was with him from 1967 to
Anne Phillips, Bob Kindred and Dave and Iola Brubeck wrote the jazz opera called “Bending Towards the Light…A Jazz Nativity” that has been produced every Christmas season since 1985 in New York and in many other cities. Many famous musicians
Richard Chamberlain posted the following story on Facebook. In the 1970s, the fascist Franco government was still in power in Spain. A pro-democracy movement in Barcelona was gaining strength, and they invited Pete Seeger, America’s best known freedom singer, to
In my early years in New York City, I lived for a while in a basement apartment on West 10th Street with the singer Dave Lambert. He had broken up with his wife, who had found an apartment on 12th
The high school band that I was a member of in Kirkland, Washington during the early 1940s prided itself on its musicianship. We had a challenge system that the director had set up. If you felt that you could play
When I was a kid, I had four musical instruments that every other kid I knew also had. I had a harmonica, a kazoo, a jaw harp…and a humanatone. The humanatone was a nose whistle. Cleverly folded out of a
When I was in high school, I found an after-school job in the print shop of my home town’s weekly newspaper. It was there that I learned the printing trade, which included melting type metal and casting slugs for the
Vinnie Burke was a wonderful bass player who was on the New York jazz scene when I first came here. I heard him at sessions when I was learning to play, and he sometimes let me sit in on his
My old friend Howard Williams passed away recently (see Requiem). He sat at a desk next to mine here at the Local 802 Recording Checks Department from 1991 until recently, when he moved to Connecticut to live near his brother-in-law.
Gil Evans developed his composing and arranging chops back in the late 1940s writing for the Claude Thornhill band. I’ve always loved an instrumental arrangement he did for Claude of a ballad by John Benson Brooks called “The Happy Stranger.”
I started learning songs when I was still in my infant crib, and I’m still at it at the age of 90. Lately I’ve noticed that I don’t remember the bridges of some of the earliest ones, but I do
I met Teddy Wilson when I joined the Benny Goodman band in 1962 for a tour of the Soviet Union, with a warm-up week beforehand at the Seattle World’s Fair. During that first week, Benny decided he needed a more
This note from Local 802 member Sarah Seiver was published in the New York Times “Metropolitan Diary” in December: Dear Diary, When I was born, my brother thought I looked like a doll. He nicknamed me Dolly. It stuck. My
I usually have my car radio set to one of the two jazz radio stations in the New York City area. The music seems ageless, but the disc jockeys seem to be getting younger and younger. I suppose some of
When I first moved to New York City in 1950, I had very little income for the first year I was here. I came to town playing a valve trombone, but was soon transformed into a bass player by Buzzy
Many years ago, Lou Caputo and the late Joel Perry were playing a wedding in Arizona on a horse ranch. During the cocktail hour the waitress kept coming over to them and offering them drinks of what she called “cactus
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
When I was a boy, our family made a trip every summer from our home near Seattle to Othello, Washington, my birthplace and the home of my maternal grandparents. In the Seattle railroad station for the Milwaukee Road there was
When I was a child, the only musical entertainment in our house other than my mother’s upright piano was an old Edison windup cylinder record player. We owned about a dozen cylinders, one of which was a 1917 World War
The British tenor man and club owner Ronnie Scott once told about his attempt to teach himself to play the guitar. He would get home from his club at about 3 a.m. and would begin playing a little exercise over
In one of my favorite stories in his autobiography, Louis Armstrong told about a musician who worked on the riverboat with him on a trip up the Mississippi from New Orleans. He said that the guy had a farm in
My old friend, songwriter Margo Guryan, attended a party at Neil Diamond’s house. Three large tables were set up for the guests. At Margo’s table, Bob Dylan was seated to her right, and her husband David to her left. When
I had records by Allen Eager in my collection while I was in high school and the Army, so when I moved to New York City in 1950, I was excited when a friend introduced me to him. He was
While I was a member of Local 802’s Executive Board I got to know Shorty Vest, the late secretary/treasurer of AFM Local 70-558 (Omaha) on one of his many trips to New York. Shorty had been a drummer around the
When I joined the Army in 1946 at Fort Lewis, Washington, I managed to get assigned to the 51st Army Band, which was newly forming there. I bought a used 1930 Model A Ford coupe (for $50) so I could
I recently heard a clip on YouTube of Yo-Yo Ma playing Saint-Saens’ “The Swan,” very beautifully. It took me back to the record player that was in our house when I was a child, an Edison cylinder machine that you
In 1980, I was playing in Joe Grimm’s band at the Coachlight Theater in Nanuet, New York, for a dinner theater production of “South Pacific.” Julius LaRosa was the star. One afternoon before the show, some of the musicians and
I met Derek Smith when he first moved from London to New York City. Before there were Playboy clubs, there was an outfit called the Cliff Dwellers that ran open parties for young singles in a location on 5th Avenue
When I was growing up in Kirkland, Washington, my mother, Lucile Crow, was a soprano and often sang on radio stations in Seattle. One day she received a fan letter from a lady who had heard her on the Gold
Dave McKenna (1930-2008) was a one-of-a-kind piano player. He often denied that he was a jazz player, even though he was steeped in the music. “I’m a song player,” he would say, and he certainly played all the wonderful songs
In 1945, William Zinn had an audition for the Pittsburgh Symphony at 11 a.m. at Steinway Hall. Zinn lived in the Bronx, and the trains were slow that morning, so he arrived on 57th Street with only five minutes to
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
I’ve pretty well figured out my computer, and I’m still figuring out how to use some of the features on my cell phone. The telephone has undergone some amazing changes since I first figured out how to use one. When
When Robert Lindner got a call in 1990 from the Steven Scott office to play at John Gotti Jr.’s wedding at the Helmsley Palace, he was originally booked to play cocktail piano music at 7 p.m. in a separate room
I always have a Dave McKenna CD on the player in my car, to cheer me up on long drives. Dave had a solo piano style that thoroughly examined the rich possibilities of the American Songbook, always swinging, always filled
Where the New York University Law Center now stands on Washington Square South, there used to be a joint called the Open Door. It was just a neighborhood bar, but it had a small bandstand on which various jazz groups
I’ve been learning tunes since I was born. My mother, a singer who played piano and organ, filled our house with song as I was growing up. I memorized all her art songs, and things by Stephen Foster, and also
Phil Woods spent his last years suffering with emphysema, but he still managed to play the saxophone with his customary brilliance. When it finally got too tough for him, he ended his career with style. He played one last concert,
Jerry Dodgion had just joined Red Norvo’s group in 1958 when they played a gig opposite the Count Basie band in Las Vegas. Jerry and his then wife Dottie invited a few of the Basie musicians to their home for
After reading my note about the Nut Club in a recent Band Room column, Phil Woods sent me this note: “I worked the Nut Club after Juilliard in the early 50’s, with Nick Stabulas (leader), George Syran (piano) and Jon
I drove out to Glen Cove, Long Island, to say goodbye to my old friend Marty Napoleon, who passed away on April 27 (see obituary). His body was there in the casket, but his spirit was on the other side
I sometimes play at a jazz spot in Greenwich Village called The Garage. When I first came to New York in 1945 that space was called The Village Nut Club, and it featured comedy bands. Sometime in the 1950s the
Brad Terry sent me a story about his friend Eddie Thompson, the blind British pianist. Eddie was doing a tour through the Midwest, traveling from town to town on small commercial planes. At one layover for fuel, most of the
Karl Kraber sent me an excerpt from Nicolas Slonimsky’s book “Perfect Pitch,” which listed some of the remarkable expressions of conductor Eugene Ormandy. Back in 1987 in this column, I printed a collection of Ormandy-isms that had been sent to
When Dave Lambert and I were living in adjoining buildings on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in the early 1950s, we collaborated on odd jobs to make a living while trying to get something going in the music world One
On Facebook, Roberta Gambarini posted a very nice tribute to the late James Moody. It reminded me of an encounter I once had with him. One winter night I was walking up 54th Street nursing a cold. As I walked
In 1964, Eric Knight went to London with Ethel Merman as her music director for a four-week gig at a club called Talk of the Town on Leicester Square. During the rehearsals, Merman was intrigued by British music terminology: “minims”
Back in the 1950s, when I was with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet, we played a week at the Village Gate opposite Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet. Woody Allen was the comedian on the bill, just starting his career as a standup. When Woody
The late Bernie Privin was universally admired for his trumpet playing. He was also famous among his colleagues for his acid humor. He specialized in insults long before Don Rickles made a career of it. If you asked Bernie how
Bassist Ken Rizzo often did travel dates with Julie Budd during the late 90s, usually with Kenny Hassler on drums and Art Weiss on keyboard. He took an offer to fly to Cleveland, hoping to visit the newly opened Rock
If you have called the Recording Department at Local 802 lately, you have probably noticed that the young women answering your calls have a slight foreign accent. The three newest members of the staff there, and one of the new
When I first moved to New York in 1950, Local 802 was located on Sixth Ave. in the West 50s. We had two floors of a building: one for offices and one for the “exchange floor,” which was a large
The late Joe Wilder, who died on May 9 at the age of 92, was the “gentleman of jazz,” dearly loved by everyone who knew him. Ed Berger’s new book on Joe, titled “Softly, With Feeling,” is a fine tribute
In March 20, which would have been Marian McPartland’s 96th birthday, a program of remembrance and celebration of her life and career in jazz was presented by the 92nd Street Y and South Carolina ETV Radio, the co-producer of Piano
Pete Seeger left a large footprint when he went away. I first knew him from a record I used to own, “Darlin’ Corey.” I loved his singing and his driving banjo line. I met him when the group that made
A few years ago, Howard Danziger had a solo piano gig in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The hours were 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., a “power breakfast” session. The piano was
The late Frank Wess, who died last Oct. 30 at the age of 91, was nicknamed “Magic” by his colleagues. He certainly worked wonders with his saxophone and flute. I first met him when I was at Birdland with the
The jazz world lost master guitarist Jim Hall in December, and it struck close to home for me. I had a deep connection with Jim both musically and personally, and I’m overwhelmed by the loss. We met when he came
In 1955, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh recorded an experiment with time displacement, playing the last chorus of the bebop standard “Donna Lee” starting one beat early and keeping it there while the rhythm section stayed with the original placement.
Linda Novis sent me this story that was told to her by her late father, Frank Pomerantz, who worked in New York advertising for over forty years. A colleague, Ken Silverbush at Hi-Fi Stereo magazine, told him that one day
The media has been filled lately with tributes to Marian McPartland, who passed away on Aug. 20 at the age of 95. Marian was a dear friend, who gave me my first steady job in New York in 1954
When Local 802 bought its own building in 1992, there was a rubble-strewn vacant lot adjoining it to the east that ran through to 47th Street. The property belonged to the Salvation Army, which eventually used the 47th Street end
Humor has always appealed to me. I had funny parents, and we laughed a lot while I was growing up. And it was humor that drew me into my early appreciation of jazz. As a schoolboy, I was astounded by
Erroll Garner used to carry a New York City phone book with him on his concert tours. If he found the piano bench wasn’t adjustable, he would use the phone book to raise himself up to the height he liked.
When John Glasel and the Members Party ticket took office at Local 802 in January 1983, I became a member of the Executive Board, a post I held for the next 20 years. John asked me if I’d like to
William Zinn told me that, while he was concertmaster of the Queens Symphony, they played the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3 in D minor with Van Cliburn as soloist. At the dress rehearsal, the conductor wasn’t setting the tempo that Cliburn
Frank Tate told me a story about the late Dick Sudhalter that he got from Dick’s friend Daryl Sherman. Dick had left his trumpet, in its case, in the bandroom at the back of the Red Blazer, while he visited
Jim Young in Baltimore posted this one on the Web: For anyone who thinks Thelonious Monk was unable to play any style but his own, Leslie Gourse relates this story in her 1997 biography of Monk, “Straight No Chaser”: “Unknown
Jack Tracy sent me a couple of musical puns a while ago, and I just rediscovered them at the bottom of my computer file: King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites.
Louise Sims has an unusual wood carving on her living room wall. She told me that Zoot had carved it from an interesting piece of wood he found. He brought the piece of wood home, saying, "I think I see
Another dear old friend left us recently. On Sept. 27, a heart attack took away the trombonist Eddie Bert, who I first heard on Stan Kenton’s band, and who was one of the first musicians I met when I came
Wil Greenstreet sent me a snippet from an interview with Shelly Manne: “I did a date with Jimmy Bowen… the song was ‘Fever.’ I had never worked with Jim, but I had made the original record of ‘Fever’ with Peggy
David Wundrow sent me a link to an interview, published on the Internet, that James Tarmy had with the composer Elliott Carter in his Greenwich Village apartment. Here’s a bit of it: Tarmy: How long have you lived in this
The recent passing of Hugo Fiorato, former conductor of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, reminded Jay Blumenthal of the following story. One of the things Hugo found particularly irksome was when orchestra musicians continuously looked down at their music,
Greg Thymius passed along a story Harvey Estrin once told him, about an event at the Waldorf-Astoria for president Richard Nixon. There was a long break between the rehearsal and the performance, and during the break, Harvey squeezed in a
Joe Hanchrow keeps his string bass, bass guitar and tuba in gig bags in his laundry room. That is also where he keeps crunchy dog food, in a bag enclosed in a garbage can. One day he unzipped his string
When William Zinn was playing in the band at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, Eddie Fisher was the headline performer. At the start of the show, Fisher introduced his mother, who was sitting in the front row of a
An internet friend, Colin, sent me a story he heard from the British jazz tenorman and clubowner Ronnie Scott: “I tried teaching myself to play guitar at one time. I’d get home about 3 a.m. and start playing my little
Another old friend of mine has passed on. Bob Brookmeyer, who died on Dec. 15 at the age of 81, was a large part of my musical life for many years. I met him at a jam session at Med
Abby Mayer sent me a story she got from Arthur Goldstein. When Arthur was playing a Broadway show, one of the trumpet players realized just before curtain time that he had left his mute in his locker. He rushed out
This story comes from an Internet post by John Altman: The Basie Alumni Band was on tour in Europe. Checking into a hotel in France was Oliver Jackson, flanked by Marshall Royal and Harry “Sweets” Edison. When Oliver told the
When Zoot Sims passed away in 1985, his widow, Louise, said that instead of a funeral, Zoot had asked that his friends throw a big party for him. With the help of many friends, she did, and those parties turned
Harvey Kaiser passed along a story he got from Sonny Stitt: Sonny was once playing at a New York theater. In his stocking feet, he stepped out of the dressing room for a minute, and when he returned, he discovered
William Zinn sent me a musical story from his youth. When he was 15 years old, living with his parents in the Bronx, they were visited by Zinn’s uncle, the timpanist of the Cleveland Symphony, Harry Miller. Their three-bedroom apartment
Scott Robinson got this story from Bill Mays. When Bill was with Gerry Mulligan’s group, they had a project with a symphony orchestra for which they had scheduled a rehearsal at their hotel. It was a very hot day, and
Ed Berger posted on the internet a part of an interview he did with trumpeter Joe Wilder. They were talking about his travels through the South with Lucky Millinder’s band, which was integrated at the time. Joe said, “One time,
I’ve been saying goodbye to too many of my old friends lately. The latest one to go was Joe Morello, whose obit was in the last issue of Allegro. I met Joe when I joined Marian McPartland’s trio at the
Billy Triglia, 86, passed away on Feb. 3, closing a lovely chapter in my life. He was a jazz pianist born in the Bronx, who lived most of his life in Bergen County, New Jersey. I met him soon after
While I was on the road with Art Farmer in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet back in 1959, Art used to tell me about his early years in jazz. He loved Dizzy Gillespie’s playing, and tried to sound like him. But
A few years back in this column I wrote about the trombone case telephone that a stagehand rigged up for Merv Gold. It was in the days before cell phones. Merv had a button under his case handle that would
The Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania publishes a very good jazz magazine called “The Note,” three times a year. Phil Woods had been a regular columnist there for several years, but took some time
Here’s an e-mail I got from Paquito D’Rivera: I met the great African-American soprano Martina Arroyo during a celebration of the Jazz Masters’ National Organization in New York. They had placed chairs on one side of the Marriott Marquis Grand
Larry Benz spends his summers in Santa Fe. Since he likes to work on cars, he has become a member of a sports car club that meets every Tuesday noon at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill. He says it
Herb Gardner passed along a story he got from the late Arvell Shaw, who was Louis Armstrong’s bass player for many, many years. Arvell told Herb that the first tune of the night on Louis’s concerts was always “Back Home
The vuvuzela has become popular with its exposure at World Cup soccer games. Cathy Calabrese, in the Electronic Media (Recording Dept.) office on the second floor at Local 802, brought one in one morning. A long plastic horn, It looked
It was an unhappy day when we said goodbye to Hank Jones, who passed away on May 16 at the age of 91. He was one of the most wonderful jazz pianists to ever grace this city. I had been
David Lucas, who now lives in Boca Raton, sent me this one. In the late 1960’s, Dave and Mike Abene went to the Metropole to hear Maynard Ferguson’s band. Mike had been in Maynard’s youth band. On the break, Dave
As I was slipping one of my favorite Zoot Sims records into my CD player recently, it struck me that he’s been gone 25 years now! How can that be? His music is still so potently with us, and the
Mundell Lowe sent me a couple of stories that he got from Andre Previn when he was working with Andre’s trio. When Previn was conducting the London Symphony in the late 1960’s, he found in his pocket a piece of
While I was shopping at the Apple/Macintosh store in the Palisades Center Mall last December, the computer maven that I was chatting with told me about a recent theft. Someone had made off with four of the iPhones that were
When multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson performs, he usually wears shirts made by his wife. The shirt materials he favors are loaded with stars, planets, galaxies, etc. While Scott was appearing with the Maria Schneider Orchestra at the Jazz Standard, a conversation
In 1980, while I was playing a production of “Man of La Mancha” at a dinner theater in Nanuet, I had to take a week off for some minor surgery, and got Steve Johns to sub for me. At the
Years ago, Josh Siegel was playing English horn with the American Symphony Orchestra on a tour backing a rock show by Rick Wakeman and his crew. Josh says the orchestra’s function was to sit there in their tuxes and provide
Richard Beeson, whose book, “Seduction of a Wanton Dreamer” was published this year, sent me a remembrance from his student days in Aspen, Colorado. At a restaurant called “Trader Ed’s,” clarinetist Joe Marsala, who had retired to Aspen, put a
Marlene Verplanck sent me a nice interview with her late husband Billy that had been published in the Jersey Jazz Society’s monthly newsletter. Telling of his days as a big band trombone player, Billy described his time on the Jimmy
Marlene Verplanck sent me a nice interview with her late husband Billy that had been published in the Jersey Jazz Society’s monthly newsletter. Telling of his days as a big band trombone player, Billy described his time on the Jimmy
Howard Heller is a French hornist who also plays the bagpipes. He told me he once got a call from another piper who needed him to cover a funeral service at a church not far from his home in Pelham
I don’t often tell stories on myself, but this one is really stupid. In April I spent several hours in the studio at station WBGO-FM in Newark, recording a Benny Goodman birthday broadcast with a nice group put together by
I lost my old friend Carmen Leggio in April. A heart attack took him away just two days after we played our last gig together, with pianist Hiroshi Yamazaki, at the Red Hat on the River, a lovely restaurant up
While chatting on the phone recently, Frank Tate and I were remembering the late, great Dave McKenna, who spent most of his career playing solo piano. Dave sometimes denied being a jazz musician. “I’m a song player,” he would say.
Many years ago I was invited to a press party at a midtown loft. There were people there from the worlds of jazz and the Broadway theatre … musicians, writers, actors and dancers. The room was packed from wall to
Thom Pastor, who is the secretary-treasurer of AFM Local 369 (Las Vegas), spent some time in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s playing lead alto on Si Zentner’s band. One New Year’s Eve they were playing at the Sahara. A
I had a long day at the office recently, and that same evening I was playing some quiet jazz up in Westchester with Carmen Leggio’s trio. During Hiroshi Yamazaki’s piano solo, I nearly nodded off, catching myself just as I
When Larry Benz found out about the cabin that my wife and I have on Martha’s Vineyard, he sent me this story: “I grew up there, in Vineyard Haven, two houses down from the Episcopal church. In the 1950’s, Lennie
While I was learning to be a jazz bass player back in the 1950’s, I found some extra work on the New York club date scene. There, I met a saxophonist and violin doubler named Jerry Packtor, who had a
In the early 1970’s, Bill Zinn’s Ragtime String Quartet booked a media concert held at O. Henry’s Steak House in Greenwich Village. Dick Hyman was to be their special guest, but when he arrived, they discovered that there was no
Frank Tate has been in and out of the hospital with some problems lately, but when I called him recently, he sounded very chipper, and even gave me a story: Frank was carrying his bass down the stairs to the
Dan Barrett lives in California now, but when he was around New York he occasionally played at the Cornerstone, in Metuchen, NJ. One night there, a guy cornered him between sets, bought him a drink, and said, “I’ve been watching
Paquito D’Rivera told me about a Cuban composer, pianist and conductor named Fernando Mulens. Before the communists came into power in 1959, Mulens had established a solid reputation in Cuba. He held several jobs around La Habana, recording jingles, working
While we were getting ready for a concert at St. Peter’s church with Lou Caputo’s Not So Big Band, guitarist Jeff Tillman told me about a jazz concert he once played with Harold Lieberman when Harold was the music director
Buddy DeFranco was interviewed by Steve Voce a couple of years ago. Steve recently posted the transcript on the internet. Here are two stories from it that I like: “When I was with Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Shavers was in the
I played a school concert with Art Baron’s quartet at Lincoln Center recently. Jackie Williams was the drummer, and Richard Wyands was the pianist. Art did a nice job of getting a roomful of elementary school kids to participate in
Back in 1974 Turk Mauro and Zoot Sims were riding an Amtrak train to Washington D.C. where they both had gigs at different clubs. Mitch Miller walked up the aisle and stopped to say hello to Zoot. The train was
Len Dobbin, up in Montreal, told me about one of the last record dates Pepper Adams did before he passed away. The date was with the Denny Christianson big band, at Montreal’s old Victor studios. Pepper, already suffering from terminal
William Zinn was a first violinist with the Indianapolis Symphony during the 1944-45 season, under the baton of Fabian Sevitzky, who Zinn says was a tyrant, much disliked by the musicians. At the intermission break of the first rehearsal, Sevitzky
For a couple of years around the turn of the last century, I played with a bebop trio in the restaurant portion of a club called Scores, on East 60th Street. Their main feature was a showroom filled with dozens
In late 1979, Zoot Sims had a gig with his quartet at Gulliver’s in New Jersey. Turk Mauro went out to hear him, and Zoot invited Turk to sit in on the second set. Turk chose “Body and Soul” as
William Zinn sent me another story about Boris Malina: After the guests had a sumptuous chicken dinner at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills one evening, the band played a 10 p.m. show. When they were finished, Zinn and four
Fred Griffen sent me a couple of stories from his career as an orchestral horn player: “My first job out of college was with an orchestra in Texas. During my first season there, Andre Previn was a guest conductor. One
George Avakian told me about a European tour made by his wife Anahid Ajemian and her sister Maro. Ernest Krenek had written a double concerto for them and they were driving from Paris to Baden Baden for the premier performance.
Mikael Elsila got this story from a friend of his who used to work at the Andre Stein Senior Center. The seniors from the center were from working class backgrounds, and none of them had ever been to Lincoln Center,
Doug Ramsey posted on his blog “Rifftides” this excerpt from André Previn’s biography “No Minor Chords,” which is now unfortunately out of print. Previn wrote: Cole Porter was the most elegant of creatures, his manners as courtly as his dress.
Lynn Welshman told me about a summer gig he had in the mid 1960’s, playing with the Guy Lombardo band and with the pit orchestra for the Musical Mardi Gras at the Jones Beach Theatre. In the middle of the
Eddie Caine, one of the founders of the New York Saxophone Quartet, now lives in North Miami Beach. Eddie has been writing the story of his life, and he recently sent me his manuscript. One of the stories he tells
Tony Mottola Jr. posted this one on the Internet: Back in the 1980’s my father was with Sinatra at Symphony Hall in Boston. They were doing, as they did every show, a few duets, just Frank and guitar. They were
Ken Arzberger sent me this memory of the late contractor Boris Malina: Boris was a character straight out of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. He was a huge man, and when he spoke he sounded like Boris Baddinoff on steroids.
Joe Wilder was recently honored at the memorial for the late Cy Feuer as the first African-American musician to play in the previously all-white Broadway show orchestras. His first hit show was Feuer’s “Guys and Dolls.” Joe’s lengthy credits also
From John Altman in London: Chris Laurence, the great classical and jazz bassist, comes from a distinguished musical family, the Goossens. His grandmother and great aunt were both preeminent harpists who only retired when they were in their late 90’s.
Max Schweiger had a gig at Foxwoods recently. Afterwards, he and the guitar player went looking for a place to hang out and hear some music. They discovered to their dismay that none of the rooms there had a live
When record producer George Avakian assisted the New Orleans Jazz Club in producing the first New Orleans Jazz Festival in October 1955, where he made the world’s first recordings at a jazz festival for Columbia Records, he was ceremoniously given
Leon Cohen called me from Florida in January to say hello, and to give me some stories about his friend, tenor saxophonist Boomie Richman. When they were playing the Cavett show together, leader Bobby Rosengarden warmed up the studio audience
This story has been hopping around the Internet lately: While Si Zentner’s band was doing one-nighters in the 1960’s, they played a rural bar in southern Virginia made from an old Quonset hut. It was a real rathole, but many
Bassist Don Payne, who now lives in Florida, was fresh out of the Army in 1958. He moved into a cottage in the Hollywood hills where he and a group of local musicians that called themselves “The Jazz Messiahs” often
Dave Frishberg wrote the liner notes for a Verve reissue of a record called “You ‘n’ Me” by the Al Cohn-Zoot Sims Quintet, a band he used to play piano with. In those notes he told this story: One night
Local 802 sponsored a nice memorial party for the late Charlie Harmon in the club room last summer. Many of Charlie’s family and friends attended, and there was a lot of story telling around the clubroom tables before the program
In the back of the Local 802 directory is a list of instruments, in which you will find William Zinn listed as the only member who plays the “Octahorn.” I often have wondered what one was. Zinn explains: “It is
Here’s a story that Joe Bennett gave me: The old Ed Sullivan Show featured a great variety of entertainment, from circus and vaudeville acts to the fine arts. Once Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn were booked for a pas de
For several years I had a cheap cell phone that I rarely used. I just kept it in my car for emergencies. Since the phone was never turned on, I never gave anyone the number. Once, about three years ago,
Lyricist Jack Segal, who died in California last February, was one of my first New York friends. Dave Lambert introduced us. Jack’s most well-known songs are “Scarlet Ribbons,” When Sunny Gets Blue,” “When Joanna Loved Me,” and “Here’s to the
Joe Rutkowski graduated as a clarinet major from Mannes College in 1976, and took a summer job as custodian at the college, as did an oboe major who had graduated a year earlier. They both had teaching positions that began
When I worked with jazz bands in the 1950’s and 60’s, I filled in the frequent holes in their schedules with club dates that I picked up on the union floor. Besides the differences in the music on those jobs,
Have you seen many dollar coins in circulation these days? They can be used in the new parking receipt dispensers on the block in front of Local 802, but they don’t turn up too often. You have to remember to
On a warm afternoon last January, my wife and I spent the day strolling through the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where we are members. As we walked toward the conservatory we heard the sound of a trumpet,
I lost another of my first friends in New York last December when Frank Isola passed away in Detroit. Frank was the first drummer I met when I moved to New York in 1950, when I was still a valve
George Argila sent me a note remembering the late Doug Allan, with whom he studied drums and mallet instruments at the Henry Adler studios during the mid-1950’s. Doug wrote a letter of recommendation that helped George get out of the
I got a call last summer from a leader who said, “I have a gig for a Dixie trio that I can’t do. Do you want to do it?” He told me the date and hours and the money, and
During the 1947-48 season with the Pittsburgh Symphony, William Zinn shared a room with the orchestra’s piccolo player. They hung out together, and wherever they went, his friend carried his piccolo in his jacket pocket. Whenever the spirit moved him,
The new Henry Mancini postage stamp triggered a memory for trombonist Sam Levine. Over 20 years ago, when Sam was still a member of the Washington D.C. local, he played lead trombone for a band that Mancini fronted at the
Jack Block told me about his early days in New York, hanging around the Village jazz clubs to listen to Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. He said, “Zoot’s playing gave me more joy and pleasure than anyone I’d ever heard,
Andrew Beals told me about a job Ravi Coltrane was playing at a jazz club out on the coast. Ravi, son of the famous John Coltrane, is a fan of Jim Carrey’s movies, and was excited to see that Carrey
I was chatting on the phone with Vinnie Zummo last year, and we discovered a mutual interest…the legendary trumpet player Don Joseph. I knew and played with Don during the 1950’s, and Vinnie knew him during the last years of
This story was told to Jamie Aebersold by trombonist John Welsh, and was sent to Pete Hyde by Pat Dorian, an educator out in East Stroudsburg, Penn. Pete passed it along to me. John, 18 years old and naïve, was
Bill Elton saw a story in one of my recent columns about his old trombone section mate Tommy Mitchell, which reminded him of this one: Bill and Tommy were playing a six-week gig at the Statler Hotel with Tex Beneke’s
Back in the 1950’s, when Dave Lambert and I were living on West 10th Street in the Village, Dave was scuffling to survive a rough spot in his career. (This was before he met Jon Hendricks and formed Lambert, Hendricks
Mike Zwerin, who I knew around New York in the 1950’s as a jazz trombonist, now writes on jazz for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. In an e-mail message to my friend Frad Garner, Mike mentioned the jazz tenorman
My friend the late Tommy Mitchell was in the orchestra of one of my first Broadway shows, “The King and I.” He lived nearby in Englewood, New Jersey, but he seemed to have difficulty getting to the theatre with any
Chris Kimball is a drummer from the Pacific Northwest and the son of my old friend the late Ken Kimball, pianist and teacher. Chris was looking for a way to raise money for the International Rotary Club’s Polio Plus program.
Back in the 1950’s, bassist Georges André developed a pain in his right foot. The podiatrist who examined it thought he needed an operation, but was unable to do the job right away as he was leaving for a three-week
I got an e-mail message from George Avakian last July with the sad news that Father Norman O’Connor had passed away. Father O’Connor was a great supporter of jazz in the Boston area, a board member and emcee at the
Art Baron told me about a club date he played at one of Manhattan’s major hotels. He arrived a bit early, while Tony Sotos and Eddie Montiero were playing the preheat. The hors d’oeuvres tables were groaning with food, and
Abba Bogin sent me a clipping from a California newspaper which contained this story: One of the late John Cage’s compositions from 1967 is titled “Organ2/ASLSP.” ASLSP stands for “as slow as possible,” and a normal performance would last about
I turned on my car radio a few weeks ago day and heard the voice of my old friend Walter Norris, a wonderful jazz pianist who has been living in Germany for many years. He was talking on an NPR
When my friend Ruby Braff passed away last February, silence came to both his gorgeous cornet playing and his razor sharp tongue. Throughout his life, Ruby went his own way. He taught himself to play, and developed a style all
Broadway producers aren’t the only ones looking at technology that is designed to replace live musicians. Sam Levine sent me an article from the Washington Post that describes a new device that can be placed in a bugle held by
When Bobby Day was Fred Waring’s featured banjo player, he often played golf at Waring’s country club in the Delaware Water Gap. It was a favorite hangout of many famous cartoonists and comedians, and Bobby enjoyed their company on the
I played at a jazz festival last September up at Chautauqua Lake, N.Y., an annual event that is put together by Joe Boughton of the Allegheny Jazz Society. Joe is an enthusiastic organizer and always puts together a good program.
Richard Sussman passed along a story that the late Jimmy Maxwell told years ago while riding on the bus with the Lionel Hampton band. Jimmy was remembering an earlier bus ride to Chicago with the Benny Goodman band. He had
Dave Frishberg remembered his first night with Ben Webster’s group at the Shalimar in Los Angeles. Ben was at the microphone introducing the next song, “Danny Boy,” and he turned to Dave at the piano and said, “Reminisce.” Dave said,
Alan Foust forwarded some quotes from the late Paul Desmond that were passed around the internet recently: “I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness.” “I was
Andrew Schulman, who plays the eight-string guitar, was invited to do a five-concert solo tour of the Soviet Union in the fall of 1991, while the dissolution of the USSR was already under way. Andrew played concerts in Smolensk, Petrozavodsk,
Frad Garner is translating Baron Timme Rosenkrantz’s memoir of Harlem, written in German, into English. Rosenkrantz was a good friend of Louis Armstrong, and included this story: Arthur Jackson once told of how Louis had been to a little late-night
Shortly after Rolf Ericson arrived in the U.S. from Sweden he joined the Charlie Spivak orchestra, where he met drummer John Perilli. John told me that Rolf was living in a new apartment in Queens at that time. Most of
While chatting on the phone with Bill Finegan recently I mentioned Jim and Andy’s bar, the musicians’ hangout that used to share the block on West 48th Street with several music stores and the old A&R recording studio. Bill asked,
On a job I played in Pleasantville with Herk Ferranda last June, a lady came up to pianist Johnny Morris and said, “You jumped in our pool!” John chatted with her for a while, and later told me the story:
Herb Gardner tells me that, during the long wait to begin the show at a function at the Waldorf, the guys in the reed section got bored and began fitting pieces of their clarinets together to form a nine-foot-long composite
Eric Holroyd, in Australia, sent me a couple of stories: Micky Maher, one of Sydney’s top tuba players, has played with every type of band from circuses to theatre pit orchestras. He stayed at the Red Garter Saloon long enough
Bess Bonnier sent me a column by Jack Riemer from the Houston Chronicle, about an Itzhak Perlman concert he attended at Avery Fisher Hall last November. Jack described the familiar process with which Perlman, stricken with polio as a child,
My wife and I flew to Florida for a week last February, taking advantage of a low fare offered by Spirit Airlines. When the plane arrived at La Guardia from Detroit and discharged its passengers, the pilot reported a mechanical
The captain of the shuttle that made the flight to the orbital space station last February was Mark Polansky, the nephew of Louise Sims. Several months ago Louise called to tell me that Mark had asked her for a tape
Milt Hinton left us during the last Christmas season after a rich, full life of 90 years. Much beloved in the jazz community, “The Judge” was the dean of jazz bassists and one of the most recorded bassists in New
I’ve been working for a while with Nick DiVito’s jazz trio in an east side club that, about a year ago, had to be divided in half because of the city’s campaign against “adult entertainment.” The club’s main attraction is
At a rehearsal of Ted Blumenthal’s big band, Pete Hyde gave me this one: When Charles Mingus’ jazz group was playing in New York, Bob Zottola dropped by the club to hear the band and to visit his friend, Paul
Bob Cranshaw and trombonist Cliff Anderson were driving to a Sonny Rollins rehearsal with the car radio tuned to a local jazz stations. As they listened, they commented on the music that was played. One record began without an announcement:
Lester Lanin likes to use subject themes in assembling the medley sets he calls for his society jobs. For example, he might call “June Night,” followed by “April in Paris.” Or “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” might lead
In June, I participated in a 90th birthday tribute concert for Milt Hinton at the Kaye Auditorium at Hunter College, as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. Many of Milt’s longtime friends came to play for him and wish him
Pianist Loonis McGlohon, one of the late Alec Wilder’s lyricists who lives in North Carolina, describes Wilder in a letter as “the most erudite, warm, caring, curmudgeonly, ill-mannered, well-manned, rude, Edwardian, insulting, tender, ill-kempt, inconsiderate, hostile, funny, eccentric, original, frightened,
Like everyone else who was drafted into the into the service during World War II, hornist Fred Klein received the well-known selective service notice signed by President Roosevelt that began with the salutation, “Greetings.” After his induction he was assigned
Oscar Peterson told this story on a Jazz Cruise last year, and a friend of Marshall McDonald’s brother in New Orleans passed it along to him: On a Norman Granz Jazz at the Philharmonic tour, most of the musicians would
At the late Ray Alonge’s memorial service at Local 802, his teacher and longtime colleague Tony Miranda shared many warm memories from their lives in the New York music business. He told of an Eddie Fisher record date, back in
Playing at Mister Kelly’s in Chicago around 1966, with a trio that backed some of the acts that appeared there, bassist Joe Levinson inadvertently became part of the act. Kaye Ballard swept onstage on opening night wearing a fancy gown
Retired recording producer George Avakian should be writing a book of memoirs of his remarkable career. Here’s a story he sent me: As a high school student in New York City, George was a young pianist and a jazz fan.
Here’s a story from Chicago bassist Joe Levinson: The late Joe Rumoro was one of the Windy City’s top guitarists, on call with the Chicago Symphony as a classical virtuoso as well as doing the cream of the jazz and
Here we are in the Y2K already! I started this column at the beginning of 1983, and haven’t run out of stories yet. Every time my collection of items looks like it’s running on empty, a few more phone calls,
Last fall I played a concert at the Center for Mature Living in Allendale, N.J., with the Saddle River Concert Band. When we arrived to set up in the center atrium, I unpacked my tuba near two old ladies who
John Arbo told me this one: Judy Albano was playing a single at Club 21 and, as she played a Michel Legrand tune, a woman came over and asked, “Is that Michel Legrand? I just love his music. Could you
Frank Dickinson passed along a Country Music Glossary that he found on the internet. Here are a few definitions: 12-Tone Scale: what the police weigh your truck with. A-440: the highway that runs around Nashville. Bach Chorale: place behind the
During his years playing horn with the CBS Symphony on radio, nobody ever suggested to Fred Klein that his baldness wasn’t acceptable. But when he began to do the Ed Sullivan Show, contractor Lou Shoobe called Fred into his office
Abe Osser told me about his first steady job in New York over 60 years ago, playing at the New Yorker Hotel with the Bob Crosby band. After he’d been there for about a month Abe got Gil Rodin, the
Gene Riordan passed along a story he found on the internet, attributed to record producer Orrin Keepnews: In the mid 1950s, when Red Garland was with the Miles Davis quintet, Miles took a weekend gig at a small club in
Howard Johnson told me a story he heard about a 10 a.m. recording date in Los Angeles many years ago, for which Henry Mancini hired trombonist Frank Rosolino. Frank told Henry, “I have a gig the night before in San
Gunnar Jacobsen attended the Flip Phillips 80th Birthday Party that was given by Arbors Records in Florida. Matt Domber, who heads Arbors, asked Gunnar to help Barney Kessel with his wheelchair after the concert. But Barney’s wife said she preferred
Dick Meldonian has a tape of a roast that took place at Donte’s jazz club in Los Angeles, at which Shelly Manne told this one: Chet Baker was booked into a club where very few customers showed up. “I thought
Henry Newberger makes his living as a schoolteacher and also plays trombone in dixieland bands. He told me about a job he was hired for many years ago, playing the tuba in a show at Yankee Stadium. He was given
In 1943 Ray Beckenstein got his first chance to play lead alto in a name band, with Bobby Sherwood. This prompted him to begin studying with Joe Allard, the “maven” among teachers at the time. Ray was one of his
Back in the days when the circus used big bands, Leo Ball sat in the trumpet section at Madison Square Garden playing a Gershwin medley as Barnum & Bailey’s entire troupe of elephants did their act. As they rose on
Sam Levine remembers a parade in New York that appeared to have more marchers than were actually present. The organizers were using the subway to transport the participants from the finish line back to the starting point to make additional
Linc Milliman had a strange experience while playing a gig at the Antiques Show up at the Seventh Regiment Armory with Johnny Amoroso, Steve Gaglio and Jeff Ausfahl. The armory is located on Park Avenue in the sixties, and it
Steve Turi wrote to me about his late uncle, trombonist Joe Turi. Steve says that Joe always arrived early on jobs. He lived in Point Pleasant, N.J., over an hour from Manhattan by car, and he would leave home anywhere
I played some jazz demonstration concerts at several Connecticut schools recently with Bob Riccio and John Cutrone. On one of them, Glenn Drewes showed his trumpet to the kids, talked a little about how it worked, and then demonstrated its
British jazz writer Steve Voce sent me a couple of stories several years ago, and I just discovered that I filed them and never ran them. The first tells of the much-reported 1957 tour of England and Scotland by a
Moe Wechsler dropped by the office recently and gave me a couple of stories: He was once hired to play single piano for a couple of hours at a Christmas party. He ran through his entire repertoire of Christmas songs,
Herb Winner passed along a story he heard about a quartet in a New Jersey jazz club led by bassist Vinnie Burke. A noisy foursome at a front table was getting Vinnie’s dander up. Jazz bassists are used to suffering
Randy Sandke gave me a new Benny Goodman story. Benny was well known for his absent-mindedness, especially when it came to the names of his side musicians. On one concert Benny had been especially ornery during the sound check, and
When bassist Trigger Alpert was serving with the Glenn Miller band during World War II, a small group that included drummer Ray McKinley, pianist Mel Powell, guitarist Carmen Mastren, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko and trumpeter Bernie Privin was sent to Paris
Dave Walter wrote me a letter remembering his friend Andy Ferretti, who was one of our most respected lead trumpeters back in the 1940s and ’50s. (Andy’s most famous line, when his doctor asked if he drank more than a