Jazz musicians have lots of stories from their gigs. Not to impinge on Bill Crow’s territory, but here are three that the peripatetic Bill Mays sent me from the road following his Yakima gig.
I was playing the Knickerbocker in New York City several years ago. A man came up after the set and said “I loved every minute of it. I have all your records, and I love your work.” Always a little suspicious of people who say they have “ALL my records.”I innocently inquired “Really?â€”I’m curiousâ€”which one is your favorite?” He replied with a title that I didn’t recognize. I said “I’m a bit confusedâ€”I never made a record by that name.”
He said, “But aren’t you Cedar Walton?” I guess he’d never LOOKED at the backs (or fronts) of his LP collection and thought that as he was enjoying his cavier pie and braised liver, he was also enjoying the music of Cedar Walton.
Mr. Mays (photo by Judy Kirtley) is on the left, Mr. Walton on the right.
Same club, the Knickerbocker; a man and his wife at a nearby table. It’s a talky club and I never, of course, expect a rapt, silent audience. Anyway, this guy requested some tune. I played it, during which he talked continuously to his wife. Near the end of the set he got up, walked past the piano and indignantly said “I never heard my tune”. I replied “That’s because you talked through it the entire time.” He did a hrrummph and strode angrily away. As he was almost out the door I said to the bass player “Keep playing”. I jumped from the piano, ran up to him and said “I played your f—ing tune. You talked all the way though it. Now, I’m going to play it again, and you’re going to stand right here and not move until I’m finished.” Looking shocked and sheepish, to say the least, he dutifully obeyed and stood there for the next eight minutes and 14 choruses while I replayed his request. Upon hearing the last chord he saluted me, took his wife on his arm and vacated the premises. I was lucky. One of these days I’ll get shot.
Third story just came to mind. Shortly after I moved to New York, Ron Carter had been hearing of me and called me for a week at the Knick (they were doing five nights then, as opposed to two now). During a set, a man came up, handed Ron a $5 bill and requested a tune. Ron looked at it, handed it back and said “Sorry, that’s a twenty dollar tune.”