I’ve Got Mail: It’s a Small World – Part One

Bill CrowThe jazz family is of the large extended variety, and that makes the jazz world very small, connecting people with much less than six degrees of separation. So it should not come as any great surprise that Rifftides and DevraDoWrite share quite a few readers in common. One of the people who found me by way of Rifftides (thank you Doug Ramsey) is bassist Bill Crow.

Bill Crow was a musical chameleon in his youth, playing trumpet, baritone horn, alto sax drums, and valve trombone. He didn’t take up the bass until he was in his early 20s. Within a few years he was playing bass with Stan Getz, Marian McPartland, and Gerry Mulligan, to name just three, and he never looked back. That was in the 1950s. His credits as a writer also date back to the 1950s with his record and book reviews for Jazz Review. In 1991, Oxford University Press published Jazz Anecdotes, a collection of Bill’s stories that was voted Best Jazz Book of 1991 in a Jazz Times readers’ poll. Two years later, they published a second volume, From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life

I’ve known Bill (or more accurately, Bill has known me) since I was a little kid — at one time my dad sublet Bill’s apartment at 22 Cornelia Street. Bill also has a connection with Marian McPartland (about whom I recently wrote) as he was the bassist in the McPartland Trio when it was named “Small Group of the Year” by Metronome (1955). Also, coincidentlly, in the same issue of The Washington Post wherein Terry Teachout recommended the Alec Wilder book that prompted me to talk about Marian a few days ago, Jonathan Yardley recommended Bill’s book (read it here).

So what’s Bill Crow up to now?

I’m playing a lot with a guitarist named Doug Proper, who lives in upper Westchester County. Good drummer, Gerry Fitzerald, and the fourth member of the group is often Joe Beck, who is a monster guitar player.

When Joe can’t make it, we sometimes have John Abercrombie, and sometimes a good alto player named Andrew Beals.

Tonight I’m driving up to the New Paltz area to play with the Kansas City Sound, a band that reveres the Old Testament Basie book. Harvey Kaiser, a saxophonist, is the leader, and we often have Eddie Bert on trombone, Fred Smith on trumpet and a variety of piano players.

Last week I subbed for Earl May on a band that plays the old Ellington repertoire, so I’m getting my nostalgia kicks. I really know how to play that music, so it is nice to be asked to do so.

If you noticed that I didn’t give you a link to Jazz Anecdotes, that is because Bill also happened to mention that Oxford has asked him to make a revised edition.

I’ve added a new preface and about 150 new stories, and they’re going to put it out with a slightly altered cover, calling it “Jazz Anecdotes, Second Time Around.” Should be ready this fall, I think.

I’ll be looking for it, meanwhile you can get a taste of Bill’s stories online in his monthly Band Room column for Local 802’s Allegro. (You’ll have to click on Publications and select Band Room for your search.)