When the Sauter-Finegan band was playing somewhere in Kansas, a guy came up beside the trombone section and asked, “When are you going to play something we can dance to?”
Sonny Russo took his mouthpiece from his lips and shouted to them, “When are you going to dance something we can play to?”
Two of Louis Armstrong’s best lines were given in an answer to an interviewer’s question:
“Mr. Armstrong, what is your definition of jazz?”
“Jazz is what I play for living.”
And when asked if jazz was a folk music, Armstrong replied,
“Man, all music is folk music. You ain’t never heard no horse singing a song, have you?”
Fats Waller attended a big party honoring Duke Ellington that was held in a basement club in Harlem. The jazz elite were invited, and Fats and Willie “The Lion” Smith were alternatively giving the piano a workout. The party got so raucous that the police raided the joint. When he heard the police whistles, The Lion ran out the back door and climbed a tree, hiding in the lowest branches. As he listened for sounds of pursuit, he heard Fats’s voice from a branch above him:
“What’s up? A bull after you, man?”
Smith couldn’t imagine, how a man of Waller’s girth had made it out the door and up the tree ahead of him.
When Lynn Roberts was singing with one of the later editions of Benny Goodman band, she told about a flight they were making to a gig somewhere. As the band boarded the plane, Benny tried to strike up a conversation with a young lady next to him. Getting little response from her, Benny said, “I guess you don’t know how I am. I’m the King of Swing.” The young lady looked at him and inquired, “What’s swing?”
The King of Jazz was playing at the Roxy in New York. It opened May 2, 1930. Whiteman’s band was combined with the Roxy Symphony to form an orchestra of 130 musicians. As always, the Rhapsody in Blue was to be featured, with Gershwin playing the piano part. Concertmaster Kurt Dieterle was to lead the orchestra as it came up out of the pit, and then Whiteman would appear.
What Joe Venuti said he did may have been at the opening night dress rehearsal. By now you should know that Joe had conspicuous intolerance for anything that smacked of bombast.
Joe said, “We had no fanfare or tympani roll to open the curtain. There was a big tuba note.”
George Gershwin was a good friend of mine and I thought I ought to come up with something special for this occasion.
So I put five pounds of flour in the tuba. We had blue full-dress suits, and all of a sudden as the curtain went up, the tuba player blew that note and they became white full-dress suits. We looked like snowmen, Paul came out and said “Pardon, where are we?” We had to close the scrim and get ourselves dusted off, and then we played.”
Dizzy Gillespie’s sets often closed this way:
“And now, we’d like to play a very short number.”
Dizzy would count off a fast tempo, and the band would play a single, short unison note, and leave the stand.
Zoot Sims was rarely at a loss for words, When asked by a fan how he could play so well when he was loaded, Zoot replied,
“I practice when I’m loaded!”
Frank Canterino and his sons, Mike and Sonny, operated a jazz club on Hudson Street in New York called the Half Note. The Zoot Sims and Al Cohn quintet was their favorite group. In 1962, just before Zoot left with the Benny Goodman band to tour Russia, Frank’s daughter Rosemary threw a party for him at her home.
Rose had a pet rabbit that she kept in her bathtub. She didn’t let it run around the house too much because she had smooth wood floors that gave little purchase to the rabbit’s feet. He would hop and slip on the polished floor and sometimes crash into things.
Rose decided to play a trick on Zoot, the most formidable imbiber on her guest list of Half Note regulars, She knew that Zoot’s drinking had once reached the hallucination stage, forcing him onto the eagon for a short time. She made the rabbit a tiny jacket and a little hat with holes for his ears. Having told the rest of her guest to pretend they didn’t see anything, she waited until the party was in full swing and then dressed the rabbit in its hat and coat, smuggled it out of the bathroom and put it under the piano.
The rabbit began to explore the room. It hopped out across the floor, slipped, scrabbed, and crashed into the wall before disappearing around the corner. Zoot’s eyes widened. He looked around the rest of the guestsm who showed no reaction.
“What’s the matter, Zoot?” asked Rose.
Zoot put down his glass, looked straight ahead and muttered, “Nothing!”
Deep in the African jungle, a safari camped for the night. In the darkness, distant drums began a relentless throbbing that continued until dawn. The safari members were disturbed, but the native guide reassured them: “Drums good. When drums stop, very bad.”
Every night the drumming continued, and every night the guide iterated, “Drums good. When drums stop, very bad.”
Then one night the drums suddenly stopped. The guide looked frightened. “When drums stop, very, very bad,” he said.
“Why it is bad?” asked a member of the safari.
“Because, when drums stop, bass solo begin!”
Two salesmen were having a drink at the bar. One claimed he was successful because of his ability relate to anyone. “Whatever their IQ, I can talk to them on their own level.” His friend wanted a demonstration, so he tapped a stranger on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, what is your IQ?”
”It’s about 200.”
The salesman immediately engaged him in a discussion of nuclear physics.
The next candidate admitted an IQ of 100. The salesman launched into a discussion of politics and ecology with him. Then the man at the end of the bar was asked his IQ. He said, “Oh, I suppose it’s about 34.” The salesman said, “What kind of reeds do you use?”