FROM BIRDLAND TO BROADWAY: Jazz Stories by Bill Crow


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Low-key memoir by jazz musician and writer Crow. Fresh and 22, Crow arrived in Manhattan in 1950, coming from Washington State. He played trumpet, baritone horn, tuba, valve trombone, drums, and tenor sax, but his main axe was the bass fiddle. Bop had hit 52nd Street, and Crow hit Birdland--the bop mecca named after Charlie Yardbird Parker. Although Crow later played at Birdland himself, and adored Parker, he seems to have been a swing rather than a bop player. Here, he tells countless stories about his career but focuses on short takes that don't develop genuine continuity of interest. Among his longer takes are those about Charlie Parker: ""Though I hoped to find a memory of him in Clint Eastwood's movie Bird, I was sorry to see that, except on the soundtrack, Charlie wasn't there. The movie missed Bird's nature, his confidence, his intelligence, and especially his wit."" In 1962, Crow was hired by Benny Goodman to accompany his band to the Soviet Union. The low-paying Goodman was, as recounted by many others, a terrible man to work for, ever the ogre on the bandstand and a creature of great vanity. Crow is also spot-on with Stan Getz: ""Stan had a pleasant disposition when he was sober, but when using drugs he could be awash with maudlin sentiment one minute and cold, distrustful, and cruel the next. Discussing him with friends...Zoot Sims said, 'Yeah, Stan's a nice bunch of guys.' ""Other outstanding passages tell of Crow's work with the Gerry Mulligan combos and Claude Thornhill's band; in Broadway pit bands; and his friendship with Dave Lambert. Well written but seldom gripping.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press