Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Something to Crow About: Bill Crow Revisited

© -Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Bassist and author Bill Crow has been playing Jazz for six decades.

When the editorial staff at JazzProfiles posted its earlier features about him which can be located by going here and here, the ace graphics production team at CerraJazz LTD had not as yet developed the following video tribute. Each of the previous features on Bill have been reposted [sans the original graphics] to the columnar side of the blog; just scroll down on the left-hand side of the blog to find them.

The audio track is made up of Bill performing How Long Has This Been Going On? with pianist Marian McPartland and drummer Joe Morello from their first Hickory House LP.

In many ways, Bill’s Jazz career really began in February, 1954 when he joined Marian & Joe for their gig at the Hickory House in New York City.

Bill is also the author of two excellent books about Jazz: Jazz Anecdotes and From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life [New York: Oxford, 1992].

Here are the opening paragraphs from Bill’s From Birdland to Broadway:

Birdland was my alma mater. I studied for a little while at another institute of higher learning, the University of Washington in Seattle, but when I dropped out and moved to New York, Birdland became my college of modern jazz. The illustrious professors there, who taught by example, were some of the world's finest jazz musicians. The dean of them all was Charlie Parker, "Bird," for whom the club was named.

I studied hard and learned my lessons well at Birdland. But if any­one had told me when I first arrived that just two years later I would be playing on that hallowed bandstand myself, I would have scoffed. And had that prophet declared that the instrument I'd be playing at my Birdland graduation would be the string bass, I'd have laughed out loud. I was a brass player, not a bass player.

When I took a Greyhound bus from Seattle to New York in January 1950, I carried a valve trombone with me. In the Army I had switched to that instrument from the baritone horn, which I had been playing since grade school. The baritone horn has a beautiful sound, but it wasn't considered to be a jazz instrument, and I wanted to play jazz.

I'd already made a good start. As a schoolboy in Kirkland, Washing­ton, I had collected and memorized every jazz record I could get my hands on, and I had been jamming with friends in the Army and around Seattle. But at Birdland my education moved up to a new level. At that midtown New York nightclub, I heard modern jazz played nightly by the masters.” [p.3]

Bill’s books are two of the best books that I’ve ever read on the subject of Jazz.

If you are a fan of the music and its makers, you won’t want to miss these treats.