Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

There’s always room for more jazz memories

I yield to no man in my fondness for the humor of the late W.C. Fields.

Well, one man, perhaps. Joe Cocozzo, my former boss at The N-H, not only had a great admiration for Fields, but his memory is so acute that during a round of golf he can recite dialog, with proper voice inflection, from almost any Fields film you could name — starting with “The Bank Dick.”

Joe’s impression of W.C. Fields was far better than my impression of Arnold Palmer on the fairways.

One of Fields’ great charms was that he never used a simple word if a more complicated one could be put into play.

With that in mind, I offer the following introduction to this week’s commentary:

The propinquity of Half-Price Books in Mentor to the tonsorial parlor of my choice is becoming my bete noire.

Translation: The store in so close to Cicero’s on the Avenue, where I get my hair cut, that it is my downfall because whenever I am early for an appointment and have a few minutes to spare, I stop in and rummage through the jazz CDs — some new and some used.

Last haircut I had far too much time to spare. I bought seven CDs.

I do not regret buying any of them. But how many CDs do I really need? The answer: Enough is never enough.

Two that I picked up were by Frank Sinatra. One, “Classic Sinatra,” was 24 tunes I already had by him in some form or other. The second, “Where Are You?” had a lot of songs I had never heard him sing before. Good acquisition.

The third CD was “Buddy Rich — The All-Star Small Groups.” I am a huge fan of Buddy’s and have a ton of his recordings. This one is OK, but not his greatest.

No. 4 was “The Comprehensive Charlie Parker.” Do I really need another recording by the Yardbird? This was called “Live Performances Volume 1.” And it did have some new stuff.

No. 5 was Stan Kenton, “Reed Rapture,” the complete MacGregor Transcriptions Vol. 3, 1941-1943. I thought I had every recording Kenton ever made, but this had some transcriptions of radio broadcasts I had never heard, so to me it had real value.

The sixth CD, “Clifford Brown Live at the Bee Hive,” was a treat because inside I found not one but two CDs. They were songs I had heard the legendary trumpeter play many times, but most of these arrangements were 20 minutes long. Outstanding!

The best I saved for last – for a personal reason. It is “Marian McPartland’s Hickory House Trio,” recorded in 1998.

Let me take you back many, many years before that to when Bud Brichford was mayor of Willoughby. He owned a Shell Station, and one night asked me to go with him to a Shell dealers’ convention in Cleveland.

We went, the meeting got boring, so he said, “Let’s go over to the Theatrical.” It was a hot spot on Short Vincent off East 9th Street.

Marian McPartland, a great jazz pianist, was playing there, and during a break she sat down with us. We introduced ourselves and she said, “Is there anything you’d like to hear?”

She probably thought we’d ask for some dopey standard. I surprised her. “Do you know ‘Tune for Tex?’” I asked. It is an upbeat little jazz riff. “Sure,” she said. And she played it.

A few years later we were in New York City on one of our regular Broadway trips when we took in about six shows in four days, including matinees, and late one night we stopped at the Hickory House.

Guess who was playing?

Marian McPartland.

She came over and sat with us. “You’re Jim and you’re Bud,” she said. I could not believe it! And she looked at me and said, “When I saw you in Cleveland, you asked me to play ‘Tune for Tex.’”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But as surely as God made little green apples, that is exactly what happened.

And during her next set she played “Tune for Tex.”

It is not a particularly memorable song.

I have only one recording of it, and I can’t for the life of me remember whom it is by.

I don’t even know why I asked her to play it in the first place. Just a spur of the moment thing, I guess.

But good grief, what a memory this talented pianist displayed.

I wonder why she never went on Jeopardy?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I want is his birth date

April 14, 2012 at 10:04 AM 

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