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Apr 25, 2022·edited Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

This tale reminds me of the time in the 70s when I was stumbling around the back area of the Blue Note on 3rd St in Manhattan in a marijuana haze looking for the bathroom and saw Dizzy Gillespie sitting at a desk in one of the offices. I was in my early 20s, a new college graduate who loved jazz. I walked in and much to my own surprise I said “hey, Diz! What’s happening!?” or something like that. He said “come on in and have a seat.” So I did. I told him I had taken a class at UMass with Max Roach who had spoken very highly of him. Dizzy laughed and made some remark about being old. I asked if I could take his picture and he said yes, absolutely and laughed some more. So I did . I shook his hand and went back to my seat in the club thinking “man, what just happened?” And realizing I had never made it to the bathroom. In retrospect Dizzy was so kind and friendly and so open. And I’ll never forget his laugh.

In just a year, I had spent time with 2 members of Bird’s band. Unbelievable. I still have the photo I took that night sitting on a shelf over my desk. G-d bless Diz. And Max. And Bird.

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

My big Count Basie embarrassment was during intermission of a gig he played with his band in Holly, Michigan, in the 1970s, which I covered for the Flint Journal. At a press conference with a few reporters around an offstage table, the subject of plunger-muted trombonists came up. Stupidly I mentioned Dickie Wells, as if he were a current band member. Basie looked at me levelly and said: “Dickie Wells hasn’t been a member of this band since 1940. It’s Al Grey. You have to leave this interview now”. I was so stunned I didn’t move a muscle. Basie didn’t press his insistence that I leave, but just moved on to the next question.

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I got to hear Count Basie on one of his last tours. Such a blessing of pure joy

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

A combo maybe? Electric keyboard? If they were unable to book the full band?

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The Chet Baker part of the story… That missed phone call really would’ve killed me. I don’t think you could’ve booked Count Basie in your apartment: but it’s nice to think about!

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Fun post. I got to see Basie 8/13/86 and again 7/29/87 at Ravinia in Highland Park. Part of the same tour(s), I'm sure. Such a treat and memory.

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This made me think about the current phenomenon in indie/folk music of "house concert" tours. I love the idea of it and wish I were young enough, cool enough, and geographically situated enough to host and attend such concerts.

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Wonderful

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

XMe: Book Count Basie? [Long pause] You mean in my apartment? I practically fell out of my chair laughing Ted. Great story.

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Wow, so close! I wonder what Chet wanted.

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Basie’s use of space on “Oh, Lady Be Good” is one of the great miracles. I talked about it with Stanley Crouch and I played it for him on the piano to demonstrate how it was easy to imitate, but difficult to imitate well, like Italian food in Italy. He listened and said, “Mean.”

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Funny! But seriously, did you refer him over to Stanford? They might have booked him.

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Great story. I "tried" to interview Count Basie months before he died. He was in a wheelchair smoking a cigar. I was a young Cincinnati reporter. After every response, Count added in a nasty tone, "And you can read that too!" His assistant Raymond was nowhere to be found. After every response to me, the Count also screamed "Raymond!!" And I kept asking questions. And he'd end each response with a loud "Raymond!!" Finally, a young sheepish Raymond arrives and wheels away the Count! And now....You Can Read That Too!! Hee-hee!

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Harvey Pekar was one of a kind. My mother knew him b/c they both worked at the VA.

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Basie was - and is - the touchstone of all that is hip in music.

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Saw the Count on that last tour - I was in a big band at the time and we played a lot of his book, along with others. He was a gently soul, and legendary for what he got out of the few notes he played.

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The Count swings forever in my mind.

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