No matter what genre of music one plays usually there have been others playing that music already. Listening to these folks that came before you will help shape your own interpretation which leads you to find your own voice. This may not be all there is to inspire you. Sometimes there are stories you hear about certain artists or others who perform your “type” of music that help embellish your artistry. The late great jazz bassist Leonard Gaskin told me a JJ Johnson story from way back. JJ had an apartment in Washington Heights. He would practice trombone for hours at a time. The neighbors didn’t mind his practicing. They took exception to him practicing the same scales and scale patterns for days and weeks at a time. This led to Mr. Johnson’s eviction. They just couldn’t deal. Another friend of mine was rehearsing a latin band in an apt also in the Heights. A neighbor commented, “I like your music but tell the trumpet player not to go for the high notes, they’re out of tune”. I grew up hearing stories about the Catskills and the old days of Brownsville. One of my favorites was about the custard salesman with a runny nose. He didn’t have a tissue on hand but people still raved about his custard!! Who knows….. I was a witness when an old time accordionist named Charlie Bookman worked with my dad in Florida. He was about 75 years old in the early 80’s so do the math. He showed up to a gig with torn pants.” Don’t worry” he said, ” I have another pair in the car”. He goes to change and walks back in with a pair of pants with not one but two rips!!! Should’ve stuck with the first pair Charlie!!
I wanted to say a few words about a gentleman who just recently passed on. Art Raymond had a radio show on WEVD in NYC for many years. He was know as the “Simcha Man”. I remember him doing great live commercials for the House of Jacks. House of Jacks was a men’s clothing store with two locations. One of the stores was near where I lived in Brooklyn so that was cool to hear when it was mentioned on the air. Art always played my parent’s recordings on his show. My dad was very friendly with him over a long period of time. One day when I was about 6 years old, my dad was going to take me “uptown” to his lunch appointment with Mr. Raymond. I got into the back seat of dad’s favorite possession, his 1968 powder gray Buick Electra 225 with beautiful black interior. Nobody else was allowed to drive this car. Since this was before booster seats, I’m sure I was sliding all over the back seat on this ride into Manhattan. I remember driving down Flatbush Avenue through Prospect Park. Over the Manhattan Bridge we went and 770 Broadway was not too far away at this point. We met Art at the station and went to a local restaurant. As the two grown-ups talked music and business, I slurped on a Coke and chomped on a burger. They’d each check in every few minutes to see if I was okay. I remember Mr. Raymond being very nice to me. He was always asking how mom and the girls were. A true mensch he was. A few years later he would sometimes be the emcee and special guest at concerts with my parents. He knew his audience well and was always a hit. I actually have video of one of his monologues. Perhaps I’ll put it up on Youtube at some point. For me, Art’s voice will live forever on a recording he narrated with my folks called “Jewish Wedding”. I have a few boxes of this record at home but it’s on my list for remixing, mastering, and re-releasing. All in due time. Mr. Raymond will be missed. May he rest in peace and his memory be a blessing for all.