Great Encounters #50 — The Night Bill Evans met Woody Herman

October 14th, 2017

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the evening of the 1963 Grammy Awards, when Woody Herman met Bill Evans

 

Excerpted from Meet Me at Jim and Andy’s,” by Gene Lees

 

 

Bill Evans

 

Woody Herman

 

 

The day of the Grammy awards dinner arrived.  Just starting to put his life together, Bill had very little money, and nothing appropriate to wear.  As it happened, I was storing a closetful of clothes for Woody Herman, one of the dapper dressers in the business.  There was a particularly well-made blue blazer which, to Bill’s surprise and mine, fit him perfectly.  So he donned it.  Just before we were to leave, I turned somehow and spilled a drink in his lap.  Fortunately there was another pair of slacks that fit him.  We picked up Helen [Keane] and went to the banquet.  And I managed to repeat the trick:  I turned and spilled another drink in his lap.  He laughed and said, “Man, are you trying to tell me something?”  At that moment, they called his name.   Bill picked up his Grammy for Conversations in soaking pants and Woody Herman’s blazer.

Bill had never met Woody Herman, one of his early idols, and I arranged for the three of us to have lunch a few days later.  Bill turned up wearing, to my horror, that blazer.  “Do you like the jacket?” Bill said, after the formality of introduction.

“It looks faintly familiar,” Woody said.

Bill flung it open with a matadorial gesture to show its brilliant lining.  “How do you like the monogram?” he said.  It was of course WH.  “It stands,” Bill said, “for William Heavens.”  And Woody laughed.  Fortunately.

That evening we went to hear the band.  Woody tried to introduce a tune only to be interrupted by some drunk blearily shouting, “Play Woodpeckers’ Ball.”  Woody tried to talk him down but the drunk persisted.  “Play Woodpecker’s Ball.

Finally Woody said, “All right, for Charlie Pecker over there, we’re going to play Woodpecker’s Ball.

“Man,” Bill said, who was quite shy, “that takes real hostility.  If I tried that, some cat would come up on the bandstand and punch me in the mouth.”

 

 

__________

 

 

Excerpted from Meet Me at Jim and Andy’s,

by Gene Lees

 

 

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In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

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"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

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Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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