To the editors:
I really enjoyed Dan Caine’s article on the Blue Note jazz club (Aug. 18). It brought back pleasant memories of nights spent there in the underage section of the club. The Blue Note closed before I turned 21, so I never got a legal drink there.
Two memories worth recalling. One happened one night when Duke Ellington was probably playing his last gig there before the club closed. After a number, I spontaneously called from the gallery, “Duke, take the A train.” He looked at me, smiled, and then instantly, the band, myself and the rest of the crowd were on our way to Sugar Hill in Harlem. What a grand gesture from a great artist to a college kid.
The other incident occurred when a buddy of mine and I saw Lionel Hampton playing there. Hamp, during that period, had a habit of finishing a number with a flourish by jumping on top of his set of vibes. (“Lionel leaps” or something like that was, I believe, a number written for the set and was a part of his repertoire.)
At any rate, my friend and I went to the men’s room between sets and as we were washing up and combing our hair, I asked my buddy what he thought about the set. “Great,” he said “except for that bullshit when he jumped on the vibes” (my friend was a jazz purist who didn’t dig showmanship since it detracted from the essence of the music).
When we went back to our seats my friend said, “Well I sure put my foot in my mouth.” It seemed that as we were washing up and talking about the set, Hampton was at the urinal taking a leak and listening to our comments.
Hamp, I didn’t say, I didn’t mind your showmanship and I consider your tune “Midnight Sun” one of my all time favorites.