Chapter 4 AN: You know, there were so many great musicians that came out of Boston. Go way back with Benny Goodman's first years, when he first organised his orchestra. His lead alto player was a gentleman called Toots Mondello, who was originally here from Boston. And then they had Hymie Schertzer, or something like that, took over Toots' place as lead alto for Benny Goodman. FB: Did you know these guys? AN: I knew, well, Toots was just a little kid at the time, I didn't say I knew him well, but you get to meet him down at the union hall. At that time at the union hall, Monday everybody would show up looking for a job for the week because most of our work at that time was miscellaneous, casual, what we called casual work. So you'd walk down to the union, it'd be packed with all of the musicians, you'd have to have your little note book, and you'd talk with the contractor and he'd give you a Saturday or a Friday. But the cream days, Mondays and Tuesdays, those are the days you want. FB: Everybody could work the weekend, but the early week is when you fleshed out your paycheck. AN: What made you more in demand to a contractor is how many tunes you knew by memory, 'cause that made you very important. And as I mentioned earlier, you'll learn to not only play the melody but you'll learn to fake harmony, a lot of the times, they didn't have music. You'd fake it. FB: So they would know you by your reputation. Say, "he's a good reader," "he knows 2000 songs." I remember some musicians used to keep a little note book with the names of tunes and the chord changes or, if they were a singer, maybe a couple of lines of the lyric to get them started on it and they would keep it nice and compact. It would be your Bible. AN: It would guide you. That's absolutely right. And that's how we did it, after a while, you didn't need that depending on what contractor you worked with 'cause they all followed their own format, so you learn it. FB: Today, you would have it on a an iPod, except the people, they don't even call the tunes. AN: Re-modulate one tune to another, alright say that we are playing, and the leader will point to you. He'd want you to play a tune. So you get up, you look at the piano player, and use your fingers. That would tell the piano player what key you wanted him to modulate to. FB: Ab, or whatever. AN: Ab would be three flats. Ab concert. Flats you go down, sharps you point up. And that's what you would do and the piano player would modulate and you play whatever tune you know would fit that tempo. FB: What a baptism by fire that would be for a lot of young kids at Berklee to have to do that. Mamma mia! AN: That's right. It's a world of its own. That is how we made a living, plus doing our own little things on the side. That was quite the thing. FB: What do you mean "little on the side?" AN: Well, book your friend, daughter would get married and they'd say. "Al, can you get an orchestra for me?" And that's how you get started doing your own little contracting. FB: The ladies aid party, the Bar Mitzvah, whatever. AN: Yeah, right. But the Bar Mitzvahs, the contractors had those down pretty good, the established contractors. Well, I'll tell you, if it weren't for the Bar Mitzvahs a lot of musicians wouldn't be making a good living. FB: Amen. AN: Because every weekend you had a Bar Mitzvah. It wasn't just a birthday party. You had a Bar Mitzvah and they always hired a good sized orchestra. It was really terrific, and it still is. Like I mentioned, so many good musicians came out of Boston. If you take those who worked with Duke Ellington: Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney. FB: Cambridge and Roxbury. AN: That's right. Excellent. And from Belmont, Nat Pierce. FB: Oooooh, with Woody [Herman]. AN: With Woody. And Nat, a good thing about Nat that a lot of people don't realize is, he and Count Basie became very, very friendly. And whenever Count Basie didn't feel well or had to take a night off, Count Basie would only send Nat Pierce to substitute for him. And in those days, that was an outstanding compliment and achievement. FB: Fantastic. Not too many people could play a little so well as Basie. He was amazing. AN: ... and effectively. Nat Pierce had that down to a tee. He really did. And he did very well. FB: You say that he was raised in Belmont? AN: Belmont, yes. FB: Did you know him when you were young? AN: No, I didn't know him at that time, I mean, when he lived in Belmont, of course I got to know him as I kept performing around the city, just before he went to New York. And then we had Serge Chaloff from Boston. I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of clubs that weren't jazz clubs but the musicians play jazz. I mentioned Serge Chaloff, he worked at the old Scollay Square, he worked at a place called 'The Imperial Cafe,' playing tenor. He worked there like six nights a week for a while, then he went on the road. FB: Imperial Cafe? Is that a Chinese restaurant? AN: No, no, it is just a regular American-styled restaurant. FB: Who would be in the band with him? AN: I don't remember the other guys, but it was between Scollay Square and Bowdoin Square, right in that area. And Serge played there and then from there that's when, I think, he first went on the road. He joined the Tommy Reynolds Orchestra. And from then on the rest is history, with Serge. He was a dynamite guy. FB: Tremendous player. And he came and he played with Herb later on. AN: Very little. He came back because he wasn't feeling well. He came back for a short while, then he got his own little jazz groups and played different jazz clubs, wherever he could go, traveling and so on and so forth. FB: Green was impeccable with his mother being a great teacher of classical music. AN: The thing about Serge an orchestra that he joined, I may have mentioned this to you once, the orchestra was called Shep Fields. It was a commercial orchestra.