Born: December 27, 1927 Primary Instrument: Bass, acoustic
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Crow is best known as a bassist but has been a trumpeter, saxophonist, trombonist, and drummer. He is also one of the few musicians who has bothered trying to write about his craft, beginning with a series of reviews he contributed to Jazz Review in the late '50s and eventually including two full-length books. He was also in charge of the lighting for an off-Broadway show in 1958.
Crow's first instrument was the piano, at the age of four. He started playing the trumpet in fourth grade and continued through baritone horn and valve trombone in various school and military bands. Jazz historians like to align the start of his career with the beginning of the '50s. At that time, Crow transformed himself from a drummer in dance bands to a jazz bassist, but one who was always ready to double or triple on other instruments. He was a trombonist in several Seattle orchestras, one led by Bumps Blackwell, the other by Buzzy Bridgford. Crow played drums, trombone and bass for bandleader Glen Moore in 1952, no relation to the musician of the same name from the Oregon band.
In the summer of 1950, Buzzy Bridgford found a summer job in the Adirondacks, in Tupper Lake, New York. Crow explains, He got me on it as a trombonist and then talked me into learning to play the string bass. He found a kid in town who had a plywood Kay bass, and rented it for the summer. We had John Benson Brooks on piano, Marty Bell on trumpet, and Freddy Greenwell on tenor. They all encouraged me to stay with the bass. By the time the summer was over, I could play the bass well enough to take gigs in New York City, and every gig was another lesson.
I found a guy in the Bronx who had an old plywood Kay bass that he wanted $75 for. He held it for me, and I gave him a few dollars every time I could scrape some extra money together. Meanwhile I borrowed or rented basses for jam sessions and paying jobs. It was a great thrill when I finally took possession of my Kay.
On bass this artist has gigged and recorded with a flock of respectable jazz players, including saxophonists Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan and pianists Al Haig and Marian McPartland. Crow took part in baritone man Mulligan's sextet and quartet projects in 1956 and 1957, then returned for more collaborations in both 1958 and 1959. Several European tours and one of Japan were part of the Mulligan stint. He was also a long time member of the quintet co-led by Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry, and for shorter times played with the Terry Gibbs quartet, the Claude Thornhill band, and the Jay and Kai trombone duo. In 1962 Crow made the landmark tour of the Soviet Union with the Benny Goodman band. In the late 1960s, Crow spent some time with the house band at Eddie Condon's New York club, and several years at the New York Playboy Club as a member of Walter Norris's quartet. Many different bands have welcomed his solid mainstream jazz sensibilities in later years, and he played a number of Broadway shows, but jazz fans fascinated by the personal background of the genre may find Crow's volume entitled Jazz Anecdotes hard to top. Published in 1991 by Oxford University Press, the book is like a transcription of every story ever told backstage, with all the boring ones cut out. His second, more autobiographical book, From Birdland to Broadway, was published a year later, and a revised paperback of the first book has recently been published under the title Jazz Anecdotes, Second Time Around.
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