Double Bass living history at Kolstein

Jazz bassist legend Bill Crow jamming with jazz bassist Harvie S (left) and drummer Andy Pastorino.
Photo by Danny Frank

At age 96, Bill Crow admits to some weakness in his legs, and how his balance isn’t as good as it used to be…but once he is sitting on a high stool with his arms around his giant double bass…his fingers fly, his hands and arms are in full motion making true sounds…sometimes accompanied by his semi- baritone voice.  Members of the audience could easily mistake him for under 70. Between his playing, his singing, and his story regaling Bill Crow doesn’t need any Prevagen!    

This jazz bassist legend has a mind like an encyclopedia as he describes in detail, gigs he played more than fifty years ago.  Bill played some of his favorites at Kolstein, an 81-year luthier manufacturer of violins, violas, cellos, and bass, one minute from Carnegie Hall, midtown Manhattan.  He came at the invitation of jazz bassist Harvie S.

Bill kept everyone captivated as he reminisced with personal glimpse anecdotes about how he regularly worked with some of the music greats:  Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Zoot Sims and many more.

“Gerry Mulligan was a junkie…”  “Benny Goodman was notoriously cheap…”  Bill Crow was the double bass player who accompanied Goodman on his 1962 United States State Department tour to promote cultural exchanges and good-will in the old Communist Soviet Union.

Photo by Danny Frank

The music he was playing together with bassist Harvie S and drummer Andy Pastorino at Kolstein included:

–Share A Key based on Cherokee written by Charlie Barnett.  Here Bill had written a new melody.  In Bossa Nova style, Harvie S played this melody and Bill did the baseline using the original chords.

–Sing Baby Sing is an old Alice Faye 1920’s movies tune.  In a swing style Bill sang and played the bass, while Harvie S played piano in D minor.

–Lowdown Dog is an old Joe Turner blues piece.

Among the multitude of recorded music and albums Bill Crow has to his credit includes his most favorite from 1962, Gerry Mulligan Live At The Village Vanguard.

Bill continues to practice everyday, about a half hour on the double bass (down from several hours daily when he was a young man).  He also practices a half hour everyday on the tuba, and occasionally performs with a tuba Dixieland band, The Hot Papas.  

Bill Crow had an implausible beginning of his music career.  A Washington native, he played the baritone horn, the valve trombone and drums.  And this included military service where he participated in the Army Service Club band.  He moved to NYC in 1950 and that summer was recruited for a gig in Tupper Lake, New York at the Altamont Hotel.  A requirement for young Bill to keep going with this gig was to play the double bass in addition to the instruments he was already playing!  He wound up performing with Stan Getz and later back in NYC, Terry Gibbs, Marian McPartland and Bill Evans.

Photo by Danny Frank