Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Crow, Bill

Crow, Bill, string bass; b. Othelle, WA, 27 December 1927. His father was Harry Barnum Crow, born 17 July 1896 in Bedford Iowa, died 11 June 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. He was a carpenter, laborer, later became superintendent of Bill's home town water department and sewage treatment plant.  He was not musical. Bill's mother is Lucile Viola Crow, born 17 June 1901 in Pomeroy, Washington, still living in Glendale, Arizona. She sang well, played piano and organ, was involved in music in her church all her life, sang in amateur opera company, and taught piano and voice. During the 1940s, she sang and played the organ on local radio stations in Seattle and for many years in a funeral home in Kirkland, Washington (where Bill grew up). Bill has one brother, Robert Leslie Crow, born 17 February 1923 in Seattle, Washington, died 23 December 1980 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Bill's first teacher was Al Bennest (high school), then a drummer named Buzzy Bridgford showed him important stuff about swinging.  He was self-taught on the bass until he got in a little over his head with the first Mulligan sextet.  Then he went to Fred Zimmerman of the NY Philharmonic and found out there was a standard fingering system, bow technique, etc.  He studied other things at the University of Washington for a short time before his Army years (51st Army Band, later renamed 2nd Army Band), and another short time upon discharge, but his musical education was mainly on-the-job training.  He would get lucky finding jobs, and then work like mad to come up to everybody else's level of playing.

His career has included the big bands of Claude Thornhill, Gerry Mulligan, and Benny Goodman, as well as many small groups including the Stan Getz Quintet, the Gene DiNovi Trio, the Marian McPartland Trio, the Gerry Mulligan Sextet and Quartet, the Al Cohn and Zoot Sims Quintet, the Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry Quintet, Jay and Kai, and the Terry Gibbs quartet.  He made several tours to Europe and Japan with Mulligan during the 1950s and 60s, played with the Goodman band at the Seattle World's Fair and during Goodman's Russian tour in 1962, and later served as a member of the house bands at Eddie Condon's and at the Playboy Club, both in New York City.

During the 1970s and `80s, Crow played Broadway shows, including the long runs "The King and I" and "42nd Street," doubling on string bass and tuba.  He is currently active in the free-lance New York jazz field, playing clubs, concerts, jazz cruises and festivals, and recording.

Crow has been a featured sideman on many jazz recordings.  He has recorded with his own quartet on two compact discs, "From Birdland to Broadway," and "Jazz Anecdotes," the first released by Venus Records of Japan in January 1996, and the second in April 1997.

He is also the author of two books.  His first, Jazz Anecdotes, published by Oxford University Press in 1990, was voted "Best Jazz Book" in the 1991 Jazz Times readers poll.  His second book, From Birdland to Broadway, an autobiography, was published by Oxford in 1992.  Both books have been reprinted by Oxford in paperback editions for publication throughout the English-speaking world.  Both books have also been published in Tokyo in Japanese translations done by Haruki Murakami, a well-known Japanese author.

In addition to his current activities as a jazz bassist, Crow writes articles and reviews for jazz magazines, and liner notes for record albums.   And he continues to write the monthly humor column that he began in 1983, "The Band Room," for Allegro, the journal of Local 802, American Federation of Musicians.

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