Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It was Basin Street, Minton's in Harlem, the whole strip along 52nd Street in Manhattan - maybe every club where people meet to play and listen to jazz. It was a night that belonged to bass player Billy Taylor Jr.
Some 500 persons turned out to the Empire Room at the Shoreham Americana Hotel Sunday night for a five-hour marathon of good sound from Taylor's friends, as a benefit to raise money for the ailing musician's family and a tribute to Taylor himself.
The loose mood of the evening began when Rick Henderson, a sax man, asked Johnny Eaton, "Can I prevail upon you to play this rotten piano until we can get something better?" And Eaton played a very tender "Willow Weep for Me."
If people can look like jazz musicians, then Billy did. It was always exciting when the self-taught musician hunched over his battered bass while picking out the sounds that sent shivers up your spine.
The list of friends who came to play last night was long. Maybe 100 of them showed up. They walked up to the registration desk and gave their names and were put together with groups to jam.
Tom Gwaltney got together with cornetist "Wild Bill" Whalen and Bob Murphy, a blind pianist, to play his clarinet and lead the group into "I Found a New Baby." Dick Morgan played the piano, and he made "rotten" instrument sound marvelous.
Tony Taylor, a jazz impressario, introduced Billy Taylor's wife, Marian, and said, "Dear people . . . Why don't we all be silent for a minute and face towards the Veteran's Hospital."
When it was all over, the only thing missing was Taylor and his line, "I need a two-week gig someplace to pay the rent."