Once upon a time, when hundreds of big bands roamed this continent in search of bread and success, conditions were not as favorable as they are now. Gigs may have been more plentiful in those ballroom- and theater-filled decades, but life on the road was certainly not conducive to good health or financial stability, as even the best paid sidemen often scuffled in between strings of one-nighters. Bad food, lack of proper sleep, unwashed clothes, excessive boozing, and loneliness, only occasionally relieved by fleeting sexual encounters, characterized the life of the average traveling musician. And for black musicians it was even tougher. Nowadays, though, it’s all so different. For example, Bob Florence, a long-established pianist and composer/arranger, can now summon within brief notice a flawless crew of L.A. jazz studiomen to show up fully prepared whenever he has a record date. No agonizing all-night driving from one gig to the next, no sweating out the paycheck, no struggling with bad reeds, leaky homes, or out-of-tune pianos, for these guys have already been through it all and emerged triumphant.
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