They called Al Grey Fab because that's what he was, fabulous. One of my prize possessions is a vinyl copy of an album he recorded with J.J. Johnson, Thing Are Getting Better All The Time. I've had it since the mid-1980's and it was an introduction to one of the all time greats. At the time, my horn had been gathering dust since high school and my knowledge of trombonists was limited. When CD's came out, a couple of the first I got were Count Basie's with Al Grey solos. From then on, if I were granted the wish of being able to play like just one guy, it might be him.
The first time I ever heard Al live was at the old One Step Down, in Washington, D.C. Sometime in the '90's, I was visiting a friend in Alexandria and, by chance, saw an ad in the Washington Post for Al's performance that night. I told Cindy (that's our friend Cindy, not my wife Cynthia) that this was one of my musical heroes and we absolutely had to go hear him. Off we went to Foggy Bottom and when we got to the club, the only seats left were at the small bar. As we sat down and ordered drinks, I glanced at the smallish guy to my right and realized this was the man himself. All of a sudden I was like a giddy little kid and nudged Cindy, "That's him, that's Al Grey."