Archive: August, 2013

In Conversation with Wayne Shorter 2002

wayneShorterCelebrating Wayne Shorter‘s 80th birthday this week! Here is a cool 2002 interview with the jazz great conducted by Bob Blumenthal for Jazz.com. The interview was conducted in front of an audience, and towards the end there are some questions from the attendees. Here’s one:

Can you talk about playing with Miles Davis?

I had the most fun playing with Miles Davis, and John Coltrane told me that, too. Now, the same kind of fun is happening with John Patitucci and Brian Blade and Danilo Perez, and over the years I had fun playing with Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock. But Miles was a “source” kind of guy. You know how Captain Marvel would go to Delphi, to get his shazam stuff together? Miles was like that, and he was a buddy, too.

I stay away from calling people “best friends”, because best friends are always becoming; but Herbie, Joe, we’re all becoming better and better friends. There’s no end to this growth. We’re older now, we talk from time to time. I talk to Sonny Rollins on the phone once or twice a year, Horace Silver, Benny Golson. Gil Evans came to my home, unannounced, just before he passed away. I guess I’d better do a book, and keep it straight.

Click here to read In Conversation with Wayne Shorter 2002

Smithsonian Oral Histories: Jackie McLean 2001

More interviews from the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program today. Established by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program documents more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates.  The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. The transcriptions are complete, the audio are shorter clips from the interviews.

Here is the transcript of a 2001 interview with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. Possessing one of the most recognizable alto saxophone sounds, McLean explored the cutting edge of jazz creativity. He grew up in a musical family in New York City: his father was a guitarist and his stepfather owned a record store. During McLean’s busiest period in the 1950s, he worked with pianist George Wallington, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and bassist Charles Mingus. McLean and his wife Dollie founded the Artists Collective, a community center and fine arts school, primarily for troubled youth. Here is Jackie on knowing and working with Dizzy Gillespie:

I first used to see Dizzy when I used to go down to see on 52nd Street and just run along the street and see who I can look in the window and see on the stage. Then I first saw Dizzy at the McKinley Theater in the Bronx with his big band. Bird was in that band as well. Then I eventually met Dizzy when I was about 16 or about 17 years old and sat in some place in the Bronx. But I just never had a chance to – I went with Miles’s band, and so I was with Miles [Davis] off and on for a number of years, and then after that had my own groups. I never got back to really having – Dizzy never called on me. Put it like that. He was never calling on me to play these gigs with him.

After a while, when I got really – 20 years went by. 25 years went by. I eventually went to Dizzy and said, “Hey, man, I’m out here. How come you’re not calling me, man? Every time you call the same cats. You either call Phil Woods or James Moody. Both of them are great, and you should, and I have nothing to say about that, other than, what about giving me a little bit? Let me wet my beak.”

So the first time he called me, he called me and Sonny Stitt, ironically, to come down to Wolf Trap and play with him. That was the first time he had called on me to come and be on the front line with him. Then after that, different times he would call me. I went to do a thing with him in Paris, and thank God I recorded with him, just before he passed, at the Blue Note one night. That was very important to me, to be able to play with Dizzy in that context. It was two altos and trumpet on the front line, Paquito D’Rivera and myself and Dizzy. A great rhythm section. So that was a very important recording, as well as when I got Dexter [Gordon] to record with me in Copenhagen. That was a very important recording for me.

Click here to read Smithsonian Oral Histories: Jackie McLean 2001

—Peter Blasevick

Smithsonian Oral Histories: Sonny Rollins 2011

sonnyRollinsFor the next couple weeks, I am going to be linking to audio clips and transcriptions from the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. Established by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program documents more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates.  The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. The transcriptions are complete, the audio are shorter clips from the interviews.

Today, a fantastic 50 pages with the great Sonny Rollins. In addition to the full transcript, there are four audio clips of Sonny discussing what attracted him to jazz, approaching established musicians during his early years, what makes a good improvisation, his positioning on stage, and his repertoire outside of the usual jazz standards. From the interview, here is Rollins talking to Larry Appelbaum about playing at clubs owned by a certain type of businessman:

Appelbaum: Were most of the clubs mob owned…owned by the mob? 

Rollins: Uh…let’s see now. Well, the clubs that I started playing with uptown, I started playing, we played at uh…the club up on 155th Street we played around. The clubs right they were smaller scale clubs. They weren’t mob owned. They were owned by people in the community, the neighborhood. Um…as you went downtown–and, of course, we all know that The Cotton Club was owned by Lucky Luciano, or some people in that group–those clubs were owned. I think the bigger-named clubs, the mob was involved with those, you know. 

Appelbaum: Did you ever work those clubs? 

Rollins: Uh, well, I worked at the uh…let’s see. I think, I, I, I think they were uh…there was a club–The Cafe Bohemia–that a lot of guys played, I think there were probably mob people that had those properties, you know. And even the Termini Brothers at the Five Spot, I think there were mob people that had those properties, and they might have let the Termini Brothers operate them, you know. I’m not suggesting they were connected, but they were connected, I think, to that extent. And uh…some of those places um…I think 52nd Street there were a lot of so-called “mob connections” with some of the people. Um…but yeah, some, some of the players I would say. The local places, no, I don’t think so.

Click here to listen to and read Smithsonian Oral Histories: Sonny Rollins 2011

—Peter Blasevick

R.I.P. Cedar Walton, January 17, 1934-August 19, 2013

cedarWaltonSad news that the great Cedar Walton has died. Ted Panken posts great interviews and tributes on his  Today Is The Question blog, and this one is no different. Included are notes to Roots, a well-funded late ’90s reworking of some of his older “hits” with an all star band, and a Downbeat Blindfold Test, both I believe from the 1990s. From the Roots notes:

“I began doodling at 6 or 7, mainly because there was a piano in the house.  My mother played from sheet music, and she taught students at our home on a regular basis.  Though she always wanted to be a pianist, she decided to teach school instead of pursuing a serious career.  She and my father were great Jazz fans, and they used to point out to me some of their favorites, who included Duke Ellington, Nat Cole, Cab Calloway, all the stars of the day.  We’d hear location broadcasts from various key dance halls around the country by Duke Ellington and Earl Hines — I even heard Art Blakey from Birdland on radio.  In the ’40s there was a weekly show called Piano Playhouse that featured a Classical guy and a studio guy, who would have a Classical and a Jazz guest artist.  People like Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Erroll Garner would be guests, always playing solo, never using accompaniment, and that greatly inspired me.”

Click here to read R.I.P. Cedar Walton, January 17, 1934-August 19, 2013 

Smithsonian Oral Histories: Elvin Jones 2003

elvinJonesFor the next couple weeks, I am going to be linking to audio clips and transcriptions from the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. Established by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program documents more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates.  The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. The transcriptions are complete, the audio are shorter clips from the interviews.

Here is the great Elvin Jones in 2003. The full transcript is 113 pages, and in these five clips, Elvin talks about cymbals, being captivated by the drums, being inspired by Duke Ellington, he compares drums to crayons, and he talks about learning by listening. Here from the transcript, he discusses fellow drumming great Philly Joe Jones:

He was funny boy! He was a comedian. But he was a great drummer. Joe played things on his instrument that were just phenomenal. Joe was flamboyant. He used to show guys how to play with your fingers. You think he’s doing it with his wrist but he’s doing it with his fingers. (Elvin imitates sound of fast single strokes of a drum being played by one hand). He had many tricks like that. He’s such a good musician and when he played he always—it seems like everything he did was thought out, like it had already been through his mind. He played with tremendous skill and the dynamics were always unbelievable. It was just enjoyable to listen to a man like that. And he was with a good band like Miles Davis. He couldn’t be in a better position.

Click here to listen to and read Smithsonian Oral Histories: Elvin Jones 2003 

—Peter Blasevick

Dave McKenna with Ted Panken in 1999

daveMckennaHere is a cool interview with the great pianist Dave Mckenna. As critic Robert Doerschuk described his unique style as follows in the liner notes to McKenna’s Easy Street, “The best I can describe it, Dave McKenna plays like he has three hands.  Where most pianists tend to devote their left hand entirely to chords or bass lines, using the right exclusively for melodies, McKenna seems to split each hand in half.  The bottom two fingers of his left hand dance through bass lines Ray Brown would be happy to conceive, the top two fingers on the right hand explore variations on the theme of the tune, both thumbs and second fingers play chords in between, and the middle fingers jump in wherever they’re most needed.”

From the interview:

TP:    I assume you were listening to jazz pianists and digging them.

McKENNA:  No, not so much.  First of all, I liked songs, and I think I had a very brief time with liking the cowboy singers, Gene Autry and people like that.  Then I heard a Bing Crosby record.  I liked him okay, but he did a couple of things with a Dixieland band, either Bob Crosby or John Scott Trotter, and I liked that. Around that time, I got interested in Harry James’ band, and then Benny Goodman’s band — and I was hooked from then on.  I used to try to play like Benny rather than Teddy, although I had the utmost respect for Teddy.  (Nat Cole has been my favorite piano player for years; I loved his trio when I heard it. ) But most of that time I listened more to horn players.  Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw.  Also  Count Basie’s band, but I didn’t even know who those guys were at first, like Lester and Count himself. I love Basie.  Duke Ellington was an early favorite, too.  And later on, Bobby Hackett was one of my favorites.  By that time I was listening to Bird and Diz, too.  So I always listened to horn players more than piano players.

Click here to read Dave McKenna with Ted Panken in 1999

Interview with Michel Petrucciani – North Sea Jazz Festival 1998

Here is a quick interview with the late French pianist Michel Petrucciani, recorded at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1998. In the interview, Petrucciani discusses his ideas of music and colors, composing with specific people in mind (he mentions Steve Gadd and Anthony Jackson), and the challenges of traveling with his own grand piano to all his gigs.

—Peter Blasevick