Archive: April, 2014

Miles Davis: a classic interview from the vaults

milesDavisA classic 1985 interview with Miles from Rocks Backpages, reprinted here in The Guardian. A really long piece, and Davis is typically funny and outspoken and brilliant and a jerk and all the things you’d expect:

When I was 17,18, my allowance was like $40 a week. My wife would cook something, a little cornbread, and I’d say to Bird, Come on downstairs and eat. And he would eat all of the cornbread! He would sit down and leave a little piece like that and then leave! Did that a couple of times and I said, Fuck Bird! After a couple of times I didn’t leave him anything to gobble up.

“Like when Bird died. They asked me to say something about Bird. I said, Man, if I said something about Bird, you wouldn’t believe it. Don’t ask me that! He was a big hog. A pig. No such thing as no with him. And Trane. And Sonny. Only three people I knew like that. And Dizzy, when he was young. I suppose geniuses are like that.

“Trane would find a note he liked and run all kinds of chords on it. But he was a big hog. I seen him with a whole ounce of dope once, the dope was spilling over and he wouldn’t give it to nobody. So much that it was running all over everything! Guys would ask him for some, he’d say no.”

Click here to read Miles Davis: a classic interview from the vaults

For The 86th Birthday Anniversary Of Johnny Griffin, a 1990 Interview on WKCR

johnnyGriffinYesterday was the 86th birthday anniversary of Johnny Griffin (1928-2008), the magnificent tenor saxophonist from Chicago.Here is the complete transcript of an interview with him on WKCR conducted by Ted Panken while Griffin while he was in residence at the Village Vanguard in 1990. From the interview:

There’s a funny story about your first gig. You had thought that you were hired to play alto saxophone, and were quickly disabused of that notion.

Right. Well, I was playing alto like a tenor anyway, you know. What happened was, I had graduated on a Thursday, and Hamp started that week at the Regal Theater in Chicago on that Friday. The late Jay Peters, the tenor saxophonist who had been hired to play in the band a few months earlier, had to go into the military service. Then Hamp remembered me because he had come by my high school, and had a jam session in the school assembly or something—so he asked for me. They found me on Sunday, and I went down and played a few tunes with the band with my alto. On the following Friday they went to the RKO Theatre in Toledo, Ohio.

No one said anything to me about I was going to replace a tenor saxophone player, because Maurice Simon or one of his brothers was playing saxophone in the band then. I had no idea what was to transpire, until I was walking on stage in Toledo, and Gladys Hampton stopped me. She used to call me Junior. She said, “Junior, where you going with that alto?” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, you’re playing tenor in this band.” “What?” So I immediately caught a train back to Chicago. It was hard to come by a saxophone in those days, as the war was still going on, and they were making bullets and guns instead of musical instruments with the metal. I found an old saxophone and rejoined the band two days later.

Click here to read For The 86th Birthday Anniversary Of Johnny Griffin, a 1990 Interview on WKCR

Oscar Peterson – The Dick Cavett Show (1979)

Today, a great treat. If you haven’t seen this Oscar Peterson clip from the old Dick Cavett show, hie thee to the link below and enjoy. There are performances by Oscar, a longish interview, and then Cavett speaks with Peterson piano-side and has the legend run through different styles and asks him a number of questions about certain players and techniques. Oscar even sings a bit with that Nat Cole voice of his. Great stuff.

—Peter Blasevick

Chuck Israels: Tribute To Bill Evans

Bassist/arranger/composer Chuck Israels is in expansive form for this interview with Robin Arends from AllAboutJazz conducted in a room of a former monastery in Oegstgeest, a small town in the Netherlands near the North Sea. The 77 year old legend recently published the album Second Wind (Soulpatch Music Productions, 2013), a tribute to pianist Bill Evans. From the interview:

AAJ: So today jazz musicians should use Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, George Gershwin as their starting point? 

CI: Yes, you have to build on to something. The idea that anyone is original and comes up with his own ideas is not really accurate. You have a personality which has been developed by which ideas you take and which ones you reject, but it all comes from behind. You can’t start with John Coltrane and go from there. That doesn’t work.

Click here to read Chuck Israels: Tribute To Bill Evans

Joe Zawinul at 65

joeZawinulHere is a very interesting 1996 interview with keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul from 1996 conducted by Howard Mandel for The Wire.

“I’m part Hungarian, part gypsy–”
And a Viennese composer.
“Yes, I am!–though this symphony is all improvised. I always did that,” he says. “All the Weather Report stuff was improvised. I believe because of that it has a little more natural feel to it.
“I never could sit down and take the time”–as he supposes classical era composers would have even if they’d been able to document their own complex works on tape. “To me, sitting and composing pen to paper, is constrictive and analytical. When I make arrangements I have to do that, orchestrate–and I write every note myself, at the piano. I fuck with it for a long time. I don’t change any of the improvisation. But you know, you have 100 people to work with,” he shrugs, humbly conceding, “I cannot play everything myself.”

Click here to read Joe Zawinul at 65

—Peter Blasevick

Wes Montgomery in Jazz Monthly May 1965

wesMontgomeryHere is a great interview I stumbled across this morning with the great Wes Montgomery in Jazz Monthly magazine from 1965. The interview is conducted by Valerie Wilmer and covers his family, his famous thumb technique, his first gigs, and more. From the interview:

“When I started I bought the whole works. I got a box of picks because I felt sure there would be the right one in there for me. I refused to play unamplified, so I’m sitting in my house playing, you know – happy, but when I used my brand new amplifier I guess I didn’t think about the neighbours. Soon they started complaining pretty heavy. But I was enjoying myself because it wasn’t noise to me, it was music. But after two months my wife came to the door and asked me would I kindly turn that ‘thing’ off. Well, ‘thing’? It was a guitar and amplifier, you know? So I laid my pick down on the amplifier and just fiddled around with the thumb. I said is that better.? Oh yes, she says, that’s better. So I said I’ll play like this till I get ready to play out, and then I’ll get me a pick. Well, that wasn’t easy either because I found out that I had developed the thumb for playing so that when I got ready to work my first job I picked up a pick and I think I must have lost about fifteen of them! I just didn’t realise that I had to develop my pick technique, too. So I said ‘later’ for the pick. I was just playing for my own amusement so it was great. See, I couldn’t hear the difference in the sound as it is today, so I figured OK, I’ll just use my thumb. Probably a thousand cats are using their thumbs – only they’re not in Indianapolis! The more I learnt about it, I found out that less guys were using their thumbs and I began to get a little frightened!”

Click here to read Wes Montgomery in Jazz Monthly May 1965

—Peter Blasevick