Category: A

Nat Adderley: A Player’s Player

natAdderleyHere is an interview with the great cornetist/trumpeter Nat Adderley recently posted at the AllAboutJazz webiste. The interview was conducted by Joan Gannij in 1996 and originally appeared in Downbeat Magazine. Adderley covers some interesting topics including racism, East Coast vs. West Coast jazz, the jazz scenes in Europe vs. the USA, and much more. A great read!

JG: How would you compare performing in Europe with the States: 

NA: Around the world, the audiences are larger than ever. We get to play our music more now than at the end of the 50s when we were creating the style. In those days we would leave New York to go on a cross country tour from coast to coast, playing week-long gigs in clubs in PhiladelphiaClevelandDetroitKansas CitySan FranciscoLos Angeles, then back again via PortlandSeattle and Tacoma. Today, you can’t do that. In fact, I haven’t been to Detroit or Cleveland in twenty years. Why? Cause there’s no place to play, there’s no market, no promoters. In fact, I rarely go to Chicago anymore. When I added up over the last five years, the city I played in the most was Zurich, even though I have a regular one-week contract to play in New York every year at Sweet Basil.

Click here to read Nat Adderley: A Player’s Player

—Peter Blasevick

Cannonball Adderley on American Bandstand in 1967

Cannonball Adderley would have been 86 years old today. I’ve always been a big fan, not only of his great music, but of his positive outlook in every interview of his I’ve read. Here is a short clip of him interviewed by Dick Clark after playing “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” on American Bandstand in 1967:

—Peter Blasevick

Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander: Getting Schooled

Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander have recorded 12 albums together—In this 2006 interview with Andrew Gilbert from JazzTimes, Mabern says it was already one of the longest collaborations of his career, and that was 8 years ago—and they’ve creates some of the great modern-day straight ahead jazz there is. Though initially it was a ‘taking the young cat under his wing’ type of situation, as Mabern had taught Alexander at William Paterson University, it quickly became a mutually beneficial partnership. From the interview:

haroldMabern“He’s given me so much leeway,” Mabern says. “On most of the records we’ve made, a lot of the songs on there were arranged and conceived by me as far as the introductions. We both feel the same way about the music. I always give him good obscure tunes that have been slighted. Like on this latest record, It’s All in the Game, there’s a tune ‘Bye Bye Baby’ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Carol Channing that got by Coltrane, Johnny Griffin and George Coleman. It would have been made to order for them.”


Photo by Sheldon Levy

“He’ll give you everything he’s got. That’s what really draws me to him,” says Alexander, 38. “A lot of people can’t deal with that. It’s too strong for them. And on occasion it’s been too strong for me, because he’ll come up with some stuff on the spur of the moment that might not be what you’re thinking of playing. You either have to have the ability to just roll over it, and not go with him and be confident about what you’re doing, or be able to go with him. If you can’t do either, you just get stopped in your tracks.”

Click here to read Harold Mabern and Eric Alexander: Getting Schooled

—Peter Blasevick

John Abercrombie: Searching For A Sound

johnAbercrombieThere are a series of interviews hosted by Dr. David Schoeder for NYU called the Steinhardt Interview Series that were done in 2009 and 2010 here. They are all great, and this one with John Abercrombie is no exception. From the interview:

“Basically the guitar is a piece of lumber. Some are made of a little better lumber than others, but it almost doesn’t matter. Once you put an electronic pickup in the guitar, and you have a cable, and you plug it into an amplifier that sits outside of you, your sound’s coming out of there… I can understand why the rock ‘n’ roll players need to use stacks of Marshall amps. This gives them what they want. They need to play that loud. They have to. That’s part of the sound. I didn’t need to play that loud, but I needed a sound, so I just had to try different things until I came up with it. I realized the guitar was the least important part in my sound. A lot of the possibilities come from whether it’s just a single amplifier with no reverberation, or whether it’s a stack of Marshalls, or whether it’s some sophisticated setup.”

Click here to read and listen to John Abercrombie: Searching For A Sound

—Peter Blasevick

Interview with Joey Alexander

joeyAlexanderHere is a really fun interview sent to me by pianist and teacher Mark Polishook that he did with Joey Alexander, a really gifted young pianist from Indonesia. Well, he’s not young, he’s 10 years old and he’s a prodigy. There are plenty of videos of him on YouTube if you haven’t heard him play, it’s worth the trip. From the interview:

MP: Giant Steps is one of the tunes you like to play. I’m sure you know how important it is in jazz history and I’m sure you know what it represents to jazz musicians. When did you first play it? Is there something in Giant Steps that speaks to you? Does it present any special challenges when you play it?

JA: I first played Giant Steps when I was 8. I know it’s an important tune and I love the progression. And I like John Coltrane’s music very much. It’s always a challenge to play. So I always focus on being simple. Every tune is hard if I want to play it right. [Joey smiles].

Click here to read Interview with Joey Alexander

—Peter Blasevick

Albert Ayler—The Truth Is Marching In

albertAylerMorning all! Here is a great 1966 interview with saxophonist and innovator Albert Ayler from Downbeat Magazine conducted by Nat Hentoff. From the interview, Ayler talks about his lack of commercial success:

In a restaurant-bar in Greenwich Village, tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler was ruminating on the disparity between renown and income. In his case, anyway. Covers of his albums are prominent in the windows of more and more jazz record stores; references to him are increasingly frequent in jazz magazines, here and abroad; a growing number of players are trying to sound like him.

“I’m a new star, according to a magazine in England,” Ayler said, “and I don’t even have fare to England. Record royalties? I never see any. Oh, maybe I’ll get $50 this year. One of my albums, Ghosts, won an award in Europe. And the company didn’t even tell me about that. I had to find out another way.”

Click here to read Albert Ayler—The Truth Is Marching In

—Peter Blasevick

Rashied Ali (1935 – 2009), multi-directional drummer, speaks

rashiedAliHere is a cool transcript from a 1990 interview with drummer Rashied Ali that was conducted by Howard Mandel for the documentary The World According to John Coltrane. As you’d imagine, they mostly cover Coltrane, but there is a lot to read here about a number of different topics. From the interview, Ali speaks about playing on the same bandstand with Elvin Jones:

HM: Why did Coltrane want another drummer? What did he hear?

RA: Because he was in a drummer thing. He just wanted to free himself from playing these strict changes. The bass player and the piano player would lay these chords down, you know, and he played just about everything he could play on these chords. He played ‘em upside down. He’d turn ‘em around. He played ‘em sideways. He did just about everything he could to ‘em. And playing with the drums he didn’t have to deal with chord changes and keys and stuff like that. So he was free to play however he wanted to play. There were times I played with Trane, he had a battery of drummers, like about three conga players, guys playing batas, shakers and barrels and everything. On one of his records he did that. At the Village Vanguard, live, we had a whole bunch of drummers plus the traps. And then sometimes he would have double traps. Like in Chicago, I played double traps with a young drummer  coming up there, named Jack DeJohnette.

Click here to read Rashied Ali (1935 – 2009), multi-directional drummer, speaks

—Peter Blasevick

Joe Alterman: A Young Jazz Man with Big Passion

joeAltermanJoe Alterman is a great young jazz pianist with a truly beautiful musicality to his playing. I just picked up last year’s “Give Me the Simple Life”, and it is fantastic. Here he is in a 2012 interview with From the interview:

(TS): You’ve been recording professionally for a few years now, how does the difference in playing a live show versus recording in a studio affect your process?

(JA): The biggest difference in the studio is that there’s a time constraint. It creates a different kind of focus. When I play a live show, I can play as long as I want. I can solo out. When people listen to a recording, they don’t necessarily want to hear a seven-minute piece like they would in a live show. When I record, I have to say as much as I would say in seven minutes in a live show in three minutes. I also can’t necessarily listen back to a live show like I can a recording (well I can, but it’s different). I don’t want to play stuff that I wouldn’t want to listen to on a record. (chuckles)

Click here to read Joe Alterman: A Young Jazz Man with Big Passion

Louis Armstrong in exclusive interview from CBC’s Hot Air archive

I’ll be posting interviews from the CBC-Radio Canada archives this week. The Bob Smith Hot Air archive is a treasure trove of approximately 50 interviews Smith recorded with some of the greatest stars of the day, from the world of jazz and beyond. Captured between 1950 and 1982, these interviews include conversations with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Harry James, Oscar Peterson and Lena Horne, as well as Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Liza Minnelli and many others.

This Hot Air interview with the legendary Louis Armstrong took place on Jan. 17, 1968, just three years before his death. In their relatively short conversation, Hot Air host Bob Smith engages Armstrong on a wide range of topics, including his earliest memories living and playing in a New Orleans orphanage, joining the band of his hero Joe “King” Oliver in Chicago in 1922 and explaining the origin of his many nicknames.

At one point, Armstrong is asked if the rumors of his retirement are true, to which he replies, “Musician don’t retire no how. They just stop when they ain’t got no more gigs.”

Click here to listen to Louis Armstrong in exclusive interview from CBC’s Hot Air archive

John Abercrombie’s Uncut Downbeat Blindfold Test

For the last day in my week of Ted Panken interviews, here is guitarist John Abercrombie in a Downbeat Blindfold Test from 2001. The Jazz great listens to 15 cuts and makes some pretty astute observations; it does amaze me sometimes how accurate these folks can be on these Blindfold Tests. From the piece, Abercrombie on James Blood Ulmer (who he was stumped on!):

Wow!  This is great.  I don’t know that tune.  I have to get this.  I’ve heard some other stuff by Blood and I liked it.  I have some of this stuff where he was singing that I enjoyed, but I’ll have to get this.  This definitely sounds very hip to me.  Very open.  And it’s kind of funny; that’s why I thought it was Sonny Sharrock, because of some of the similarities.  He sounds to me more harmonic.  I hear more harmonic information in his playing.  It’s cool.  And I think he does sort of play with his thumb a little bit, because it’s got a little bit of that feel.  It’s plucky.  He chokes the notes a little bit, so it… I’ll give this 5 stars.  I still like it. [AFTER] Now that you tell me it was Rashied Ali, it makes total sense, because I played with him once, and he has a great way of playing a sort of open music.  you really feel like they’re playing on a form or something.  It really has a great swing, a pulse to it.  It’s not just free.  I think that’s what makes it work.  That’s what makes everything sound so great.

Click here to read John Abercrombie’s Uncut Downbeat Blindfold Test