Category: J

Hank Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010) — His 93rd Birthday Anniversary

hankJonesHank Jones would have been 97 years old the other day, and if he were still with us, I’m sure he’d be the same funny, polite, gentleman he always was…and he’d still be one of the very baddest musicians on the planet.

Here is a fantastic pair of interviews with the great pianist, both from Ted Panken’s great blog. He posted these a couple years ago also in honor of Jones’ birthday, one from a 2007 Jazziz piece, and the other a transcription from a 1994 WKCR interview. Both interviews are just great, and cover so much. Hank covers a number of personal topics in the 2007 interview in particular. From the piece:

And I wonder if I was true, let’s say, to my race. There were times when I wanted to join the civil rights movement and march, but I would have lost my job. I had a wife and stepdaughter, and I had to support them. With my temperament, something could have happened to me, because things were going on that I might not have been able to accept. Although my instincts were to do the proper thing, I repressed them.

Click here to read Hank Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010) — His 93rd Birthday Anniversary

—Peter Blasevick

Two 1979 Ahmad Jamal Interviews with Les Tompkins

AhmadJamalHere are two interviews by Les Tomkins with the great pianist Ahmad Jamal, both interviews conducted in 1979. Jamal talks a lot about commercial success, or the lack thereof for jazz musicians. Interesting stuff. He also discusses his time with Chess and different musical projects of his. From the interview:

Every day we hear Wolfgang Mozart’s great works, but no one knows where the man was buried; his funeral was attended by a gravedigger and a dog. So why shouldn’t it be that a musician enjoys something during his life? Why does it have to be a Mozart thing all the time? It’s ridiculous. Mozart was commercial, huh? Or I should say: he wasn’t thought to be commercial enough at the time, but now he’s commercial. But the things he was writing then are the same things you hear now. The success is no good to him now.

In the case of Franz Liszt, of course, he was a very great technician, and he also enjoyed the financial reward for it at the time. It’s unfortunate when it doesn’t happen like that to every hard–working musician. In the case of George he’s not only artistically sound, but he’s receiving the fruits of his labour. It’s important that there should be some recognition of talent during that talent’s lifetime.

Unfortunately, there is this thinking, that once you start making any kind of money, your artistry becomes somehow devalued. You have to be on your last legs, in all sorts of dues–paying situations, before they’ll say: “Well, there goes a great musician.” This is preposterous.

Click here to read Two 1979 Ahmad Jamal Interviews with Les Tompkins Part One; Part Two

—Peter Blasevick

Quincy Jones: ‘I told Michael Jackson he was weird’

quincyJonesHere is a fun interview with the great Quincy Jones from Paul Lester at The Guardian. Jones discusses everything from Frank Sinatra to his early days to his biggest influences. He also opines on legalizing drugs, Nazis on cocaine, and recording Thriller. Great stuff. From the interview:

Frank Sinatra called you Q. What did you call him?
Francis, or FS.

Were you nervous of him?
Nervous? Not even close, man! I was living in France, studying with Nadia Boulanger [tutor to Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland]. And I come in one day, they say, “Grace Kelly called, Mr Sinatra wants you to bring your house band” – I had the best house band in the world. So we played with Frank, and he said five words to me: “Good job, kid. Koo-koo.” I never saw anything like him on a stage. He was like a magician, from another planet. He had it down. The most magical thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Frank was bipolar, and one of the greatest friends I’ll ever have. I have his ring on, with his family crest, from Sicily. I’ve never taken it off.

Click here to read Quincy Jones: ‘I told Michael Jackson he was weird’

—Peter Blasevick

Hank Jones in the Village Voice 2008

hankJonesIt’s no secret that Hank Jones is one of my favorite pianists of all time, and since today would have been his 96th birthday, it seems a good a reason as any to post another interview of his! Here he is speaking with the Village Voice in 2008, shortly atet his 90th birthday celebration(s). From the interview:

VV: Reviewers have called your playing “eloquent” and “lyrical,” as well as “relaxed” and “understated.” Do any of those adjectives not feel right?

HJ: Well, I don’t know how eloquent I am, but I play, probably, in a relaxed and understated manner. Perhaps. Perhaps that suits my style. Of course, this varies from tune to tune, as you know, because you don’t play the same way on every tune. Certain tunes make you think a certain way and certain other tunes make you think another way. But in the aggregate I think my approach is really pretty relaxed and laidback, you might say.

Click here to read Hank Jones in the Village Voice 2008

—Peter Blasevick

Charlie Haden and Keith Jarrett in 2010

The jazz world lost the great bassist Charlie Haden over the weekend. From Ornette Coleman to Quartet West to Diana Krall, he played with a long and varied list of great musicians over a long and productive career. I particularly like his work with Keith Jarrett, and here the two are discussing their 2010 duet project Jasmine.

—Peter Blasevick

Thad Jones and Mel Lewis 1969

thadJonesHere is a great talk with bandleaders Thad Jones and Mel Lewis speaking with Les Tomkins in 1969. They talk a lot about their legendary orchestra and its players and how fortunate the two of them have been in their careers. From the interview:

Lewis: I don’t think any two guys could be as lucky as Thad and I, as far as having something that you can be proud of till your dying day. The kind of thing you dream about. And most people would never attempt it, because they’d figure: “Oh, it couldn’t happen.” But it can. We’ve proved it—to ourselves, anyway. If somebody else doesn’t melLewisbelieve it, i doesn’t matter; we know it, and we’re two of the happiest guys in the world right now.

Jones: We’ve both been sidemen in other bands for practically all of our musical lives; we’ve never really done the things that we wanted to do as individuals. When you play with somebody else, you always try to fit that particular mould, to give what is in you to give within whatever’s going on. I worked for that bandleader; I gave him what he wanted. This is the type of attitude that I’ve come to expect; otherwise you’ll never be able to give one hundred per cent of you. And any band must do this, in order to be an orchestra, to play as one.

Click here to read Thad Jones and Mel Lewis 1969

—Peter Blasevick

Hank Jones with Bill Charlap on Piano Jazz

hankJonesI love when a musician is interviewed by one of his or her peers…it usually gives the interview a slant it wouldn’t ordinarily have. Another musician will often ask questions of their subject that a non-musician wouldn’t necessarily consider because of their shared talents and experience. Here is a great interview in which pianist Bill Charlap, sitting in for regular host Marian McPartland on NPR’s Piano Jazz, interviews the legendary Hank Jones.

In this 2009 session, Jones returns to the program 30 years after his first appearance for a set of tunes spanning his career. “Keep the melody intact,” Jones says flatly. “You can do all kinds of things with the harmonies, but the melody must remain.”

The set list for the show:

  • “Lonely Woman” (Bill Stegmeyer)
  • “We’ll Be Together Again” (Carl Fischer)
  • “Lotus Blossoms” (Billy Strayhorn)
  • “Easy Living” (Ralph Rainger/Leo Robin)
  • “Odd Number” (Hank Jones)
  • “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” (Traditional)
  • “Sophisticated Lady” (Duke Ellington/Irving Mills/Mitchell Parrish)
  • “Oh, Look at Me Now” (Joe Bushkin/John DeVries)

Click here to listen to Hank Jones with Bill Charlap on Piano Jazz

—Peter Blasevick

NEA Jazz Masters: Interview with Keith Jarrett

Or 300th post today! Thanx everyone who visits, I hope you find it useful. We are up to around 1000 visits a month now, so, certainly not Facebook, but hopefully helpful and entertaining for jazz lovers!

Here is a quick interview with Keith Jarrett on his receiving the NEA Jazz Masters award in January of this year.

“It’s like my body knows exactly what to do. It’s just like my left hand knows what to play. And if I tell it what to play, I’m stopping it. [Laughs] Not only am I stopping it, but I’m stopping it from playing something better than I can think of!”

—Peter Blasevick

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

Keith Jarrett: ‘I Want The Imperfections To Remain’

keithJarrettIn this interview with All Things Considered from May 2013, Keith Jarrett discusses an album of six standards called Somewhere recorded live in Lucerne, Switzerland four years ago.

“I tried not to manipulate anything,” Jarrett tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “I like the raw tapes. I like it just as it’s handed to me the night that it happens. I want the imperfections to remain because, to tell the truth, the way I play in a given space is because of the space. So if we start to change that and I listen to it, then I don’t even like it at all.”

“Players are very protective of their turf,” Jarrett says. “Over and over in the past, I’ve had the experience of knowing we just played the best version; we will not need to do another take. If it’s a band, it’s a band. If what we do when we’re playing together is good enough, even the solos don’t matter that much. What matters is the spirit kept.”

Click here to listen to Keith Jarrett: ‘I Want The Imperfections To Remain’