Tag: alto saxophone

Three 1976 Lee Konitz interviews

LeeKonitzToday, three 1976 interviews with the great altoist Lee Konitz. I could listen to Konitz talk about playing with Miles and studying with Lennie Tristano all day! In addition to those topics, The iconic saxophonist discusses his early days in Chicago, Chet Baker, teaching, the jazz scene in Europe, and plenty more, From the first interview, about Tristano:

Well I’d studied with Lennie earlier, actually – when I was fifteen, in Chicago. One of the great things I learned was: how much of a discipline this music calls for. And that it’s possible, through picking important people and learning as much as possible about them, to go through the motions of playing this music. As with any art form, I think you try to go through the motion. You find out what it’s like to paint like Van Gogh, play like Charlie Parker, and then, if it’s possible, you go on, use that energy and that information, and do something of your own with it. If not, at least you’ve had that experience.

Click here to read Interview One: Speaks His Mind

Click here to read Interview Two: On Jazz Form

Click here to read Interview Three: Looking at the Scene

—Peter Blasevick

Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Innovator Ornette Coleman

OrnetteColeman

Jazz legend Ornette Coleman left us earlier this month, and here is a great retrospective piece from NPR’s Fresh Air. Included in the piece are parts of earlier interviews with his former bandmates Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, his son Denardo Coleman, and two with Ornette himself.

In the interviews, among other topics, Coleman discusses the early days with his quartet and their residence at the Five Spot in NYC. At one point Ornette says “Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, they all came by.” He goes on to relate how one night after they were done with a set, Leonard Bernstein just jumped up on the bandstand and started hugging everyone in the band. Wow.

Click here to listen to Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Innovator Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman at Bonnaroo, 2008

“To tell you the truth, I never think about the subject of what I’m doing, I only think about the quality of what I’m doing,” says jazz legend Ornette Coleman in response to a question about playing in front of a mainly rock and roll audience at the Bonnaroo festival in 2008. Coleman proceeds to touch on music as religion, healing through music, his philosophy of harmolodics, his Pulitzer Prize winning 2007 album Sound Grammar, and a lot more, all packed into this 5:39 minute interview! Please do yourself a favor and well-spend your next five or so minutes watching it.

—Peter Blasevick

Phil Woods interviewed by Monk Rowe in 1999

philWoodsHere is a long 1999 interview with saxophonist Phil Woods from Monk Rowe and the Hamilton College Fillius Jazz Archive (if you haven’t visited, do so. Tons of great interviews). Woods covers everything including his place in jazz history; tours with Dizzy and Quincy Jones; his impressions of Europe; playing on Pop recordings; advice to young musicians, and much else! From the interview:

MR: Without me stroking your ego or anything, where do you think you fit in there?

PW: Oh I’m a practitioner. I never changed jazz history. I am a bearer of the flame. I like to keep the Bebop flame alive in that sense, but I don’t just play Bebop. I could conceivably play that dream set I was talking about playing, a Piazolla and I kind of like to consider myself a complete musician, since I’m classically trained. But as far as playing any new way, I mean if I could have changed the course of western music I would have done so years ago.

Click here to read Phil Woods interviewed by Monk Rowe in 1999

—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

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

Interview with Jackie McLean by Steve Lehman

photo by thomas.rome

photo by thomas.rome

Here is a 2000 interview with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean conducted by Steve Lehman in Jackie’s Connecticut home. The interview is posted on Ethan Iverson’s fantastic DoTheMath blog, which, if it isn’t part of your regular reading, should be. Much of the interview is about composing, like this:

JM:  The first person to make me feel as though I could write something and it would be worth something, was Miles. “Dig” was the second thing that I ever wrote. 

The first thing I wrote I’m ashamed to say was so corny, on “What Is This Thing Called Love?” when I was about 15. I’d been playing for about a year. And I’d started to learn about the tunes from going to Bud’s house all the time. Like that “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “Hot House” were the same tune. 

“Oh, yeah, Tadd Dameron took ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’, which is like a standard, and wrote this other melody. So, I’m gonna write another melody on this.” You know. So, I wrote this little sad melody. 

And then I wrote “Dig” when I was about 17 and a half or 18. That’s when I went down to the Birdland and sat in with Miles, and then went to his house the next day. And he had asked me if I had any tunes and I told him yes, and I played “Dig” for him. 

And right away he said, “Oh, show me that.” You know? And I played it for him, and we played it together. And then I started working with him, and I started learning his repertoire. Of course then Sonny Rollins was in the band too, and Sonny had his tunes that he wrote. We used to do “Wee Dot” and “Conception.”

One night Miles told me to come down when he was working with Coleman Hawkins in Birdland. Miles said, “Come on down tonight, I want you to check out something.” I went down. And I looked up. And when Miles saw me come in and sit at a table he whispered something to Coleman Hawkins and he counted off. And I saw Coleman Hawkins play “Dig” with Miles.

Click here to read Interview with Jackie McLean by Steve Lehman

—Peter Blasevick

Like It Is: The Branford Marsalis Interview

branfordMarsalisBranford Marsalis usually has little problem sharing his thoughts on things, and this interview is no different. The great saxophonist takes on classical vs. jazz, virtuosity versus simplicity, musical maturity, and many other topics in this 2012 interview with JazzTimes. From the interview:

JT: McCoy once told me in an interview that he remembers seeing Trane playing in a band in Philly where he was walking the bar.

Marsalis: Yeah, Benny Golson told me that great story about Trane, that he had decided that he didn’t have enough rhythm-and-blues in his playing, so he took a gig walking the bar but didn’t tell his boys because he didn’t want them to see him. And they found out. Somebody came and said, “Trane’s walkin’ the bar!” at whatever the club was. They all ran there and then Trane got to the edge of the bar and saw them and said, “Aw, shit!” It’s a great story the way Benny tells it.

Click here to read Like It Is: The Branford Marsalis Interview

—Peter Blasevick

Gary Bartz Talks About Drug Use Among Jazz Greats

Here is a very interesting video interview from iRockJazz on a topic that jazz musicians don’t often like to discuss: legendary saxophonist Gary Bartz talks about drug use among jazz greats, how he got hooked, kicking the habit and the effects on the music.

—Peter Blasevick

National Jazz Archive: Two Phil Woods Interviews

philWoodsI’m going to post some interviews from the UK’s National Jazz Archive this week. If you’ve never visited, take a few minutes and check them out, there is a lot of great info on their site.

Here are two interviews with saxophonist Phil Woods conducted by Les Tompkins in 1969 and 1981. In the first, “Breaking Out of The Studio”, Woods talks about his quartet The European Rhythm Machine, running a music camp, and playing across Europe. In “The First English Tour” Woods discusses, well, his first English tour.

“How far you leave the public behind depends on your level of genius, how much you have to say. My own personal way of approaching music is probably linked to a broader based public. It’s just that I’m older than some of the younger musicians; I’ve been playing longer. You know, I don’t aim my things to a particular public, but from twenty years of playing I think my musical base is broader.

We try to incorporate a variety into our sets. Some people will hate the first tune, possibly, and love the second tune.

I love Johnny Hodges; I love Ornette Coleman. That about sums it up, really. I steal whatever’s good from wherever I can find it! If it’s honest, I’m all for it. There’s so much dishonesty within life itself. Creating a formula and adhering to it, that’s always a trap. I’ve often said in joking: “I’d love a hit record”. I’d be scared to death if that ever happened. To have to play that damn thing every night, and grow to hate it. Then your group becomes categorised and before you know it, insidiously your music starts to change and fit this formula that worked. Even among the most dedicated people.”

Click here to read Breaking out in the studio.

Click here to read The first English tour.

—Peter Blasevick