Tag: Les Tomkins

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

Two Duke Ellington interviews by Les Tomkins

dukeEllingtonHere are two interviews with the one and only Duke Ellington originally from Les Tomkins and now hosted at the UK National Jazz Archive. Tomkins molded a number of different interviews and discussions conducted between 1964 and 1973 into these two pieces, which are written in monologue style. Ellington discusses everything from his early years to his arranging to performing at Westminster Abbey. From the interviews:

We’ve had a lot of wonderful people in the band, you know, from time to time—Ben Webster, Blanton, Shorty Baker, Clark Terry, Barney Bigard. Who else? So many wonderful guys. And even Bechet played with us in 1926. He and Bubber Miley used to have what we call cutting contests. One would go out and play ten choruses then the other would do the same. And while one was on the other would be back getting a little taste, to get himself together, and a few new ideas. It was really something. Too bad we don’t have all that on tape today.

Click here to read Interview One: Looks Back – and Forward

Click here to read Interview Two: On Sacred Music

—Peter Blasevick

Billy Cobham: Self- Expression

Today, a nice long interview with drummer Billy Cobham from the UK National Jazz Archive. The Panamanian American jazz drummer, composer and bandleader talks to Les Tomkins in 1974 about New York, being a bandleader, jazz as ‘dance music’, live performance, and a lot more. From the interview:

Do you regard it as important to make the amount of preparations that you do for your stage act?

Sure, it’s extremely important, and we’re nowhere near where I’d like us to be. We need strong sound equipment, and people that are competent to handle it, plus good lighting people that are competent to work in collaboration with the band and the sound. It’s a matter of time; if we can last out through the natural elements that are against us, it’ll work out.

Normally, though, do you not prepare before the show starts? Only at the Rainbow more than an hour elapsed between the two parts of the programme, before you were ready to come on and play.

Now, that’s a problem that’s a technical one. It’s also a problem of poor planning on the part of promoters who put on shows. If a promoter knows that he doesn’t have a large enough stage to handle both bands, or enough people to take care of the equipment, the worst thing he can do is to accept an opening act that is as big as his star attraction, because it means that the show is not gonna move as smoothly as it could. Therefore, with that, you have a lot of problems.

Click here to read Billy Cobham: Self- Expression

—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

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

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

Two-part 1973 Freddie Hubbard interview

freddieHubbardHere are two 1973 interviews by Les Tomkins with jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard from the UK National Jazz Archive. Hubbard discusses Bix Beiderbecke, his early days in NYC, playing with Quincy Jones, and plenty else. Here Freddie talks about the business side of jazz:

There was a period in New York where it was kinda free. I mean, you got a bunch of great guys together in the studio and you just played. And the man who made the record made all the money. So it got to the point, everybody said: “We deserve more money.” Well, all record people are very money–conscious. They like the music, but it always ends up into a capital gain thing. Which is good, but in the meantime the artist doesn’t realise his gains.

See, people take you for granted—the fact that you’re out there and you’re more interested in creating something righteous that you believe in. Nowadays. it’s a thing of: “If I’m going to create this, then I should be rewarded.” You’ve got musicians now who are more business–minded.

Click here to read Interview One: You Have to Change With the Times 

Click here to read Interview Two: Melody is as Important as Ever

—Peter Blasevick

Art Farmer in 1974 and 1988

artFarmerHere are two interviews with the great trumpeter Art Farmer from the UK National Jazz Archive. The first of the two interviews by Les Tomkins includes tributes from bandmate Ron Simmonds on his memories of Art Famer and his unique solo at Ronnie Scott’s Club in 1974. The second covers traveling and the ClarkeBoland band. From the first interview:

“I’ve always felt that I was one hundred per cent dedicated to playing, but each year that I’m in it I find out that I can do a bit more. I find out that I can and I should, or I should have been. Like, when you first start playing you practise maybe an hour a day, and you figure: “Well, gee, I’m really giving my all to it.” And you find out later that that’s really just a drop in the bucket—and there’s no end to it, no limit. You have to expend your energy as long as you have it to expend, and that’s still not enough.”

Click here to read Art Farmer in 1974 and Art Farmer in 1988

Five Paul Desmond interviews and some extras

From the cool JazzProfessional website, here are five interviews with the iconic alto saxophonist Paul Desmond conducted by Les Tompkins. As always, Desmond is classy, funny, and articulate throughout. “The personality of Paul Desmond” and “The jazz audience” are from 1963, with Back in the crook”, “Giant jazzman, gentle wit…”, and Sax viewpoint” from 1972. Additionally there is a special tribute story from the time of Desmond’s death in 1977, and a page of Desmond quotes. 

From the first interview, Desmond on practicing:

“I feel the necessity for practice, but the results don’t generally justify it. I have a tendency to get bugged by some small thing when I start practising and do one of those Stephen Laycock retroactive bits for five or six hours, ending up playing one interval and working on the intonation or something. After about four hours I come to the job and I can’t play a note! So I’m really better off without practising. I either have to just make it playing the job or forget it. There isn’t time then to get introspective or critical and tear anything apart. You just have to keep going.”

 Click here to read Five Paul Desmond interviews and some extras

—Peter Blasevick

Four Chick Corea Interviews with Les Tomkins plus Gary Burton!

Chick Corea keeps putting out great music; his latest duo recording with Gary Burton is testament to that! Here are four interviews with the pianist, all between 1972 and 1982. The final one, from 1982, is actually a joint interview with longtime collaborator Burton, and in it he discusses preparing for a tour together:

How much actual preparation do you need before embarking on a concert tour together?

The groundwork has already been laid in the past year since we’ve developed our way of working together. The only additional preparation we ever do is finding music to play; I compose, we find other compositions to do, and we work them into the repertoire by going over them once or twice, then finding where to drop the new piece into the performance. Except the next album project we have in mind is going to take quite a bit of preparation, actually, because I’m going to write a piece for Gary and myself with a string quartet as well. So the composing will be a process, and then us looking at the music, getting accustomed to it, and seeing how to make it work with the strings will be a full process in itself. I’m looking forward to that. The music will be sort of like a double concerto idea, where there’s two soloists and an orchestra that’s made up of four strings.

Click here to read Four Chick Corea Interviews with Les Tomkins plus Gary Burton!