TED DANIEL's story, as told to Clifford Allen
My father was an amateur musician, a saxophonist. He actually was friends with Tab Smith, a saxophonist who was in Count Basie's band., and they grew up together in North Carolina. He always loved music, and he passed that on to his children. He bought me a trumpet when I was about eight or nine years old, and I was playing in public schools, so that's how I got started playing. My older brother played piano; his name was Richard. Actually he and Sonny Sharrock used to have a singing group, doo-wop stuff, and that was the first music that we all were involved in through the 50's. The kids listen to rap now, well that was our version of it.
I heard jazz in the house, older music like Count Basie or Louis Jordan, that type of stuff my father was into. I actually heard a Clifford Brown record, 'Study In Brown', by accident, when I was baby-sitting for my sister. She had a big record collection, and I saw the album and put it on because the guy had a trumpet on the cover. I was about thirteen at the time and I said "yeah ! this is what I want to do, this is it !" I had never heard bop before. That's how I got started getting into jazz.
Up until hearing that, my understanding of the instrument was reading the little music they taught us in school, marching bands and that type of thing. In high school it was the concert band. So, there were no private lessons. We'd go and learn our parts, you learn as you went that way. I could read music, so after I heard that record, I started listening more. When I was about a junior in high school, Sonny had finished and begun to study guitar, and that's when we started to put things together. We grew up so close, here in Ossining, my mother and his mother were very close. So what happened was that we spent all our time together. Sonny was the oldest, then my brother, then his brother Wayne, and the four of us had grown up from pre-school. That's how that got started.
I decided that [studying trumpet] was what I wanted to do. I went to Berklee [College of Music] for a semester; Sonny had started there too. It was unfortunate that the instructor didn't work for me, but it didn't discourage me from continuing with it. I went to Southern Illinois University, and I did get some good instruction.There was a Dr. Philip Olson who was very good, and he farmed me out to Fred Berry, his best graduate student in trumpet. He was helpful and really the first ongoing private study I had. I didn't know it then, but I later found out he was part of the AACM scene, [he played in Roscoe Mitchell's first quartet and can be heard on 'Before There Was Sound'].
I stayed out there for a couple of years, and then my buddies Dave Burrell, Byard Lancaster and Sonny had all moved to the city. So I left school and came to New York City in September of 1965. And that's when I met a lot of different musicians who were on the scene, Pharoah Sanders, Giuseppi Logan, all the cats that were here in the city. Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Grachan Moncur III, and I jammed with them, and Dave's loft on Bond Street was a famous place, I even had a chance to sit in with Elvin Jones there ! It was happening; Dave and Byard had this loft that was a good place to be, and I learned a lot about music there.
Then I got drafted, in the spring of 1966, and I was shipped off to Vietnam. When I got out of the service, I had gotten a scholarship to study music at Central State in Ohio, and actually my brother was out there as well. Ken McIntyre was teaching, so that was a good place for me. That was in 1968 and I stayed about a year. In that time, I formed a band with my brother called Brute Force. Sonny had been working with Herbie Mann for a while, and they came out to play a concert. Herbie heard our band and ended up recording us. What Ohio was for me was, I didn't have the chops that I thought I needed, so I went out there and worked on them. I grew up hearing doo-wop, so that wasn't a big leap from where we were. That group did play for dances out there; that's what it was for. I could do that and was an integral part of that group at the time. I'd loosened up Brute Force by my free jazz experience, because I had New York roots and I integrated that into what we were doing. But the main thrust of what I wanted to do was in New York, so that was where I came to.
The first big gig back in the city was with Sunny Murray. I did work with him some before in the Lower East Side and the Village, and he got us this gig at the Newport Jazz Festival with Alan Silva, Dave Burrelll, Luqman Lateef on tenor, Carlos Ward on alto, and Sirone also on bass. Lateef, I don't see him around any more, but he was a mellow tenor player and played really nice.
When I started out, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan and Booker Little were the cats I was listening to, but one time on the radio at night, I heard Ornette Coleman, and "wow, what's going on here ?". He became the turning point for me as a way to move into freedom. Even though I'd been listening to Trane and things like that, it was Ornette's group that really opened my ears to how you could do things that were more free. Like everybody else, I was influenced by Trane and trying to play and putting out a lot of sound on the horn, which you can't really do on the trumpet like you can with the tenor. I began to develop a style of my own. I have a background as an athlete, so in order to play the trumpet I have to be physically involved to the point where it happens on a more visceral level.
I went over [to Europe with Dave Burrell] in 1969, in the fall. That was related to the Actuel people, the festival in Amougies. I just didn't want to stay in Europe, I came back, Dave was here. I was working and rehearsing with Arthur Jones, the alto player from Cleveland. Then he left and didn't come back from Europe. Otis Harris was around and he was a good player, so we got involved, the drummer Warren Benbow, Hakim Jami, and Richard Pierce was from my hometown and we'd known one another forever. So I had my double trio; it was just one gig [released in 1972 on Ted's own Ujaama label]. It was the nucleus of Pierce and Warren and myself that played together a little bit.
There were a lot of rehearsals in the early 70's, and I think that might have been when I met Dewey Redman and he asked me to join his band. [Sometimes] he played the musette and he wanted something different to go along with that. I've always wanted to add instruments to my presentation. The Moroccan bugle (khakhi) was given to me by Dave Burrell. He'd went to Africa and gave it me back in 1969. The French hunting horn I bought out in Dayton, Ohio at a pawn shop back when I was working with Brute Force. So I would do that with Dewey. It worked out really well.
And I was beginning to work with Andrew Cyrille. I think it was Frank Lowe and I who had him on a gig over in the Village. We just chose him to play the drums. I'm not sure if it was Richard Pierce or Hakim Jami on bass. And from there Andrew began to call me and I worked with him quite a bit for a long time in Maono. We started off with Hilton Ruiz on piano, Donald Smith at one time, Jeanne Lee was singing with us, and I think we had one with Haitian drummers. Some other musicians that passed through were David S. Ware, Joe Rigby, Nick de Geronimo, and Sonelius Smith. We had a lot of gigs, both in the States, in New York and down to Philly, and then we travelled , went to Europe on three or four tours. Those were pretty good years for me, with Dewey and with Andrew. Plus, at that time I was still doing my own thing with trios and so forth. 'Tapestry' was done at Ornette's loft in 1974. On that recording I play flugelhorn; the other instruments are electric except for [drummer] Jerome Cooper. My brother Richard was the keyboardist on that, and it was an extension of the Brute Force thing, but using my music.
Then the guys from Chicago came into the picture, and the guys from St. Louis in BAG, and, in fact, you can see from some of the players in that Energy band I had, those guys were just coming into town It was inspired by the fact that I always liked big bands, I remember my father taking me to hear Count Basie, I was about nine or ten years old. I couldn't understand how those guys could come down in front of the stage and play these long solos, and they don't read any music ! I didn't know about improvisation. I never forgot how big and grandiose that sound was, so then I heard Trane's 'Ascension' years later; this is how a big band could do it, you know ? And from all those experiences, and working with Sam Rivers, I started writing for big bands, for a rehearsal band, that's what Energy really was. We had several gigs here in New York, and I got one gig at Cami Hall with a trumpet section of Lester Bowie, Ahmed Abdullah and Olu Dara. Charles Stephens was on trombone too. I had a lot of the new musicians play in Energy in the mid 70's. Those cats were trying to work. So then I had to let it go because you can't really work a big band, but in the late 70's I did work at Rashied Ali's place. At that time, there might have been only two or three big bands working. I followed Frank Foster into Ali's Alley in October of 1977, and there was a band over at the Vanguard. It was probably just the two of us [the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band and Energy] working every Monday night in New York, and I was not happy that I didn't get any press during those eight months. Anyway, that band was constant and it was good and it didn't get any press, and that's why people don't know about it.. I suspect it had to do with jazz politics, not the music. But I did record some of it, and plan to put it out in the future. In the 1980's, I formed a smaller version of Energy for a while, which included James Zollar, Michael Marcus, Joe Rigby and others. We often played at a club named after its address, 'First on First' on the Lower East Side.
[But] I had to make some changes around survival and so forth. I had to get into a different kind of work, so I got into social service, working with people and becoming a therapist, a psychotherapist, and that was what I did. I was playing a little bit, but not much. Henry Threadgill started calling me for work in his big band and sextet. A couple of times he took us to Europe for a week, John Stubblefield and a whole bunch of cats. Then he called me for his small group. That band was smokin'. I did some different things with him. In 1994, Henry and I were guest artists in Amsterdam with the October Orchestra which consisted of famous Dutch, French and Italian composers. I spent a month in Belgium with him [playing his music with a theatre group]. So I did some music performances throughout the 80's and 90's, but mostly I was working at my day job.
I'd like to say a little about the two albums I did with Billy Bang. It was very important as a veteran and wanting to be a part of a musical statement that says something about that experience. That was great for me. I was glad to be a part of that with Billy, and that kind of started me back [in 2001] because I was coming to the end of my day job, so that returned me to the music world. It was important on two fronts, by introducing me to some people who didn't know me, and helping me get back in.
I formed a duo with Michael Marcus, who played baritone in the last Energy band. Since we've been together, he's been solely on clarinet. We called the band Duology. It's a very demanding format and it asks a lot of each individual to come up with fresh ideas and approaches to your instrument and to the music. So it's been a challenge and a growth period for me. The impetus becomes the communication between the two. You begin to get a really interesting and powerful statement, when you hear the development and movement of that music as they go along. That's intense, and once people key into that "oh, they're talking to one another", they enjoy it.
Now  I have a band called the International Brass and Membrane Corps, and that's with Newman Taylor-Baker on drums, Charles Burnham on violin, Joe Daly on tuba, and myself on assorted brass. I started in 1998 with Newman, and Jose Davila on tuba as a trio. At the time we were part of Henry THreadgill's band that was working in Belgium. When we got back, I did a few gigs over here. The members have changed, Joe Daly replaced Jose, and I added Charles. These are people that I've known over the years., and that's the group I'm working with and enjoying a lot. It's very different from anything else you're hearing right now, because it's melodic, and after all that's said and done about my freedom and energy playing, at the end of the day it's melodic. That's the basis of what I do.
With regards to working, it's much more difficult for me to do on a regular basis. [In the past] you could make a little money. You could organize, and I think it was a little better. People would come out to the lofts and have a good time, there was a good crowd, and there were a lot of recordings in the lofts too. It was different, though, a smaller group of people. I don't see or feel the community that we used to have. You can't expect it to be the same. It's more difficult for musicians to make a living with the music, now. And, with all these different influences, the richness of the music has been diluted. It's not as strong. You listen to the music that came out of the 60's and 70's, cats were playing in a certain way that you could identify with. You have Europeans, Asians, Caribeans, South Americans, Africans and Middle Eastern musicians here now. There are a lot more musicians and not more places to play. It's more of a world music now, it's more diverse.
I think the good thing about being a little older is that you have your feet on the ground with regards to what you want to do. You have certain experiences that you're drawing from and that's one of the things that makes me happy about this band. They've been around a while and play very well; the cats know who I am and what I've been doing. It's simpatico that I have a lot of foundation that I can use. I'm very happy about being back on the scene and playing what it is I'm playing.
ENERGY summer of 1977 at Studio We
From left to right: Danny Carter- Tenor, Jimmy Cosier, I think?-alto, Ahmed Abdullah-trumpet, Charles Stephens-trombone, Otis Harris, possibly (next to Charles) on alto, Chris Capers trumpet, Mustapha -tenor, and Joe Rigby Baritone sax. Myself directing.
TED DANIEL's ENERGY
in conversation with Roy Morris
You were born on June 4, 1943 in Ossining, New York. Tell me something about your family.
I'm the second son of four natural born sons to Edward Theodore Daniel sr. and Eula May Daniel. Later on my parents adopted five foster children and all of us were given some music lessons.My younger brothers didn't continue with saxophone and piano respectively, but excelled in sports. My older brother Richard and I are the only ones who seriously pursued music as a career. Of my three children, my daughter Jamila is musically very talented, and has a very beautiful voice. At one time she thought she might pursue singing as a career, but she decided that wasn't her calling, and is now a TV writer in Hollywood. My middle child, Vincent, had a great sound on clarinet, but wasn't interested in following music. He works in administration for a cable TV company in Ohio. My younger son, Edward studied clarinet and guitar, but he too is pursuing a career other than music. He's presently on staff in the athletic department at St. Peter's University in Jersey City. I never pushed any of them towards a music career, but I wanted them to have some knowledge of how music is made. So they will always have an appreciation for music, having had the experience of learning an instrument.
Did your father, who was a saxophonist, ever get the chance to hear you play ?
Both my parents had the chance to hear me and my brother play. Our group, Brute Force, played for my father's birthday party about three years in a row on Martha's Vineyard Island, where my parents retired, and the band had a summer residency at a local club. My father heard the first performance of my Energy big band, back in April 1974, and my mother saw another iteration of the band at Cami Hall in May of 1975,
What did you listen to back in the day ?
In the early 50's, we listened to doo wop. Groups like the Moonglows, Cadillacs, Orioles, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Five Satins, Coasters, Drifters, Platters.... My friend Sonny [Sharrock] and my brother Richard had a singing group throughout their High School years. I was in a group for a while , but felt uncomfortable trying to sing. I know now, part of it was because my voice hadn't settled into the baritone I am now. Notes were hard to hit if they were too high or low. In the late 50's, Sonny and I began to listen to jazz, Miles, Trane, the Messengers etc.. Around 1960 or 1961, I heard Ornette Coleman on the radio one night, and it was very un-nerving and intriguing at the same time. That was the beginning of my listening to music other than the standard fare.
Outside of jazz, later in the 60's came Motown and all those soul artists, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Otis Redding. When I returned from Viet Nam in 1968, a friend took me to a Jimi Hendrix concert, and I was impressed with the amount of sound the three musicians were able to produce. I was also impressed with Hendrix' style, but thought he had some catching up to do on guitar on my man Sonny Sharrock.
Because I played trumpet in the High School band and orchestra, I was exposed to the European composers. There was no jazz band back then in Ossining High. My favourites were Beethoven and, of all people, Wagner. Later on, in College, I got turned on to Hindemith, Debussy, Webern, Stravinsky and so on. I still enjoy listening to this music on occasion.
Your musical progress must have been interrupted by the Draft.
There were several trumpet players in the band we had. We each were bugler for the week rotating throughout our tour. Playing some of those calls, especially the evening calls, were the best musical experiences I had in the service. Being in a field band, we only spent a couple of hours a day rehearsing music or playing a special ceremony. Most our time was spent with manual duties such as KP, filling sand bags and perimeter guard duty at night. For the most part, the two years on active duty in the army were lost years for my musical development. On the other hand, my time in Viet Nam was a crash course in learning how people treat each other in all situations. It definitely advanced my maturity and understanding of human nature.
Did you feel there was a connection between the "new music" and the politics of the time ?
No art is created in a vacuum, and so society does affect what is created at any given time. In the 1960's, Black Americans were persuing their birth-right regarding full citizenship here in the USA. Issues such as education, housing, voting rights etc. were being brought to the fore through civil disobedience. Protest marches led by Dr. King and others were the order of the day to force action on these legitimate grievances. Also, a very important part of this movement was the cultural revolution that took place in the Black Arts of that time. Black artists began to emphasize their African and African-American roots in their work. The "new music" was a part of a cultural revolution that Black artists were involved with during the political turbulence of the time. Some artists work was affected and influenced more than others by the political upheavals. For myself, I was attempting to make a musical statement drawing from my cultural roots from Africa and African-American experience.
I wanted it to be bold, strong, soulful, and free of Western dogma. I would say that the political turbulence and rhetoric did have an influence on my work in that it gave me an authentic place from which to draw on my creative and emotional energy to help make my music a reality.
In 1969 you went to Europe for the first time to play at the Actuel festival. Did BYG approach you ?
No, they did not approach me to record. I returned to the States after the festival ended. Maybe, if I had stayed in Paris they might have.
How about ESP-Disk or any other record company ?
No, Bernard Stollman never approached me, nor did I approach him. My feeling was, I was performing music all around town with Dewey Redman, Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp, Andrew Cyrille and my own groups, large and small, and thought that in itself was evidence that I was worthy of being recorded. Others had been recorded with much less bona fides. I take responsibility of not asking to be recorded because I felt my work spoke for itself. I recognise that record companies have the right to record whomever they want, also I recognise that my pride would not allow me to ask, and accept the consequences of my decisions.
So you took control yourself.
I've wanted to be a professional jazz musician since the age of seventeen, and have never changed my feelings about that goal. Through the years I have had to do other things to maintain myself and provide for my family, but music has always been an essential part of my life. I understood early on in my career that there was the music business, and there are creative artists. The music business does not always acknowledge the creative artists for a host of reasons. Most of those reasons are out of the artist's control. Therefore the artist may or may not be heard, and success described as being well-known, with respect to the listening public, may elude the creative artist. Fortunately for me, I define my success by having been able to create and produce the music that is important to myself. I am pleased that there are people in this world who are aware of my work and enjoy it.
I had a self-determination to present my music through the years in spite of the industry/business indifference toward my musical efforts.
So you presented 'The Ted Daniel Sextet' late in 1971 on your own Ujamaa label.
I can say that my first recording is a very important performance because, unbeknownst to me at the time, it included just about all of the elements, ideas and techniques that I have attempted to develop and improve upon throughout my career. This recording was essential to my career as it introduced me to the listening public as a leader.
Given the difficulty of doing it yourself, do you think federal government should be more supportive of America's own music ?
For the record, back in 1972 I received a small national endowment grant which I used to buy a second-hand upright piano and write my first large ensemble pieces which was the impetus to put a rehearsal band together to hear what I wrote. Some of that music ended up in being part of the recording 'In The Beginning' [finally released in 1997 on Ted's other label Altura]. Having said that, I think that government support of jazz is minimal in this country. In my opinion, the government does not view this music or its originators as important enough to support. I have produced my music on my own through the years because I believe in the music and in my own ability to create music of substance.
And so the big band emerged.
As I said, I had written for a big group and I wanted to hear it. After hearing the music, the idea of performing with the group developed. playing with the big band was something that developed after the writing. I learned to enjoy conducting the band, pre [Butch Morris'] conduction, as well as playing with the band over time.
The huge sound of a big band has always been thrilling, ever since my father took me to hear Count Basie, when I was about ten or eleven years old. Later, John Coltrane's recording "Ascension" had a huge impact on my conception of what a large ensemble could sound like. Then playing in Sam Rivers' big band and watching how he conducted the musicians was my biggest influence in playing with and conducting my own band. Also, I enjoyed and appreciated Sun Ra and his Arkestra for their presence and unique delivery. Sun Ra was a general inspiration to me although I never played with him..
Where did the name ENERGY come from ?
I got the name "Energy" from Sunny Murray. When I was working with him, he used to say that the type of music we played was energy music.
You played me a little music from your band, with your brother and Joe Rigby in it, that really should be heard.
That was the third and next to last iteration of Energy. This third iteration of the band performed for six months and had the longest run I had with my own unit. We played [Rashied] Ali's Alley from October 1977 through May of 1978. Although there were often personnel changes, as we weren't making much money, guys would have to take off to make another gig paying decent money. I did have a core group of guys in each section which allowed for continuity of performance throughout our time at the club. Because of this, you heard a band that was relatively cohesive and comfortable with each other. The performance you heard was live over two nights, recorded by an amateur who was somewhat haphazard in how he recorded us. Having said that, I'm extremely happy that I have some record of the music that represents our efforts, back in the day. With regard to progress in releasing the music, I'm toying with the idea of using Kickstarter, but I don't know how viable that is for a project that is already recorded but not released. I'll probably do it myself, and try to have it out by the end of the year.
Energy was a wonderful enterprise, but events overtook you.
Around 1979, the loft scene had already begun to change, and become less prominent as venues for music performances I disbanded Energy to work more with my small ensembles, and to work and tour with Andrew Cyrille's Maono. I do think the industry (record companies, producers and writers/critics) had already picked who they had decided would be the star artists of the future, and their focus on them and not the scene in general helped with the demise of the loft era.
Then very briefly there was the "No Wave" scene and venues like the Squat Theater.
Joe Bowie and Luther Thomas moved to New York in 1977 from St.Louis. We lived in Manhattan Plaza, a luxury high-rise on 43rd.Street and 10th.Avenue. We got the apartments because the neighbourhood was pretty tough at that time, and people with money didn't want to live there, so the City turned it into housing for artists. Both Joe and Luther were members of Energy down at Ali's Alley. When work got thin, we were trying to figure out how to get something going. Joe got hooked up with James Chance, aka James White, who was playing punk rock on this underground circuit that included Squat Theater. The three of us did a few gigs as his horn section, and saw the possibility of working our own funk bands, if we chose to do so. We did, hence Defunkt, my group the new Brute Force/Energy, (I used both names during this period) Luther's band (Dazz?). And Phillip Wilson's group Magic was on the scene with a band that included Frank Lowe and David Sanborn.
During this time, I had in my bands, Melvin Gibbs, Vernon Reid, Billy 'Spaceman' Patterson, Russell Blake, Warren Benbow and others. In the mid 80's, I recorded a live gig featuring Sonny Sharrock, Melvin and Warren. I actually do some singing on that tape. It's representative of some of what I was doing at that time. It has yet to be released.
Joe Bowie committed to Defunkt, and is still doing it today. Luther gigged around New York for a while, I did a couple of recordings with him during this time [including BAGin' It' on CIMP]. He eventually moved to Denmark and pursued his career there. I remained in the States and pursued other means of a livelihood, along with occasional gigs on my own, but mainly with Henry Threadgill from the late 80's through the mid 90's. In 2000 I recorded 'Viet Nam the Aftermath' with Billy Bang, and began to play more often in the City. In 2004, I formed the International Brass and Membrane Corporation (IBMC), and have been working and writing for that group up to the present day.
Thirty years after playing with Joe Rigby in Energy, you were an important part of 'Praise', his first recording released on Homeboy music. How did it all start ?
I had remembered Joe from the early 70's with the group the Master Brotherhood, but our friendship began about the summer of 1977, when he began playing in Energy at Studio We. In the fall of that year, we went into Ali's Alley, and stayed for the duration. As you know Joe and I have a history with ENERGY but also,Joe was the first saxophonist in Andrew Cyrille's Maono group before David Ware, so that was another musical experience that we shared. As far as Joe's recording is concerned, we hadn't been playing together but he ask me would I come play on it and I said sure.
The musicians must have enjoyed the rare opportunity to play in a truly modern big band. Is your brother Richard, who contributed on keyboards and synthesizer, still involved in music ?
My brother pretty much stopped playing around the late 70's, got a doctorate in sociology administration and worked for the federal government to the present day. He lives in Maryland, and plays occasionally with local musicians in Maryland.
There was one last burst of Energy at First on First in Brooklyn, wasn't there ?
That last version of the band only lasted a few months around 1984. It was a group of about twelve pieces plus two female singers. Michael Marcus had just come to town, and played baritone sax. Charlie Campo, a young musician from Ossining, played tenor, and his wife was one of the singers. I don't remember who else was on the band at the time.
You had an unusual opportunity to play solo in 1981, while on tour with Maono. This finally emerged as 'Ted Daniel Solo' on Ujamaa.
It's my only solo recording to date. I had done it earlier once, but it wasn't recorded very well, and I wasn't pleased with the performance. A couple of years after the concert in Pisa, I went into the studio and started another solo recording but never finished it. At some point I'll revisit that material and assess whether there is something valid there. The Pisa recording was not a planned event, but I was prepared because I was out on tour and doing a lot of playing during that time period. It actually was a lot of fun to have the complete freedom to play whatever I wanted to play. I had the chance to play several of my horns and include my electronic attachment, which I used on flugelhorn. Also I utilised the grand piano available on the stage by playing the trumpet into the piano while depressing the sustaining pedal which gave the piece 'Angels' Choir' a celestial sound. All of this was done impromptu as I was creating the music program in the moment. I would like to try performing solo again. I have some ideas about really exploiting the timbre of the instruments, and simultaneously playing a percussive instrument to accompany myself during parts of the performance.
I haven't heard you singing, but there is a vocal aspect to your playing. Is this at all influenced by Dewey Redman or Roland Kirk ?
Not really influenced by them. They sang or hummed through their instruments. I was thinking more of the sound and technique produced while playing my instrument to make the sound more vocal than instrumental. It's not a new concept, but very difficult to achieve. See Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Ornette, Trane, Bobby Bradford.
There's only one trumpeter amongst them. Could I bounce a few names off you, maybe not too well known, starting with Bobby Bradford ?
A pioneer in the music, beautiful sound, conversational flow of ideas. I love the fact that he plays cornet, I have always loved that instrument.
Earl Cross ?
He was based in the tradition, but found his own way into more adventurous playing.
Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson ?
I first heard him with Roy Haynes at the Red Baron, a club in Harlem, in the 70's. Very impressive with the power and conviction with which he played.
Donald Ayler ?
A totally free player who, due to his illness and the music business, was unable to develop his potential. His playing was an encouragement to me with respect to staying open to the many possibilities of sounds that can be produced on the trumpet.
Raphe Malik ?
He approached me for lessons around 1971 on Martha's Vineyard Island, when Brute Force was in residence there. He connected with Cecil Taylor, and developed into a strong "free" player.
Is there any-one you'd like to mention ?
Bill Dixon. He totally opened me up to the idea that the trumpet is an instrument of "sound" just like any other object, and you are free to explore the production of these different sounds in service of a creative musical experience.
Is there a musical experience that's particularly memorable for you ?
I'm not sure if it was late 1965 or early 1966 when I was in Philly playing a gig with Byard Lancaster and, on a Sunday afternoon, Trane was playing a matinee at a club whose name I can't remember. The club was filled with all these hip jazz fans talking loudly and trying to impress one another about how much they knew, and who they knew. After about five minutes of Trane, Alice, Jimmy Garrison, Pharoah Sanders and Rashied playing, there came a hush over the club as all the loud talk had stopped. Everybody in the place was drawn into the music and there was a spirirtual feeling in the room for the rest of the afternoon. I had witnessed the power of Trane's music, and will never forget it.
Who would be in your "dream band" ?
I have my dream band now. IBMC :Newman Taylor Baker, percussion, Charles Burnham, violin, Joe Daley, tuba and Marvin Sewell, guitar. If we could only work consistently.
How did your King Oliver project come about ?
I was looking for something "new" to work on, but hadn't come up with any ideas for some time. While on tour with Duology with Michael Marcus, I ran across a King Oliver record in a shop in Sheffield, England. Not really being a sage record collector, I thought that I had found a really early copy of his work. I never listened to this record, but I had a couple of King Oliver cd's that I began to listen to. I became fascinated with his and the Creole Band's sound, and the way they developed their music. I eventually began to try and play the music, and arranged it for my band IBMC. I brought a couple of pieces into rehearsal, and the band loved it. And that was my "new" idea. The touchiest part of the project was how to approach the music authentically. I definitely didn't want to deconstruct it, re the melody, rhythm and harmony. That would be taking out the reasons I was attracted to the music in the first place. I definitely didn't want to play the music as if I were King Oliver and his band. So, I was just left with being me, and drawing from my own playing experiences of rhythm and blues, bebop, and free jazz. Fortunately, the band members have had the same or similar music background and it worked out for us.
Your recording 'Zulu's Ball' on Altura is outstanding, and emphasises the melodic side of your playing.
I put a lot of work into the idea, and felt it was worth recording. I don't plan to make another King Oliver record but, having studied his work, he has influenced my musical thinking and will be a part of my future efforts. I would say that my sound and melodic bent are a large part of what makes up my personal style. In all my records, you can hear my penchant for melody, no matter how ragged, edgy, or my use of smears etc., there is always some melodic idea I'm working from to give the solo some cohesiveness.
IBMC has just made a rare appearance at "Jazz At Atlas" in Newburgh, New York. How did that go ?
Full house, standing ovation, and plenty of cd sales !
Which is what happens when music gets a chance, but I don't imagine there are too many opportunities in the Ossining area ?
There's not much work that pays enough to make the effort. I pick the dates that are worth the effort, but they're few and far between.
I am part of a small group here in Ossining that produces a small jazz festival. Last year we honoured my friend Sonny Sharrock, and this year it's a tribute to women in jazz and blues. We feature local talent from Ossining and local towns.
You usually play without a pianist Is this to give you more space and freedom ?
I enjoy playing with a pianist, I've recently done a couple of gigs with Sonelius Smith on piano. I'm very particular about who the piano player is, they need to be open in their thinking and playing. I would agree that playing without a chordal instrument can allow for more freedom harmonically and melodically.
I wondered why you called your publishing company "Double Arch Music" ?
Here in Ossining, about 50 yards from my house, is a double arch. The bottom arch is over the Kill Brook which runs into the Hudson river about three quarters of a mile from my house. The top arch is an aquaduct that transports water from the Croton reservoir, three miles north of Ossining, to New York City. I'm told that it's the only double arch now in existence. The aquaduct was built in the 1900's by Italian immigrants. It's something that I lived with all my life, and just took for granted.
What hobbies do you have, outside of music ?
I love to do gardening. It's been really hot lately, and I'm expecting some great tomatoes this august. I was a high hurdler in high school and continued to run up until a few years ago when I began to experience problems with my joints. So, gardening, reading American history and biographies are what I enjoy doing besides playing and writing my music.