The first three months of 2008 are gone. Just like that. Whisked away by our impatience for spring. When time flies, much is forgotten, which is why I've decided to introduce two features that will appear at the end of each quarter.
The first is a list of "Top 10 Mindblower" quotes that emerged during my interviews with jazz legends over the past three months. To qualify, quotes had to tell me something I didn't know before or sum up points poetically. This list appears below today. Tomorrow's list will feature my "Top 10 Replays"—CDs that aren't necessarily new but ones I played most often over the past three months and highly recommend.
So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 Mindblowers of the first quarter—in no particular order—with links to the original JazzWax posts:
Mindblower #1: "Bill Evans wrote Waltz for Debby for two Debbys—my daughter and Bill's niece. Both were named Debby. My Debby was 3 years old when Bill played in my trio with Red Mitchell in the early 1950s. He liked her very much." —Mundell Lowe
Mindblower #2: "Dave Brubeck's Time Out—with Take Five, Strange Meadowlark and Blue Rondo a la Turk—was recorded in July 1959 but not released until 1961. That was because the executives at Columbia hated the idea of an album of originals with strange time signatures. They were convinced it wouldn’t sell and wanted another collection of standards. So they held up the release. When it finally came out, Take Five quickly became the first million-selling jazz single." —Doug Ramsey
Mindblower #3: "Paul Desmond had an agreement with Dave Brubeck that, to avoid consumer confusion with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Desmond wouldn't use pianists on his own records. Guitar was a logical substitute. So Jim Hall was brought in." —Doug Ramsey on why a piano wasn't used on the five Desmond-Hall albums.
Mindblower #4. "You know, I don’t know know why Dave Lambert wrote the vocal charts for the Charlie Parker and Voices session. I never understood why Gil [Evans] didn’t write them himself. My best guess is that Dave pitched Bird on writing for a vocal ensemble. Bird in turn must have spoken to Norman [Granz] on Dave's behalf, insisting that Dave be allowed to do the vocal writing. That’s the only way that could have happened. Gil and Norman’s hands had to have been tied to some extent. It was a risk, but an experiment that fell short." —Hal McKusick [pictured above], who played on the Charlie Parker with Voices recording session
Mindblower #5: "The best you can become is yourself." —Yusef Lateef
Mindblower #6: "The sound and phrasing of Dizzy Gillespie's band had a lot to do with Dizzy's physical movements and dance steps when he conducted it. Timing was everything. His body told you how he wanted an arrangement to sound...Dizzy told the band to hold a note longer by moving his elbow. If he moved it up, the band extended the note beyond four beats. When he snapped his elbow down, you knew it was time to move on." —Yusef Lateef
Mindblower #7: "It’s very hard to be an A&R man on a Sonny Rollins date." —Sonny Rollins
Mindblower #8: "Benny Goodman was the one who named my husband 'Chico.' But Chico never liked the name. He preferred Arturo or simply Art." —Lupe O'Farrill, Chico's widow ("Sunday Wax Bits," March 23, 2008)
Mindblower #9: "When I record, I don’t think in terms of, 'Will I want to hear this again.' My view is, 'Did I play the best I could? Did I help these guys play better because I’m standing here?' If I get that feeling when my day’s over, I don’t have to review my work later to feel justified in being there." —Ron Carter
Mindblower #10: "I didn't want to wind up like Lester Young, drinking gin straight out of a cup and being helped around. I didn't want musicians playing a benefit for me." —Sonny Rollins, on kicking his drug habit in 1955 ("Sonny Rollins on Stage," March 28, 2008)