With two-thirds of the year gone, it's time once again for a look back at the last three months' worth of JazzWax interviews and the quotes from jazz legends that caught my ear. For your convenience, I routinely showcase what I believe were the most significant and revealing comments that emerged during my conversations with historic jazz movers and shakers. Think of it as a quarterly report. The result is a digest and reminder of the greatness of these individuals.
(To see my earlier two volumes, go to the search bar in the upper right-hand corner of this page and type in "Mindblowers." To read the full interviews, scroll down the right hand side to "JazzWax Interviews" and click on the artist.)
Without further ado, here's this quarter's roundup:
Roy Haynes on bass players: "All the bass players in the late 1940s and early 1950s were good. But after I played with Paul Chambers in the mid-1950s, it was a whole different feeling. There was so much warmth there. Bass playing is all about how you let your notes ring and how you cut certain notes short. The bass developed into a completely new feeling with Paul."
Roy Haynes on Charlie Parker and strings: "It was cool [playing with strings on those live dates], you know [laughing]. I don't think that I'd want to do that all night, every night. And we didn't. In fact, there were times when he'd stretch out on the strings stuff with the rhythm section and hang loose rather than play the arrangements as written."
Roy Haynes on his drumming style v. Max Roach's: "I had and have a different type of cymbal beat, for one thing. Max's cymbal beat was more on the one: dah-dah dom, dah-dah dom, dah-dah dom. Mine is more dom dah-dah, dom dah-dah, dom dah-dah. That's as far as I'll go with that. [laughs] That's one of the things I'm sure Bird liked about me. Lester Young as well. I had a distinct cymbal beat. Beyond that, Max [pictured] was one of the greatest drummers ever.
Roy Haynes on Miles Davis: "I met my wife when I was working with Miles in Brooklyn. It was Miles' gig, and she had come to see him. The ladies loved Miles. I had some fans, too, but I wasn't nearly as popular as Miles. He had just left Charlie Parker then and I had just left Lester Young. We were the coolest of the cool."
Roy Haynes on Billie Holiday: "When we'd get off the set [at Storyville during her last live appearances there in 1959], she go and cry. It was sad. She told me she had cirrhosis of the liver, the same thing Lester Young had died from. But her voice sounded good that week. You'd never have known that just three months later she'd be gone."
Buddy DeFranco on the cover of
Cross-Country Suite: "When I went to take pictures for the
cover, I came in with a suit and tie. Somebody from Dot Records said that Randy
[the head of the label] wanted me to wear a sweater and white bucks, like Pat Boone. So I went
into wardrobe and got this dumpy red sweater and white bucks, and that
Buddy DeFranco on his Gershwin album with Oscar Peterson in 1954: "We were going to take the concept out on the road [to play concert dates], but at the last minute they couldn't get anyone to put up the money to promote it."
Producer Creed Taylor on why his signature always graced the backs of albums: "It was a way of telling the buyer that the albums met a specific individual's standards. It showed I was personally taking responsibility for the result. It was an extra touch that distinguished these albums from the rest."
Creed Taylor on the mysterious female legs on the cover of the Oscar Pettiford Orchestra: "They belonged to Fran Scott, Tony Scott’s wife. She designed my jazz covers at ABC-Paramount. Fran's legs represented harpist Betty Glamann. I don’t know why Betty wasn’t in the picture. I suspect that’s why only the legs were shown."
Creed Taylor on Lambert Hendricks and Ross' Grammy-winning Sing a Song of Basie: "At first Dave Lambert wanted to use studio singers. But the singers didn’t swing. About a half-hour into the session I knew the session was a bust. The singers were too rigid. Dave offered up a solution. He asked whether he, Jon [Hendricks] and Annie Ross could overdub all the parts. I said sure, let’s give it a try. First I recorded the Basie rhythm section with Dave, Jon and Annie providing a guide track, which was a straight reading. Then they overdubbed the additional harmonized tracks wearing headphones and listening to the guide track."
Creed Taylor on the birth of Impulse Records: "I put through a trademark and copyright request for the Pulse name in New York State. But Pulse was taken. Some electronics company had it. As I was trying to figure out an alternative to Pulse in a meeting, I said, 'My impulse is to…wait, hold it a second...Impulse, that’s even better than Pulse!' The Impulse name cleared in New York."
Creed Taylor on La Nevada from Out of the Cool: "The track took forever. Gil and I drove out three different times to Rudy’s studio with the entire 15-piece band to try different arrangements of the song, and nothing would happen. Finally, Gil was sitting at the piano playing this repetitive figure that became the chart's theme. As the rhythm players vamped on the idea, Gil wrote chord changes on the inside of a book of matches. He went over to bass trombonist Tony Studd and whispered something in his ear. Then he pointed to the rest of the horn players for them to do something. It was made up along the way."
Creed Taylor on One Mint Julep: "When I heard One Mint Julep's break, I had an idea and had to come in [to the studio from the booth]. I went over to Ray [Charles] and whispered in his ear, 'On the break, try adding Just a little bit of so-da,' because a mint julep has soda in it. It felt natural, and we needed something there. But when tape rolled, at the break, Ray said instead, Just a little bit of soul, now. Which was fine with me. It certainly fit better than soda.”
Creed Taylor on Ray Charles' organ on Genius + Soul = Jazz: "Rudy [Van Gelder] did some adjusting on the inside so the keys had a more percussive effect than a normal one. It was a Hammond B3 doctored by Rudy. He had done this on organs before for other recording dates. The result was a more definite attack than a normal organ."
Creed Taylor on John Coltrane's Africa/Brass: I finished editing it with John after I arrived at Verve Records. We were in my office there talking about how it should sound and the things he wanted. Eric [Dolphy] had a different view, though. So there were two versions. One had more of the tribal sound effects on Africa. Eric thought it should be the other way around. He thought Coltrane had gone too far with the effects."
Storyville owner and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein on his only regret: "I wish I had made more records. I should have scraped together more money on my tours and recorded my sidemen. You could record very cheaply in those days. I could have made 100 albums. That was the only thing I would have done differently."
Bill Holman on Invention for Guitar and Trumpet: "It’s not one of my favorite pieces. It’s disjointed. Nothing ever gets said. It’s a hodge-podge of different things. But it filled the bill, and I think it was re-released more than any other chart I wrote for Stan Kenton."
Bill Holman on Bags, his second recorded arrangement for Kenton in 1953: "I was very happy with Bags, and the band liked playing it. They liked pretty much everything I did. It was a very good period. I still had innocence about my writing. I’ll never be able to recapture that feel. In the early 1950s, I didn’t have the technique yet to be a showoff. All that music came straight from the heart. As you get older, you get wiser and along the way you lose your innocence."
Bill Holman on his favorite trumpet player in Kenton's band: "For jazz, Conte Candoli. His overall approach to jazz from early on was very mature. He wasn’t the most original player, but he could get the right feeling in practically any situation."
Bill Holman on his favorite arrangement for Kenton: "For a long time it was What's New?, off the Contemporary Concepts album. I’m not so sure about that now. I like Stella by Starlight, with Charlie Mariano."
Bill Holman on leaving Kenton: "Almost overnight Stan had some kind of weird shift in his outlook, and he fired trumpeter Al Porcino and me [in 1956]. I don’t know why. He possibly felt the music was getting away from him. Al was a die-hard fan of swinging music, as was I. I think Stan thought that his original conception for the band was going out the window. That's just my idea of what happened."
Bill Holman on his arrangements for The Gerry Mulligan Songbook: My only complaint was that they added Freddie Green on guitar. I loved Freddie but the feeling I wanted when I wrote the arrangements was not a guitar thing. A guitar playing a steady four-four rhythm nails down the rhythm section a little bit too tightly. The sound worked well for [Count] Basie for years, but I had a different feel in my writing. It's really a sax soli album, and the guitar makes the group behind the saxes sound too rigid instead of the looser feel I wanted."
Benny Golson on his time with Tiny Grimes and his
Rockin' Highlanders: "After our gigs, I had to walk on the bar to get off the bandstand. So in
the beginning I'm stepping over drinks, and the women sitting at the
bar are picking up my darn kilt. And I've got my boxer underwear on.
After the first night, a friend said, 'No boxers, man, you have to wear
a tight bathing suit.' ”
Benny Golson on Miles Davis' recording of Stablemates: "About a week after John [Coltrane] left for Miles, I saw him on Philadelphia's Columbia Ave. I asked him how it was going. 'It's going great,' he said, 'but Miles needs some music. Do you have any?' I gave John Stablemates and didn't think any more of it. About a month later, I ran into John again. He said, 'You know that tune you gave me? We recorded it.' I said, 'What? Miles recorded my tune?' John said, 'Yeah, he dug it.' Man, I couldn't believe it. Sure enough, when the album, Miles, came out, there was the Prestige label with the yellow field, black printing and Stablemates printed on there with my name underneath as composer."
Benny Golson on I Remember Clifford: A week after Clifford died, I was with Dizzy's band in Los Angeles. I decided to write a song to help people remember Clifford. I set about to write it, and the song took me the whole two weeks we were there."
Benny Golson on Dinah Washington: "I noticed the lights were dimmed and the music was playing softly. We had dinner and after sat on the couch. That's when things started to change. I knew I had to get out of there. I looked at my watch and said, 'Oh, dog-gone it. What a drag. I forgot I have to be at so and so. Dinah I'm late, please forgive me.' After that night, Dinah never called me Benny again. She called me Reverend. Every time. Wherever I was."
Benny Golson on learning to play the tenor sax with more force while with the Jazz Messengers: "One night, instead of playing a press roll for two bars before we came into the new chorus, Art Blakey started that press roll eight bars early. He was so loud I thought he had lost his senses. When he came down for the new chorus, every two or three beats he'd hit a loud crash. I said to myself, 'What is wrong with this guy?' I still didn't get it. Finally, he hollered over at me, 'Get up out of that hole!' I said to myself, 'Man, I guess I am in a hole. Nobody can hear me.' So I started playing harder and with more bite."
Benny Golson on Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records: "In 1958 or so, Alfred didn't want to record Art anymore. He said Art had been on so many different recordings with virtually every musician that he was overexposed. I said, 'Alfred, you're missing the point. Art's on all those recordings because he's that great.' I continued, 'We've got a new group, a new young trumpet player [Lee Morgan] and a new piano player [Bobby Timmons]. Come down to the Five Spot and hear us. You owe it to yourself. It's different.' Alfred said, 'I've been recording Hank Mobley a lot lately and I like him.' I said, 'Alfred, it's different.' So Alfred came to where we were playing. After he heard us, he came up to me and said, 'When do you want to record?' ”
Arranger Russ Garcia on Anita O'Day: "She walked into one of the first sessions we did together, and Bud Shank was warming up on the flute. She says to me, 'Who's that? I don't like his embouchure.' Bud Shank—can you imagine! I think she was showing off a new word she had just learned and was trying to act tough. Of course, she backed off as soon as she heard Bud play."
Russ Garcia on Ella Fitzgerald: "She was a wonderful singer. You know, she was so shy. We'd be at a jazz festival in Europe and before she'd go on she was in a complete panic. But the minute she'd get that mike in her hand and sing her first note, she'd be into her song and sing like an angel."
Russ Garcia on Ella and Louis Armstrong during the recording of Porgy and Bess: "Louis annoyed Ella a little bit during that session. When she was singing a beautiful passage, he'd come in with his growling. [laughs] She'd shoot him a sharp look and go on. It would throw her for a second. But it came off beautifully. Some people call that album "Whipped Cream and Sandpaper." [laughs]
Russ Garcia on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' mistake in awarding the wrong arranger an Oscar in 1972: Q: Did you arrange the score to Charlie Chaplin's Limelight? A. Yes. I worked with Charlie Chaplin on it. He played the movie's theme when I was over his house with one finger on the piano. Then I scored the theme and composed and arranged the film's incidental music. I also was in the engineer’s booth when it was recorded. Q. Are you upset that the Academy awarded the Oscar in 1972 to someone else in error? A. Me? [laughs] Of course not. I know that I arranged the score for the film. And so do those who were there and those who have spoken to those who know. At my age, 92, I'm more focused on moving forward.