As we swing out the year today, it's time for another installment of Mindblowers. For those new to JazzWax, at the end of each quarter I provide a roundup of my favorite quotes from interviews I conducted with legends over the past three months. For the other 11 volumes in this quarterly series dating back to 2007, scroll down the right-hand side to "Mindblowers," where you'll find links to each one. For my full interviews, scroll down to "JazzWax Interviews." Happy New Year!
Trumpeter Clark Terry on the first time he recorded on flugelhorn in November 1957. "The horn came in a box to my hotel in Chicago. I was in Duke’s band at the time and we had a day off, so I was recording with Billy Taylor [Taylor Made Jazz]. When the package arrived at the hotel, my roommate thought it was something I would want right away. So he came down to the place where we were recording and brought it into the studio. When I opened the package, the horn looked great. It was a beautiful, gold-plated instrument. I tried it right there on the spot and loved it so much I decided to use it on the date."
Clark Terry on Miles Davis. "When he was a kid, Miles followed us around East St. Louis a lot. He had a lot of respect for me and for Dizzy [Gillespie]. Miles wouldn’t change anything he was doing unless 'Clark or Dizzy told me to' [laughs]."
Saxophonist Hal McKusick on Clark Terry. "As a player, Clark doesn't move much. Like Billie Holiday, Clark doesn't have to gyrate to get the sound he wants or to swing and express himself. It all comes out of his horn."
Dionne Warwick on English pop singers who rerecorded her Burt Bacharach hits. "Lifting what I was doing was the way of the world over there. I guess they all hoped it would be their ticket to hitting it big in the States. Interpretations are one thing. Copying a version closely, with my phrasing and delivery, is a challenge."
Dionne Warwick on Bacharach's songs. "They were all difficult, musically. Burt’s complex melodies and shifting time signatures within the song were tough. You had to be able to read music to keep up."
Drummer Louis Hayes on playing with Horace Silver in the late '50s. "No sheet music. I learned the music in my head. I knew how the tune went, every inch of it. Only then can you create. I have the ability to listen and know instinctively what to play. I’ve had drummers ask me, 'How did you play The Outlaw?' See, to me, it was just a thing. I had a format in my head and had worked it out. You have to know songs cold so you can make something out of them and do things that aren’t there."
Louis Hayes on the Horace Silver Quintet. "I didn’t really try to accompany anyone. They have to follow me. You have two choices on any tune. You can accompany whoever is soloing or you can take charge and have them feed off of what you’re doing."
Author Will Friedwald on shifting tastes in pop music in the early 1960s. "After the Beatles and Bob Dylan, the idea of singing a song that you didn't write yourself seemed hopelessly bourgeois, passé and 'establishment.' Yet from that moment on, with the strong exception of a few upper-bracket types such as Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, pop music was both compromised and downsized."
Producer Phil Ramone on The Girl From Ipanema in 1963, on which he was the engineer. "Quincy Jones wanted Sarah Vaughan to record the song, so Creed Taylor decided to make a demo of it in English. Astrud Gilberto, who had come to the date with her then husband, guitarist Joao Gilberto, volunteered, saying she could sing in English. Astrud went into the studio and did it. But when Sarah heard the demo, she decided at first not to record it. The Girl From Ipanema sat on a shelf on Sarah’s end waiting for her decision. Many months later, Creed finally released the single, with Stan Getz’s Blowin’ in the Wind on the B side. It was a charming little recording. When the single became a hit, it drove the Getz/Gilberto album and took the bossa nova to a new level in the U.S."
Phil Ramone on what he did to get the drums on Dionne Warwick's Burt Bacharach hits to sound clear but hushed. "I’ll tell you what I did differently there. I put the drums on a two-foot riser and stuffed fiberglass under the riser. The drums were alive above the two-foot area, but you didn’t get bottom-heavy reverberation. When the musicians on the sessions played in the room, they could see and feel the drums everywhere but the drums never drowned them out."
Phil Ramone on the big English beat of the mid-'60s. "I remember going into studios in London and seeing groups like the Rolling Stones and the Animals. I remember seeing Keith Moon, The Who’s drummer [pictured]. When I heard him, I said, 'There’s a drum sound we had better look out for.' Back in the State, I’d tell people, 'Are you aware of the sound coming out of England? It’s way beyond just the Beatles.' "
Documentarian Albert Maysles on filming Gimme Shelter in 1969. "My brother David and I didn't view ourselves as flies on the wall—to fade back and just take it all in. There's no poetry in transparency. We wanted the Stones and others to know we were there, and for them to wrestle with that mild tension."
Albert Maysles on Michael Wadleigh's film Woodstock. "My brother David and I walked out of the film. Too many [talking-heads] interviews. It felt staged and the interviews disrupted the natural course of events happening in the film."
Pianist Dave Brubeck on Take Five, credited to bandmate Paul Desmond. "Actually, the song was a collaboration. I had asked Paul to improvise a melody with a 5/4 tempo, but he couldn't come up with anything. Instead, he had two themes, and I found that by putting them together and repeating the first theme, we could form a song."
Arranger Don Sebesky on recording Wes Montgomery for A&M Records in the '60s. "Wes couldn't read music. The whole point of my approach to record Wes and the rhythm section first and then arrange the orchestra was to give Wes free reign and then capture the rise and fall of his emotional content with the orchestra. When one of the guys in the rhythm section would create something inventive, I had a reference, a catalyst that I could use to bounce off of for the orchestral arrangement."
Don Sebesky on the one time he played with pianist Bill Evans. "We played on a jingle together for an Esso TV ad, before the oil company became known as Exxon. Bill Russo wrote the arrangement and Bill played piano. It was in ‘60 or ‘61."
Don Sebesky on jazz-rock fusion, a movement he embraced. "Looking back, I think many jazz musicians lost track of their roots. The rock-pop trend was a wave that swept through the jazz world. It was an experiment. The bossa nova was probably the demarcation line—where jazz-pop ended and jazz-rock began—since the Brazilian form was so musical."
Jazz critic Nat Hentoff on the late pianist Billy Taylor. "He wasn't a pyrotechnician, but he was always telling his story on the keyboard and finding new ways to be himself."
World musician David Amram, 80, on his tireless schedule and whether he ever gets to rest. "Everyone asks me that. Here's what I tell them: 'Yeah, most of the time. I took a nap in 1957 and it gave me a headache [laughs].' "