Gary Bartz has been active on the New York music scene and throughout the world since the '60s, working with such legends as Miles Davis and Art Blakey. To preface our interview, we began by a surprise phone call that I had arranged with Dr.Yusef Lateef, whom Mr.Bartz had not spoken with for some time. This set the tone for most of the following conversation.
All About Jazz: So I'll start out by asking you about your beginnings in music. Was it always the saxophone for you?
Gary Bartz: Actually, I was torn between the drums and the saxophone. But Charlie Parker just took my heart away, so I ended up with the sax, with the alto and always the alto from the beginning. When I first started I heard this music when I was six years old. So at that time, you don't realize what a tenor and what a soprano I didn't even know about a soprano but I didn't know the difference between the alto and the tenor, I just liked what Charlie Parker was doing, I liked what Louis Jordan was doing, so that's what I wanted.
AAJ: You never had a desire to play any of the other instruments as you got older?
GB: No. I mean, the piano, of course, but I think the piano should be taught in school just like mathematics, just like reading, writing and arithmetic. I'd say reading, writing, arithmetic and rhythm. But that should be a prerequisite, because then the quality of music in the world at least in the United States, would be much better, if everyone knew something about the piano and about music, they would know this is not good. Right now, there is so much music out that's not good, but no one knows the public doesn't know.
AAJ: Right. So of course, Charlie Parker was your influence. But from what I've read, you grew up going to shows on 52nd Street. Who else influenced you?
GB: Im not that old.
AAJ: Oh, I thought you were.
GB: (Laughs) No, I came to New York in 1958, and so 52nd Street was gone by then.
AAJ: But you hung out at Birdland.
GB: Birdland was definitely yes.
AAJ: So those shows, outside of Charlie Parker, who were some of the favorite people you were seeing, and maybe some of your more memorable obscure pairings of musicians of that time?
GB: Well, of course, Miles Davis span, but I and just speaking to Yusef brought back a memory of the first time I saw Yusef was at a cabaret down on the Lower East Side. And they used to have these cabarets, and you'd get a flyer. They'd put the flyers out with like rows of names of the most famous musicians, like three rows of names. And everybody wouldn't show up, but they had all these names. And so Chet Baker, Philly Joe Jones, Yusef, Red Garland, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, you know, just all and so you can't wait to go to see all of these people, because I hadn't seen a lot of them at that early age. I was seventeen when I came to New York. So seventeen, eighteen, my teenage years, I used to go see them. The first time I saw Yusef was at one of those places. The first time I saw Chet Baker and Philly Joe Jones, I saw them talking to each other, whispering in each other's ear, and I'm thinking, oh, isn't that cute? Later on I found out.
AAJ: Found out what they were talking about.
GB: ...(Laughs) what they were probably talking about wasn't so cute, but...
GB: because they got up and left and but as a teenager, you know...
AAJ: So your first big gig then was with Art Blakey?
GB: No, actually, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, yeah, 64, (Inaudible). Because I had met Max, and I probably met him in 1954 when I was about fourteen. My dad used to work on the railroad, but he owned a nightclub in the 60s, and he used to take me around to the different clubs in Baltimore, sit in and tell people, You know, my son plays (Inaudible) me up there. Unbeknownst to me, one time we went to see Sonny Stitt at the Comedy Club in Baltimore. And my dad had talked to Sonny and said, Well, my son, you know, he plays. And so Sonny Stitt comes out and says, Well, we have this young man that would like to come and which I did not would like to come up, you know (Inaudible) would like to come up and play. And so he called me up, and my dad went and had the horn in the trunk of the car. I didn't even know about all this. Anyways, so I went up and played with him. And being Sonny Stitt, he took me through all the keys on the blues. And fortunately for me, I didn't know one key from the other, I was just really ear at that time, so I didn't have no problem. So we struck up a friendship from that moment on. But yeah, he used to take me out, and finally bought a club in 1960, which is where I really met Yusef.
AAJ: How hard was it for you to find your own voice at such a young age, being with Max Roach?
AAJ: And not to say like, I am going to play the best Charlie Parker imitation I can play. Because a lot of people now that I see in New York, they can play the best Charlie Parker imitation you've ever heard
AAJ: but I'd rather just listen to Charlie Parker.
AAJ: How hard was it to be yourself?
GB: Well, when I look back on it, that is what we were trying to do, that was our focus was because we realized that there is already a Charlie Parker, there is already a Jackie McLean, there is already a Cannonball Adderley, there is already an Eric Dolphy. So whatever they did to find their voice, that is what I had to do to find my voice. And from my generation, that was how our main focus was looking for our own voice, because we realized that that would be where we would be most successful. Because if you want Charlie Parker, you called Charlie Parker. Of course, there is a market for people that sound like Charlie Parker if Charlie Parker can't make the gig, then, okay, give me somebody who sounds like Charlie. But we were not interested in that, we were interested in finding our own voice. So we just did whatever we could and whatever we could think of to do. And I don't know whether it was I couldn't even say how, you know, I couldn't say you how. All I can say is the how was the knowledge that that's what we needed to do. So that's what we were striving for.
AAJ: Do you agree with the way music schools are putting out kids now, that they're teaching them that, This is exactly what so-and-so was doing in 1958? And I think a lot of the kids coming out of the schools aren't having that experience you had of like I needed to find my own voice. They were saying, I can play.
AAJ: I mean, I see so many young people at jam sessions and concerts now, and each person sounds like they came straight out of Coltrane or
AAJ: straight out of Charlie Parker, and they haven't found their own voice. And I wonder if the music school is at fault for that.
GB: No, I don't think its at fault. I think what's going on now is that everything is turned around. Whereas we see, because we didn't have music schools. And so we had to learn the best way we could, and so everybody learned in a different way. I didn't learn like somebody you know, the next alto player learned. Even though we worked (Inaudible) like I used to practice with Eric Dolphy every Wednesday. We had a standing engagement for every Wednesday. I would go down to his loft and we would practice. But I met Eric when I would do some things Mingus. And he had this experimental big band that he would do at the Village Gate. And I didn't get paid. Eric probably got paid. (Laughs) You know, Rahsan Roland Kirk was in the section, I remember. I think Julian Priester was in there. I don't remember who else was in there.
AAJ: Was Ted Curson(?) there?
GB: Ted might have been, too, yeah. But it was a big band. And Mingus would just (Inaudible). He would start a song. He would come over to Eric. Eric was the leader of the sax section, and he would hum a melody or something for him to play, then Eric would give it to us, and we would play it, and then he'd do the same, Mingus would do the same to the trumpet section, to the trombones. So it was an improvised big band, which was (Inaudible).
AAJ: This was the Jazz Workshop?
GB: Yeah, it was definitely a workshop, yeah. (Laughs) But like I said, I used to practice with Eric and the reeds. But what we would practice we weren't practicing it, we were practicing technique, because we found out I love to do duets, but I didn't find many people that enjoyed doing duets with me. So I mentioned this to Eric, and Eric said, Well, I love doing duets, too, and I have the same problem. So that's when we started our standing Wednesday engagement at his loft. And so then we couldn't find music hard enough to challenge us, because saxophone music, there's not a big backlog of saxophone music. So we ended up with oboe music. So we got the Bach Fugues, you know, oboe, because oboe is the same range, B-flat to high-F. And so we started we would have so much fun doing that. But we weren't even talking about style so much as we were trying to learn the instruments. That's what I was doing at that time. And that comes. So and back to your question, I think the schools are a good thing, but everything is backwards now. We found the style while we were looking for our technique. What happens now is in the schools they learn the music, and then when they come out, then now they have to find their style. So I don't think it's a detriment, it's just a different way of doing it. And I see them now as they get older, they develop their styles, their own styles.
AAJ: Right. If only you had a tape of one of those duets with Eric Dolphy.
AAJ: You could make a million dollars off of that.
GB: I know. [Laughter]
AAJ: Was it difficult working with Mingus? Because I know he had a very strong personality.
GB: Yeah, he did.
AAJ: at times. Was that a difficult experience?
GB: Most of the time, no. Most of the time, no. He was a gentle man. I mean, everybody had their peccadilloes and things that they but for the most part it was only one time I thought he was going to I didn't know what he was going to do, I thought he might knock me out. I heard all these stories about him punching Jackie McLean in the mouth.
AAJ: And John Handy, I think, punched him in the mouth.
GB: Yeah, so I thought, Well, okay. This is my night to be punched in the mouth.?"] (Laughs) But fortunately, it didn't happen, and he yeah. That's another story. I'm writing a book, I'm writing an autobiography, so all of that is going to be in the book. But this had to do with the time he had a month-long engagement at the Mercer Street Playhouse. I guess that would have been back in the 70's I'm not sure, 70's or 80's. And we'd had a problem. It was a long time (Inaudible)...
AAJ: We will leave it at that.
AAJ: And after that you were in with Art Blakey?
GB: Well, after Max. I had worked with Max for about a year Max and Abbey Lincoln, because that was the band, it was Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln.
AAJ: And was that was with Coleman Hawkins as well?
GB: No, no. That was a record date. No. The band that I joined of Max and Abbeys was Julian Priester on trombone, Ronnie Matthews on piano, and Bob Cunningham on bass. That was my first professional job.
AAJ: Wow, that sounds like a great first professional job.
GB: Yeah, it wasn't shabby. Then I moved on to Art Blakey.
AAJ: Who was in the band with Art Blakey?
GB: John Hicks, Lee Morgan, Victor Sproles and John Gilmore was I was taking John Gilmores place. So he stayed on for a while while I learned the book, because we never rehearsed. I never rehearsed with Art Blakey. I think the one rehearsal I ever did with him was a big band, because he had a big band. And he would rehearse at his sons loft sometimes, at Sonny's loft.
AAJ: I bet it was great playing with John Gilmore.
GB: Oh, yeah, I love John.
AAJ: He taught Coltrane some things, I think.
GB: Well, everybody teaching everybody things.
GB: You know when you say teach someone, I don't know whether he taught him as much as John heard some things that he later developed. I mean, you learn from everybody, I think. I learn from non~ musicians as well as musicians. You are learning how to play your music and create, create sounds.
AAJ: What are some of your memories of playing with Art Blakey, maybe one in particular?
GB: Well, the one thing is that I joined Art I joined the Messengers from my dads club, because I was in New York. I was living in New York. Like I said, I went to Julliard for two years, 1958 and 1959. And so I was living in New York. And my dad bought a club in 1960. So I started commuting down to Baltimore to do the weekends down there, and whenever I wanted to, probably. And then after he got it really up and running, he started bringing big name groups to the club. And so I worked there one time with Max, like I said, Cannonball. I don't think Cannon worked there, but I know he came there one time. He was doing a concert somewhere. And he came by because my mom would cook, you know, and they would come by and eat. And Cannon and Yusef definitely liked to eat in those days. (Laughs) And Art Blakey was working at my dads club. The North End Lounge was the name of the club. And John Hicks is a good friend of mine for many years. And so he was trying to get me in the band, because he knew John Gilmore was leaving. So he was saying, [whispering] You should get Bartz. So my dad got wind of that, and he called me in New York, and said, Why don't you come down to Baltimore and sit in with Art, because Art had never heard me. And so I came down and sat in. And Lee was the straw boss, he co-signed it. I wouldn't have been in the band without if Lee didn't want to play with me, he would have gotten somebody else. But so Lee said, Yeah.
AAJ: What year was that?
GB: That was 1965. And so that's how I joined that band. So that was a memorable thing for me because of the way it happened.
AAJ: I just am imagining, not having heard the music, but I have a pretty good idea of what it sounded like, just from what Art Blakey was doing around that time.
GB: Well, I'll tell you, my first record was with that band, with Lee Morgan, John Hicks, Victor Sproles and Freddie Hubbard, because at that time Lee was not as reliable as he could have been, so Art wasn't sure he was going to show up for the record. And he called Lee. Lee knew about it, but he called Freddie to come just in case Lee didn't show up so that we wouldn't blow the date. And they both showed up, so my first record date was with Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan.
AAJ: Were you ever drawn to wanting to participate in the avant-garde stuff.
GB: Oh, yeah.
AAJ: The loft scene of the 70's.
AAJ: or was it more like you just wanted to be in the straight-ahead world (Inaudible) did you want to (Inaudible).
GB: Oh, no. I have never really looked at it. I don't look at music like that. So you know, labels are for people who I don't want to put anybody down, but for non- musicians, that's what labels are for.
GB: because musicians don't have labels. But yeah, I mean, I played with everybody. We did the loft things. I remember one time we used to go down to Kiani Zawadi's loft. And I think Grachan Moncur, he was working Somewhere... Grachan Moncur III. And he is a good friend of mine. I met him at Julliard. He and Andrew Cyrille , we used to hang out a lot..
AAJ: I just saw Andrew the other night.
GB: Oh, really?
AAJ: With Joseph Jarman and Ornette Coleman
GB: See, so I mean, we came up together. We went to school together. We came up together. And he can play anything. We play music. I don't know, labels mean nothing to me. I mean, I know what they mean, of course.
AAJ: I wish they meant nothing to the rest of the world.
GB: Yeah, I do, too.
AAJ: Its so hard too.
GB: But that's the business, you have the business people
AAJ: Sometimes you have to say like, I like jazz. Or even this newspaper is called
AAJ: All About Jazz.
GB: I abhor that word.
AAJ: Oh, me, too, but I mean, you can't get around it.
GB: Well, I get around it. I don't accept it. It's like they say, well, the n word, for instance, you can't get around people going yes you can. You can get around it. You can get around anything.
AAJ: I know Yusef hates it. And I prefer creative improvised music.
GB: Well, yeah. I call it composing that's what we do.
GB: Composing. We compose music on the spot. That's what we do. So we've raised the bar. Most composers sit and write, and you know, months and years, sometimes, on a piece, where we [snaps fingers] do it just like that.
GB: And I don't think there is any music that has ever reached that higher level. Maybe Indian music. A lot of Indian music is improvised. I mean, there are improvised musics around the world. But this is, I think, the highest.
AAJ: Definitely, for a lot of reasons. [Laughter]
AAJ: I'll skip around for a second, I'll go ahead and then come back. With your work with Sphere, what was it about Thelonious Monk that made you want to devote a band to that repertoire?
GB: Well, Monk, like any great composer from Beethoven on, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Mingus, Mozart any great because, see, I don't know for me, it's musicians. It's not genre, it's music. And so I studied music. But any great composer, their songs are lessons. But I'll say any great song is a lesson, which is what makes that song a hit and makes it so popular, is that there is something about that song that no one ever heard before, and so this is a new thing you have to learn. And so each song now, I realize with Monk and Trane, especially, and then when I go back, I see it with other musicians, too, is if you have a musical problem, the best way to work that problem out is to write a piece of music addressing that problem. And so then when you learn that particular piece of music, you then have added something to your musical knowledge that you didn't have before. And so that's why Monk is so important, because his music I mean, almost every song he wrote was like a musical problem. And once you solve it you have to figure out the key, you have to unlock this key, and once you unlock it, then you can play that song, you understand that song, and you understand how to apply that to other songs. So that is why he's so important for me.
AAJ: So this kind of goes back to what I was talking to Yusef about, earlier today, is we as musicians I play bass so
AAJ: what can I told Yusef if I go to Time Square right now, and stop 100 people and ask them, Who is Charlie Parker, maybe one of them is going to know.
AAJ: So what can we as musicians do to change that?
GB: I'd say maybe two would know because (Inaudible)
AAJ: what can we do to get people to know? And does that bother you, the way popular music is going now, that it is just more and more everything is influenced by that music, but people don't realize who they were.
GB: Where it comes from.
AAJ: It's only a short time ago, like forty years ago.
AAJ: And you can go back thirty years into rock music, or whatever you want to call that, and people can tell you who was doing what, but if you go back just ten years before that, they are going to say, Well, who is that?
AAJ: What can we do to further that legacy?
GB: Well, I think the problem is the problem of the world. I don't think it's necessarily an isolated problem just dealing with music. I think that there is a problem in the world, and that is why that is going on, because education I mean, what's called education is not education. What's called news is not news. People are so I don't want to use the word brainwashed, but that is probably what it is. I mean, you go to school, they teach you, George Washington never told a lie. Come on, I mean, give me a break. I mean, please. This is what you are going to teach I mean, in reality, we are human beings, we are adults. You are going to teach young kids to grow up thinking George Washington never told a lie. I look at my money, like especially this to me tells a lie is that this is a bill from Belgium. If you'll see that this is a $200.
AAJ: Oh, wow.
GB: You see that, that is Charlie Parker right there.
AAJ: Wow, that is incredible.
GB: They couldn't do it because it is a copyright infringement, so they made a silhouette of him. But that is him, there. That is Adolphe Sax.
GB: That's who invented the saxophone. Okay. When I show you our money. slave owner, racist, killer, murderer, rapist that's who we have on our money, rapists, murderers. That will tell you something right there.
AAJ: Are you okay with me printing that?
GB: Yeah. It's true. It's true. That's what we have on our money.
AAJ: Yeah, it's true.
GB: So that's what this country is based on. This country is based on racism. It's based on slavery. And so we haven't addressed that. This country is in denial. We are in denial about that. Reparations is something. Every other group of people have gotten some kind of remunerations, some kind of reparations. We, the African Continent, the African peoples, who have been abused more than any other group of people, other than maybe the Indians, okay, who did get reparations ...
AAJ: Right. Well they (Inaudible)...
GB: have gotten nothing.
AAJ: five dollars for California, or something.
GB: Yeah, I know. I mean, they want to give us welfare. That is not going to do it.
AAJ: When you turn on the news
GB: (Inaudible) don't want to give us that(?).
AAJ: (Inaudible) 20 people died today in New York City, that's every day in the newspaper. That's not the news, that is depression.
AAJ: That is sadness. That's why I stopped reading half of the newspapers around here. I read the New York Times just because they have the arts and whatnot.
AAJ: But it's just depressing. I feel sorry for these people who died in a car wreck yesterday, but that's not the news, really.
GB: No, that's not the news. [Laughter] That's (Inaudible). I mean, I always thought news was something you had never heard before. And Ill turn on the news, I'm seeing the same thing over and over and over again. That's not news. Give me something new. Isn't that what it means?
AAJ: So what do we do to change this, to get like a kid, and who is five years old, in Brooklyn, to say, I want to play like that guy, play like Coltrane or play like Charlie Parker?
GB: Well, firstly, they need to hear it, and they need to understand what it is. It needs to be taught in schools. It needs to be taught in the home. For instance and in some respects, I don't think that its a true that they don't know who Charlie Parker is, because I work with a lot of young musicians in the so-called and once again, I don't like these labels, but they call it hip-hop or the rap genre, the more popular music they all know who we are, because they wouldn't be sampling us if they didn't know who we were.
AAJ: Right, yes.
GB: And they know who we were because their parents knew who we were, and their parents listened to it. That was the music of their parents. You didn't have Walkmans and things like back in those days, so you had to listen to whatever your parents listened to. Nowadays, the kids, they don't even listen to what their parents they're just listening to their headphones.
AAJ: But it is interesting some of the younger musicians, like my age, they all say, Well, my father took me to see Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
AAJ: So that still happens. See for me, I don't worry about the music. I think the music is a source of nature. It is a power of nature, and it will always be, as long as we exist. I worry about the musicians, because the musicians are the ones who are not taken care of.
GB: The music is going to be taken care of. The musicians are the problems. I mean, we have no benefits. What goes for a musicians union has never done anything for me or most of my friends who are musicians. And so therefore, they have failed us. I mean, they are not even a union. They go under the guise of being a union, but what they really are is a musicians protective agency. I challenge anybody, look on your union card and see what it says. It won't say you don't see union on there too much.
AAJ: It is just a jam session on Monday nights from what I can tell.
GB: Yeah. Big deal. I mean, if they really wanted to do something, that's where it would start: I belong to AFTRA. AFTRA is a valid union. I mean, that's the same union that Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, Jr. that's a big union. They have taken care of me, too. They take care of their members. It's a real union. But that's a problem. Another problem is that I'm insulted and embarrassed that as much money as musicians have made and people in this industry, we don't even own a radio station. We don't own a TV station. I mean, we have enough money to own a TV station, a network. We could set up our own network and have twenty-four hours of what we want to program. We would not have to see these Kenny G.'s and I don't have anything against Kenny G., but I'm just saying, he is not the end all of the soprano saxophone, that's for sure, we all know that. But if you stop, like you say, in Times Square, ten people, and you ask them, Who is your favorite jazz musician, a lot of them would probably say Kenny G.
AAJ: Sad, but true, yeah.
GB: And so that is a problem of the media, that the radio stations, the record labels.
AAJ: That is a problem of the labeling, too.
AAJ: because they associate Kenny G. with Gary Bartz as being the same.
GB: I mean, we are the same in that we are musicians. And I think that is okay. I accept Kenny G. as a musician. I accept it. But see, that is the same thing that happens with this black, white, red, yellow, Asian, you know I am this, I am from Russia, I am from Cuba, I am from Sierra Leone. But really, we are from earth. Okay? When you see that, then you love each other, because we are all homeboys, (Laughs) so to speak, because we are all born on this planet. So that makes us the same. Why is there division? See, divide and conquer works, and that as what is being done over and over, constantly, it is about divide and conquer, because then the people who control things, they can control it better, they don't have to worry too much about as many wars as there could be. Because we could be having more wars than ever, now. I mean, we should not have any wars. I'm against wars, by the way.
AAJ: Oh, yeah, me too.
AAJ: I don't know anybody who is.
GB: Well, obviously, there are some people who
AAJ: down 46th Street or (Inaudible) (Laughs)...
GB: There s some people who are for it. I mean, how could you send your kids off to a foreign land to fight somebody else battles?
AAJ: Because they can't get a job doing anything else in the country, and they want to they say $20,000, that is a lot of money, but its really not
GB: Is that what it is?
AAJ: I think that is what it is. I have a friend in Seattle, and she is very smart, and she has to pay off her college loans, and she has done the research, and
GB: Yeah. So shell go kill some people to get that money? You might as well rob a bank.
AAJ: But you tell a kid in the country, $20,000 verses five dollars an hour, and they do it.
GB: Oh, sure. I mean, I do understand that part. But that goes back to home training. I mean, when you're young, and they teach you the Ten Commandments, Thou Shalt Not Kill is one of them. Okay. When does that change? Thou Shalt Not Kill except when your government tells you its okay.
AAJ: Then what they are talking about now in the news is all these soldiers that are being tried for murder. It's like it's okay sometimes, but not if it gets caught up in the media, then you might go to jail.
GB: Right, yeah. It's okay to kill, just don't let anybody find out. Well, that's the way it is anyway.
AAJ: Yeah. Its so screwed up. But I just want to ask you a couple more questions. You worked a lot with Charles Tolliver in the "60s, and now you're working with him, again, recently. What is that like to have since its still really fresh now like it was then, what is that, after all the years.
GB: Well, because he is (Inaudible) he is always a musician in growth. He is always growing. So that's always challenging.
AAJ: And what about some of your other current projects, or if that might be one of your favorite current projects?
GB: My favorite project always is my group. Yeah, that s always my favorite and working with McCoy, I love working with McCoy Tyner, too.
AAJ: How can you not? [Laughter]
GB: Yeah, so those things. We will be in Europe touring the festivals in July.
AAJ: And what can people look forward from you in the future?
GB: Well, you might have heard me talking to Yusef. I've got about five albums in the can, and I am having meetings next week to do the album covers. And as soon as the album covers are ready, I am putting them out, because like I said, Yusef inspired me so much and he made me realize...
AAJ: The YAL(?) records he's got 200 albums he's put out.
GB: Yes! That's right.
AAJ: Well, maybe not 200, but...
GB: He's got that many, at least, in the can.
AAJ: And he puts out like he is eighty-four, and he puts out fifteen records a year.
AAJ: That's incredible.
GB: Yes, what an inspiration. But you see, as long as I was tuned into the system, into the record labels, I felt that I continue record a record. You know, I hope my record label will let me record this year, or next month.
GB: Once I freed myself from them I realized I could do a record every day. I could have done a record even when I was with the record labels. I wouldn't have put them out because I was under contract to the record label.
AAJ: (Inaudible) like Coltrane (Inaudible)...
GB: But I could have had them sitting there. And you see, what Yusef told me was that or at least he made me realize is that we don't have anybody taking care of us, like a union, like a real musicians union, so we don't have stocks, we don't have a retirement fund or anything. But our masters, our recordings, that's what we leave our kids, because they become more valuable. That's why I had felt like I cannot be a part of an industry, and a music industry knows that you are more valuable when you are dead than when you are alive, because then you can't get anymore, and so the value goes up.
And so I don't want to be a part of an industry that thinks I am more valuable when I am dead. I cannot be a part of that. And I resent that, and I think everybody should revolt against that. But that is their choice. My choice is that a master I would like to say this, too, because a lot of musicians just don't realize yet a master is tape or recording in any condition, doesn't matter what condition it is in, it is not the quality of the format, it is the quality of the music on that format. I mean, why would you put out that has been speeded up, it is not in the right key, but you've made thousands and thousands of dollars off of this. Okay? It is not the best quality, but it's Charlie Parker on that tape. That's what is going to sell, not the quality. People don't go into a record store and say, I want your best sounding record. They go in there looking for the music.
So a master musicians I call musicians the hidden record labels, because we have more masters than most record labels. I've got tapes. I've got thousands of masters, I mean, with everybody you can name, from Miles to...] you name it, everybody I've worked with, groups you don't even know I've worked with, I've got tapes and recordings. These are all masters, and we have to recognize that. Once we recognize that, then maybe we'll have some leverage to deal with these record labels. I've got record labels coming after me trying to Can I get this tape, because they know some of the tapes I've got. Oh yeah, I know you would like to have it, so you can beat us out of this one. But they will never get any of my masters, long as I am living, anyway. And I am trying to pass that on to my kids, and to the next generation. And that is the name of my record label, by the way, is own your own your own recordings its called OYOR. But I think that's very important, is that we realize that any tape that we have is a potential recording. And that's a very important thing to know.
AAJ: Okay. Well, thank you very much for talking with me.
GB: Thank you. Because most people don't understand see, I've been fortunate enough to have been around the greatest musicians of the last century and this century. And from Duke Ellington I didn't tour with him, I was working with Miles, and so we were on the same tours, and so I got a chance to see him and meet him and be around Duke Ellington, and everybody that they had(?), Paul Gonzales, and Russell procope (phonetic). I never knew Louis Armstrong, but from Diz to Miles to Mingus to without a doubt, every musician, they hate the word jazz. And don't accept that word.
GB: So what is it about that word. First of all, its a negative word.
AAJ: I know what it means.
GB: So now negative words bring negative images. And I think that's got a lot to do with why this music isn't as successful, because it's got a lot of negative energies attached just through the very meaning of the word. And that's a bad thing. Composing is what we do. We compose music on the spot. And I challenge musicians everywhere of all types, to say they can do that at a quality that people would actually go out and spend money on. And that's a lofty, lofty goal. But that word I call it the J word. I don't even say it. Its the J word.
AAJ: I agree. I haven't found a single musician who's above thirty, who says, like, "Oh, I play jazz."
AAJ: They say, I play my name, my music
AAJ: or I play creative music. Someone might put a label on it. Yusef has his audiophysiopsychic music.
AAJ: I don't understand it, either.
GB: Well, because we don't own newspapers, we don't own radio stations, we don't own TV stations, we don't own magazines, we don't own record labels. We don't own anything, so then you know, I mean, ownership means you set the parameters. You say, Okay, this is composing, this music where you are about to hear is called composing or improvised composition, that is what Mingus called it, improvised composition. So until we get to that point, we are still in the... I mean, for me, record labels are plantations, and you've got three types of musicians on the plantations. I've talked about this before. You've got as in any plantation during slavery, you've got house musicians, field musicians, and you've got free musicians. House musicians are the most successful at the record labels, because they'll do whatever masser says, whatever the record label wants you to do. You want me to do a tribute album to Kenny G.? I'll do that! You know, they're going to be successful. And all of the musicians most of the musicians successful today, I hate to say it, are house musicians. They've either given up publishing, they've given up their rights to choose who's on the album, the rights to say what songs are on the album, the rights to anything about the album. They are just house musicians Hey, boy, play this music, and we will make you rich.
AAJ: Would you perform at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, if he asked you to, under the big billboard of that word?
GB: If we can come to the right deal, yeah. If we can come.
AAJ: It has like jazz in big letters across the stage.
GB: Well, you know, I know that. I mean, that s the way its built. As long as I don't accept it. I don't accept it. But in a way, it is kind of like going to like an NAACP meeting and having nigger over top. (Laughs) You know, you've got a black convention, and you've got nigger over that. Okay, we go to play something here, we got jazz over there. Yeah, it is a problem. It is a problem.
AAJ: I agree.
GB: It is something that once you're aware of it, maybe we can work on it. And most people don't even know. I was just in Australia about a month ago, and I did a radio show. And we got into this very subject, because they've never even broached the concept that musicians don't accept that word. That was new to them. What? You don't like that word?
AAJ: If you don't hang out with musicians, you'd never know.
GB: Right. But yeah, we've got work to do. But I am very enthused and happy, and I am not worried about the music, because I think its going to be in good hands, because we have as good musicians as ever. So that is not a problem. The problem is the business end of it.
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