Marc Edwards: Free Jazz Drummer & Percussionist
“ ...there really is no free music. It is not possible in this dimension. Music is based on melody, harmony and rhythm. A musician can never get away from those elements completely. ”
Who's Marc Edwards? Cecil Taylor fans may remember him as the drummer on the legendary 1976 album Dark to Themselves. Charles Gayle fans may know of him as the drummer on More Live at the Knitting Factory. And David S. Ware fans must remember him as the first drummer of the David S. Ware trio and quartet on Hathut and Silkheart records.
Marc Edwards is what they call a powerhouse drummer . Here's a biographical interview put together through a series of long emails. Marc Edwards provides a lot of insight into this thing called free jazz, and eye-opening anecdotes about fellow players and life in this music.
Getting Involved With Music
Drum Rudiments and Warriors Drum & Bugle Corps
Meeting David S. Ware
Meeting Other Musicians
Live Music in Boston
David S. Ware and Sonny Rollins
Cecil Taylor Unit
Developing a Sound
On Cecil Taylor
Kaivalya, Vol. 1
All About Jazz: Hi Marc, tell me about your background, musical and otherwise.
Marc Edwards: Hi Taran. My earliest recollections of music were hearing a variety of musical sounds while I was in the crib. My parents exposed us to classical, what is now called world music, music from the Far East - Chinese, Japan, India, Indonesia, etc., electronic music and other musical genres. The first jazzy sounds were those of Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins and others. Later when I was older, I bought the record 3 Giants! (Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown and Max Roach) and the music on that album was very familiar. It seemed like a case of déjà vu, but, that wasn't it. I was merely recalling the music I had heard while I was very young. I didn't get involved with music right away.
I was a normal kid preferring to go outside and play as is the case with most children or read comic books. Superman was always a favorite as was Green Lantern. I felt that if I had a little support, a magical ring like Hal Jordan, I could use my will power to change the world for the better. Every boy wants to be like his favorite superhero. This is a naive point of view that children tend to have, not knowing the harsh realities of the real world.
I have since learned that changing oneself is one method for producing changes in others. If I were a little boy today, I'd probably be admiring some of the superheroes in the current crop of feature films. Director Sam Raimi is doing a fantastic job with the Spiderman films. They're totally awesome. Mr. Raimi has gone from directing Xena in the past to Spiderman. That's impressive! I would be very happy if a creative Hollywood director could do the same for the Milestone Media comic books. Some of you will recall Static Shock that aired on the WB. Static was one of the books produced by this company.
From attending Sunday school we learned that a choir for young people was going to be created. Church officials asked parents to send their kids if they had singing talent. My brother and I did attend those rehearsals. We were so young we sang in the choir as sopranos. I do recall the choir master being impressed with our voices. He once said our voices were as pure as the driven snow to which everyone in the room laughed. After a while, I got tired of being in the choir and decided I had had enough of those Saturday morning rehearsals. We both left and began to pursue other avenues of interest.
AAJ: Other avenues of interest, such as?
ME: Next on the list was joining the Cub Scouts which led to the Boy Scouts and the Explorers. I enjoyed my time participating with these youth organizations. I also was involved with the YMCA during my early years. In fact, I attended the same YMCA that actor Wesley Snipes did years later, the one located in Harlem on 135th Street. He said he learned the martial arts there from what I read in a past interview. We lived one block away from the YMCA, and we were a short distance from the 32nd Police Precinct that's still there today. My parents moved from 135th St. to 158th Street. At this address, we had a larger apartment and much more living space. I met actor Demond Wilson since he live further down from us, not far from the infamous 30th Precinct on 151st Street. There was a major scandal at the 30th Precinct during the nineties. I believe the allegations were about police officers taking money from the drug dealers or selling drugs; something along those lines. I don't recall the details.
Let me tell you more about my parents. My stepfather loved jazz while mom preferred classical music. My stepfather told me that he used to go to the clubs to see Charlie Parker & Max Roach play. I didn't know that until shortly before he passed away. If you live in a city such as New York, it's not unusual to see your favorite celebrity walking down the street. I can always tell when a person's in show business. They have a different vibration than most working people. People in television tend to have a glow about them. They're not as stressed out as every day folks are and they always stand out among people walking on the streets. Sometimes everyday people look at me and think I'm a celebrity. If only that were true. If only someone could get a dedicated jazz channel on the air, things would get better for the artists that play free jazz. BET did attempt this, however their BET on Jazz isn't on the channel list for every satellite/cable provider. Television is the future of jazz. Why not? Everything else is on the air. We also need to be included on those popular ipods, itunes, and all those computer music downloads.
I left music for several years until I decided to try my hand at playing the violin. I did this for two years. I stopped practicing because I knew it would take many years before I could develop on this instrument. I couldn't improvise on the violin and that was the direction I wanted to go in. I moved on to working with wood in a different capacity, studying in a wood shop class. We were learning wood craft, making various items out of wood. I wasn't very good at it. When the band teacher, Mr. Rosenthal, came around asking if anyone was interested in learning to play a musical instrument, I saw this as an opportunity to get out of this class. Man, I was bored to death!
AAJ:Tell me more about how you got involved with music.
ME: When the day arrived the following week, I headed to the auditorium on Tuesday. I wanted to learn the tenor saxophone, however, I had arrived late, and the section was already filled. The only opening was in the percussion sectiondrums. I decided it would be better to learn drums rather than go back to the wood shop class. Here I was mostly self-taught since Mr.Rosenthal played the trombone. He was an avid fan of the Big Band era. We played charts by Benny Goodman and other famous band leaders from that period. The band sounded pretty good if I may say so myself. We weren't able to improvise; however the band made up for it with lots of spirit and enthusiasm. We loved the music and we did our best to play it well. A classmate by the name of Russell Bailey was very talented on the tenor saxophone. Eugene McMorris was another extremely gifted musician. A classmate told me that his father was a musician. Gene had one major flaw; he would come to the rehearsals late. Eventually Mr. Rosenthal had to kick him out of the band. This remains one of the main problems for many musicians. They have no concept of how to get from one place to another on time. Eugene died some years later of a drug overdose.
The first year we played at the annual show with our parents in attendance. We smoked everyone that night. Another drummer, James Staton, did the honor of playing the drums for the Big Band. I was the backup drummer, in case James couldn't make it. James knew I wanted that spot so he made sure to attend every rehearsal. My presence did put pressure on him. Word was getting around that I was starting to play well.
AAJ:Why did your presence put pressure on James Staton?
ME: Some of the students were saying I should be the drummer for the Big Band. Everyone got to see me play for the opening ceremony for the weekly assembly held every Wednesday. We had to wear white shirts and ties on this day. I would play a march on the snare drum. On one occasion, I decided to jazz it up a little. I did it very well and many of my classmates enjoyed it. The vice principle spoke to me after the assembly. "Marc, I want the color guard marching down the aisle, not dancing as they approach the stage! Well, that put an end to that experiment. I never was able to improvise on the march from that day forward. I had to keep it very formal; after all, the color guard was bringing the American flag to the stage.
We would do the pledge of allegiance. Everyone in the room, students and teachers would recite those words. Today, I hear the courts aren't allowing this in schools. James was aware that the students liked my drumming and he heard the talk about students preferring me over him, to play in the Jazz band. He didn't like it, but, there was nothing he could do about it other than practice. He apparently didn't want to do that. Oh no, that's too much work. This is a mentality that I find prevalently among musicians. Everyone wants to be famous; however, few are willing to do the hard work to make it happen. Some get jealous if a band outperforms them and they walk around with a real nasty attitude. I view this as a form of laziness. Practice often and keep rehearsing with your band and you won't fall into this mind set.
I played for Mr. Rosenthal in the Classical Band. One teacher was visibly upset after our performance. We had numerous rehearsals while he was doing strictly classical music with half the number of rehearsals that we were fortunate to have, maybe less. Our teacher was a kind man. It upset him that we gave a superior performance compared to most of our peers that night. We weren't trying to embarrass anyone. The music clicked and both bands (the Classical and the Jazz Bands) swung like hell. The audience picked up that something special was happening. I continued to work with Mr. Rosenthal playing in the Classical Band. I was the main drummer in the percussion section.
I learned about the Manhattan Borough Junior High School Band through a letter they sent to my home. I auditioned and went home after it was over. I was in a state of disbelief when I learned that they wanted me. At the time, I wasn't a very good sight reader. I played with them for one year. We had a black conductor by the name of Mr. Booth. I couldn't get my hands on the vinyl record of this band. One of the percussionists in the band dated a classmate of mine, Alissa Gale. She did marry Wayne some time later. Wayne attended the same high school, however, he wasn't in the high school band. I guess he lost interest in playing music. Alissa did play trumpet in the high school band with me and Rodney Bacot. We played in our respective sections. I haven't seen her in many years.
I think of Alissa Gale and dancer Flemmie Kittrell often. Flemmie and I go back almost to the very beginning when I started attending school in New York City. Flemmie was a marvelous dancer even when she was in elementary school. Both ladies shared classes with me for years. When I went to high school, I was asked to audition for the All City High School Band. Again I made it; however, I counted my blessings. I knew I wasn't able to read music very well. I was the only black in the percussion section during the first year. I was joined by a very talented black percussionist during my second year with All City by the name of Luis Meade. I believe he was Cuban. Whenever the part called for crash cymbals, we let Luis do the honors. He was physically stronger than the rest of us. We couldn't match him when it came to picking up the two cymbals and making loud crashing sounds. When Luis did it, you'd get the impression that an angry God was looking down on the planet and he wanted to know what the bleep we were doing? Why had we disturbed the peace?
I met Edward Alex while I was in the All City High School Band. He was in the clarinet section of this talented group of young people. We hooked up again during my Berklee years in Boston. This time, Edward was playing alto saxphone. The last time I saw Edward was when my band was doing a gig at the Montreal Festival in June 1997. My band consisted of Sabir Mateen, Peter Mazzetti, and Hilliard Greene. We had played at the Knitting Factory as part of the Texaco New York Jazz Festival the previous night. Edward was in Montreal with his very attractive wife [a singer]. They came to see my band play at a small venue not far from the hotel we were staying. I saw Tony Bennett in the area where everyone went to eat as well as a lady whom I believed was an actress. I had seen her in the movie about He-Man. The film's actual title was Masters of the Universe. The woman may have been Chelsea Field. Anyway, this lady looked a lot like her and she had that celebrity vibe or so I thought. What was noteworthy about this gig is that it was one of the few times the jazz world ever got the chance to see and hear Peter Mazzetti live during a public show. This performance was also videotaped by the staff members working for the Montreal festival.
The other drummers were much better than I. They could read and play various percussion instruments. Brian Sales, an outwardly gay young man, played kettledrums [tympani] and piano. He was a very advanced musician and was studying at the High School of Music & Arts. He was also the percussion section leader. He used his authority wisely with Solomon's wisdom. His decisions were final and he was usually right. I don't remember him exercising poor judgment. He knew music very well, so, you couldn't fool him. I found myself in a minor dilemma when one of the percussionists wanted to play the snare drum part with me on one of the pieces. Brian asked us to play the part together. He listened and he understood my discomfort at Eric's request. Eric was dragging, playing slightly out of time. I was right on the beat, while Eric wasn't. Brian said, "Eric, let Marc play the part by himself. That's all that was required. It was a done deal. No yelling, screaming, or fighting. Not all leaders are as level-headed as Brian Sales. I had auditioned for the High School of Music & Arts, but I didn't make it.
I also met Victor Bablove, a talented drummer in the percussion section. He was the main inspiration, directing me to study with his drum teacher, Ted Reed, author of the famous syncopation book that most drummers use in their studies. Alan Dawson also used this book; however, he added various others exercises to the existing ones in the book for drummers to study. Those studies will improve any drummer's playing. I did play for Mr. Gabriel Kosakoff, the man who gave me the audition for the All City High School Band. I took a year off from the All City High School Band to study with Ted Reed the following year.
After I played for Mr. Gabriel Kosakoff during my second and final year, (we had finished the concert) he praised my performance. It was obvious that he was pleased with my work. He said how much he enjoyed having me in the percussion section. During the concert, I had played crash cymbals on a very upbeat composition. I missed only one cymbal crash. My music teacher was in the audience and she saw the expression on my face. She told me not to show it when I made a mistake. I was so emotionally involved with the part that I had put my all into trying to get it right. Another percussionist completely blew his part on the wood blocks. They were tuned wood blocks, each having its own pitch. I don't know how that happened. I guess he didn't practice his part. After Mr. Kosakoff praised my performance, I had to get something off my chest. I couldn't keep it inside any longer. I told Mr. Kosakoff that he himself had given me the audition for the High School of Music & Arts. He was stunned to hear this and he couldn't believe it. He turned a dark beet red color as he kept asking repeatedly, "Are you sure it was me, Marc? I nodded my head in the affirmative. Mr. Kosakoff had a real sad look on his face and he shook his head, realizing he had made a grievous error, by not letting me into this prestigious high school.
This school was also used during the filming of the movie, Fame, years later. David S. Ware tells me that he was in the area when they filmed some of the scenes from this movie. Mr. Kosakoff was very thoughtful. If you missed a rehearsal, he'd send a postcard saying "We missed you Marc. When I didn't get into Music & Arts, I made up my mind that I would show them the errors of their ways. I began practicing longer and harder. This fueled my intense drive to succeed on the drums. Most people would be surprise to learn that some of the students who attend Music & Arts go on to college and end up working day jobs rather than become working musicians, dancers, singers, or actors.
The highlight of working with this band was we played with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. We did three performances with them during February and March of 1966. I would go home with a headache after each concert. The piece that we played was the "Overture of 1812 by Tchaikovsky. At the end of this long composition, it ends loudly with canons firing, just like on the battlefield. The percussionists couldn't use a canon in Carnegie Hall; instead, one of the percussionists would fire round after round from a shotgun into a barrel during the ending section. This section was once used by Quaker Oats to promote their Quaker Oatmeal product on television. I loved that commercial because of the exciting music.
After the performance was over, the percussionist who was using the shotgun would come out of the room. Neither the audience nor the members of the orchestra could see him during this portion of the show; however everyone heard what he was doing. One of the other percussionists would cue him when to fire each round. There was a slight delay but it did produce the desired canon effect. When he opened the door to the small room he was in and pulled the curtains back, this would allow smoke to flow unto the large stage. It was the loudness of the shotgun and the foul smelling smoke that would give me a headache after each performance. I will never forget that experience. The orchestra was playing one afternoon and many of the children in the audience were talking. The conductor stopped the orchestra, turned around to face the audience and told them to be quiet. They did and he resumed conducting the music. He didn't tolerate any nonsense while the orchestra was playing. The conductor was Mr. Jose Serebrier. Some of the orchestra members were shocked by the look on their faces. I guess this had never happened during past performances?
I did see the black conductor whom I worked with while I was with the Manhattan Junior High School Band after one of the shows. I said hello to Mr. Booth and he just grinned his approval. He was pleased that one of the kids had made good. Most musicians have some training in the area of classical music, however most jazz artists prefer to concentrate on jazz. It's a full time job to play jazz. The same is true for classical music. You have to admire musicians who can do both. This is one of the reasons Wynton [Marsalis] is very conservative in his jazz music. It is very difficult to play jazz and classical, especially on the same day.
AAJ: Would you care to elaborate on this?
ME: I once saw Wynton attempt this feat playing with the Boston Pops on Public Television several years back. He did his best, however this was an almost impossible request. He played a well known classical piece for the trumpet with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Sarah Vaughn was on the bill also. She invited Wynton to come out and play with her band. Wynton struggled mightily. He was trying his best to get loose. He finally did get in the groove near the end of the song. The musicians in the future and beyond will be able to do this. Right now, this is a tall order at best for most jazz artists, playing classical and jazz. Jazz pulls your brains in one direction, while classical pulls it in the opposite direction. I prefer free jazz as this is my musical home.
AAJ: How did you come to this thing called free jazz?
ME: The person who introduced me to free jazz was an unlikely source. One of my classmates in the high school band kept pestering me about visiting his apartment. He wanted to turn me on to a new form of music. I kept putting him off for as long as could until one day I had the time and I said "Yes, I'll visit your place and listen to this music you keep talking about. Rodney Bacot was one of the tenor saxophonists in the band. Since he was new to music, I didn't take his claims seriously. "What does he know? He just starting playing the horn, I thought to myself. Rodney was ecstatic that I was finally coming to pay him a visit. I spent an entire Saturday afternoon listening to the many ESP & Impulse records Rodney had. He put on one record after another. The person who made the biggest impression, of course, was John Coltrane. I was intrigued by the photo on his album, A Love Supreme . Because of his serious demeanor and talent, I decided to investigate this music further.
Coltrane didn't strike me as being crazy or foolhardy. I knew he was dead serious about this form of improvisation. I thought to myself, "A man like John Coltrane wouldn't abandon his traditional jazz roots for frivolous reasons. There must be something to this music. I don't understand it, but, I'll keep listening until it begins to make sense. By the time Rodney put on Sun Ra, I was nearly on the floor laughing. I said to Rodney, "Is this cat for real? Rodney assured me that he was. Rodney had played one of Sun Ra's ESP recordings, The Heliocentric World of Sun R . Sun Ra had his photo next to some of the great men of science. I thought he was quite a character. I did meet Sun Ra when we [the Cecil Taylor Unit] played at the Foxhole in Philly in May, 1976, also known as the New Foxhole Café, Penn University, Philadelphia, PA. Sun Ra was a well-read individual. He knew a lot about mysticism and other related topics. It was an education listening to him speak when David S. Ware and I ran into him on the streets of Philadelphia. He did come down to see us perform as did most of the members in his Arkestra. They were pleased with the Cecil Taylor Unit album Dark Unto Themselves. I got a kick out of observing their reactions during the concert.
Here's a comment I sent to Rick Lopez regarding this gig:
"Since we were in Philadelphia, Sun Ra attended at least one of the shows. I can't recall if he was there for all three nights. Many of the players in his band also came. They really enjoyed the music. These performances drew a sizeable crowd. A good audience helps to make things happen."
Rodney began visiting me at our apartment on 158th Street. We began mimicking what we heard Albert Ayler, John Coltrane and other musicians doing on their records. We didn't have the energy to stay out there long (that would come later when I started playing with Apogee) but when we did reached those musical heights, the whole neighborhood got real quiet. Even the dogs stopped barking when we started playing. When you play drums in an apartment in New York City, folks tend to take note. Drums have a way of getting everyone's attention. One of my neighbors told me, she thought someone was rolling garbage cans down the stairs when she heard my drumming. Ha! I was trying to recreate thunder and lightning. I did this during my tenure with Cecil Taylor and we would kill audiences night after night wherever we played.
ME: During my senior year in high school, I had been hearing about the Warriors Drum & Bugle Corps. For several years, musicians had suggested I try out for this group. Tenor saxophonist Russell Bailey stayed on my case about this. He would say, "Marc, the Warriors are very good. You should try out for them. You have the talent to make their drum line. I didn't have that many classes during my senior year so I went to the church on 155th Street, near Broadway and began to attend the long rehearsals. It took a while, but I did get a spot playing rudimental bass drum. I had to practice hard because playing outdoors required an entirely different level of loud dynamics. It takes physical strength to put out this amount of energy. When I heard my playing on record from one of the live competitions, I was surprised to learn that I was playing louder than my fellow rudimental bass drummer, Don. Don had worked with me, making sure that I learned all the parts for the pieces the corps would be playing that season. I stayed with the Warriors for one year.
Note I can be heard in the competition on The 1968 New York American Legion Championships, Volume One put out by the American Legion (Volume SCS-150). The back of the album cover states: March of Champions, New York State American Legion Convention, July 27, 1968, Syracuse, NY. This is strictly for drum & bugle corps enthusiasts. I have no idea where one would go to find this recording. Happy record hunting!
AAJ: Tell us about your drum instructor of the Warriors. I know he had to be very good. Rudimental drumming isn't easy to execute.
ME: You got that right. Rudimental drumming is a little of both: it can be very hard and some of it is easy. To answer your question, Robert Winslow, or Bobby as we called him, was said to be a child prodigy in this capacity. He had joined and played snare drum with one of the other drum corps. The word of mouth is that you had to be exceptionally talented to even consider trying out for this drumline. Bobby Winslow made that drumline and I hear he was sixteen years old. That was unprecedented. Most of the drummers in that drumline were older, perhaps in their twenties. The movie Drumline (2002) provides a taste of what it's like to be in a drum & bugle corps. I regret that I couldn't work with the Warriors longer. I was told that Bobby Winslow had gone to Africa and did drum studies over there. He would put those African rhythms in our parts.
Sometimes during a competition, the drum judges didn't know what we were doing. I saw one judge throw down his writing pad and pencil on the ground in disgust. He was so frustrated that he couldn't figure out what we were playing. During the final event of the season, which the Warriors won, Bobby Winslow's teacher of his former drumline was one of the drum judges. I did a slight infinitesimal hesitation during one of the drumline solo sections and you know what, he caught it. Only a master drummer could have caught that hesitation. He rubbed it in by looking me in the eye while he wrote a checkmark on his pad. "You demon, I said inwardly. "No one should have caught that, but he did. I'll leave you with another thought about drummers in drum & bugle corps. Many of the snare drummers can take down a lot of jazz drummers. I'm speaking in terms of technique. To be fair jazz drummers even the score by their work on the drum kit. Snare drummers from the marching bands can't touch us there. After leaving the Warriors, I began concentrating on playing free jazz. This was the year 1968.
AAJ: That's when you started playing with David S. Ware. How did you meet him?
ME: Not exactly, upon graduating from high school, I went to Boston to study at the Berklee School of Music. Today they call themselves the Berklee College of Music, however, it is the same institution. I have many fond memories of my stay in Boston. I choose Berklee because I had learned that Tony Williams studied with Alan Dawson. I didn't get to study with Alan the first year I was there. I did get him the following year. I studied with Les Harris and Gene Roma before I got Alan Dawson. It was there in Boston that I met David S. Ware and Gene Ashton (pianist). Most people know Gene by his new name, Cooper-Moore. We met and through talking with David S. Ware, David decided to use me in the band Apogee. I arrived in Boston after a long drive from New York City. My mom had asked my grandfather to make the long drive to Boston. After I checked into the dormitory on Newbury Street, I explored the city and visited Berklee.
The next day, I returned to Berklee to get my ID photo taken. I walked from the dorm to where Berklee's main building is on Boylston Street and got in line with a few of the guys also living in the dorm. It didn't take long for us to get our new IDs. I explored the building and discovered the rooms where students are allowed to practice the piano. During this brief excursion, I noticed a big heavy set brother composing at the piano. I looked through the window, listening to the music he was creating. I left and continued checking out the other musicians on this floor. None were doing anything compelling as the brother I had seen in the first room. I went back to this room and stood there for several minutes. The brother took note of my presence and he invited me into the room. He continued writing music while he asked me questions. I told him my name and that I was interested in learning to play free jazz. "So, you want to play free jazz? He asked, as he kept writing music and having a good hearty laugh. I learned during this conversation that his name was David Ware. David would laugh because he knew the obstacles to playing this music are extra tough. It takes the strongest artists to make it in this musical genre.
David began using his middle initial during the seventies when we did the album, Birth of a Being on HatHut Records. I didn't know he was already highly developed on his instrument. We connected and this began a long musical association that lasted until the end of 1990. We stayed in the room for about an hour. During that hour, another friend entered the room. His name was Lawrence Sands. Larry had met David the previous semester. They talked for a few minutes and David introduced me to Larry. Larry was to play a major role in my life, more on that in a little bit. When David had completed his compositions, we went downstairs to get something to eat.
Larry Sands also played tenor saxophone. Larry formed a group and I played with him and another tenor saxophonist by the name of Ted Nye. Bill Washer played electric guitar. Bill went on to work with Joe Henderson and he did appear on one of his records. I can't remember what we called ourselves, the name of the band. What was noteworthy was that Larry used concepts that moved us away from the high energy approach. He insisted that we use softer dynamics on certain pieces. Most free jazz musicians tend to lock in the high energy exclusively.
I kept in touch with David and attended a rehearsal, at his request, that afternoon, or it could have been the next day. The band consisted of Stanton Davis, trumpet, Bobby Eldridge, baritone sax, Jim Schapperoew on drums, Don Pate on bass, and Cedric Lawson on piano. These guys sounded great. This was the first time I heard David play the tenor saxophone. He did an inspired performance on his instrument. Other musicians in the room were whispering and pointing to him while he played his solo. Some even shook their heads. One musician sitting not too far from me said, "What the bleep? I'll never be able to play like that guy. He sounded like he wanted to quit playing his instrument. Good players can have that affect on aspiring musicians.
Others were slapping each other five saying "He's a bad mother f.....! I thought to myself, "This cat may be fat, but he sure knows how to blow the horn! When the rehearsal ended, Stanton talked to David about other matters. David told him he had met a young cat who wanted to play the music. Stanton asked more questions but David told him, "You don't know him. He's a new cat, David replied as he was wearing dark sunglasses, Mr. Cool, in the flesh. All he needed was a pack of cigarettes to complete the cool image he was projecting. I was standing about three feet away from David when he told Stanton this. I would later call David, "Mr. Yoga. That was an inside joke that only he and I knew the punch line. He would laugh and laugh when I called him that. It would really crack him up.
David did get to hear me play at an ensemble class in school. I was a beginner musically speaking and had a long way to go. David liked what he heard and for this reason, I believed he felt that I would work out fine being the drummer for Apogee. A veteran drummer on campus, Art Gore, also heard me play and he was very complimentary about my playing. I saw Art work with George Benson before George started singing, humming along with playing the guitar at the Jazz Workshop, a popular club in Boston. George's roots are in jazz, but I doubt that many of his fans know that. They began hearing about him when he redid "On Broadway, a popular song from the fifties.
I never cared for the song until I saw it used in the movie, All That Jazz. Visually, the music fit right in with what viewers were seeing on the screen. George Benson got very big after that. "This Masquerade was Benson's first hit. I always thought he sounded like Stevie Wonder on that song. Make no mistake, George knows music very well. Quincy Jones was impressed with his playing skills. He knew George was exceptionally talented when he asked George to play the lines up a half step or greater interval. I saw George helping singer Patty Austin learn her part. George had his part down cold. This program aired on Public Television.
And, here's a true story of how I almost met David S. Ware before I arrived in Boston. I was in the Village one night and as I walked down the street by the Village Gate, Miles Davis was there. I had already seen him, so I kept on walking. I came to a small club and the sign said Albert Ayler was playing that night. I didn't have enough money to get in. I pleaded with the man on the door to let me in. He took note of my desire to see Albert. He couldn't let me in however he did say, "Albert will be here tomorrow night. Come back with the money and you'll be able to see him play. I said, "Okay, I'll do that. I came back the next night and was sorely disappointed to learn that Albert Ayler had left the club. I guess something had happened and he didn't want to play there a second night. I was very angry at missing this opportunity to see Albert. After I got to know David, he told me that he was in the club that night. It seems that we were destined to meet one way or another.
AAJ: What other musicians did you meet while you were attending Berklee?
ME: I should mention I met drummer Don Sweatt, a very talented drummer at Berklee. He could play jazz but he excelled at playing funk extremely well. Irvine Elligan, III was very good at arranging songs (charts as we called them at Berklee). We had many long discussions about music and my growing interest in Indian spirituality. Irvine couldn't get into that, but he loved talking about music. He graduated from Berklee and taught there for a short time. Irvine did a beautiful arrangement of one of the Fifth Dimensions songs, "Paper Cups. Tenor saxophonist Junior Cook was in the room. Junior Cook taught at Berklee briefly for a few years. He was impressed and went over to checkout Irvine's arrangement afterwards. I was so proud of Irvine. The musicians in the ensemble liked the chart too.
I can recall a trumpet player by the name of Eric. I can't recall his last name. Eric had perfect pitch. I was in his room at the dorm and I played a chord. I asked Eric the name of the chord. When Eric gave his answer, I said, "I got you. That's not the chord I played. I already had been informed that Eric had perfect pitch. Eric didn't argue; he came over and said, "Play the chord again, Marc. I did and Eric played a different note on the instrument that I was blowing. We could both clearly hear that he was right. I had heard the chord one way; Eric heard another chord which contained the notes of the chord I was playing, blowing into this keyboard wind instrument. I told Eric, "Okay, now let's see if you can get this one! Eric burst out laughing when I said that. I was amazed at the phenomenon musicians call "perfect pitch. I don't have it. Maybe in a future lifetime, I will develop this ability. Eric's main focus was funk.
Another musician by the nickname of El Dorado was also interested in this music. During that period my attention was on free jazz. I didn't approve of the dance music. My position has changed dramatically, as I've come to realize that the music of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone are valid musical expressions. The music during the sixties was far superior to the stuff we're hearing today in hip hop.
There was another talented funk drummer whose real name I've forgotten. We called him "Smoky. Smoky was the funkiest drummer I've ever heard. If James Brown had heard him play, he would have had one of his representatives make him an offer to work in his band pronto. Smoky was in a class by himself. He was just as good as some of the drummers that have helped James Brown get to where he is today. I have no idea what became of him.
Robert Garcia was another monster jazz drummer. The only information I have on him is that he once played in the marching band for Florida A & M. This college drum & bugle corps stood out above the rest back in the day. Their routine was completely different from what other colleges were doing during that era. I loved Robert's playing, he was also physically strong. Alan Dawson spoke favorably about Robert Garcia. He went to New York and tried out for a few groups and no one took him. I could never understand that. The last I heard he got a day job driving a truck. I never saw him again. I have seen a Robert Garcia listed in the papers such as the Village Voice, performing at some of the clubs; however, I don't know if he's the same Robert Garcia I met at Berklee.
I saw two composers at the school, although I didn't get to know them: Alan Broadbent and Alan Silvestri. Alan Silvestri did the soundtrack for the movie Predator. The CD [of the soundtrack] is out of print. I cannot understand why Hollywood allows certain popular soundtracks go out of print. It doesn't make any sense. Alan Silvestri continues to write scores for motion pictures today.
Tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce was at Berklee while I was there. He now teaches at the school. Abe Laboriel was a monster on the electric guitar. He changed to playing electric bass afterwards. He has a video out which teaches young musicians how to play this instrument. Abe has worked with Al Jarreau, George Benson and Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis, just to name a few. I have seen Johnny Mathis sing at Radio City Music Hall. At the time, I was more interested in dancer/actress, Debbie Allen of the Fame TV show, a very short-lived series. She performed before Johnny came on.
I also met drummer Keith Copeland. I saw Keith on television playing with Dr. Billy Taylor. I met trombonists Art Baron and John Licata at Berklee. Art has worked with just about everybody in the music business including Stevie Wonder. Art Baron was the last trombonist Duke Ellington ever hired. I met an attractive singer while I was at Berklee. I remember her first name only, Janet. David had an interest in her is all I can say. She did work with Abdul Hannan.
Abdul Hannan was one of the more interesting musicians living in Boston. He played alto saxophone and flute. I recall Abdul because he did a recording with David called The Third World , (RITE, 1968). I never bought the album. The last time I saw Abdul, he was playing on 42nd Street next to the headquarters phone company building, 1095 Avenue of the Americas, sixth avenue. Abdul was on the other side of 42nd Street holding captive a small crowd of listeners with melodious sounds from his flute. Adbul Hannan made an impression because he was very intelligent. He always knew how to uplift my spirits. If anyone knows his whereabouts please get in touch. My email is provided at the end of this interview.
Bassist Chris Amburger did attend Berklee. I didn't play with him in the ensemble classes. Bass players were in great demand during that period. Chris did join Apogee, however his appearances were rare at times. There were other musicians I met, however, I can't recall them at the moment.
AAJ: Where did you go to hear live music in Boston?
ME: The second advantage of my stay in Boston was that I was able to see many of the jazz greats at the Jazz Workshop. It was right next to another club called Paul's Mall. I hung out at the workshop and met many musicians playing in the bands of famous jazz artists. I saw Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Thelonious Monk at the Jazz Workshop many times. Rahsaan always put on a good show. The first time I saw him was one of the few off performances I caught. The rest were dynamite! David S. Ware and I went to eat at a Chinese restaurant on Mass Avenue after the show. When he asked me what I thought of Roland, I replied, "I didn't enjoy his playing that much. David said Roland had an off day performance-wise and that I should catch him the next time he came to Boston. David was right. The rest of the shows that I saw of Rahsaan Roland Kirk were sheer joy. Roland knew how to move an audience.
One memorable performance happened during the Jazz Pop bookings that George Wein experimented with during the late sixties. Rahsaan and his band played at this festival. I was curious to see Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. When Frank Zappa and his band came on, the band members began making verbal nonsensical sounds. The audience promptly got up and started leaving the Memorial Auditorium. They were not going to have their intelligence insulted. One by one, folks started getting up and leaving. George Wein didn't want the show to end poorly. He asked Rahsaan to go back on stage and play again. When he began playing, people came back and sat down in their seats. The band began playing "Louie Louie, another popular song from the fifties. Some of you may recall this song from the movie, Animal House. Roland sounded good. This venue was near the Boston Sheraton Hotel.
AAJ: That's an incredible story. Readers and Frank Zappa fans may think you're making this up. Is there any documentation regarding this incident?
ME: Frank Zappa never played a note. He stood on stage and smoked a cigarette. The concert took place on January 31, 1969. This was the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. The next day, or it could have been a day or two later, the Boston Globe showed a photo of Frank Zappa smoking on stage with a clearly visible no smoking sign in the background. The photo struck me as being surreal, like a Dali painting.
This was the only time I got to see Frank Zappa. I hear that his live shows were great, however, I didn't see it that night. I take my shows seriously in the sense that I understand this may be someone's only chance to see me in this lifetime. I try to leave a more positive impression. Artists must play and not do what Frank Zappa did. I really wanted to see him play. I'm mentioning this story so that upcoming musicians won't take their shows for granted. I mean no disrespect to Frank Zappa, the word of mouth about him is that he always did great shows. As I said before, I didn't see it on this particular night.
I wish Mr. Wein had continued in this direction. If he had, jazz would be in a different place today. Miles Davis shares, in his autobiography with Quincy Troupe, that Tony Williams suggested they open for the Beatles. Imagine where jazz would be today if Miles had acted on this tip?
Monk came to Boston often. During the week, attendance was sparse however, from Thursday night on, the place was usually packed. The first time I saw Monk, he got up from the piano and started dancing. I had heard that he sometimes liked to do this. Miles Davis was one of the few artists who could pack almost any venue whenever he played. Once I started listening to his records, I fell so in love with his music that I would run into Miles Davis at odd hours of the day and night whenever he came to Boston. I once saw him leaving Berklee. He had been in the school and no one recognized him! On one occasion, I saw him and I stared at him so hard he turned sharply and looked at me. He was standing between two cars and waiting to cross the street. I quickly apologized and said, "I thought you were someone else. He found my comment amusing and he started laughing as he walked across the street. This must have been around 2 AM on a week night. Had I been a little less shy, I might have been able to talk to Miles. Despite his standoffish demeanor, he was approachable.
McCoy Tyner was a frequent visitor to the Jazz Workshop. I met drummer Eric Gravatt when he came to Boston. We have stayed in touch although it's been many years since I last saw him. I saw him many times with McCoy's band and later with Weather Report. Eric had an uncanny knack of playing funk rhythms behind McCoy Tyner. I never heard this in McCoy's music. To my astonishment, this approach worked. Elvin Jones usually came to Boston and always did great drumming leaving drummers with their jaws on the floor. Some of the drummers who were into Buddy Rich said Elvin had no technique. My tutor, Lenny Nelson, told me that Elvin and Buddy Rich once had a drum battle. He said "Cats may say that Elvin has no technique, but Buddy Rich had a heart attack shortly after that event. Lenny felt that Elvin had pushed Buddy in his own way playing what he plays. That's not bad for a cat who has no technique!
Elvin Jones had a good sense of humor. I went to speak to him after he finished his first set one night. When I shook his hand, he began applying pressure on my hand and fingers with a vice like gripe. I looked at him and he had a mischievous grin on his face as he noticed my discomfort. Elvin was something else. He is one of my main influences on the drums. There are many others and it's mostly the jazz greats that I dip into the ocean for inspiration. Some of the writers think I'm influenced by other free jazz drummers. That's completely false; it's way off base. I'll repeatmy influences are the traditional jazz drummers from bebop, the Big Band era and others.
AAJ: You say you're influenced by the traditional jazz drummers? How can that be, you're a free drummer?
ME: Not really. My playing style is more inside than most writers realize. Listen closely to what I'm playing; you'll hear a lot of inside ideas and concepts that are used by traditional jazz drummers. I had the opportunity to talk about why Free Jazz Isn't Really Free at the Knitting Factory as part of their defunct Jazzhool series. This took place on October 19, 2000, from 2 - 3 PM and was broadcast live to schools in the Northeast quadrant via the Internet. I believe Verizon was the sponsor for this event using DSL to broadcast this in real time. I clearly demonstrated what it is I'm doing and why it's not free. It only sounds that way, but, it's far from being free. Think of it as an audio illusion. The sounds I create fool the ear into thinking they're something that they're not. We're sorry to disappoint music fans; there really is no free music. It is not possible in this dimension. Music is based on melody, harmony and rhythm. A musician can never get away from those elements completely.
AAJ: Who else did you see at the clubs?
ME: I didn't go to the clubs alone. Usually, David went with me or some of my fellow students from Berklee went to checkout specific jazz artists. I didn't see everybody, mostly the ones I liked and they happened to be some of the jazz greats. Yusef Lateef, Stan Getz, Deodato (though he wasn't a jazz great), Pharoah Sanders, and many others who were working during that time period. I should also mention that during the summer school break, I would return to New York City and catch musicians at Slugs on the lower East side. It was there that I saw Tony Williams with Larry Young on organ and John McLaughlin on electric guitar. The club didn't have very many people in it that Friday night. That didn't stop Tony and company from tearing down the house. I remember a very sexy thin black woman was the sole waitress in the club. She may have been a dancer; she had a dancer's body. Slugs is where I first saw Pharoah Sanders. He had a hit with his Karma record at the time. That recording received a lot of air play on the radio. I met Billy Hart when he played with Pharoah. This began our relationship.
I also enjoyed bassist Jimmy Garrison as he usually made those gigs with Elvin. They had a bad falling out one night in Boston and after that we didn't see Jimmy with Elvin anymore. One of my classmates, a student at Berklee, witnessed this event. I had a ball hanging out with Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Jimmy was a real ladies' man. He was always talking to attractive females who came to the club to see Elvin play. I was talking to a lady whom Jimmy was very interested in and he came over and said, "Get away from her Marc! Jimmy said it in a joking manner and we all laughed. Jimmy looked good just like he did when he was with John Coltrane.
The last time I saw Jimmy Garrison was in my old neighborhood when he played on the Jazzmobile at 159th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. This was an annual event that took place around September. Jimmy looked terrible. The effects of his drug use were very obvious to all but when he picked up the bass and started doing what musicians call "walking, the young children listening to the music would start dancing to the rhythm of what Jimmy was playing. They would move their body in time to the sounds Jimmy was making. Very curious, why is it that young children can hear jazz and some of the writers can't? The Jazz Workshop closed and is no longer in business. This is a major blow for the Boston area. It was located across the street, not far from Lord & Taylor which is near the Prudential Center on Boylston Street. This area has been upgraded tremendously in recent years. I'm surprised film makers don't use this location for some of their movies. The area looks great and is visually quite stunning. I would love to see Boston officials add a jazz club to this location. It's easy to get to the Prudential Center with the public transportation.
AAJ: Tell us more about Apogee, your band with David S. Ware and Cooper-Moore.
ME: To answer your question about Apogee, the group didn't get started until around 1970 or 1971. We would get together everyday and play. This is how we developed. I won't go into specifics as to what we were actually doing. Just get together with the guys in your band and play as often as you can. Any band will grow using this method. Apogee wasn't my band. It was a cooperative according to Gene Ashton (later Cooper-Moore). A cooperative means no leader. All of the members are equal partners. We found out otherwise when Gene learned that David took the Birth of a Being tapes to Hat Hut Records. David put the record out under his name. He told us, the guy at Hat Hut wouldn't take the group as a collective. I had my suspicions; however I had no proof of any wrongdoing. I held my tongue and kept my thoughts to myself. Gene Ashton had put up the money to do the recording in the first place. David chose not to share this piece of information. I didn't learn this until many years after the fact.
We once did a concert at the Old North Church in Boston. I had the impression that we were losing the audience. I began to play Latin & African rhythms on the drums. This provided the necessary spark for Apogee and we were off and running. When we finished our performance, a very strikingly beautiful black woman came up to me. She looked like an actress; she was a very attractive female. She started hugging and kissing me. She really enjoyed the music. Today, I seldom see black folks atfFree jazz performances. Things have changed over the years, and not for the better. I didn't ask this lady for her telephone number since I already had a girlfriend. She was drop dead gorgeous. Chris Amburger did perform with Apogee on another occasion at this venue. We played on a music festival. There were numerous bands playing at the church, including a good Gospel choir. They were singing and started getting into that sanctified feeling. I was impressed because they locked into this feeling almost from the very start of their show. The host was a black guy who did a jazz program on the radio from Boston University. We did play on the radio show once. It was during this performance that I found my sound. It happened by itself spontaneously. I've been playing this way ever since this radio broadcast.
Apogee was a wonderful band that most jazz writers missed. Most concentrate on the Art Ensemble of Chicago and other groups of that era. I've yet to hear a band that could match Apogee. We rehearsed nearly every day and we knew what we wanted to play, musically speaking. Apogee did perform once at the Jazz Workshop. Charles Mingus was in town. David and Cooper-Moore went down to see him. They spoke to him on the break and asked if we could sit in. Cooper-Moore told me, "Marc, David was so arrogant about it. He was so arrogant, emphasizing something I know all too well. He told Mingus, "We don't want to play with you. We want to play by ourselves, with our band , not sit in with all those other cats.
Mingus just looked at David when he said that. He didn't say a word. I guess he was thinking whether or not to pop David in the mouth! ...Just kidding. When Sunday afternoon arrived, I had to leave my job early in order to play at the workshop. I had gotten myself a job playing drums in the Combat Zone at a club called the Two O'clock Lounge formerly on Washington Street. I would walk on Boylston Street until I got to Washington Street.
The previous drummer, Fred Wren, had decided to pursue his musical interests in New York City. Fred was also a talented artist. He showed me some of his pencil drawings. I was trying to hook up with Fred Wren when David was driving along Boylston Street, we saw Fred walking towards us. I got out the car and talked to Fred, asking if he was still leaving the club and if he wanted me to replace him. Fred answered in the affirmative. He told me when to come to the club. I started working at the Two O' Clock Lounge shortly thereafter. Fred Wren did move to New York City and things didn't go as he had planned. He ended up being homeless for a long time. The last time I saw Fred Wren, I hardly recognized him. He was off the streets and had apparently gotten himself a day job. Many musicians are opposed to working day jobs; however, most could use the disciple that a day job provides: getting to work on time, turning in the assignments on time, etc.
Working at the Two O' Clock Lounge was an unforgettable experience. I was a young man playing drums behind women taking their clothes off, every stitch of clothing, almost every day. When it was close to election day, the ladies would take everything off except their G string. At first, I was very judgmental because of my Christian upbringing. I talked about the ladies with Gene Ashton. "Those sluts, they take their clothes off everyday for money. They're nothing but sluts! Gene Ashton provided sage consul and I was able to tolerate the environment much better after he talked some sense into me. I've seen so many naked women, when on occasions I've entered the wrong area where women were dressing in later years, most will cover themselves and tell you to get out. I can pretty much figure out what they look like after my tenure at the stripper club. Thank God I had a girlfriend! I would have gone insane without one. A naked woman will have an effect on a young man.
We arrived at the Jazz Workshop and Mingus' band was playing very well. When they finished playing, Charles Mingus asked if any musicians wanted to sit in. Several local musicians went up and began playing. After they finished, David, Cooper-Moore and I went up to the bandstand.
I think Don Pullen or tenor saxophonist George Adams spoke to Mingus on Apogee's behalf. Mingus may have forgotten that we wanted to play by ourselves, not with the many musicians who came on stage previously. Just before I sat down at the drums, Mingus' drummerit wasn't Dannie Richmondasked my name. When I gave my name, he said, "I've heard of you. We did a short but torrid twenty minute set. I would've liked to have played longer but on this day, I was tired and I think David and Cooper-Moore were tired also. Mingus came up on stage and asked if we wanted to play more. David and Cooper-Moore both said no. I was glad; I didn't have anything left either. We received several rounds of applause from an enthusiastic crowd attending the matinee performance.
The next night, I was in the Jazz Workshop, I asked one of the waitresses what she thought of the band that sat in yesterday. She recognized my face and said, "You were in that band. You sounded great. This was the only time Apogee played at the Jazz Workshop. I don't recall the date when this happened. This took place at the Sunday matinee afternoon performance. Normally those performances were held from 4 - 7 PM.
AAJ: I'm very surprised to learn that David S. Ware was arrogant with the great Mingus. Did he have a personal reason to be rude?
ME: David has always been a handful! He was always headstrong and it may appear to others as arrogance. When you have a strong musician and he knows he's good, that can carry over into their normal everyday behavior. David tends to be high strung. When he talks it may sound like he dictating, telling folks what he wants. It's part and parcel of the David S. Ware's creative makeup. It's hard to separate one aspect from the other. It's an amalgam of different elements that give rise to David S. Ware's creativity. He has major issues to resolve; don't we all? This was in the past. He's probably a different person today.
Regarding Mingus, I found that Mingus was approachable. However, I could tell he was filled with stress. Remember he was around before the Civil Rights Movement. That means he along with many other black people had to swallow a lot of bullshit. Mingus was known to have a fiery temper and I've heard stories that he would punch club owners in the mouth if they didn't pay him fairly. He didn't tolerate any nonsense. In this case, it's not that he was temperamental; he went through a lot of stuff. Artists are often treated poorly in America and around the world. Most of us swallow it and move on. Not Mingus, I've been told he'd punch you in the face. If I did that, I'd end up in jail. You can't engage in this type of behavior anymore. Things have changed and there are those who will sue you simply because they think they can get a few dollars out of the process. It's all about the money now. Most musicians know to channel their anger into their music and not punch people in the face.
AAJ: Talk more about Apogee. While you're at it, who is Lenny Nelson?
ME: You've been doing your homework, Taran (Laughs). To continue with Apogee, I met my tutor, mentor and friend, Leonard "Lenny Nelson when Apogee played at the Boston YMCA. Lenny sat in the very first row in front of my drums. I recall dropping a drumstick at one point during the show. Lenny picked it up and gave it back to me. A police officer stood outside the room. Lenny told me the police officer would come in and listen for a few minutes, and then he would walk out of the room shaking his head. He didn't understand the music we were playing. I had seen Lenny on the streets or coming out of bookstores before I started working in the Combat Zone. We would always say hello to each other. At the time, I didn't know he was an exceptionally talented musician. Lenny felt that when I played with Apogee, I was the right drummer for the band. "Marc, when you're on your own turf, no one can touch you. You are a king in that band!
Lenny also hung out with Milford Graves during the sixties one summer. I heard Milford talk about Lenny during a radio interview on Columbia University's WKCR. Milford Graves and I are the only two drummers who talk about Lenny Nelson. Many well known jazz drummers either know Lenny personally or have heard of Lenny, yet they refuse to talk about him. What's up with that? Lenny knows more about jazz drumming than any drummer I've met. He also played in the Combat Zone at a club across the street called The Piccadilly. I had the chance to see Lenny in action on many nights. I got off from the Two O' Clock Lounge in the evening. Lenny didn't start working at the Piccadilly until 8 PM. I would head back downtown and hang out with Lenny. We would talk about drums during his breaks. Sometimes Lenny would let me play a set. I did fill in for him when Lenny needed to take time off. The ladies at this club were more mature than some of the ladies at the Two O' Clock Lounge. I was interested in one young lady at the Piccadilly. I later learned that she made an adult film after I had moved back to New York. Had I dated her, my life would be very different today.
We would head for the Jazz Workshop after he finished for the night. Lenny would secretly record the set and we'd sit in his car while he would break down what Elvin and other drummers were doing. Lenny has a keen musical ear. He can figure out what drummers are playing. This process would go on for hours. We'd go to his car and finish talking around two, three, or four in the morning. I didn't have to report for work until 2 PM. I would sleep late the next day. I had studied with Alan Dawson, but it was Lenny Nelson who rounded out my sound. This was similar to taking a rough marble sculpture, polishing it, and making the image more attractive.
My sound continues to grow and evolve and some of that credit belongs to Lenny Nelson. He's one of the great drummers in the Boston area. He once told me that when he retires, he plans to start teaching. I hope the Berklee College of Music adds this man to their staff when it is convenient for Lenny. As I said before, I've never met anyone as knowledgeable about the drums as Lenny Nelson. That will be a great day in Boston when that happens. I also met drummer Bobby Ward. Bobby's drumming is a reflection of his personality. He talks fast and plays drums very fast in the Buddy Rich sense of the word. He was hanging out with Lenny and some of the others drummers who worked at the other clubs in the Combat Zone one night. It was a rare gathering of most of the drummers working in the Combat Zone. The Combat Zone was Boston's equivalent of 42nd Street during the sixties. There were lots of sex clubs along Washington Street. That's how 42nd Street area used to be until city officials decided to clean up the theater district. Some of the hookers would hassle theater goers as they were leaving the shows. That was the last straw and 42nd Street began changing from that day forward.
Bobby demonstrated something that he likes to play. Bobby showed us, but he played it at the speed of light, super fast. No one could pick it up. Harvey, a white drummer from Canada, had the courage to ask Bobby to play the figure at a much slower speed. "Slow it down Bobby. Bobby complied, but it wasn't enough. "Slow it down some more Bobby, and we were able to get it. I have since forgotten that particular rhythm since I wasn't able to incorporate into what it is that I'm doing in free jazz. Bobby Ward remains active on the Boston scene today and I think he writes some of pieces for the band he's working in. I have one of his albums in my CD collection. He works with saxophonist flutist Henry Cook frequently in the Boston area.
It is very important for musicians to continue increasing their knowledge about the instruments they play in public. I maintain contact with Lenny Nelson even to the present day. We haven't spoken in a long time, so, he's due for another long phone call. Whatever success I enjoy in this lifetime will be due to Lenny Nelson's influential drumming concepts. I can apply some of Lenny's concept easily into free jazz. I hope he gets recognition on some level before he dies. He is one of the true unsung heroes in jazz. Lenny also studied with Alan Dawson. I'm also intrigued by master frame drummer Glen Velez's mesmerizing work. His studies have been very useful improving my drumming; however, I don't think I will get into the frame drum as is the case with Hamid Drake. I want to master the drum kit, plain and simple.
After Gene Ashton left Apogee, we did try other musicians while we were in New York City. I recall William Parker doing a rehearsal with us. I was playing a particular idea which I noticed seemed to throw William off. After the rehearsal, I told David, I should have asked William, if what I was playing was messing with his head. David had a good laugh when he heard this. He couldn't stop laughing. We also had trumpeter Arthur Williams for a rehearsal or two. We settled on trumpeter Raphé Malik.
AAJ: I hear that David S. Ware and Sonny Rollins are great friends. Can you shed more light on this?
ME: David has a long standing relationship with Sonny Rollins. David talks about this in an All About Jazz interview. As I recall it, David met Sonny Rollins when he was a young boy. He followed Newk's career. At one point, they got together in a rehearsal room and played together. Just the two of them playing the tenor saxophone. I have heard the cassette tapes and you could hardly tell the difference between David S. Ware and Sonny Rollins. Their relationship goes back a long way, covering many years. This relationship is the reason Newk allowed Apogee to open for him at the Village Vanguard. I don't know of any other free musician that has a relationship like this (with a well known inside player). It's too bad Newk's busy schedule keep them from making an album together. That would be interesting.
AAJ: Yeah that'd be great. Could you describe the gig at the Village Vanguard?
ME: I was always in awe of Sonny Rollins. He's worked with many of the key figures in jazz. I arrived early since I had to setup my drums. When David arrived, I told Newk, "David's here. Newk was sitting down warming up on his horn. I touch him gently on his knee. Newk acknowledged but kept on playing. "He's totally into the music, I thought to myself. David, Gene and I really put on a show. Most of the members in Newk's band, save one, dug what we were playing. Ntozake Shange came and she wanted to read her poetry. David told her no. She and David fell out after that. There was a big misunderstanding. I have no idea how that happened. Shange went on to write a very successful play that ran on Broadway. The name of the play was For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf .
Max Gordon kept flicking the lights off and on, trying to get us to stop, but we kept on playing regardless. Max Gordon would do the same when David and I would join the Cecil Taylor Unit a few years later. When we started our set at the Vanguard, I began playing very loudly. Sonny Rollins immediately got up and went into the kitchen. After our short set, I was sweating very profusely as I entered the kitchen. A musician was talking to Newk. Both men seemed very pleased with our playing. Our eyes met while I was changing T-shirts. I said to Newk, "It's hard work to play this music. "That's what it takes, was Newk's reply.
AAJ: Max Gordon kept flicking the light off and on? He did this when you were with Cecil Taylor?
ME: Yes, here's what happened when Cecil Taylor and company played at the Village Vanguard. Cecil had taken the band to dinner at a restaurant not far from the club during the middle of the week. When we entered the club, everyone in the band was in a mellow mood. The mood carried over into our playing. We weren't playing very hard that night until I felt two eyes bearing down on me. I looked up and it was drummer Billy Hart in the audience checking me out. He was smiling because we had talked for years, and finally he was seeing me play with Cecil. Because Billy Hart was in the audience, I decided, I had to show him what I could do. I wanted to make a good impression as I had followed Billy Hart from the time he was with Pharaoh Sanders [the Karma album], to Herbie Hancock and other bands. I began to increase the tension and before you knew it, the band was on fire. We played a good two hours and a half or it could have been slightly longer. Max Gordon was flicking the lights off and on trying to get us to stop. We kept on playing and playing. This was the first set mind you. A member in the audience said we had played for close to three hours. The times varied depending upon who you talked to, but we had no idea we were on the bandstand for that long. I thought the set lasted for an hour-and-a-half.
The week that we played at Village Vanguard, I recall seeing, Tequila, the young lady who worked with Tony Williams as a singer. She was there the entire week. For this reason, after I had left Cecil Taylor, David told me that when they returned to the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, Tony Williams was in the audience. Beaver Harris was the drummer with the Cecil Taylor unit that week. I believe Tequila had told Tony about me or it could have been the word of mouth from other musicians.
I saw Billy Hart again during a music series at Sweet Basil's. It was called Our Friends from... followed by the name of the country. It would vary during this jazz series. On this afternoon, it was Our Friends from Canada. Don Pullen played piano, Billy Hart on drums, Jane Bunnett on soprano saxophone, and a trumpet player. It may have been her husband, Larry Cramer. When Billy saw me come into the club, he started playing some of my musical ideas. During the break, he said, "Marc, this is your gig. You should be playing in this band. I laughed and told Billy, "No, you are the right man for this gig. I noticed that Jane Bunnett released a CD, Live at Sweet Basil on the Denon label. I'll have to look into it and see if it contains the band I saw at the club. I hope so. Don Pullen did an incredible performance, playing extremely well throughout from the first note to the end of the session.
I hear too many players today and they don't have a firm sense of direction. We had that and much more. I explain this point a great deal more when I'm conducting a free jazz workshop. I once sat in with Sabir Mateen's workshop. Through the Apogee rehearsals, this is how we met Raphé Malik: Raphé heard us rehearsing at a space right across the street from the New England Conservatory. He was walking down the street and he heard what we were doing. He came upstairs to the second floor and started checking us out. Months later, Raphé joined Apogee after we moved to New York City. He replaced Gene Ashton after he left the band. We had played our first gig at the Studio Rivbea and Ashton walked out on us. David and I couldn't believe our eyes when we saw him leave the room. Gene's departure caught us completely off guard. We weren't prepared for this. The band was never the same without him. We had spent quite amount of time playing together, I found myself missing his sounds whenever we'd do a performance.
Readers might find these comments, from Rick Lopez's site, of interest:
"Chris Amburger did perform with Apogee, however, for the record, the band developed largely without a bassist. This had an enormous impact on my drumming. The times that Chris performed in public with Apogee were rare. While we were in Boston, bass players were always in demand. For that reason, Chris was unable to remain with Apogee as a permanent member. We were glad to see him make a few gigs with the band on those rare occasions. Raphé Malik heard Apogee in Boston while we were rehearsing across the street from the New England Conservatory. He can confirm that David, Gene, and yours truly, spent most of our time together as a trio, not a quartet."
The band did play at Columbia University's WKCR two times. The first time, we hit as the original trio, Apogee. The second time, bassist Chris Amburger played with us. Chris told me his last name is the word hamburger without the "h. I've had the opportunity to hear this version of Apogee for the first time on CD. Someone gave me a copy of this performance recently. I only hope that David S. Ware and Cooper-Moore can concentrate on obtaining the Apogee tapes that they have, that is if they still have them in their possession, and put them out on CD also. There is an audience for this music. Most of the places we performed in Boston were colleges, churches, café, one in particular, the Black Avant-garde. Many new upcoming artists played at this venue. Justo Almario [tenor saxophone] and Sid Simmons [piano] are a couple of the musicians I recall seeing at this club. We also played one time at the Boston YMCA. That performance was recorded. I hope David and Cooper-Moore can get that out on CD too.
More from Rick Lopez's site:
"As you already know, we rehearsed extensively as a trio. This helped us to develop musically on all levels."
"The only tape of Apogee that I know of was done by David and Cooper-Moore. I'll have to try and find the flyer, but, I can tell you that it was a performance in Boston, at the YMCA. Either David or Cooper-Moore has the tapes. The next tape, a studio recording, became the Birth of a Being record on the then new HatHut record label. If there are any other tapes, they're unauthorized recordings."
"During the early 1970s, while still living in Boston, we came to New York to play at Columbia University's radio station, WKCR. I don't recall the year we did this. Reel to reel tapes recorded Apogee live on the air. We did not talk nor do an interview. Most of the feedback that we got was that we didn't talk. It seems listeners were more interested in hearing us speak than the music. The personnel was David S. Ware, tenor sax, Gene Ashton, piano, and yours truly on drums... A fan tells me that there are two tapes of Apogee at Columbia University's radio station WKCR. They may confirm my hunch that we played there a second time."
AAJ: Can you describe your musical development as a free drummer, how did you develop your sound?
ME: The direct effect of not playing with a bassist on a regular basis is that my musical concept is different from most drummers. Most drummers learn to play music in more traditional settings meaning drums, piano, bass and horn. I never had that except for the time I was attending Berklee. By not having a bassist to work with during my developmental phase, my drumming went off in a different direction. Had I learned music in a traditional setting, my playing would be more conservative. I describe what I do as similar to a wild stallion. No one will ever be able to ride this horse!
My concept, the way I play the drums, I tend to fill up the space. When you have a piano in the group, the band can get lazy because the piano fills the space. When your pianist leaves, you'll feel the difference immediately. My drumming is one of continuous sounds. That's how I hear the music and it comes through that way. I really don't have much say about it. We're all different, drummers in general, and that's as it should be. I fail to understand why some musicians choose to make a career out of living off another musician's style. As I mentioned earlier, I found my sound when we did a live performance in Boston on a college radio station. We also did a performance at a college in the Kenmore Square area. I understand that the guy who directed it has the video tapes in his possession, according to Larry Sands.
AAJ: Can you describe the activities at 501 Canal Street?
ME: When we moved to New York, we began rehearsing at the space, 501 Canal Street. This space would never have worked if it were not for the extraordinary home improvement skills of Cooper-Moore. He did a majority of the repair work on the building and made it easier to live at this location. Other musicians such as Tom Bruno, and Ellen Christi came, but that was after the fact. Alan Braufman was one of the original tenants in this building along with Cooper-Moore, David S. Ware and Chris Amburger. We began rehearsing here also, the same as we did in Boston. Gradually, we began to run into Cecil Taylor.
Cooper-Moore did an excellent interview about the early years of Apogee and the formation of the activities at 501 Canal Street. Try to get in touch with Adam Lore for a copy of 50 Miles of Elbow Room, issue one. See Rick Lopez's site provided at the end of this bio. Readers will want to read this interview. Cooper-Moore's storytelling skills are much better than mine.
AAJ: How did Apogee happen to play with Cecil Taylor's band?
ME: David was a huge fan of Cecil Taylor. I never felt that we had to play with a big name jazz figure, however, I'm not stupid. Should the opportunity arise, we would take advantage of it and go with the flow. We would have discussions about this while we were in Boston at the end of rehearsals or sometimes in the middle of a rehearsal session. Cecil eventually asked David and me to play in a large ensemble he was putting together. We had talked to Cecil over a period of weeks and months. When he called a rehearsal, I think he was shocked that David and I could play. Cecil once came to my job when I was working at a bank on Chamber Street. I recognized him right away. He got on line and came to a coworker. I went over to her, and said, "Don't you know who this is? She didn't. "He's Cecil Taylor.
Cecil was pleased to see that someone knew who he was. I told him that David was trying to get in touch with him. Cecil quickly jotted down his number on a small piece of paper and gave it to me. I gave it to David at the next Apogee rehearsal at 501 Canal Street. From this initial contact, David and I would run into Cecil on many other occasions in New York City. We did see Cecil whenever he played in New York. We attended his gigs at Columbia University, the Five Spot, and the Whitney Museum.
Most musicians talk and can't play. We were very strong during the seventies. Nobody could out do us when it came to playing high energy music. They'd get tired and have to sit down and rest. We had done that so much in Boston that we created a name for ourselves on that alone. Apogee was more than a high energy band. We could play other musical styles and we did on occasions demonstrate that to the public.
AAJ: When did you meet Jimmy Lyons?
ME: After attending Cecil's Big Band rehearsal, Jimmy Lyons came down to the second or third one and checked us out. When the rehearsal was over, Jimmy sat down on the couch and listened to David and me playing high energy music. He was smiling the whole time. I went over to Jimmy and talked with him for a few minutes. The rehearsal was held at a musician's home. I believe it was tenor saxophonist Craig Purpura. I think he had studied with Cecil at one of the colleges. I'm not sure which one. Craig had a loft on Chamber Street. The rent was low during that time period. Later, the rent increased. This ended the loft scene which many artists for a short time enjoyed having performances and other activities in their homes.
At the end of one of the rehearsals, I remember Craig putting on "Respect, a song by Aretha Franklin, on his stereo and dancing to the music. Craig did come to see us when we played at the Village Vanguard. He brought his horn and politely asked Cecil if he could sit in. Cecil told him no. Very few horn players could handle that version of the Cecil Taylor Unit. I had to tell David that Jimmy was very down to earth and that he should try to talk to Jimmy. I told David, he's not stuck up like some of the so called jazz stars. I told David, "Jimmy is real. He's not a jackass like some of these folks out here. David did speak to Jimmy at the next rehearsal.
There were many musicians in that large ensemble. The program did not list the names of the musicians in the ensemble. Many years later, the names were put on the Internet specifically by Rick Lopez, with help from various individuals including yours truly, at his David S. Ware Discography/Sessionography site, however, I can neither confirm nor deny who those musicians were. Too much time has elapsed and I can't remember their names. I also don't recall the band playing at the Village Gate. I would remember something like that. I did see David S. Ware and company at this location when Beaver Harris joined the band. Anthony Braxton was playing opposite them the night I came down.
I can't praise Jimmy Lyons enough. He was very supportive and encouraging of my musical approach. I would tell him I'm not able to do this, and I'm having problems doing something else. Jimmy would calmly say, "You're already doing those things, Marc. That would force me to pause and I'd have to change my thinking. I was holding myself back with negative thinking and being unnecessarily critical of my playing. Jimmy was very helpful in this respect. He did ask me if I wanted to do any playing after I had left Cecil, but I was going through personal stuff. My head was not into music. Had I not been going through that period, Jimmy wanted me to play in his band. How I regret missing that opportunity.
From Rick Lopez's site, I wrote:
"I was one of the drummers in that show. Fellow free jazz drummer Rashied Bakr was also there playing traps. As per Cecil's instructions, we each took turns playing congas and a variety of other instruments that were on the far side of the stage during the concert. Andrew Cyrille did not play traps. He played tympani and small percussive instruments. Dave Saphra was in the bass section along with William Parker, Sirone & Earl Henderson. Frank Lowe did make some of the rehearsals, but, he didn't play with the band at Carnegie Hall. About a month before we actually did the performance, there was a large influx of new musicians that joined the already large ensemble. Since our names were not printed in the program, it's tough to recall many of the fine musicians that were on the stage that night. My apologies to those that I'm unable to remember."
From here, we did the concert at Carnegie Hall. I remember as soon as we started playing the entire audience got up and left. Only a few hardy souls stayed to hear the music Cecil had written. This was an all star ensemble, the likes of which we may never see again. Marvin Hannibal Peterson on trumpet, Sirone, William Parker, and Dave Saphra on bass, Charles Tyler on baritone sax, Sunny Murray, Rashid Bakhr, yours truly on drums, Andrew Cyrille on kettledrums, Karen Borca on bassoon, Jimmy Lyons on alto sax, Raphé Malik on trumpet, Sharon Freeman on French horn, Carla Poole on flute. I had met Sharon Freeman when I played with the All City High School Band. Tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe did attend the rehearsals early on, however, he stopped coming. I wish he had continued attending the rehearsals. We played the lines so many times that even if a musician couldn't read music that well they would have picked up on the lines due to constant repetition. Cecil would give out the lines and then he would ask the band to play them. "Again. "Again. "Again. Always, Cecil would say "again and the band would repeat the lines over and over. I hear that there is a tape of the ensemble from the Carnegie Hall performance floating around however, I have never heard it. I hope someone will forward a copy some day on CD.
While we were rehearsing for Carnegie Hall, Apogee was playing regularly at Sam Rivers' Studio Rivbea. This was the place to hear free jazz during the early seventies. From doing so much playing, this was why David and I were so strong. Steady work will help any artist to improve their talents.
AAJ: Can you provide more information about the Studio Rivbea?
ME: Sam Rivers had a space called the Studio Rivbea in the Village on Bond Street. What was nice about it was that if you wanted to play there, you only needed the recommendation of a musician. There were no tapes or records to be submitted. It was strictly word of mouth from another musician. The reason tapes, CDs are needed today is because most people don't know the music. Granted there is an increase in the number of musicians and bands on the scene. I feel that we have to submit these things because you have a lot of uninformed individuals out here who don't know the music. Years ago, I talked to a club owner about getting work for my band and he told me, I would do better if I hire so and so, and so and so. He really knew the scene. Most people in the music business don't even know the local scene in their own neck of the woods. It's a terrible situation.
AAJ: Fascinating. Let's get back to Cecil Taylor. What happened next?
ME: From our experience in the large ensemble, Cecil was impressed with our talents that he asked David S. Ware to join his band, the Cecil Taylor Unit. I was busy at my job when I got the call from Cecil. He asked that I join his band also. I eagerly joined and the Unit was complete. I was unaware that Cecil had asked Raphé Malik to join the Unit also. Before joining the Unit, we (Apogee, David S. Ware, Raphé Malik and yours truly) did perform the music for Adrienne Kennedy's avant-garde play, A Rat's Mass. A review of this event can be found in the New York Daily News, Tuesday, March 6, 1976. The short article was written by Ms. Patricia O'Haire. We did several performances at the La Mama Experimental Theater in the Village. Ms. Eileen Stewart still runs this venue today.
When Cecil hired us to play in his band, he in effect hired the Apogee band without Gene Ashton. While we were on the European tour during the summer of 1976, she attended the show when we performed at La Rochelle. I saw her back stage during our performance. I was really in the zone during this show. I sounded great that day. I could no wrong during this performance. Stewart was closely watching, taking it all in. At one point during the show, I went offstage to let Cecil take a solo. I needed to cool off for a few minutes. Stewart approached me and asked me to tell Cecil that she was there. I told her, "I'd gladly do that, but, I don't know who you are. When she said her name, I told her, "Cecil speaks highly of you. Can you stay longer? He's been telling us that you are somewhere in Europe. She had to leave, but I did give Cecil her message.
Here's what I wrote Rick Lopez a while back on this topic:
"Adrienne Kennedy's A Rat's Mass could be considered a prelude to my entering the Cecil Taylor Unit. I believe that Rashid Bakr was the drummer whom I replaced. By the time I arrived at the rehearsal space, the play was already intact, meaning everything was set. Cecil played kettle drums or tympani while I was on the drum kit. During the play, I began playing loudly. Cecil leaned over and whispered, 'Keep it down.' Immediately, I dropped to a softer dynamic level. There were no problems with dynamics from that moment on.
Raphé later shared that whenever I would play something, David [S. Ware] would start laughing. At this point, I had been working hard at my day job. I hadn't played in public for a while. The play was a different experience. I would love to work in that environment again. I'm not sure how many nights we performed at the LaMama Theater. Most likely, we did do at least two nights, with the possible addition of a third night. I'm unable to say for sure.
I also wrote about another performance in Europe:
"What's note worthy about the La Rochelle, France show is the addition of bassist, Alan Silva. Alan joined the band for the Montreux show in Switzerland on July 9, 1976. The band was rehearsing in a secluded area. It turned out to be not so secluded. One lucky fan heard us playing. He came in and sat down for a free concert. Alan Silva arrived minutes later. We continued to play with much passion. I turned it up an extra notch or two, just to see how Alan would react. Alan began playing; adjusting his musical ideas with what the band was playing. My reaction was that Alan was thinking that I was going to get tired and change to an easier level. That didn't happen! I kept playing harder and harder. Alan was checking me out closely. I kept playing so hard that Alan started laughing. Cecil was also highly amused by my tactics. He knew what I was doing.
Drummers tend to be very territorial. If anyone joined the band, I made sure that they played out stuff. On that point, there was no compromise. For the record, Alan Silva was the only musician to play with the Dark Unto Themselves Cecil Taylor Unit. No one sat in at any time. If you hear otherwise, it didn't happen while I was there. Anything is possible after I left.
This brings us to the La Rochelle performance in France, the next day we flew in a private plane. The plane was small, having just enough room for us, the musicians, and our instruments. We took only a change of clothes for one day. Our suitcases arrived later that day. I was uncomfortable in the plane. Raphé and I were in the back seat. My drum case contained the floor tom tom and the small tom tom. The case rested on our laps pressing against our faces. It was quite large. Had the plane gone down, there was no way for Raphé nor I to save ourselves. We were pinned to the back seat by my drum case. We were totally in the hands of the Almighty. Luckily, we arrived at La Rochelle without any mishaps.
Jimmy and David were laughing at us throughout the flight. They teased us to no end. After the plane landed, we were taken to the hotel. We were late getting to La Rochelle. The promoters of the concert wanted us to go to the theater ASAP. I was hungry. I didn't want to make the same mistake I had made at the Montreux Festival. During the show, I suddenly found myself very hungry. Getting hungry in the middle of a performance is awful because you can't do anything about it. You can't leave the stage while the band is playing to eat. That's a no-no! I went to David's room and told him that I had to get something to eat before we played. David took me to Cecil's room and explained the situation. Cecil understood. Within a short time, we were at a restaurant eating a lavish meal. Meanwhile, the promoters were having a fit. The show was not going to start on time. As soon as I had finished eating, the promoter, personally, drove me to the theater pronto.
I don't recall the name of the place. It was a large theater that could also double for showing movies. When I had finished setting up my drums, Cecil, Jimmy, David and Raphé arrived. We did a quick sound check. I could hear a concerned crowd behind the curtains. They were greatly relieved when the curtains went up. Finally, they were going to hear some music. The tape doesn't fully capture my performance. At the beginning, I was using brushes. On this day, I was in the zone. Everything that I played was superb. Jimmy Lyons turned around at one point because he was so impressed with my work on brushes. Later, I changed to drumsticks and the band took off. Alan really added another voice to the unit. I wish he had stayed on longer with the group. Listening to the tape, the band sounds great.
Towards the end of our long set, Jimmy, Raphé and David started playing together. This is one of the few times that the three horns improvised freely, other than when they were playing the heads. They kept playing on and on, I thought they would never stop. During this segment, Cecil thought that I was pushing the band. No, it wasn't me, it was the horn players. They had gotten into a hard driving mode and locked in. I had no choice but to keep up. That was no problem. I simply dug in and started to push the group as hard as I could. When we finished playing, the audience was very enthusiastic. They kept screaming and hollering. We bowed and left the stage. Because I had played so well, Cecil asked me to go back on stage by myself. I didn't want to, but, Cecil insisted. As soon as I set foot on the stage, the audience went nuts! They started screaming again, only this time, their collective voices went up another octave. Words cannot begin to describe how I felt at that moment. Now, I understand why people cry when they receive awards at the music awards shows. The audience can literally move a person to tears."
AAJ: Give us your impressions of Cecil Taylor. What did you think of him as a musician?
ME: What I liked about Cecil Taylor is that he held long rehearsals. Cecil asked me to come early before the horn players. I would arrive one or two hours early. I could hear Cecil playing as I walked up the stairs. He was already practicing. Cecil had a dog at the time. His dog was very quiet. He would sit there and listen to Cecil play for hours. I thought to myself, "A damn dog has more sense than some of these critics. All you have to do is listen to the music. You'll get it eventually. Every once in a while Cecil would look at the dog and he'd pat him on his heada Hallmark card Kodak moment! I learned that Cecil has a much wider musical range than he's given credit by the writers. I played with Cecil, just the two of us, and learned how to play his music. I think my drumming had a tendency to clash with what he was doing, but, Cecil didn't mind the energy I brought to the group. Some of this has been captured on record.. During those duets, I didn't use my high energy approach, it wasn't necessary. I had only a partial drum kit. I couldn't play loudly at this location. Although it was Cecil's loft, he had neighbors.
I'd like to see the Blue Note performance Cecil did at the Blue Note celebration put on DVD, plus many of his other performances. Where most musicians go astray is that they jump right into the high energy aspect of Cecil's playing. Yes, that is a part of it, however, Cecil gives out melodic lines and he does that for a reason. I see too many musicians who ignore the lines and try to do their own thing. This is very stupid on the part of the musicians. I've heard critics talk about David S. Ware, and that talk is light years from the truth. David, more than most, knows how to make the lines sing, although I will say that Jimmy Lyons did it better than anyone else because he was with Cecil for his entire musical career. I wish Jimmy had done more things under his name and that he had lived longer. Cecil is one of the most significant musicians in jazz. He should be getting even more attention than he's getting. There should be an effort to bring his music to a wider audience; hence, this is why jazz needs to be on television.
Before I joined Cecil's Unit, I did go to Boston to the Jazz Workshop and they had finished playing for the night. I don't remember what year this was. My best guess is it took place after we did the performance at Carnegie Hall. It could have been in the fall of 1974 or 1975. Cecil, Jimmy and Andrew were both surprised and pleased to see me as I walked into the club. They were standing in my line of sight as I made my entry. I'll have to get in touch with Rick Lopez about this. He's trying to keep track of Cecil's performances.
Getting back to Apogee and David S. Ware, David can play almost anything you write for him. He's an accomplished horn player. You can't say that about some of the horn players in free jazz.
AAJ: Like anyone in particular?
ME: Because of my duo with Paul Flaherty, already one writer is suggesting that I work with Peter Brötzmann. I was at the filming of Rising Tones Cross with Charles Gayle. The problem is I was not moved by what Peter's doing. It's not very likely that we'll come together. I've already been with the best horn players: David S. Ware, Charles Gayle, Sabir Mateen and even Rob Brown. Ras Moshe, one of the upcoming horn players is more interesting to my ears than Mr. Brötzmann. If you're a musician and you think you have what it takes to do a duo, trio, quartet album, feel free to get in touch. I may say yes, you never know. My contact information is near the end of this interview.
My primary focus is working with the members in my current band, Tor, Ras, and James. I should also mention that because of my lifestyle and interest in yoga and meditation, it is not possible for me to work with everybody. I prefer to work with clean musicians who don't do drugs or are not too heavy into alcohol. These elements tend to lower one's creativity in my opinion. Some will say drugs can help. While that may be true, over time, it takes more drugs to get to those peak experiences, those moments of creative insights. In the meanwhile, drugs will begin to have a negative impact on the body. The same is true for alcohol. The law of diminishing returns will start kicking in. The focus of the individual will shift from creativity to that of drugs and/or alcohol only. Aren't drugs and alcohol an arduous means for a brief moment of epiphany?
For those who are interested, here is the schedule of the Cecil Taylor Unit European tour, summer of 1976:
We left New York City on June 14, 1976 at 8:45 pm.
We arrived in London and killed time by visiting Ronnie's and general sight seeing in London for about an hour before heading back to the airport. I quickly learned that I was no longer in America when I went into a store and asked for a quart of orange juice. "You mean a liter of orange juice, was the rebuttal from the female store clerk with a soft British accent. I had forgotten that the metric system is used over here. From Heathrow Airport, we made a connection for a flight to Yugoslavia.
18 June 1976 Ljublana, YugoslaviaAirport security guards had machine guns and they looked like they were ready to use them. "Go ahead, do something wrong, was the look they had on their faces, "so we can blow your stupid ass away! Dark Unto Themselves was recorded here. I was relieved when we were in the air leaving the country. This was the band's first performance on this tour. My drums arrived late. They didn't get to Yugoslavia until the day that we were leaving. I remember talking to a Yugoslavian official at the airport who bore a strong resemblance to the actor, John Wayne. He didn't talk like him, but, he did look the part. Believe it or not, this is a true story.
20 June 1976 Rotterdam, HollandThe people in Holland were very friendly. They made me feel at home.
23 June 1976 Paris (with Archie Shepp)Shepp's band played opposite us He also played opposite us at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco during the week in March 1976.
25 June 1976 Oslo, NorwayThe only thing I remember is that I couldn't sleep in the hotel. The sun never completely sets in the Scandinavian countries. It always remains light. This threw my internal clocks off. I found myself having a longer day since my body was thinking it's still in the day time, not night.
30 June / 1 July 1976 Hamburg (Uncle Po's)One of our performances was aired on live radio one night only.
3 July 1976 Macerata, ItalyWe played opposite, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, and Philly Jo Jones and company. Although I thought Philly Jo Jones' drumming was impressive, Cecil leaned over and said "Marc, you should have heard him thirty years ago. We performed on a huge stage with giant Egyptian paintings. Dexter Gordon and an Italian trumpeter sat on stage while we were playing. They would point to the band members during their solos and the performance. Dexter called out to Cecil as he was walking off the stage after we had finished playing. Cecil acknowledged Dexter as he walked towards the dressing room. Dexter was impressed with the band. Johnny Griffin wasn't into free jazz. I did see him a few years ago in a small eatery on the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue. He remembered this gig and he asked if it that was where the giant Egyptian paintings were on stage. I loved the people and the food in Italy. The Italian people get a bad rap because of the Mafia. Most Italians are hard working people, the same as you'll find in any country. They're not into illegal activities. I thought their version of Italian food was much better than what we get in the United States.
9 July 1976 Montreux, SwitzerlandSun Ra went on first. This performance was released by HatHut Records. A Japanese trio went on afterwards. They played too long. By the time we went on, the audience had left as it was very late when we got on the bandstand. This event was filmed. They got about twenty minutes of us as the previous band had played too long and used up most of the footage. My heart sunk when the camera lights were turned off during our show. I knew they weren't filming us anymore.
10 July 1976 La Rochelle, FranceMy best performance on the tour.
11 July 1976 Nimes, FranceWe did not play here. It was on the schedule however, this gig didn't happen. We went on to another gig in Germany.
14 July 1976 Bremen, Germany (radio studio performance at SendeSaal Saal Studio)I picked this up from Rick Lopez's site. I don't recall the date but I do remember the band playing at this venue. The acoustic in the room wasn't very good. I couldn't hear the rest of the band member very well.
16 July 1976 Finland, Pori Jazz FestivalI met drummer Edward Vesala here. He didn't speak much English but he made it very clear that he was deeply moved by this version of the Cecil Taylor Unit. Edward Vesala was playing with a rock band at this festival. I took photos of them while they were playing. I want to add that I met John McLaughlin at the Pori Festival. I told him how much I enjoyed his playing when he was with Tony Williams. John shared that he had done a recent performance with Tony and that Tony played extremely well. John and his band Shakti did come to see us play.
18 July 1976, The HagueHerbie Hancock went on before we did.
Throughout this tour we would play either before or after Sun Ra and his Arkestra. That was an experience in itself. Sun Ra sounded great throughout the tour. I can recall at The Hague, he was feeling pretty good, he began playing the electric keyboard with his back facing the audience. We laughed when started doing this. We thought it was hilarious. Sun Ra and his Arkestra were in fine form when they went on before us at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland. That live performance was released on record by HatHut Records.
Prior to going on this European tour, the band did play in the US at the following venues: The Village Vanguard, The Keystone Korner in San Francisco, Oil Can Harry in Vancouver Canada, The Jazz Showcase in Chicago. We performed in at UCLA and in Michigan, April 15, 1976, The Power Center, Michigan State University at Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan. For more information about this time period please visitRick Lopez's site.
The band played exceptionally well when we worked at the Keystone Korner . That was in March 1976 around the third week. We played opposite Archie Shepp and company. Before Shepp and Beaver Harris heard us, they were treating us like little boys. After the first set (we went on first), everything changed. They were more respectful of David and me. The band received standing ovations after every set. Never have I received more love in the US than what we received from the crowds in San Francisco. One attendee, a visual artist, told us that he had planned to catch only one set. After the first set, he not only stayed all night, but many called in sick to their jobs and they came to the club every single night for the rest of the week. How many bands in jazz can do that today? The fans were terrific. I'll never forget them.
AAJ: That's great. What about your own bands, and the evolution of your own music?
ME: After I left David S. Ware, I began playing with my own band. The first band had Matthew Shipp on piano and Rob Brown on alto saxophone. The result of this collaboration was the Black Queen CD on my ALPHAPHONICS record label. On that date, I used Fred Hopkins on bass. Fred was one of the true jazz greats. It's amazing that the jazz industry still hasn't given this man his fifteen minutes. Although Fred is no longer with us, if I were an aspiring bassist, I would study his CDs or whatever I could get my hands on. Fred Hopkins was a monster on the bass. I really wanted to use William Parker, but, David felt that I would be better off with another bassist. This controlling aspect of David was one of the reasons I left the band. I have also used Vattel Cherry on bass in the past. Matthew Shipp and Rob Brown were in fine form for this recording.
Matt knew how to give Black Queen a hip sound while Rob Brown and Fred Hopkins swung on "Lite Free. Correction, the entire band swung on "Lite Free. I like Fred Hopkins' solo on "Bumblebees and Marigold Flowers. He nailed this piece right down to the sound the bumblebee. I'm glad we got it on tape during this recording session. LaVerne Maxwell gave an inspired reading of the eponymous poem I wrote for Black Queen and "Creation, a poem for those into New Age practices. I happened to be in Midtown, walking down Broadway towards the 42nd Street area when I saw the editor of Essence Magazine, Susan L. Taylor, being escorted to a waiting limo. When I saw her, the words "Black Queen flashed into my mind. I wrote the poem shortly after this encounter. This became the title for this album. When it comes to inspiration, it can come from anywhere.
My actual debut was a duo performance with Daniel Carter, multi-horn player. We did a performance at the Chase Manhattan Bar and Grille at 98 Third Avenue, between East 12th and 13th Street. This series was put together by drummer Tom Bruno. It was the New York City Artists Collective. Drummer Cindy Blackman played in this series with multi-horn player Zussaan Kali Fasteau, before Cindy went on to work for rock star, electric guitarist, Lenny Kravitz.
Cindy also performed off and on with George Braith. George played on the streets following somewhat in the mode of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, blowing more than one instrument simultaneously. He calls his horns the Braithophone. These are two different horns, straight alto and soprano melded together. George told me that when Cindy played with him, his band would attract larger crowds. The public hasn't gotten used to the idea of seeing a woman playing drums. Drums are considered a male instrument, not for women. Of course this isn't true; it's just that few women drummers are seen playing in public.
I also was able to get work for my band as a trio using Rob Brown and Vattel Cherry or Hill Greene on bass. I enjoyed working with these guys. Vattel has moved and is no longer in New York City. Hill's still around, so he'll remain in the band. "He's it until he dies or I find someone better, to paraphrase a quote I heard in the movie, Starship Trooper.
I have worked with two other bassists: Tom Abbs of the Jumparts organization and François Grillot. Tom used to set up gigs at the Piny Pony on Ludlow Street for a time during the years 2000-2001. I could be off with the years. He also had gigs at the Brecht Forum in New York City. Tor Snyder gave me a ride home after we did our show that night as it had started snowing. I was short on cash [I normally take a cab to the gigs] so I had to bring a small drumkit to the forum. By the time we left Manhattan and were heading into Queens, the snow was coming down really hard making it difficult to see. I would have been in deep trouble had Tor not given me a lift that night. I had taken the subway to get to the Brecht Forum. This show took place on Friday, January 20, 2001, 11 pm.
Sabir Mateen, Tor Snyder and I did perform at the Piny Pony one time. That was the best night I've ever had playing back-beat rhythms. I was sounding like a funk drummer that night. François played with Paul Flaherty and I when we did a performance at the Lucy Parsons Center in Boston. This took place on Thursday October 16th, around 7:30pm. This was a small bookstore selling politically-oriented books and publications. I noticed a book by filmmaker Michael Moore on the shelves. The gig was originally billed as duo performance between Paul and I, however François really wanted to play with us that night. We let him join us as I had warmed up with tenor saxophonist, Stephen Gaucci while I was waiting for Paul to arrive. Paul did enter the room a few minutes later.
When he came in I was already playing with François. It proved to be a good outing for us. Stephen Gaucci was a member of the band that went on after usNegative Dialectics. Hugo, the promoter of this event had a cameraman in the bookstore and it was videotaped. This was the first time I ever got a copy. Many people love to videotape jazz artists and in all the years I've been in this business, this was the first time I actually got a copy. Fans who claim they love the music so much should do the right thing and give jazz artists copies of those videos and photographs. It's not enough to tell your favorite artist, I love what you do musically. Show your love by giving the artists a copy of your video and/or photos. This can be done as hard copy photos or digital images. This shouldn't be a problem as digital cameras have flooded the market place. These images can be sent via email.
AAJ: Can you talk about Charles Gayle? I've heard the Knitting Factory album you did with him.
ME: Sure thing. My work with Charles Gayle does intertwine with my recordings during this period. I didn't remain idle for long. Charles Gayle had heard good things about me and he decided to try me out in his band. The result of that effort can be heard on disc two of the double-disc set put out by the Knitting FactoryMore Live at the Knitting Factory. I didn't last very long with Charles. He has decided to use Michael Wimberly instead.
I like Michael Wimberly although to my ears, he's not a true free jazz drummer. He is a talented drummer in his own right. I like his drumming. Charles apparently likes to get drummers who aren't into free jazz. Michael Wimberly can be seen in the documentary that aired on Public Television called Exploring the World of Music. This series was very interesting. I learned a few things from watching this program. I hope it becomes available on DVD.
Now, it's back to Alpha Phonics. When I did Time & Space Vol. 1, I wrote some of the pieces because I knew Rob Brown had studied with one of John Coltrane's teachers. Alto saxophonist Cara Silvernail came to my attention when I was with Charles Gayle. She had approached him about playing. She wanted to play this music so I gave her a chance. We did a gig at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street. Cara didn't want to cut Rob Brown off as he was ending his solo. I had to stop playing and gently used my drumstick to push her forward to the microphone. I can't say I've ever seen a woman on saxophone playing free prior to Cara Silvernail. She sounded good. I learned during the rehearsals that she reads music well. She and Rob worked well together. Hill Greene played bass and provided solid support on this record date. There were some leftover compositions that didn't make it on the first CD. I plan to release them in the future. The music won't be enough to fill a CD. I like to give a minimum of one hour of music on my recordings. Some musicians who are working frequently come up short in this department. I don't understand why nor how working musicians put out CDs that are less than an hour.
After I did Time & Space Vol. 1, I changed the band and started using Sabir Mateen on tenor saxophone. I love what Rob Brown is doing however, drums balance better with the tenor saxophone given my style and the loudness of my drumming on occasions. Sabir was supposed to come to the recording of Time & Space Vol. 1, however, he never got my phone message. I owe drummer Tom Bruno a big thank you for letting me use Sabir Mateen. Remember, some leaders prefer to hold on to their musicians like they're personal property. The public would be very surprised to learn how selfish some of these musicians are. I had seen Sabir playing on the street with Test, the band with Tom Bruno, Sabir, Daniel Carter and Matt Heyner. We've had Matt Heyner on bass on a few occasions. I did work with Daniel Carter off and on. We had an unknown tenor saxophonist for one gig. I never ran into him again. I wonder if he's still in New York City. Some musicians are nomads. You see them today and tomorrow, it could be months or years before you see them again. Bassist Hill Greene has been working in my band over the years. He also works with singer, Jimmy Scott. I think it's a good idea for free jazz musicians to work with inside jazz artists. One helps the other in my opinion. We have also worked briefly with the legendary trumpet player Roy Campbell.
I also did a performance once with electric guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors. He is the opposite of me. He plays using softer dynamics and specializes in playing at slow tempos. I tend to be more upbeat and into quick tempos. It's hard to describe his sound. I know that if Loren got more exposure, a lot of guitar players would copy what he's doing. I hear a transcendental New Age quality in his playing. I have heard Alice Coltrane use this sound on some of her albums.
Hill Greene drove usme and Sabir Mateento Bob Rusch's place in upstate New York. We did the album, Red Sprites & Blue Jets. This record really helped Sabir's career. He was working when the CD came out, I wasn't. I've always had to keep a low profile because of my job. Now that the job is behind me, I'm concentrating on music. The events of September 11th have had a negative impact on my career. Things are harder now than they ever were however, I'm sure we'll break through in the future. Progress is slow but I'm not complaining. My drumming is rock solid and keeps getting better. I do need to get more CDs out. We're working on it.
AAJ: What was it like to open for Sonic Youth?
ME: I'm glad you asked that question. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the show we did when we opened for Sonic Youth. Thurston Moore is a huge fan of free jazz. He's doing what John Coltrane tried to do, that is, help as many musicians as possible. He has helped drummer William Hooker, me, tenor saxophonist Paul Flaherty, drummer Chris Corsano, David S. Ware, and many others in free jazz. This is what we need more of, not the petty jealousies, rivalries, and vindictiveness which some artists continue to perpetuate into infinity. We played at the Academy Theater right across the street from the New York Times building. It has since been renovated as part of the renewal plan for the 42nd Street area. I hardly recognize this area now. It looks different from how it was when I was a kid.
This happened on Saturday, October 21, 1995. This was the best sound I've ever had playing in front of a live audience. I could hear Sabir Mateen and Hill Greene clearly. Because the sound was better than average, it changed our musical presentation. The band locked into a much more musical approach than usual. It wasn't the loud drumming that I normally get into since I can't hear the horn player most of the times. On this Saturday afternoon, it was a very musical presentation of melodic free jazz. The young teenagers in the audience went wild after our show. Thurston had arrived and he was sitting on the side listening to us play. He was very pleased with our performance. He wanted me to do more shows with him, but my commitment to my day job was the problem. I told Thurston to use Sabir. Thurston wanted to record Sabir. I told him to go ahead do it, that wouldn't be a problem. I try to help the musicians that work for me to get ahead. This is how Tom Bruno and Sabir got to work with Sonic Youth. I did get Sabir and Hill recorded the very next year when we did Red Sprites & Blue Jets. I appreciate and thank Thurston Moore for his magnanimous support. This is so rare in the world of jazz. I wonder how many artists that Thurston has helped have bothered to publicly thank him.
I did work with Thurston Moore when I filled in for William Hooker at a performance that took place at the Knitting Factory. According to my notes, that was on January 11, 1996. Thurston should consider working with me in the future and do a recording. I'm sure the record will turn out fine.
AAJ: That brings us to your current guitarist Tor Snyder. How did you meet him?
ME: Tor Snyder began asking to join the band. He would come to our performances and he finally asked if he could play with us. My first guitarist, Peter Mazzetti, had moved to the West Coast. Peter was a rock guitarist. He wanted to try his hand playing free jazz. The first gig we did, his performance wasn't what I had in mind. He was very concerned that I wouldn't call him for the next gig, but I kept him in the band. As Peter continued playing with us, he relaxed and was able to give the band a unique timbre. I regret his departure due to his moving to the West Coast.
Tor sensed that I would be open to using a new guitarist. I didn't want to take him because I knew he was a member of Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble. I'm not in the habit of stealing musicians from other people's bands. After Tor convinced me that he was going to remain in New York City, I decided to give him a chance. The first time he played with us, it didn't work out. I let Tor go and he returned several months later. This time, he played very well with the group and he's been in the band ever since. Sabir Mateen's career took off after the release of Red Sprites & Blue Jets. By the time I was able to start getting the band work four years later, Sabir was already up and running.
AAJ: How about your other two band members, saxophonist Ras Moshe and trumpeter James Duncan?
ME: Ras Moshe began approaching me about working in my band. I did use him because I can no longer get Sabir when I need a horn player. Sabir is always working these days; good for him! I wanted to add one more horn player and somehow James Duncan's name came up. I did see him play with Ras at one of Ras's The Music Now! Festival on Sunday, June 24, 2001 at the Orange Bear on Murray Street. I ran into him earlier this year in Midtown and I called out his name. It was James, however, he looked different since the last time I saw him. It must have been a year that had gone by since we last saw each other. James made inquires about the unreleased performance the band did previously. I told him I had not yet found a record company that would take it and put it out. It's hard to get your music out there sometimes. Both Ras and James happened to be in the right place at the right time. It's not likely I will expand the band. I could add a pianist, but, I'm not hearing the piano in my music right now. The Black Queen CD was specifically designed to help pianist Matthew Shipp and alto saxophonist Rob Brown get their foot in the door.
Tony Williams had problems with his band when he had John McLaughlin on electric guitar and Larry Young on organ. Jazz venues said the band was too rock-oriented, while rock venues said the group was too jazzy. Sometimes, an artist can't win. The industry has caught up with Tony Williams Lifetime group and now they're saying what a great band it was. It's hard to build a career when you're in no man's land. If people are saying your group is this, that and the other, the artist suffers greatly. An artist needs support now, not tomorrow or thirty years from now. This is what I'm facing today with my band Slipstream Time Travel. Most record companies won't record us. I have to do it myself, somehow.
AAJ: What about your recent album, Kaivalya, Vol. 1, with Paul Flaherty?
ME: Paul has been a staple in Cadence Magazine for many years. He came to see me play when I did a duo with tenor saxophonist Arthur Doyle at a church in Amherst. Arthur wanted me to learn his music. I didn't leave David S. Ware to learn somebody else's music. I have my own and I want to pursue my own creative impulses. I recognized Paul right away. His photo has been shown in Cadence Magazine over the years. We recorded enough materials for two albums. The second album will be released in the future. Right now, critics seem to like this powerful duo performance. I believe these albums will serve as templates for future duo performances between drums and horns. The music on these albums isn't a free-for-all. The music is well thought-out with outstanding improvisation. The tenor saxophone/drums duo has come a long way since John Coltrane and Rashied Ali on Interstellar Space. I wouldn't be surprised if other musicians use the formula Paul and I used on Kaivalya, Vol. 1. This album is available in some stores but fans can always order it online at Cadence Magazine's site provided at the end.
I had met Arthur Doyle through electric guitarist, Rudolph Grey. Some of you might not realize this is the same person who wrote the book, Nightmare of Ecstasy. This book was picked up by one of the Hollywood studios and made into the movie, Ed Wood, starring one of my favorite actors, Johnny Depp. Rudolph's book is still available at most bookstores, including amazon.com. I had the opportunity to work with Rudolph on two occasions. The first was a gig I did with him along with Arthur Doyle, & Wilbur Morris, at the West Beth Theater. I did a another performance with Rudolph and Charles Gayle at a place called the Cooler. This was actually a location that was used as a slaughterhouse in the past. It was located off Ninth Avenue, not far from the A train 14th Street subway stop. The slaughtering of animals was no longer being done but the space was filled with the deaths of many dead animals. I thought the vibes were very creepy. I used to pick up meat my mom and dad had ordered at a meat market located behind the Port Authority building on tenth avenue. I would stop by there after doing rehearsals when I was with the All City High School Band. I often had to wait an hour since this market was constantly busy.
Rudolph had sent me a letter explaining what he wanted me to do on the opening piece. I don't always check my mailbox so I told him, I had not received his correspondence. Rudolph sighed expressing disappointment and came over explained what he wanted. I listened to him talk while I was setting up my drums. When we hit, I gave Rudolph exactly what he wanted. He was very pleased after the set and he ran over and very excitedly shook my hand. Before we played, he went to the back and told the people doing the video taping not to use the psychedelics visual effects. These images are commonly used for music that's doesn't fall within the mainstream. Filmmakers, please do not use those 1960s special effects for the free jazz. I find it very disrespectful and/or demeaning to this musical genre. We have enough problems without the general public thinking we're odd balls from another planet.
A classic example of this occurred on the BET network when Carlos Santana was interviewed on Jazz Central. Those psychedelic images were promently displayed while Carlos was speaking. Carlos Santana is a long term meditator and because of that some folks think the practice of meditation is bizarre, weird or the result of someone tripping on LSD [meditation experiences]. There is more than enough resesearch evidence available which shows that meditation is good for the body. It can improve one's health and reduce stress. I believe meditation is the perfect vehicle for bringing about balance between the body, mind, and spirit.
If I remember correctly, a video was made of this performance at the Cooler, although I don't have a copy. William Hooker went on with his band first. That was videotaped also. As I watched the monitor, the film maker was using psychedelic images during Hooker's performance. I prefer to have a straight video done under bright lights. Some think that because jazz musicians are cool and hip, the house lights need to be turned down low to the level of a candle. I prefer bright lights as it makes it easier for videotaping and those taking photos in the audience. I played better at this performance than the one at the West Beth Theater. It's always a pleasure working with Charles Gayle. I was glad to work with Rudolph again since I love the sound of an electric guitar. In my next lifetime, I may learn to play this instrument.
AAJ: I noticed that your CDs have a theme in science and the exploration of outer space? Why do you focus on these subjects?
ME: Yes, I have an interest in the various sciences, computers, technology, astronomy, and the exploration of outer space. On the first CD I did, Black Queen, "Quadratic Equation was an indication of the direction I would take for my future albums. My interest in these areas is something I've always had. I can recall my first trip to the Hayden Planetarium while I was a child. I never forgot that trip. It made an impression that may last a lifetime. I did Time & Space Vol. 1, specifically to let the world know that I'm interested in these subjects.
I mentioned my current membership in the space activist group called the Planetary Society. This group was co-founded by three men: Dr. Louis D. Friedman, the current Executive Director, Dr. Bruce Murray, the former president of the Planetary Society, and the late Dr. Carl Sagan. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Director, Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History is the current Chairman of the Board. I have met him and all I can say is "wow! He is very smart and knowledgeable about astronomy and what's going on in the outer regions of deep space. He's a very intelligent man and he knows how to make science fun and interesting. You'd better know what you're talking about when you talk science, astronomy and/or physics. He'll poke holes in your argument if he finds any weaknesses in your proposal. Wow! The same applies to the individuals I've met working for the Planetary Society. What an impressive group of scientists, engineers, astronomers, college professors and many others working in the aeronautics field. The members in the Planetary Society cover a wide demographic range.
Almost everyone saw some, if not all of Carl Sagan's Cosmos series on Public Television. I never got to meet him; however, I have met some of the people in charge of this organization. They're some of the smartest people I've ever met. I'm the only well-known jazz artist associated with this group. I have the Planetary Society Directory. If other famous jazz artists have joined, it was after this publication was printed in 1999. The Planetary Society caught the public's attention when they launched their Cosmos Solar Sail 1 project last year. Unfortunately, there was a malfunction in one of the rocket stages and it didn't put the solar sail into a higher orbit. That portion of the rocket fell back down to earth along with the solar sail. The response from the members and the public has been great. They want the Planetary Society to try again. I'm sure they will in the future. The New York Times Sunday Magazine named the solar sail spacecraft Cosmos 1 as one of the most innovative ideas of 2005 in the December 11 issue of the magazine. I'm not a nerd; on the contrary, I'm just a person that recognizes that the exploration of outer space is something we should pursue. I also believe that we must learn to live and work in outer space. The Planetary Society has a website on the Internet. I also had a short membership with the National Space Society. This group once printed a letter I sent to their magazine Ad Astra.
AAJ: Tell us about the spiritual aspect of your life.
ME: I mentioned earlier that Larry Sand had a profound effect on my life. What happened was that Larry had learned Transcendental Meditation. When I received word about it, I went to the local TM Center in Midtown and learned this popular system of meditation. I did TM and the TM Sidhi for many years. I have moved on to another meditation. I won't go into my current spiritual practices since I find that not everyone is ready for them. These are advanced practices designed to help spiritual seekers to reach the awaken state. A lot of people talk a good game, but, they're not ready. Talking about one's spiritual practices can sometimes have a negative impact on the spiritual seeker. I'm being guided to keep what I do to myself. I have discussed this with like minded individuals and they concur with my reasons. I continue to meditate and have more than thirty years under my belt. I wrote a book about Reiki, a Japanese relaxation technique used primarily for healing, and other topics: Reiki, Yoga, Meditation & Yagyas: New Age Practices, Techniques for Living in the New Millennium. I openly discuss my spiritual practices in this publication. The book can be ordered here.
It is available in hardcover and trade paperback. Beginners will find useful tips and can avoid many of the common pitfalls. I share my experiences both positive and negative. Do check this book out if you're a meditator or have a strong interest in this subject.
AAJ: A sign off message to the readers.
ME: My current band, Marc Edwards Slipstream Time Travel, consists of: Tor Yochai Snyder, electric guitar; Ras Moshe, saxophones; James Duncan, trumpet; Marc Edwards, drums and percussion.
Do get in touch if you're interested in booking my band. I'm also available for conducting free jazz workshops. If you want to use me for a recording, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I do read emails that are sent to me and you will get a reply. I get back to folks fast unless I happen to be out of town or if I'm doing a series of performances, as I don't have a laptop.
Jim Schapperoew's still around. Checkout his inside playing here.
I highly recommend Glen Velez's Frame Drum studies. Order his book, Handance Method, An Introduction to Frame Drumming, from his website.
Do check out Dennis Warren's site. He has lots of CDs and DVDs for sale.
Jazz Now Magazine interviewed me a few years back. Part two of the two-part interview, from April, 1997, can be found here. Part one was in the Jazz Now June 1994 issue.
Hilliard Greene has a wonderful solo bass CD available called Alone. This was put out by Soulsearchmusic. There are eight compositions, most of them original pieces by Hill. Most fans will enjoy this CD. Do look for it at record stores or order online at the above internet record stores. Do show Hilliard your love by buying this CD and attending his live shows. Hill's schedule is shown at his website.
Sabir Mateen has website also here. He can be reached through email for gigs and other performances. Do contact him for work and/or record dates.
I want to thank everyone for reading my incomplete story up to this point in time. It's not over yet, not by a long shot. Thank you. Namaste. I bow to the Divinity in all of you.
Marc Edwards, Slipstream Time Travel (release date TBD)
Paul Flaherty & Marc Edwards, Kaivalya, Vol. 1 (Cadence Jazz Records, 2005)
Marc Edwards, Red Sprites & Blue Jets (CIMP Records, 1997)
Various Artists, Avant Knitting Factory Tours 1993 (Knitting Factory Works, 1993)
Charles Gayle, More Live At the Knitting Factory, Feb. 1993 (Knitting Factory Works, 1993)
Marc Edwards, Time & Space Vol. 1 (Alphaphonics, 1993)
Marc Edwards, Black Queen - Jazz VI Sampler # 45 (AIM,1992)
David S. Ware, Flight of I (DIW/Columbia, 1992)
Marc Edwards, Black Queen (Alphaphonics, 1991)
Various Artists, Spirit of New Jazz (Silkheart,1990
David S. Ware, Great Bliss Volume 2 (Silkheart,1990)
David S. Ware, Great Bliss Volume 1 (Silkheart,1990)
David S. Ware, Passage to Music (Silkheart,1988)
Cecil Taylor, Dark Unto Themselves (Enja Records, 1976)
Photo Credit: Andrew Goldberg