Marc Edwards: Free Jazz Drummer & Percussionist
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.