Hot Ptah

Did you flunk out of Cecil Taylor's jazz history class?

74 posts in this topic

It was very interesting for him to play "Out To Lunch" and then tell us what the session was like, and what kind of person Eric Dolphy was; or for him to explain how Sun Ra's early recordings evolved from the local strip club jobs on which Sun Ra and Richard Davis performed as a duo in Calumet City in the late 1940s; or to explain how he functioned with Roy Haynes in Sarah Vaughan's trio in the late 1950s.

Could you share some of these stories?

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It was very interesting for him to play "Out To Lunch" and then tell us what the session was like, and what kind of person Eric Dolphy was; or for him to explain how Sun Ra's early recordings evolved from the local strip club jobs on which Sun Ra and Richard Davis performed as a duo in Calumet City in the late 1940s; or to explain how he functioned with Roy Haynes in Sarah Vaughan's trio in the late 1950s.

Could you share some of these stories?

They tended to be pretty long and animated, told with Richard's enthusiastic style, embellished with fascinating tangents, but I will try to give the gist of a few of them. He talked a lot about Sun Ra in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Chicago. Richard and Sun Ra played for strippers in Calumet City all night long, and Sun Ra read constantly throughout the gigs, reading many difficult books all night long as they played, flipping the pages during solo runs, never looking up from his books and never missing a note on the piano. Richard said that Sun Ra was wise about the world and taught him a lot about life. When Richard got his draft notice for the military, Sun Ra taught him exactly what to say and how to act, to beat the draft. It worked. Richard said that one of the techniques that Sun Ra taught him was to angrily repeat, "I don't want to fire a gun" countless times during the induction exam. Richard said that they finally sent him home with a 4-F rating. When he saw Sun Ra after that, he simply said, "rehearsal next week?" and then they both knew what had happened.

He said that he and Roy Haynes really clicked as a rhythm team and could play together so fast that no pianist or guitar player could keep up. They toned it down for Sarah Vaughan, because they loved her, and thought that her voice was the greatest instrument they had ever heard. When they had a session with Kenny Burrell as leader, they let it all out and Kenny could not keep up with them. Kenny went to each of them privately and asked if he would tell the other to slow down.

He loved playing with Connie Kay, because Connie always laid down a solid beat that you could count on. He called Connie the "security guard" because the bassist could play anything and feel secure that the beat would be there.

He said that Eric Dolphy was the most generous soul he met among all of the musicians in New York. When a new musician would come to town, Eric would come over with a bag of groceries, and do anything to help the newcomer. Richard would get emotional and state that there was never such a good person as Eric Dolphy, and that his record sessions such as "Out To Lunch" would reflect that, that there was such a warm mood at the sessions, coming from Eric.

He also said that Miles Davis was one of the greatest and nicest guys he had ever met and had many wonderful, good human qualities. He had our class sent a birthday card to Miles in the late 1970s when Miles was off the scene and reportedly ill.

I am failing miserably at this--I am not capturing anything near the special atmosphere generated by Richard in the class. I guess that is the nature of a great storyteller, and great teacher.

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It was very interesting for him to play "Out To Lunch" and then tell us what the session was like, and what kind of person Eric Dolphy was; or for him to explain how Sun Ra's early recordings evolved from the local strip club jobs on which Sun Ra and Richard Davis performed as a duo in Calumet City in the late 1940s; or to explain how he functioned with Roy Haynes in Sarah Vaughan's trio in the late 1950s.

Could you share some of these stories?

They tended to be pretty long and animated, told with Richard's enthusiastic style, embellished with fascinating tangents, but I will try to give the gist of a few of them. He talked a lot about Sun Ra in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Chicago. Richard and Sun Ra played for strippers in Calumet City all night long, and Sun Ra read constantly throughout the gigs, reading many difficult books all night long as they played, flipping the pages during solo runs, never looking up from his books and never missing a note on the piano. Richard said that Sun Ra was wise about the world and taught him a lot about life. When Richard got his draft notice for the military, Sun Ra taught him exactly what to say and how to act, to beat the draft. It worked. Richard said that one of the techniques that Sun Ra taught him was to angrily repeat, "I don't want to fire a gun" countless times during the induction exam. Richard said that they finally sent him home with a 4-F rating. When he saw Sun Ra after that, he simply said, "rehearsal next week?" and then they both knew what had happened.

He said that he and Roy Haynes really clicked as a rhythm team and could play together so fast that no pianist or guitar player could keep up. They toned it down for Sarah Vaughan, because they loved her, and thought that her voice was the greatest instrument they had ever heard. When they had a session with Kenny Burrell as leader, they let it all out and Kenny could not keep up with them. Kenny went to each of them privately and asked if he would tell the other to slow down.

He loved playing with Connie Kay, because Connie always laid down a solid beat that you could count on. He called Connie the "security guard" because the bassist could play anything and feel secure that the beat would be there.

He said that Eric Dolphy was the most generous soul he met among all of the musicians in New York. When a new musician would come to town, Eric would come over with a bag of groceries, and do anything to help the newcomer. Richard would get emotional and state that there was never such a good person as Eric Dolphy, and that his record sessions such as "Out To Lunch" would reflect that, that there was such a warm mood at the sessions, coming from Eric.

He also said that Miles Davis was one of the greatest and nicest guys he had ever met and had many wonderful, good human qualities. He had our class sent a birthday card to Miles in the late 1970s when Miles was off the scene and reportedly ill.

I am failing miserably at this--I am not capturing anything near the special atmosphere generated by Richard in the class. I guess that is the nature of a great storyteller, and great teacher.

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It was very interesting for him to play "Out To Lunch" and then tell us what the session was like, and what kind of person Eric Dolphy was; or for him to explain how Sun Ra's early recordings evolved from the local strip club jobs on which Sun Ra and Richard Davis performed as a duo in Calumet City in the late 1940s; or to explain how he functioned with Roy Haynes in Sarah Vaughan's trio in the late 1950s.

Could you share some of these stories?

They tended to be pretty long and animated, told with Richard's enthusiastic style, embellished with fascinating tangents, but I will try to give the gist of a few of them. He talked a lot about Sun Ra in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Chicago. Richard and Sun Ra played for strippers in Calumet City all night long, and Sun Ra read constantly throughout the gigs, reading many difficult books all night long as they played, flipping the pages during solo runs, never looking up from his books and never missing a note on the piano. Richard said that Sun Ra was wise about the world and taught him a lot about life. When Richard got his draft notice for the military, Sun Ra taught him exactly what to say and how to act, to beat the draft. It worked. Richard said that one of the techniques that Sun Ra taught him was to angrily repeat, "I don't want to fire a gun" countless times during the induction exam. Richard said that they finally sent him home with a 4-F rating. When he saw Sun Ra after that, he simply said, "rehearsal next week?" and then they both knew what had happened.

He said that he and Roy Haynes really clicked as a rhythm team and could play together so fast that no pianist or guitar player could keep up. They toned it down for Sarah Vaughan, because they loved her, and thought that her voice was the greatest instrument they had ever heard. When they had a session with Kenny Burrell as leader, they let it all out and Kenny could not keep up with them. Kenny went to each of them privately and asked if he would tell the other to slow down.

He loved playing with Connie Kay, because Connie always laid down a solid beat that you could count on. He called Connie the "security guard" because the bassist could play anything and feel secure that the beat would be there.

He said that when Ornette Coleman first started playing in New York, many musicians were shocked and said that it wasn't like jazz, but that he always said that they should listen to Ornette's rhythm section, that the rhythms were definitely jazz and swinging, too.

He said that Eric Dolphy was the most generous soul he met among all of the musicians in New York. When a new musician would come to town, Eric would come over with a bag of groceries, and do anything to help the newcomer. Richard would get emotional and state that there was never such a good person as Eric Dolphy, and that his record sessions such as "Out To Lunch" would reflect that, that there was such a warm mood at the sessions, coming from Eric.

He also said that Miles Davis was one of the greatest and nicest guys he had ever met and had many wonderful, good human qualities. He had our class sent a birthday card to Miles in the late 1970s when Miles was off the scene and reportedly ill.

I am failing miserably at this--I am not capturing anything near the special atmosphere generated by Richard in the class. I guess that is the nature of a great storyteller, and great teacher.

Edited by Hot Ptah

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I am failing miserably at this--I am not capturing anything near the special atmosphere generated by Richard in the class. I guess that is the nature of a great storyteller, and great teacher.

Not failing at all - enjoyed all of this. I remember speaking with another person who had taken Davis' class, and he mentioned that Davis had dissed Kenny Burrell, or at least this was how I interpreted it. This would have been the "Night At the Village Vanguard" album, which is one of my favorite Burrell records.

If you think of any more, please carry on!

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[i am failing miserably at this--I am not capturing anything near the special atmosphere generated by Richard in the class. I guess that is the nature of a great storyteller, and great teacher.

Thank you so much for sharing your memories of the class!

I had never heard about how kind Dolphy was.

If any more memories come to mind, please feel free to share them.

Edited by HolyStitt

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I had never heard about how kind Dolphy was.

This reminds me of some conversations with RVG. At various times when talking about Dolphy, Coltrane and Desmond he said they were "special" with a wistful look on his face.

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not sure what you're implying...should I have just let him give the wrong titles for Duke Ellington tunes, to confuse Bird's Dial and Savoy recordings, to identify Al Haig as Bud Powell...?

Just giving you shit for the phrase "not trying to be a wise-ass." You?! A wise-ass?! NEVER!

;)

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I taught a jazz history course once when I was a sabbatical replacement at the University of Montana. It was one of those "cash cow" courses that brought in a lot of money to the music department because it had an enrollment of like 300+. As you might expect, on any given day there were about half that many in attendance. I tried to approach the class as a combination of education and entertainment- balancing "boring" lectures with videos and in-class performances.

When I created the final exam I was afraid it was going to be way too easy- you know, questions like:

Louis Armstrong played the:

A) Red Sox

B) Bassoon

C) Trumpet

D) I like eggs

And there were a LOT of people who missed it and similar questions. I thought it was a super-easy test, but it turned out to be a HARD test.

I also had them write reviews of concerts. I got a lot of "the tempo got louder" and related comments.

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I do like eggs...

me a wise guy?

Dolphy was well liked, though, amusingly, the several times I tried to get something out of Jaki Byard about him ("Jaki, there's very little on Dolphy - what was he like?") he just kept saying, "he was a nut."

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I taught a jazz history course once when I was a sabbatical replacement at the University of Montana. It was one of those "cash cow" courses that brought in a lot of money to the music department because it had an enrollment of like 300+. As you might expect, on any given day there were about half that many in attendance. I tried to approach the class as a combination of education and entertainment- balancing "boring" lectures with videos and in-class performances.

When I created the final exam I was afraid it was going to be way too easy- you know, questions like:

Louis Armstrong played the:

A) Red Sox

B) Bassoon

C) Trumpet

D) I like eggs

And there were a LOT of people who missed it and similar questions. I thought it was a super-easy test, but it turned out to be a HARD test.

I also had them write reviews of concerts. I got a lot of "the tempo got louder" and related comments.

It's funny you mention this.

I have had tests were there are a few questions like this, but not in my music class this semester.

As you, I was shocked how many people answered with the wrong answer. In my geology class, there was a question on what started the Continental Drift. The three wrong answers were each of the names of the Three Stooges! It was funny, while people were taking the test occasionally you would hear people laugh when they go to the question.

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I like eggs too. Gotta problem with that? :rfr:rfr:rfr

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When I created the final exam I was afraid it was going to be way too easy- you know, questions like:

Louis Armstrong played the:

A) Red Sox

B) Bassoon

C) Trumpet

D) I like eggs

Trick question, right? The right answer's "cornet"?

:D

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actually, it's a double trick because he played, finally, both -

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When I created the final exam I was afraid it was going to be way too easy- you know, questions like:

Louis Armstrong played the:

A) Red Sox

B) Bassoon

C) Trumpet

D) I like eggs

And there were a LOT of people who missed it and similar questions. I thought it was a super-easy test, but it turned out to be a HARD test.

I also had them write reviews of concerts. I got a lot of "the tempo got louder" and related comments.

It's actually pretty shocking how many undergraduates will sweat at questions like this. But really--can't we like eggs? Is that so wrong?

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When I created the final exam I was afraid it was going to be way too easy- you know, questions like:

Louis Armstrong played the:

A) Red Sox

B) Bassoon

C) Trumpet

D) I like eggs

And there were a LOT of people who missed it and similar questions. I thought it was a super-easy test, but it turned out to be a HARD test.

I also had them write reviews of concerts. I got a lot of "the tempo got louder" and related comments.

It's actually pretty shocking how many undergraduates will sweat at questions like this. But really--can't we like eggs? Is that so wrong?

Richard Davis used some questions like that on his exams. My favorite was: TRUE OR FALSE: Benny Goodman was cheap.

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Weren't no jazz classes when I was in school but I did take a wonderful "music appreciation" class at the University of Iowa. The course was taught by Eldon Obrecht and I owe that man a huge thank you. He introduced me to Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg, Bartok, etc. He was warm, kind and most importantly enthusiastic. I remember asking if he would be lecturing on jazz in the next semester and he said no but invited me to bring some favorites to his office and we could discuss them. I took him up on the offer and the only thing I remember playing was Saxophone Colossus. He regaled me with stories of listening to Tatum and others on 52nd St while on leave during the war. The next semester he brought in Gunther Schuller to speak to the class about "third stream".

All this made me think of him and Google turned up this.

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When I created the final exam I was afraid it was going to be way too easy- you know, questions like:

Louis Armstrong played the:

A) Red Sox

B) Bassoon

C) Trumpet

D) I like eggs

And there were a LOT of people who missed it and similar questions. I thought it was a super-easy test, but it turned out to be a HARD test.

I also had them write reviews of concerts. I got a lot of "the tempo got louder" and related comments.

It's actually pretty shocking how many undergraduates will sweat at questions like this. But really--can't we like eggs? Is that so wrong?

Richard Davis used some questions like that on his exams. My favorite was: TRUE OR FALSE: Benny Goodman was cheap.

:rofl:

On a different note: CN's post reminds me of some of my undergraduate dealings... despite the manifold institutional barriers to improvised music education, I was surprised (and pleased) at just how many so-called 'suits' were receptive to the music (or at least respectful of ideological/aesthetic boundaries). A little goes a long way, I guess.

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I've got to mention the great Harrison Ridley Jr. at Temple University. Not a working musician, but communicated his great love of Ellington and the other greats with a down-to-earth tone. He did a show concentrating on pre-1950 jazz on the Temple radio station every Sunday. His being a college instructor without a high school diploma was downright inspirational. His favorite dialog, repeated more than once.

Student: "That's old music"

Harrison: "It's new to you"

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I took a version of this class taught by Willie Ruff.  At the time I was dismissive of what Miles was playing, early 70's, which I deeply regret now.  Miles had the Agharta band in town and I didn't go.  Ruff showed a movie in the class of Tony Williams playing trap set in the middle of a clearing somewhere in Africa.  He explained to us that music is a form of communication and in Africa drummers play the news of their village to the next village like a telegraph.  He told us that following Tony's performance surrounding villages answered.  The message back was 'We don't exactly understand what you said but we dug it'.  I got a good grade in the class even though I cut the Miles Davis performance.  I did catch Weather Report, Larry Coryell, and Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Cut to many years later and my nephew Will is at Bard and tells me he's taking the intro jazz history class there, which I'm figuring must be taught by some mouldy fig.  Turns out it was Thurman Barker.  Damn.

Edited by ATR

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1 hour ago, ATR said:

I took a version of this class taught by Willie Ruff.  At the time I was dismissive of what Miles was playing, early 70's, which I deeply regret now.  Miles had the Agharta band in town and I didn't go.  Ruff showed a movie in the class of Tony Williams playing trap set in the middle of a clearing somewhere in Africa.  He explained to us that music is a form of communication and in Africa drummers play the news of their village to the next village like a telegraph.  He told us that following Tony's performance surrounding villages answered.  The message back was 'We don't exactly understand what you said but we dug it'.  I got a good grade in the class even though I cut the Miles Davis performance.  I did catch Weather Report, Larry Coryell, and Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Cut to many years later and my nephew Will is at Bard and tells me he's taking the intro jazz history class there, which I'm figuring must be taught by some mouldy fig.  Turns out it was Thurman Barker.  Damn.

I've heard this story before...great story. :D

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33 minutes ago, 7/4 said:

I've heard this story before...great story. :D

Probably from me, sadly.  I'll try to come up with a new one but this one always works.  And if not from me, I'll swear that every word of my version actually happened.  This brings me to a story I heard about Cecil Taylor and Sonny Rollins I heard about the time of CT's birthday last month.  Sonny went to see him in a club.  Afterwards Sonny told him that he didn't understand what Cecil was doing but he knew enough to know that Cecil did and so he should just keep on doing it.

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2 hours ago, ATR said:

Afterwards Sonny told him that he didn't understand what Cecil was doing but he knew enough to know that Cecil did and so he should just keep on doing it.

There it is. Nobody will understand everything everybody does, but we should all hope to recognize when the person doing it knows what they're doing. It not asking too much to expect that much out of damn near anybody, is it?

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