paul secor

Musicians/nice guys (or gals)

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Reading through the Musicians/jerks thread, I thought it would be only fair to play up the other side of the coin. There are also musicians who are good, friendly people.

I'll begin with Roswell Rudd. I've come in contact with him a couple of times, and he came across as a friendly, enthusiastic person with a big heart. Last November, I sent him a birthday card and a week later was very surprised to receive a thank you card from him saying that as long as I was listening, he'd be playing.

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For me, Hank Jones was a standout. Delightful guy. Elvin was too.

I've found most musicians very welcoming and friendly when approached. One exception was Tony Williams but suspect that I caught him at a bad time (shortly after he had finished an energetic set). Never met Miles but suspect that if I had I would have been given the Ewan McGregor treatment..

Edited by sidewinder

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Hemphill great to deal with, as is Shipp. Nels Cline a sweetheart; also Ken Peplowski. Going back, Curley Russell, Tommy Potter, Dick Katz, Barry Harris, Leroy Williams, Dickey Wells. All nice people. Agree on Hank, who I only met once.

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I met Joe Lovano in person and was delighted to find him a warm and friendly down to earth guy. Had a nice brief talk.

Shook Sam River's hand and my wife and I expressed sincere appreciation for the show we had just seen and Sam smiled warmly and seemed very pleased. He gave me the impression he was a "nice guy" or more.

And I know quite well two jazz musicians in Austin, the internationally known guitarist Willie Oteri and the swing and avant-garde trumpeter Dave Laczko. Two very nice guys, who appreciate any fan or supporter of their WD-41 work.

And I count Jim Sangrey, excellent tenor saxophonist and jazz connoisseur as a friend, and I assure you he's a nice guy. Same can be said for drummer Andrew (the Sheriff) Grifith. A very nice and charming musician and person.

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Jazzbo - I had a similar experience with Sam Rivers. Couldn't have been nicer chatting with him after a gig, I agree he was a very warm character. Andrew Hill also added to my list too. Both of these guys hugely impressed me in person - irrespective of any music they made.

Cedar Walton was also a very pleasant guy to chat with.

Edited by sidewinder

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Had a very nice encounter with Mal Waldron when he was on a rare visit to the U.S., backing up Sonny Stitt at the Jazz Medium in Chicago in the late '70s, IIRC. I told him how tickled I was by his intense, motivically oriented comping for Stitt, who clearly responded to what Mal was doing with big ears. Mal was pleased that someone had noticed and pleased as well that anyone Stateside still remembered who he was.

Had a very nice encounter with Dexter Gordon too, but as enjoyable as it was (may have mentioned it here before), it was clear that Dexter's reason for our long interesting-to-me shmooze was in part that my  presence in his Chicago hotel suite allowed him to fend off Maxine Gregg, who was mad as hell at him about his failure to  start getting ready as soon as she wanted him to for some evening social affair  (they were in town to promote the film "'Round Midnight"). 

Had a brief semi-nasty brush with Miles at the Plugged Nickel in 1969 (have written about it here before), but something good came of it -- an interview with Wayne Shorter that was not going to take place (he said that he had nothing to say)  until Miles, from across the room, hoarsely said, "Don't tell him anything, Wayne" (Miles didn't know me but knew I worked for Dan Morgenstern at Down Beat). Wayne the contrarian pushed back at Miles and immediately told me he'd do the interview, which turned out quite well. Supposedly hadving nothing to say, Wayne the next day talked for about 90 minutes with such coherence that we ran the interview (which IIRC hardly needed editing) as a piece under Wayne's name and paid him about twice the normal DB freelance fee of the time for a piece of that length, maybe $400.

About Ruby Braff, I think this Chicago Tribune piece (it's in my book) captures some aspects of him fairly well. The paragraph that begins "Show business," where he talks about the wisdom of calling up Sinatra and threatening him in order to get ahead, et al. makes it clear that Ruby's sense of himself as a character was at least in part wryly ironic, though I'm sure he could be wounding when he felt like it.

RUBY BRAFF

[1985]

The most glorious anachronism in jazz, cornetist Ruby Braff really shouldn’t  exist--for he may be the only man who has successfully stepped outside of the otherwise swift-running stream of jazz history, although  Braff doesn’t quite see himself that way. But that is more than  appropriate, because Braff has always been a one-of-a-kind guy whose  gleefully  combative attitude toward life recalls Groucho Marx’s famous quip  that he  “wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member.”  Suggest, for instance, that there is anything unlikely about what he has managed to do--build a truly individual style that nonetheless pays  handsome   tribute to the genius of Louis Armstrong--and the fifty-eight-year-old Braff bridles  at the thought. 

“Hey,” he says,  “I was playing in joints when I was still in grade school, and by the time bebop came along, in 1945 and ’46, I already was  deeply into music. So there wasn’t anything odd about what I was doing. You  know what they say, ‘You are what you eat,’  and I was just playing the way I heard people play.”

But there is something unusual about Braff’s achievement. Even though he  was, back then, not the only young player who felt himself to be more in  tune with the music of Armstrong et al. than with the music of Charlie  Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he was almost alone in his ability to steer  clear of the tricky waters of re-creation and revivalism.   Inspired by the past, Braff has always been a musician of the present, and  his love of what  might be  called “the great jazz tradition” has only  increased the individuality of his plush, throbbing tone and the gracefully  soaring phrases with which, as one critic put it, Braff “adores the  melody.”  So at  a time when the virtues of the great tradition are seldom to  be found, Braff not only presents them with all of their original force but  also puts them to very personal use--creating his own music with a passion  that transcends the boundaries of style. 

Born in the Boston suburb of Roxbury, Mass., the son of Russian-Jewish  immigrants, Braff knew early on that he was destined to be “a performing  animal.”  “Were I not playing the horn,” he claims, “I’d be in vaudeville--a  magician, a comic, something on the stage. And the reason I know that is that I know how I responded to performers, even when I was a baby.   I’d hear something on the radio, even  [boy tenor] Bobby Breen  [here Braff  does a choice takeoff  on Breen singing “When My Dreamboat  Comes Home”], and it would just stir things in me, drive me crazy.  I, too, wanted to make  noises like that and excite somebody the way those noises excited me.” 

The noisemaker Braff had his heart set on was a tenor saxophone, but when his parents took their rather diminutive son to a music store, they felt a  trumpet would be more his size--a choice for which the jazz world has reason  to be grateful.   Switching from trumpet to cornet “because it looks better for shorter  people” (Braff now stands five feet, four inches  tall) and also because “it has  a mellower sound,”  Braff continued to think in saxophone terms --“which is  good,” he explains, “because if you think of another instrument, you  can’t help but sound a little different.”

Braff found himself in good musical company  early  on--his compatriots  included such older masters as clarinetist Edmond Hall, trombonist  Vic Dickenson and drummer Sid Catlett--and by the time Braff made his first  recording, under Dickenson’s  leadership  in 1953, he was a remarkably  mature player.  A number of fine Braff recordings were made in the wake of that striking  debut, including several superb albums that paired him with pianist  Ellis Larkins. But even though he was showered with praise by many critics,  the course of Braff’s career was not destined to be smooth.  For one thing, his chosen style was not fashionably  hip,  and Braff, quite rightly, had no desire to change the way he played. On the other hand,Braff  was praised in some quarters because  of his apparent lack of modernity,  which had the unfortunate side-effect of typing him as an artist that only  tradition-minded listeners were likely to enjoy.   Combine that with Braff’s somewhat bristly manner, which probably stems from  the fierce artistic demands he places on himself, and one has the makings of  a man who was born to wear the label “underrated.” 

“All I know,”  says Braff, “is that wherever I’ve played,  people have liked what they heard. The problem was, nobody was getting to hear me  enough.” And with that, Braff sets off one of his typical strings of verbal  fireworks--a half-serious, half-joking series of remarks that he delivers in  an obsessive rush and at such a high volume level that one hardly needs a  telephone to hear him. Add an exclamation point to every phrase, and  you’ll get some of the flavor. 

“I’m a drama freak,” Braff begins. “I like to dramatize a tune and I’m  always trying to communicate, which is the difference between being a  performer and a musician.   There are many musicians, but they aren’t performers, they’re just  instrumentalists who belong in an orchestra reading charts--which is all  right, ain’t nothing wrong with that. But the trouble with this world is  that most of these people are on the stand today, playing  700  choruses!

“Loudness and softness and longness and shortness--if you’re a performing  animal, you know about those things. I was brought up on the two-and-a-half-minute  record, where you heard a marvelous composition and little solos,  returns to a theme and highs and lows, which is  what I think about  when I’m playing, even though sometimes I play much longer than that. I’m  thinking ‘stretch in,’  not ‘stretch out’--‘in, in, in!’ You see, I treat me as though I were a customer. When I’m playing  I’m thinking,  ‘What are you doing now?   Okay, that’s enough of that,’  so the audience always knows what I’m talking about. I mean, a truck driver can  listen to Johnny Hodges and know this is something that makes him feel  good--an idiot can hear those magical tones and they’ll tug at his  heartstrings! 

“Show business--I love show business. If I had my way, I’d be up there with  dancers and magicians and lights and everything. Oh, why can’t I have magic,  so that when I lift my horn up and want it to disappear, it vanishes out of  my hand! That can be done with lights, I know it can! Oh, why can’t I be  tremendous? If I were a star, I’d have such fun!  Sinatra--why don’t I get the exposure he gets? Maybe I should call him up  and threaten him. No, no, I’d better not do that--that is not the way  to go.  But why did they ruin everything? I mean, this is the worst world I’ve ever  lived in. All I want  to do is go over the rainbow, to someplace better than  where I was. And why can’t I have  my own talk show?” 

Sorting through this barrage of vintage Braff-isms, with its built-in wryness and its wild swings in mood, one simultaneously feels that  almost none of it, and all of it, should be taken  at face value.   Braff really does want to be “tremendous”  and all the rest. But even as he  bursts at the seams with the need to impose his ego upon the whole world, he  is self-aware enough to know that his gifts are best suited to the  relatively intimate medium of the cornet.   In fact, when Braff pours his turbulent soul through that horn, it seems  that the sheer pressure of his drive to communicate to one and all is what  makes his music so powerful in a nightclub setting--as though one were  bearing witness to a beauty that could, at any moment, explode. 

“Ruby is a traditionalist,”  says Braff’s longtime friend, Tony Bennett, “in the sense that he knows the roots and the treasures--Louis Armstrong,  Judy Garland, Bix Beiderbecke and all the rest. But then, having learned  from them, he takes that knowledge and flies with it in a very modern way.   Like all great jazz musicians, Ruby is right in the ‘now,’ and when people get a chance to hear him, they’re always moved.  I remember last year, I went to one of those really hardnosed  ASCAP [American Society of Composers and Performers] meetings that the  SongWriters Hall of Fame puts on. Every big composer was in the audience, and a whole bunch of artists performed, but it was more of a social occasion  until Ruby came out to back a singer. He played a few solos and obbligatos, and suddenly it was like everyone  was swooning. They didn’t know who Ruby was, and then when they heard this  magnificent horn, they just went ‘Wow!’ But that’s what Ruby can do to you  if he gets a chance.”

 

 

 

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Jimmy Rowles - One night at Bradley's in NYC Jimmy came and sat with my wife and I between sets and we talked at length. One interesting thing I recall, was that a Phineas Newborn, Jr. recording was being played over the sound system during the breaks. Rowles kept saying how Phineas was an extremely good  jazz piano player, and that he (Jimmy) could not play anywhere as good. I tried to tell him that I enjoyed his (Rowles) playing as much if not more that the playing of Phineas. They just approached the jazz piano with two quite different styles.

Other very nice guys I had the opportunity to interact with over the years include Barry Harris, Charles McPherson, Buddy Tate, Jay Mcshann, Bruce Forman, Houston Person, Johnny Mandel, Herb Geller, Kirk Lightesy, Terrell Stafford, John Clayton,   and many others whose names do not grab me at the moment .

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I think at the top of any list of nice guy musicians would have to be Clark Terry -- just a wonderful human being.  If you need to be convinced, just watch the documentary Keep On Keepin' On.

Dave Brubeck.  I think it was 2007 when I went to see the DBQ play at University of the Pacific in Stockton.  I'd arrived a few hours early and while seeking out a restroom,I happened to pass by the concert hall (the same venue where the classic Jazz At College of The Pacific album was recorded many years before) where the group was rehearsing with singer Roberta Gambarini.  I quietly went in and sat down in the back to watch & listen to them for the next 40 minutes or so.  At the end of that, Dave Brubeck came down and sat in a seat a few rows away from me to be interviewed by some reporter from the local press.  He had to sit with his leg propped up because this was after he had had some surgery on his leg and he was supposed to keep it elevated when possible.  The interview lasted for about 15 minutes and then some one came to tell Mr. Brubeck he had to leave to go meet with the directors of the Brubeck Institute.  As he got up to leave, the reporter introduced Mr. Brubeck to his nephew who looked to be about 12 and was a piano student.  Mr. Brubeck could have easily said, "Hi, nice to meet you, but I'm pressed for time and I really have to run now."  The man had to meet with some important people, he had to get some dinner between then and showtime and possibly even rest a bit (he was like 86 at that time).  He had probably been introduced to literally thousands of kids like this over the decades and there was no indication this young man was any great prodigy or that he was even particularly aware of Mr. Brubeck's work, so one could easily have understood if he gave the kid a quick, cursory brushoff.  Instead, he engaged the kid in conversation for a couple of minutes, asking how long he had been playing, who his favorite composer was -- I recall the kid said Chopin -- asking which Chopin pieces were his favorites and just encouraging him to keep at it -- just talking musician to musician.  Very nice.

 

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John Engels

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I have resisted as long as I could:

nice-guys.jpg

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To what Chuck said, I'll never stop being astounded by the degree to which some of "the cats" will go out of their way to make neophytes feel welcome. Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Frith, Myra Melford, Muhal Richard Abrams, Bobby Bradford, Andrew Hill, Oliver Lake, Francis Wong, Jon Jang, Lewis Jordan, Vinny Golia, Alex Cline, and a handful of others whom I've very irresponsibly "forgot" at the moment were all making valuable music decades (some roughly a half century) ago and must rank as some of the most decent professionals I've ever met. These were guys I grew up listening to, and they're all amazing folks now that I've passed onto the other side of the river.

A special shoutout/tribute to guys like Roscoe, Fred, and Myra, with whom I was fortunate enough to study at length--I feel like it's important for artists who exist on the fringes to communicate not only practical skills but also a degree of philosophy. Those three--and folks like Francis, since we work together pretty frequently--were/are exceptional leaders for the fact that they make the people they are working with feel like their contributions are both necessary and important. For all the talk I hear about musicians haranguing/shaming their underlings into "greatness"--and we fetishize this in jazz culture, to a degree--it's really important to consider that you can achieve similar goals just by teaching your students both a measure of responsibility and the value of hard work.

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There are too many to list who are nice guys or gals. Whether it has been a phone interview, a rare in person interview, or just meeting with someone after a set, there has been only one who was difficult. I had the opportunity to talk or hang out with Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland and Bill Mays many times (Oh, the stories Bill would share at the bar during IAJE!). David Liebman couldn't be more gracious and helpful. Clark Terry was a hilarious interview on both occasions, though he put me off for a few hours the second time and I ended up talking to him at one a.m. on my birthday in the middle of a work week. By the time I met him in person, he was rather ill and it was one of his last (if not the last) public performances. Ken Peplowski is a very funny guy. Lorraine Feather is a delightful lady. And it is still a nice treat to get a thank you letter or email from an artist for an article or review, not something that is expected, but I still appreciate it.

I shouldn't have forgotten Milt Hinton, who was a joy to talk to and very cordial.

 

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On ‎1‎-‎5‎-‎2016 at 1:00 PM, paul secor said:

Reading through the Musicians/jerks thread, I thought it would be only fair to play up the other side of the coin. There are also musicians who are good, friendly people.

I'll begin with Roswell Rudd. I've come in contact with him a couple of times, and he came across as a friendly, enthusiastic person with a big heart. Last November, I sent him a birthday card and a week later was very surprised to receive a thank you card from him saying that as long as I was listening, he'd be playing.

Indeed, Roswell Rudd is a very nice guy. But I never got my pen back...... :blink:

 Most are nice guys. I mention 2 of them: Andrew Cyrille & Rein de Graaff.
 
 
 
 
BTW nice story, Paul.  

 

 

Edited by Cyril

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Andrew Cyrille was one of the first musicians I had the opportunity to speak with - after a 1966 Cecil Taylor concert - and he was a very friendly and welcoming person.

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I was speaking  with him during a Mal Waldron concert. He has humor...


And don't forget 'Toots' Thielemans, he's such a sweet man.

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Every once in awhile I'll talk to a musician and these musicians all impressed as being gracious and very nice--Bobby Hutcherson, Charles McPherson,  Dannie Richmond, Buddy Guy, Bern Nix, Zane Massey, Denardo Coleman,  Benny Carter, Charles Moffett Sr., Jason Moran....

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James Moody!  Saw him twice, the first time 1999 in Viena, and exactly a year later in Miami. We, my wife and me talked to him on both occasions, he even remembered us from the year before.

Curtis Fuller, Dave Liebman......

Maybe I would have had more ocasions to talk to famous musicians when I was very young since there were much more musicians, but then I was to shy to talk to them.

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The mention of Peter Brotzmann on another thread brought back a memory I had forgotten about. Around 1990ish it was I think. Anyway, I was barely 20, and still a boy, but immersed in Meditations, Ornette and Last Exit. A German Cultural institute brought out Brotzmann and the unbelievably brilliant bassist Peter Kowald. They did a 'recital' :D in a smallish room attached to the local high-brow College Of The Arts. A small audience.... and Brotzmann blew our heads off. Just supreme. Afterwards, 'a select few' hightailed it to 'the jazz bar' with 'the two Peter's'......where incongruously after what we had just heard, we all had to put up with the insufferable chord/scale pianisms of Paul Grabowsky. The more we all drank, the more insufferable and incongruous it all seemed. It 'culminated', with an upper class vocalist doing a lyric version of Round Midnight......rounnnDDT,,,MIDniiIGGHhtttttttt.....Anyway, Peter Kowald spoke to us with such graciousness and sincerity and for quite a while too. Beautiful man. All this while two dirty rich Post-Punk girls were making their play for the two Peter's. I believe they both decamped back to Germany with the Free Jazz maestros, and may still be there to this day somewhere. I was very sad to hear of the passing of Peter Kowald.

Edited by robertoart

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I met Han Bennink and Peter Brotzmann in the 90s; got them to each sign their name on the "schwarzwaldfaht" LP I owned.  Both seemed nice and down to earth.  Also a few years back met Terje Rypdal and he was very kind..signed one of my guitars and seemed genuinely taken aback by the gesture.  I've had many other friendly encounters with musicians but two more spring to the top of my mind - Eddie Prevost of AMM was just a great guy..fun and no "air" about him.  Same with Bobo Stenson...very genuine folks indeed.

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I'll add Thurman Barker and Roy Campbell. Spoke with them after a concert and they came across as truly nice guys.

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Slide Hampton at an Aebersold clinic...not at all a "clinician", more like a big brother. You could talk to him about the music, or the social aspects of the music, or how personal concerns could get into your head and affect your playing, all this stuff, and not just in the clinics, especially not in the clinics, in the off times, just hanging out. He would always listen, and always respond honestly and personally. Helluva good guy, a contributor in the deepest sense, he contributed his life to you.

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I met Marc Cary once. He was a super-friendly guy, very gracious.

Jimmy Owens was a trip. After playing his ass off in an after-hours jam session, he was nothing but smiles and laughter while hanging out afterwards.

Dave Liebman is great too. Down to earth as could be.

 

 

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