Archive for November, 2007

Your Anecdotes

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Recently, I saw a review of what appears to be an exciting new jazz film, called My Name is Albert Ayler , a documentary portrait by Swedish director, Kaspar Collin, shedding new light on the controversial, avant-garde saxophonist. Screenings appear to be limited, but I’ve heard that it will be out on DVD soon. (for more info, go to: I can’t wait to see the film, myself, but meanwhile I’ll have to be satisfied with my own fond memories of the man.

One memory involved an encounter with Elvin Jones at Slug’s Saloon, a jazz club in downtown Manhattan: I was lucky enough to get a front row table to hear Elvin’s group that night, but at the end of the set, as the players were walking off the stand, Albert Ayler popped up out of nowhere and asked if he could play a piece, solely as a duo with Elvin Jones. So Elvin, being keenly aware of Albert Ayler’s reputation as a brash egomaniac, made the somewhat defensive and sarcastic remark, “OK, Albert, just come on up here and play all night.”

The music which then ensued was some of the most inspiring that I’ve ever heard. You would almost have to classify it as a kind of internal Third Stream music, within the jazz avant-garde idiom. Albert counted off a medium-up tempo and both of them started swinging furiously with Albert playing basically in his style of tonal wailing and harmonic abandon while Elvin built up waves of driving rhythm behind him.

Well, the piece didn’t last all night. In fact it was rather well contained, and when it wound down with just one, final cymbal crash, Elvin looked up at Albert with a big smile and said,
“Hey, Albert, that was really good!”

Moral of story: Never be afraid to experiment with a new idea, especially in the unpredictable field of music, you never know when grace will happen, and………be sure to see the new documentary film about alto saxophonist, Albert Ayler.

Your Anecdotes

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

HOW I GOT TO KNOW PEOPLE – As promised, here is another (sorry, not really “shorter” as promised) story: A few months before my future wife, Odile, and I moved to NYC, we took a brief trip from St. Louis up to Chicago to see the Joffrey Ballet. This would be back in about 1971. Well, it was sensational! At that time, many groups were experimenting with Jazz/Rock Fusion, and the Joffrey Ballet was presenting a choreography to Rock music, featuring a “live” Rock group and a precocious, young, left handed drummer. (I didn’t register on his name at the time). However, I was pretty thrilled by this event, and just joking around with Odile on the drive back, I said something like, “Wouldn’t it be great if my next Rock piece could feature a drummer like that!” About two years later, after our move to the Big Apple, I went to the Village Vanguard to hear Chick Corea’s exciting but controversial new group, called Return To Forever, featuring a super fast, high register electric bass player named Stanley Clarke and a talented, young, LEFT HANDED drummer named……….. Lenny White!
At least as far as my music is concerned, the rest was history. I employed him immediately to record on my newest piece, Septet Extended, which came out later on my album “Somesville”.
Just a brief footnote: It was inspiring at the time to listen to Lenny White and Jan Hammer talk about the new Fusion groups that they were instrumental in forming then (Lenny White – RTF, Jan Hammer – Mahavishnu Orchestra). Lenny would rave on about the high level of group interaction and intensity, comparing it to the Knick’s basketball team of the day, and Jan could barely hold on to the steering wheel as we were driving up the F.D.R.,
talking as if this would be the next great event in history, and that John McLaughlin (group leader) knew in advance exactly what he wanted with his new group, Mahavishnu Orchestra, as if born spontaneously from the head of Zeus! (not those exact words, but definitely the feeling).

Your Anecdotes

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

HOW I GOT TO KNOW PEOPLE: One thing is certainly true, at least in the field of music – It can be a very small world! For the next several entries, I’ll be telling stories about how I got to know some of the players on my recordings. For example, imagine an historical connection between the obscure St. Louis drummer, Lanny Bowles, a much less obscure drummer, named Lenny White (Return To Forever), aspiring Texas politician, Kinky Friedman and Mahavishnu keyboardist, Jan Hammer. Having a hard time with that one?
I’ll try to sort it out for you:

In the year 1970, a year before I moved from my home town, St. Louis, to work and record in New York City, I often would try out new pieces in cafés or in my own basement. During one summer month, a local Rock band virtually lived in our house, and the drummer’s name was Lanny Bowles. The piece I was rehearsing happened to be a Rock version of Keep Changing, a tune which ultimately wound up on my Fanfare 8 cd and featured Elvin Jones, David Liebman and others.
Time went by; I went to NY; I met Jan Hammer, who then was playing acoustic, jazz piano with Elvin’s group shortly before Jan would leave to join Mahavishnu Orch.; I tried out the piece at one of their rehearsals at Jan’s loft but with only limited success, then shelved it until I did finally record my version, in a Latin/Jazz style, with guitarist, Roland Prince, as the chord player. At that point, I thought I had cut off all ties with St. Louis.
Well, who do I run into walking down 6th Ave.? Lanny Bowles! “Lanny, what are you doing here?” – “I’m playing with [country group] ‘Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys’ “ (curious title for a band)
I told him that it was too late for Keep Changing, but I really needed a drummer to fill in a short phrase on a Rock piece of mine, called Septet Extended, for which Lenny White played 95% of the drum part but could not be in town for the recording of a short section in the 2nd half of the piece (I would tend not to use Elvin on Rock pieces). Anyway, Lanny’s a fine drummer and did a great job, so that evening we all celebrated by going down to CBGB’s to hear Kinky’s group with Lanny on drums, and thus completing the rather unlikely (unless you’re a musician) timeline of, get ready: Lanny Bowles, Elvin Jones, Jan Hammer, Lenny White, Kinky Friedman, and back to Lanny Bowles. Yes, it’s a very strange world (unless you’re a musician).
Tune in for my next entry in about 5 days to a week when I’ll tell you few (and hopefully shorter) stories about HOW I GOT TO KNOW PEOPLE.

Third Stream

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Today, I found a beautifully written article by Gunther Schuller, giving a broad, historical perspective on the significance of Third Stream Music. I hope you’ll enjoy it. – Mirage: Avant-Garde and Third Stream Jazz

Also, I have updated my Blogroll with new links to artists and relevant recordings.