Saturday, November 30, 2013

Quincy Jones - The Zan Stewart Interview

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Frequent visitors to these pages know that their purpose is as much to pay homage to Jazz writers and critics as they are about posting narratives and graphics on various aspects of Jazz and it’s makers.

Jazz writers and critics heighten our awareness of and appreciation for what’s going on in the music.

Zan Stewart’s writings about Jazz have always been among the editorial staff at JazzProfiles’ favorites and you can read why in the following April 1985 Downbeat interview he conducted with Quincy Jones.

Twenty-eight years after its publication, “Q” is still going strong, with now over 60 years in the music business!

© -Zan Stewart/Downbeat, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Quincy Jones, even if you didn't know his name from Adam, even if you didn't know that he is one of contemporary music's main creative sparks, that he was 1983's Producer of the Year, that he's scored 33 films and been responsible for 30 albums, that he's won 15 Grammys, that he's been in the entertainment business for 35 years, even if you didn't know his middle name is Delight, a leisurely look around his Los Angeles office would start to fill in the picture. The walls are adorned with photographs, mementos and awards. There are pictures of heroes and friends like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and pictures of associates, such as Quincy with Michael Jackson or Quincy with his arms around Count Basie. On a side table, next to a phone with 10 lines that never stop flashing, there are blank notepads printed with The Color Purple, the name of the film he's producing. There's a framed collection of platinum discs of Jackson's Thriller, a Jones production which sold an unimaginable-but-true 37 million copies. More or less office center sits a Yamaha electric grand piano. Behind Jones' clutter-free, glass-topped desk is a stained-glass logo for his Qwest label, which he launched in 1981. Beyond all this, there's something intangible, and without getting too cosmic, let's just say there's a presence. After all, Quincy Jones is a man who makes things happen.

Born in 1933, Jones was raised in Seattle and began playing trumpet at an early age. Ray Charles was a childhood friend, and the two often worked and jammed together. A prodigy, Jones was employed by 14 and joined Lionel Hampton at 15. Later, he took a break and began studies at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Soon he was back with Hampton as a trumpeter and arranger, and was quickly adding his touch to sessions with Charles, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Cannonball Adderley and others. He toured the Middle East and South America with Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra, then joined Mercury Records as an A&R man. There he recorded his own dates, such as The Birth of a Band, as well as producing pop hits like Leslie Gore's 1963 smash, "It's My Party."

The year 1963 found Jones composing his first film score, for Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker, and in 1969 he signed with A&M Records, an association that lasted 12 years and resulted in such albums as Walking in Space, Body Heat, and Sounds... And Stuff Like That, the latter his first platinum disc. In 1978 he scored Lumet's film of The Wiz, and made the acquaintance of Michael Jackson. He produced Jackson's 1981 Off the Wall, which was a mere prelude to the stunning success of 1983's Thriller. In addition to The Color Purple, Jones is currently working on a new solo album, which will spotlight Sarah Vaughan and organist Jimmy Smith among as-yet-unnamed others, and is due for May release.
Jones arrived to meet his visitor attired casually in faded denims, a yellow T-shirt, a cardigan sweater composed of bands of warm colors that blended softly together and tan loafers with pale blue and yellow socks. Sipping apple cider (he drinks wine as well, but only with meals, since recovering from two aneurysms in 1974), the personable, convivial Jones talked at length about his life and achievements.

Zan Stewart: I'm one of those who really enjoys your earlier albums, like
Quintessence. Yet in listening to Thriller, I hear a lot of basic stuff there, too, a basic bluesy feel to many tunes...

Quincy Jones: That's why I get so confused. People get all hung up with the evolution of this music and saying, "You're not into jazz anymore." Bullshit. It's all the same thing to me.

Zan Stewart: Do you feel your jazz background is essential to your role of producer of non-jazz music?

Jones: Oh, yeah, sure, in many ways. Philosophically, musically, because those skills enable you to turn on a dime. You don't get hung up with the way things are supposed to be.

Zan Stewart: You've made so many hit records. Is that something you always wanted to do?

Jones: You know, I think every musician in the world would like to make hit records — every musician that ever picked up any instrument. Even a 12-tone player wants what he puts together to appeal to a lot of people. The ideal situation is to do something you like and have everybody in the world like it and buy it, too. I think everybody feels that.

But when I started out, it was different. I have a funny kind of background. I came out of a gospel group, but I had an early interest in big bands, and also worked in an R&B band with Bumps Blackwell up in Seattle, and would go play bebop after hours. That was pure love. Ray Charles was 16; I was 14. Ray would play at clubs like the Black and Tan, and I also played all over town, and then we'd get together at the Elks Club after hours to play bop. In the clubs or at dances, you'd have to play schottisches [Scottish dances], pop songs, R&B, and so on, but when we played at the Elks Club, that was for us.

But at that time—and Cannonball [Adderley] and I used to laugh about this—we were conditioned to try to avoid having our music appreciated by a big audience, especially the young guys who were on the coattails of Bird and Diz. We were their disciples. It was very unhip to have a big following.

I remember playing with Lionel Hampton — who was really the first rock 'n' roll bandleader, even though he had a jazz background — and we were at the Bandbox in New York City, which was next door to Birdland. Clifford Brown, Art Farmer and I were in the trumpet section. We had to wear Bermuda shorts with purple jackets and Tyrolian hats, man, and when we played "Flying Home," Hamp marched the band outside. You have to imagine this — I was 19 years old, so hip it was pitiful, and didn't want to know about anything that was close to being commercial. So Hamp would be in front of the sax section, and beating the drumsticks all over the awning, and soon he had most of the band behind him. But Brownie and I would stop to tie our shoes or do something so we wouldn't have to go outside, because next door was Birdland and there was Monk and Dizzy and Bud Powell, all the bebop idols standing in front at intermission saying, "What is this shit?" You'd do anything to get away.

I was always on the edge. Even as a kid in Seattle, we'd play anything, for strippers, for comedy acts, while at the same time harboring our love for bebop. At that time you didn't want to communicate, but then you had to get it out of you. Herbie Hancock said he had the same problem. It's like that old Sid Caesar joke: "We used to have radar in the band to let us know when we got too close to the melody." It was that kind of attitude.

Stewart: Maybe you weren't asking for appreciation because it wasn't there anyway.

Jones: Well, a funny thing happened at the end of the '40s and the 52nd Street thing. I'm sure people who were closer to it might have a different attitude, but the way it looked from here was that at one point, between '44 and '46, many of the mavericks and rebels, the innovators, they left Jay McShann, Earl Hines and other leaders, and went with Billy Eckstine. It was like a sociological thing, as if they were saying, "We aren't interested in being entertainers anymore. We want to be recognized as artists. That was the first time black musicians ever took that position, at least en masse, like that.

Billy had the first crop of naturally feeling but thinking, seriously thinking musicians, people dealing with polytonals, trying to break a sound barrier, musically. But when they made that decision to not be entertainers, they were taking the risk of losing an audience. And at one point the audience fell totally out, so the musicians said, "Well, we don't care," and they withdrew. There was no interest in entertaining or communicating because there was this search for a new sound.

So we left that creative era and went into the '50s, which was the worst era for pop music. Coming from modern jazz to that poop was horrible. Remember the radio? Tunes like "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window," "Davy Crockett" and so on. It was unbelievable [laughs]. That was the pop scene, but Elvis Presley's appearance changed that whole thing for young white America, because he opened the way for black music to come in.

But back to this hit thing. People want hits — Miles Davis, too [laughs]. To me, there's something retarded about someone saying, "I don't want anybody to like my music." That's insane. But I can see saying, "I don't care if anybody likes what I do." We've all gone through that. Music is an incredible animal. It's an absolute, like math. You can't hold it; it just floats around out there.

Stewart: Speaking of your own music, we hear you have a new album in the works. How do you start a new project?

Jones: Well, it's hard to say. It's like I sketch a physical thing in my mind — like colors, contours and shapes. I literally see pictures and colors. These undefined shapes come through first, then the secondary colors. Then I have to be patient; I have to sit and wait until it becomes clearer and clearer. I may formulate maybe 18 ideas of different things that I feel, that I really want to do and, in the end, I may use nine of them. Maybe in the last part of the project, I'll find two other things that'll divert you. But I just let it flow, let whatever happens happen, then I start boilin' and get specific. You can't capture anything until you get specific. Then you have to see if what you're hearing and seeing in your mind, you can execute in the studio. It's a funny process, man. I don't know a thing about it. I just do it.

Stewart: Will this album follow a process, like building track by track or will it be more like a "live" date?

Jones: Well, some things I start with a drum track and then add. Others won't take that form. I hope it's unlike anything I've ever done before. That's a nice feeling, to come out each time and try to pretend that you've never done any of this before. The worst thing is to say, "Well, this worked before, so we've got to do more of this." I could never get into that. But sometimes you can't help it, in that the sounds will be similar because it's your own soul. But what's great about producing your own album is that you play the orchestras, you play the singers. Nobody can tell you, "You can't do that." That's the real difference. Your own album should represent what you want to do. It's not like working with a singer, because no matter how good the relationship is, they may say, "Well, I don't know; let's try it my way." That's why the freedom is so nice.

Stewart: What's the difference between producing Michael Jackson and producing Frank Sinatra, whom you worked with on last year's LA Is My Lady.

Jones: Well, Michael starts with basic tracks, then adds overdubs, then fixing— you've got to put it together like an erector set, and try to help Michael realize, or embellish, what he had. As we said, the process takes about three months. Sinatra came into the office here, and started with a list of things he wanted to do. I had two or three suggestions. He came in at 2 p.m., and in less than two hours we had rehearsed, had keys and routines on 10 songs. That's the way he's always recorded. Two months later in New York, we record. Before he gets there, the band runs down all the tunes, because Frank is one take, that's it. If the band's not in shape, he leaves them behind. And when you're recording live like he does, you can't take that chance, because when his voice is in their mikes, you can't take it out if the band sounds like shit. His booth is open, and the horns are hitting his microphone, hitting him right in the face. So, on his last session, he came in at 7, and at 8:20, baby, we went home. None of that three-month stuff.

To me, there's no such thing as good and bad in either way you record. I started recording live, but it doesn't make any difference just as long as you're capturing the real feeling of what was supposed to happen. We have this expression: leave God a little room to come through, give him 20 to 30 percent in the room. In recording, you're talking magic; for it to really happen, a lot of magic has to go down.

Stewart: What else is on the front burner?

Jones: I'm producing my first film. I've wanted to do this for a long time. There's a book that tore my heart out—it's so beautiful, written by Alice Walker, called The Color Purple. Reading it has been one of the most incredible experiences I've had in my life. For 15 years people have wanted me as executive producer of films, mainly to get the musical connection and just have me be a spectator. But I want to be in the physical process of making the film. That's what's nice. It's an unbelievable project, just loaded with rich music that dates from 1905 to 1940, so the music of Scott Joplin, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith and Coleman Hawkins will be included. Imagine a film where part of the tapestry is a Hawk solo and one of the leads is just mumbling along with the solo. That turns me on.

That reminds me. There was an album, I think it was Back in Flight, which if you played at 45 rpm instead of 33 rpm, you'd hear a version of "There Will Never Be Another You" that sounds just like Bird. Hearing that blew me away because you could see the roots and the connection. It opened up a big door for my head; the nuances were identical, all of them.

Stewart: So the film gives you a chance to work on…

Jones: The evolution, yeah, exactly. It's amazing how things work out. You don't plan it. I started around 1970, just digging and digging — really didn't even know why, except I was just interested in it — the evolution of our music. After being in the business 25 years, I felt it would be fun to go back and see the exact sources.
Research. I thought it would take two to three months, but I got hung up, ultimately going back to 479 AD to the Moors, the Spanish inquisition, then following 34 tribes from West Africa to Brazil up to the West Indies, then on to New Orleans, Virginia and so forth. It just blew me away. The whole idea of drums being banned in 1672 because the slave owners knew it was a communication device. To ban the drum did something to the music. That was in the Protestant colonies. In the Catholic colonies they were getting down — the Spanish, French — with food, music, everything. That's where it all happened. A lot of people were oppressed and restricted by the Anglicans. But when it was time to get rhythmic again, everything had to be redefined rhythmically, so a hybrid music came out of this. The film plays a role in underscoring all this.

Stewart: Any new musical projects besides the new album?

Jones: I'm going to do a musical with Mike Nichols after The Color Purple, and that will probably incorporate a lot of the evolutionary things. It's a piece called Speak Easy, so it's another thing about that time, the '20s and '30s.

Stewart: So here you are producing all this modern music like Michael Jackson, and then turn around and dig way back.

Jones: That's what's great about it —  the whole menu. Why not, man? I love the notion of what that's all about, the whole range. It's so real and so strong. I love having the chance to go from a Michael Jackson situation to my own album to The Color Purple, where we have a really valid reason for using the music of that period, other than simply wanting to expose it.

Stewart: As the music changes, say from swing to bebop and so on, it seems
then moved to 2/4 with Dixie and even [Jimmie] Lunceford, and so forth. Then Basie, Benny Moten, you're talking four to the floor. Then it kept accelerating into eighth notes, then triplets and 16ths and then farther, like [Billy] Cobham and Elvin Jones incorporating the African polyrhythms. Then you come back to disco, and it's just the same thing as Basie. It's always fascinating. The current rhythm section sound changes almost every six months. That pendulum really swings, going from four to the floor to the most complex things with the drum machines. You get more flexibility with them, but the machines are just a reaction to the disco thing, so when they get out of that framework, it's like escaping from prison, so you get [Herbie Hancock's] "Rockit." Music is always reacting to itself, you get to max velocity, you've got to slow down.

You can see that pendulum swing throughout all American music. I wouldn't trade that era I came up in for anything. We got a taste of all of it. There I was involved with Swing Era people like Basie, Duke, Lionel, then Dizzy, and pop people like Stevie [Wonder] and Michael [Jackson].

Stewart: Working with both jazz and pop artists seems to be quite natural for you.

Jones: I was always ambidextrous. Of course, I did The Genius of Roy Charles in '58, but even before that, I was double-gated. I did a lot of things with Stitt, Brownie [Clifford Brown], Art Farmer; but by the same token, I was doing projects with Big Maybelle, Chuck Willis, the Clovers, LaVern Baker. It started as a kid, because I had to have that broad range of knowledge to work in Seattle. Ray Charles used to say, "If you just deal with the pure soul of all music, everything from the schottisches to blues, you'll be all right." What a musician he is. He taught me how to read music in Braille.

Stewart: Given your wide-ranging background, what, if anything, constitutes the Quincy Jones sound?

Jones: I don't know. I know that material is the key. The song is king; melody is king. I fight strongly to have the last word on material going into an album. If somebody else picks the songs, I don't know if I really want to participate. I get called a dictator for that, but I don't care. You cannot polish doo-doo. It's very important that you're hard on everybody, including yourself, in terms of selecting material. I'm always straddling a fence to get things that will penetrate and commu-

nicate, but still have a certain musical validity, not be musically idiotic. In pop music you're dealing with anything from 300,000 to 37 million records. I don't know how to figure out what 37 million people are going to like. So far we've been lucky We've had songs that make the hair go up on your arm. If it moves you, you're lucky if it gets to all those other people.

Stewart: While picking the songs for Thriller, did the hair go up on your arms?

Jones: Oh, sure. We cut nine songs, at first, and had it finished, and then threw four out to get four more that were really strong. That's a nice psychological thing to do, because you're competing with yourself. We had just come off an album that sold eight million [Off the Wall], and it's scary to go back in after that kind of home run. Our thinking was, "If we could just catch up with half of this thing, we'd be happy," and little did we know it'd do what it did. To me, half of commerciality is sincerity. It's gotta be real.

Stewart: How many times can you listen to a record like Thriller?

Jones: I can't listen to it anymore, no. The first six months after we made it, I couldn't touch it, except to listen to the singles we were going to release. We had a serious deadline on this record, since Donna Summer's album took longer than it should have, so when we got to Michael, we only had three months to do Thriller. That's pretty scary after a record that did eight million. On top of this, Steven Spielberg asked us to do the E.T Storybook, so we had three months to do both. It almost killed us, but we made it. I had two studios going. We just rocked around the clock until we finished.

Then we had a scary thing happen. We finished E.T, and Michael's record was down to mix and master. We were really tired by then, but you have to keep the enthusiasm up. So we mixed the record and were ready to have it mastered. We finished about 8 a.m., and Michael came by my house and slept on my couch. We had to be back at the studio by noon, and Bruce [Swedien, Quincy's No. 1 engineer] was going to bring the test pressing so we could listen to it before it went out. This is the record, you know? Everybody was nervous to hear what was going to happen. Well, we had been in such a hurry that we had put 25 and 27 minutes on a side, and you know that's a no-no, because it takes the sound away. We'd like 18 minutes on a side, max. That record sounded like shit, man. We knew it wouldn't hold. It was terrible. Michael cried. So we decided to hell with the deadline, 'cause they were really on our backs. So we took time off and came back, took one tune a day and brought this baby home. And that's what we did. If that record had gone out, it would have never been over, it would have been a disaster. I'll never forget that day. It was horrible.

Stewart: What was so bad about the record?

Jones: Basically the mixes were sloppy because we were hurrying. Overall, there were a lot of bad judgments from being hasty and tired. Adrenaline turns your ears into something else.

Stewart: Switching channels again, you were the first man to record an electric bass in 1953, and a synthesizer in 1964. How has the synthesizer affected modern music?

Jones: It's expanded the vocabulary. People always talk about it replacing acoustic instruments. I think that's ridiculous. If you've got that kind of an ear, maybe it can, but I think the effective usage is to have the synths do what they can do specifically. They expand the alphabet from 26 to 40 letters. They have a personality — millions of sonic designs — that can't come out of other instruments. The ear knows that the sounds aren't familiar, aren 't from an acoustic instrument. By the same token, there's no synth yet that can get the sound of 24 string players with bodies there, skin on skin.

Stewart: Still, electronics seem to be the way many players are going.
Jones: It's not the same thing; believe me, it's not. I've used all the string tricks and electronic strings, and there's nothing that replaces acoustic instruments. The vibratos are not the same, for instance. They're doing a good job with samplers, but mechanically, it's very difficult to deal with that kind of humanity with an electronic instrument. A joy for me is to have the synthesized-string sound set up the fabric of what the strings are going to be. and then have a lap dissolve and have the real strings come in right underneath it. That's what I love, when they really imvi each other head on in an accommodating way, join each other, strut their feathers in front of each other, enjoy being with each other. That might sound silly, but that's how I feel. I've been in the business for 35 years, and I've seen a lot of trends, but you've still got to have human beings. I don't see any machines blowing trumpet players out of work.

Stewart: Does your presence in the studio have an effect on the outcome of a product?

Jones: I think so, because I only work with artists I respect and love for what they do. Most of the time I try to put a musician in a situation where he should be comfortable. But there are times, like the world's greatest guitarist who couldn't read. You put him in a situation with 44 players, and there's a psychological tendency to freak out. I used to have that problem with Basie. I mean, he'd see seven sharps and head for the bathroom. But it doesn't matter, man, because there are guys who can read around the corner who couldn't touch Basie with two notes he'd play. So once the musician learns to trust me, learns that he can go without the net, that I won't let him fall, we have a great time. Toots Thielemans says, "You always push the right buttons on me and make me play my ass off." But that's only with someone you really love, you know. You put them in a situation where they can really be themselves.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Allen Eager with Gordon Jack [Jazz Journal November 2003]

It is always a pleasure and a privilege to have Gordon Jack as a guest writer on these pages.

His latest profile is about tenor saxophonist Allen Eager, one of the legendary musicians associated with the post World War II “cool” style of playing inspired and influenced by Lester Young.

For order information on Jazz Journal please go here.

You can find new and used copies of Gordon’s Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective on the web through the major online book sellers.

[C] Gordon Jack/Jazz Journal, copyright protected, all rights reserved.

“Allen Eager’s interests ranged far beyond the narrow confines of jazz, which explains his frequent disappearances from the scene over the years. Lester Young described him as “the best of the grey boys” and Buddy Rich once said, “he could have been one of the giants if he just paid attention to his ‘thing’, instead of his other ‘things’”. In September 2001 over a long, leisurely lunch near his home in Oak Hill, Florida, he looked back on a colourful life which included playing with most of the major figures of the bebop era as well as excursions into the world of racing cars, skiing, horse riding and the ice cream business. Sadly, he died earlier this year and this is possibly his last ever interview.

“I was about fifteen when I went to see Duke’s band at the Royal Roost and I was knocked out by Ben Webster who was a magnificent and gorgeous player. I wanted to ask him for some lessons so I went to the rooming house above Minton’s in Harlem where he was staying, and his room was so tiny that he opened the door without getting out of bed.  I could imitate him a little and had learnt his solo on Cottontail, which really impressed him because he called Ray Nance and some of the other guys and said, ‘Hey listen to this little white kid.’ He showed me some embouchure things and it was just great being around him and hearing him play.

“A little later in 1943 I auditioned for Woody Herman and traveled to LA with the band. It was wartime and a lot of musicians had been drafted otherwise he would never have hired me, because I couldn’t read very well and I didn’t know anything. Woody was fine to work for although he didn’t really mix with the band but none of the leaders did, they usually kept apart from the sidemen. It was when we were in California that I first heard

Lester Young on record and I changed my conception completely. I altered my mouthpiece and started to play like Pres which all the white kids at the time did. The coloured guys apart from people like Paul Quinichette and Wardell Gray didn’t and I don’t know why.  I stayed in California for a couple of years and took over from Zoot Sims at a club called The Hangover when he got drafted.  Big Sid Catlett was the drummer and I stayed there for about four months sharpening my skills.

“When I went back to New York I started working in the clubs on 52nd. Street with people like Stan Levey, George Wallington, Al Haig, Max Roach and Curley Russell. My playing got honed nicely because I was working all the time but you have to keep doing it, you can’t drop out for long periods like did later.  I remember when I was working at the Three Deuces, Billie Holiday used to come in with her dog Mister every night after her last set. She sat down right in front of the band and she was crazy about me, probably because I sounded like Lester. It was thanks to Leonard Feather that I got called for a date with Coleman Hawkins and I did the solo on Allen’s Alley because Hawk didn’t want to play on it (RCA (F) PM 42046). A month later in March 1946 I made my first record as a leader (SJL 2210). It was a quartet date and Bud Powell was supposed to be there, but when he didn’t show I used Ed Finckel. Another one of my early records was with Red Rodney and Serge Chaloff (C&B CD 102). We were all living together and I loved Serge’s playing, he was a great bebop player.

“One of the pianists I really liked working with was Monk and I used to hire him all the time. Everyone thought he was weird but I didn’t because he played the right changes with his own little rhythmical embellishments and he was always ‘there’. Years later he became successful when he had that group with Charlie Rouse who was a sweet guy and an excellent player. I liked him very much personally but his playing was a little one-dimensional, not very exciting but he certainly knew music.

“Like a lot of the young musicians then, I used to play at Don Jose’s studio on West 49th. Street with Zoot, Mulligan, Don Joseph and Jerry Lloyd. Everyone who could play in New York used to come at one time or another and the guys chipped in to hire the studio but the public wasn’t allowed in. That was around the time that Gerry and I became good friends. He had a small room in a brownstone on the West Side off Central Park West, and it was amazing to see him writing arrangements there without a piano. He had his own great sound on the baritone and I always loved the way he played. He could do no wrong as far as I was concerned and the funny thing is when I play baritone, my tone is like his and on alto I sound like Bird without really trying.

“Gerry was always organizing and getting things together. Once when nobody had any money to hire a studio he took us all out to Central Park for a rehearsal and we just sat on the grass and played. By then, he and his girl-friend Gail Madden had moved into my parent’s place in the Bronx and Gail was pretty bossy and opinionated, always wanting to affirm women’s position in society. She was a strong, ‘women’s-libber’ type which was the kind of woman Gerry seemed to like. She played maracas and wanted to be on a record date with us but she didn’t kick the beat off into something better than it was, in fact she was a bit of a drag (Prestige OJCCD-003-2).  Jerry Lloyd was there and he was a fine trumpeter but very introverted and like Curley Russell he ended up driving a cab.

“I started living with Fats Navarro in Benny Harris’ flat in the Bronx towards the end of the forties. You know, someone recently sent me a CD with Fats and me but I haven’t listened to it at all. I’m afraid it will be embarrassing because I don’t feel that I was a good player. I don’t like listening to myself whereas Al Cohn, Zoot, Lester or Ben Webster just knock me out. When Fats and I were at the Roost with Tadd Dameron he used to bring new music in all the time but we never rehearsed, we sight-read on the job.

Tadd was so talented and I never knew how I got the gig. I think they needed a token white guy and that was me although he must have liked my playing or he wouldn’t have hired me. I was there for a year or more and the club did fabulous business. The sad thing about Fats though is that just before he died, he was hardly working at all.

“Bird and I used to play at the Open Door in Greenwich Village and I also used to hang out there with Tony Fruscella because we were living together for a while. In 1955 we did a record for Atlantic (JFCD 22808) and just like me, he was a free spirit but we were hardly playing at all at the time. I hadn’t worked in months and we both had to take our horns out of hock the day before the session which was a nice date, not great or anything but Tony always sounded good. He was a sweet player but a little strange and difficult to be with. I also worked quite a bit with Buddy Rich who was one of the great natural talents. He wasn’t a real swinger like Philly Joe but he had fantastic co-ordination, playing things that nobody else could even if they practiced for a hundred years. I was also very friendly with Miles who really liked the way I dressed. I introduced him to cars and clothes although I never found out what he thought about my playing. He was sure lucky with all those great players like Coltrane, Bill Evans, Red Garland, Cannonball, the list just goes on. Nothing since has come close to those albums like In A Silent Way, Kind Of Blue and Sketches Of Spain.

“It was around this time that I lost my cabaret card which meant I couldn’t work in Manhattan which stopped me playing for a while. I managed the occasional gig in New Jersey where they didn’t seem to check if you had one. The cards were issued at the discretion of the police department who were a corrupt bunch at the time and a few years later when I was going with a very rich lady, I hired a lawyer.  We had the whole thing thrown out by the supreme court on the basis that it was unconstitutional and that was probably my biggest contribution to music!  It was too late for people like myself and Billie Holiday who had been kept from working in New York for years.

“In 1956 I persuaded my mother to give me the money to buy a couple of soft ice cream machines which were pretty new then. I took them with me to the French Riviera.  figuring I would make a fortune, but the French laws are very difficult for foreigners and I gave the whole thing up.  I was into this non-musical thing and I was completely broke so of course I went back to playing. I recorded with Jimmy Deuchar (Vogue LAE 12029) which wasn’t a very good date but he was real fine and I stayed in Paris for about eighteen months, often working with Kenny Clarke. I got to know Roger Vadim and
Louis Malle and I had a little fling with a lady who had been married to Henry Fonda.  I also became very friendly with Rex Harrison’s son Noel, although his father didn’t like me because I called him ‘Rex’ when we were introduced, instead of ‘Mr. Harrison’.

While he was making The Young Lions, Marlon Brando came to see me in one of those basement clubs on the Left Bank. He wasn’t really a jazz fan but we knew each other from New York and I asked him if he ever made a Western, would he use me as an extra because I loved horses?  In 1961 he made One Eyed Jacks which I loved but he never called me! When I got back to the States I took a band to Aspen, Colorado and when the job finished I stayed on teaching skiing and horse riding. My parents always had stables at the hotels they ran in the Catskills and I had become a pretty accomplished rider.

“Ornette Coleman came to New York in 1959 and just turned the scene upside down. I couldn’t really get with it but I used to hang out with Don Cherry who was one of the great players and we got along really well. He could play free and on the changes too. This was when I started going with Peggy Hitchcock who was related to the famous Mellon family who were real ‘old money’. She was a millionairess several times over and we lived at her apartment on Park Avenue in New York.  Thanks to her, I had unlimited funds but I didn’t give up music completely although I was interested in many other things, especially automobiles. She bought me a 12 cylinder GT Ferrari and I took it to Germany to race at the Nurburgring and when I came back to the States, I won at Sebring in 1961, beating guys like Stirling Moss and Phil Hill. I also became friendly with the composer John Cage and around that time I went to live in Millbrook which is in upstate New York. One of Peggy’s brothers had a mansion there in 300 acres which is where I met Timothy Leary who was a psychologist from Harvard. He introduced acid to the world and that’s when the psychedelic movement really started. I had been getting
high for years but acid was something else.  Occasionally guys like Mingus and Tony Williams came up to play but for most of the sixties and into the seventies, I was pretty inactive musically.

“ By 1977 I wanted to get back into jazz but I couldn’t find any place to play, so I enrolled in the music course at the University Of Miami. They were all kids of course and nobody knew me but the standard was pretty good. I played in the third rehearsal band because I didn’t play flute or clarinet and I wasn’t a great reader. I remember once though playing a solo which the whole band applauded and that had never happened before. I stayed on in Florida because my mother had a condo on Miami Beach but I started to get
a complex about my playing, because nobody was hiring me. I did come to Europe a few times and I played with Chet Baker in 1984 in Amsterdam at the Concertgebouw. (T. Sjogren in his Baker discography lists a private recording of this performance).  He had these complicated charts which came out during the concert and I had to sight-read them.

The changes were difficult and I was expected to be at home with all this tough material but it was terrible.  I don’t think I coped very well because I didn’t know what was going on and we didn’t communicate at all.  Chet sounded great and he knew all the stuff and anyway, he had a great ear. Al, Zoot, Gerry and Stan Getz were all like that too because they could hear anything and play it. I have to really know a tune, which is why I am not
in their league I suppose. I’m probably up near the top of the second division.

“Looking back on my career, it all came so easily in the beginning because I was an exotic-looking guy. People were attracted to me and that was my trouble. Everything came without trying and I never had to promote myself, but then heroin came into the picture and the gigs seemed to stop. Right now, I’m broke and I’m sick of living here and not working. I have no credit cards and I’m on Social Security - what the government call ‘Assisted Living’. I really want to move to the West Coast where Dick Bank says he can get some work for me and Freddie Gruber, who is a great guy and a drum teacher there, says I can stay with him. I played in LA recently with Sir Charles Thompson and Barry Harris and everyone was surprised to see me. They treated me real well although I had trouble on the first couple of tunes but finally it all came back and I started to play. I know I could work at least once a week there which is more than I’m doing in Florida.

I’m not as inspired as I was when I was younger but maybe I can turn my life around at least at the end of it, because I just want to play.”

Achnowledgements: I would like to thank Dick Bank, Brian Davis, Jack Simpson* and Bob Weir for their help while researching Allen Eager’s career.

* For those living in Orlando, Florida, Jack’s radio show, ‘Jazz On The Beach’ can be heard on WUCF-FM.”