Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones - Gene Lees

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

“One evening in the early summer of 1958 I went to an amusement park called Grona Lund, on the outskirts of Stockholm, to hear the excellent altoist Arne Domnerus, one of Sweden's best. His orchestra was billed as a dance band, but they were playing jazz, very good jazz.

I chatted with the musicians between sets, and with one in particular, the friendly and loquacious trumpeter Bengt-Arne Wallin.

When the evening was over, and all the blond girls and their escorts were gone from the outdoor dance pavilion, and the musicians had packed their instruments away, Bengt-Arne and I walked out past the carousel and the games with some of the others, whose names he told me but whose Swedish sound defied my memory. They were talking about Quincy Jones. They said he would be in town tomorrow, and they were obviously excited about it. Bengt-Arne asked if I knew him; he seemed to assume I knew every musician in America. I said I did not.

"Then come with us tomorrow and meet him," he said.

"No thank you," I said.

"Why not?" he said.

I thought for a moment and said: "I hate to meet people for the mere sake of meeting them." Then I added: "We would probably have nothing to say to each other."

It was for me sufficient that I knew and liked Quincy's music. I had no need or particular desire to know the man.

We left the park and I drove downtown, to my hotel. It was after midnight, but there was still light in the sky. There is only about an hour or so of darkness in Stockholm at that time of the year, and it is never a deep darkness.

In the morning, Olle Helander, director of jazz for Swedish radio, with whom I had struck up a friendship in a surprisingly short time, said that there was a band he wanted me to hear, both as an ensemble and because it contained virtually all the top jazz soloists in Sweden. It was the Swedish Radio Studio Orchestra, directed by Harry Arnold, and it was Olle's baby. He watched over it like a mother hen. The band was recording that day, and he arranged to pick me up and take me to the studio.

When we arrived at the studio — actually a movie studio, used occasionally for recording — the session was already under way. When we entered, the blasting sound of a superb big band struck us. They were playing Horace Silver's Doodlin'.

Suddenly the music stopped. "No, no, not like that, like this," someone said, and sang the part. "All right, let's do it again. Just one more time and we'll do it right."

Olle and I made our way over the tangle of cables on the floor. We sat down discreetly. The conductor, a slight, almost fragile-looking, and exceptionally handsome young Negro in a white cardigan sweater, was discussing something with one of the musicians. Then the band started again. It swung like mad. I saw Bengt-Arne in the trumpet section and he winked.

But I was intrigued mostly by the conductor. An unlit cigaret in his mouth, he conducted with his fingertips, his hips, his head, everything: he threw himself into the music with a strange combination of intense concentration and utter relaxation.

He seemed to know exactly what he wanted.

"Who's that?" I asked Olle when the music ended.

"That's Quincy Jones," Olle said.

When the band took a break and we were listening to the stereo playbacks, Olle introduced me to Quincy. I asked him why he was doing so many retakes when a couple of simple splicings would eliminate the faults.

"I don't like to splice," he said. "I don't think it gives you the feel of live performance. I'll tolerate faults if the feeling is right." Later, I realized that remark was a clue to his character.

Then the band went back to work, doing retake after retake until the performance was up to the standard he was seeking. Quincy had been brought to Stockholm to do this one disc with the Swedish Radio Studio Orchestra. They weren't even going to use his name on the disc, a single which, two days after it was released, was to become a hit in Sweden. They just wanted his musicianship.

In the next couple of days, Quincy and I found ourselves in the same company fairly often. He said he had got his real start as an arranger in Sweden — at a now-historic record date done with Art Farmer and the late Clifford Brown. They had been touring Sweden with Lionel Hampton's band, and one night Farmer and he and Clifford, who was one of his closest friends, did the disc in company with some of the Swedish jazz musicians. One of the charts Quincy had written for it was Stockholm Sweetnin'.

That disc, released in America on Prestige LP 167, was to be the turning point in Quincy's career as an arranger and composer. Indeed, Quincy is one of those American artists — Ernestine Anderson is another — who had to go to Sweden to be discovered. As a result, he had an enormous gratitude toward and liking for the Swedes. He considered Stockholm a sort of third home, since New York was his first home now, and Paris was his second. He had an immense respect for Swedish musicianship. "Outside America, the Swedes are the world's best jazz musicians," he said. "And I don't understand what it is that makes them that way. But there it is."

Quincy had been living in Paris for some time. What was he doing there? Writing and acting as music director for Barclay Records, one of the bigger labels in France, particularly for jazz. He was also studying. With whom? I asked. With Nadia Boulanger, he said.

That evening, Quincy flew back to Paris, suggesting that I call when I got back to Paris, where I too was living. The Stockholm papers carried stories on his visit. One of them had half a page of pictures on him. Did American papers give jazz artists that kind of attention? someone asked me. I had to admit that they did not.

Some weeks later, I had an audience with Nadia Boulanger, arranged by a representative of the French government. I was in Europe to study and I was intensely curious about this remarkable woman, who has had perhaps more
influence on American classical music than any other living individual. 

It is hard to find an American contemporary composer of importance who has not studied with her. Aaron Copland was her first famous American protege, and since then the stream of young Americans going to Fontainbleu to study with her has been unending. Roger Sessions studied with her. So did Leonard Bernstein.

She held court in her apartment, a strange yet charming place dominated by photos and sculptures of her dead sister. Considered one of the finest of all composition teachers, Mlle Boulanger has never been a composer herself. She is an enigma, one I didn't succeed in solving.

Yet if she was a puzzle, she was a delightful one. And if her devotion to her late sister had seemed morbid at a distance, it did not seem so from close range. She simply thought her sister had had the makings of one of the great composers of our time, and was determined that what music she had written before her premature death would not go unrecognized.

I did not have the courage to ask Mlle Boulanger why she did not compose. Someone my age simply did not ask such questions of a woman her age, particularly when he had just met her, and particularly in Europe. I was content to sit with the others, in a half circle of chairs facing her, and hear her talk, sometimes in French and sometimes in excellent English.

She looked to be about 70 — with delicately lined skin the texture of an exquisite paper— but she had the manner of a young girl, and the enthusiasm. I asked her about it. "I do not feel old," she said. "I feel like a young woman in an old woman's body. I do not feel old inside."

When I left, I was a little awed. Rarely have I met a human being who impressed me as much. I could see why she would wield such an enormous influence over budding composers. And yet, I had learned nothing about how she worked. And then I remembered Quincy Jones, and that he was studying with her, and I telephoned him.

In the living room in the apartment on Boulevard Victor Hugo, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the Paris suburb where Quincy was living, we sat and talked about Nadia Boulanger, while Quincy's wife, Jerri, remained quiet in a chair - knitting, as I recall.

"Some people have a great gift for communicating what they know," he said. "They're natural-born teachers. Nadia Boulanger is like that. And she inspires you. Maybe that's the most important thing. I think she loves teaching. And, man, what could be more creative than what she's done? Think of all the careers she's helped build."

Was Quincy himself planning to go into classical composition? "No," he said. "At least, not yet. I'm not ready for that."

What had he learned most from studying in Europe?

He thought for a moment. "The use of restraint in writing. That's what the French really have."

The conversation drifted after that. Quincy talked with that bubbling enthusiasm that was to become so familiar. He talked about Lambert-Hendricks-Ross and played me their first record, which I had never heard, then played some Clifford Brown and some Ray Charles records. He was enormously impressed by Charles, and went about his efforts to proselytize me with great vigor. Later, I understood that this was not only indicative of Quincy's concern with the roots of jazz, but that Charles was a definite influence on his writing. Ernie Wilkins, too, was one of his idols. He referred to him as "my uncle."

His little girl came in. Her name was Jolie — French for pretty. She was charming, and shy, and spoke more French than English from playing with French children. Charming? She was and is one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. There was a picture of Quincy and Jolie together, in the water at Cannes, on the cover of a French magazine lying on a coffee table.

I looked over some of his arrangements, and saw where he worked: at an upright piano of ghastly modern French design in one corner of the big, modern living room. I knew what rents were in Paris, and reflected that this place must have a heavy rent. It was just up the street from the American Hospital, in a district where many French movie stars live.

Quincy and his wife still maintained their apartment in New York, because he needed both to carry on his work on both sides of the Atlantic. He had to make about $700 a month just to pay the rents.

I didn't see Quincy for a while. I went to Switzerland to the Zurich music festival, and when I got back I learned that he was in Monte Carlo for a few days, conducting an orchestra playing Nelson Riddle charts for Frank Sinatra. Kenny Clarke, a permanent resident of Paris, was playing drums on the date. The occasion was the world premiere of the film Kings Go Forth.

When he came back, he was full of enthusiasm for Sinatra — whom he found temperamental, at times difficult, but an artist of great stature. "I used to hear about him conducting, and I thought it was all baloney," Quincy said. "But I saw him doing it at rehearsal. And it's for real. He knows exactly what he wants from an orchestra. And he's a natural conductor. And when he went out on that stage, I loved him."

I saw Quincy a lot after that. I don't know why. Maybe it was because a friend of mine, a screenplay writer who is an arch-hypochondriac, was perpetually conning me into driving him over to the American Hospital. I found Quincy's a convenient place to wait for him. Besides, the company of Quincy and Jerri was quietly stimulating. Once the three of us made an informal pact to give up cigarettes. We didn't make it.

I learned that Quincy was born in Chicago and reared in Seattle and that he had been on the verge of going on the road in the Lionel Hampton trumpet section when he was about 15. But Gladys Hampton — Hamp's wife — said he was only a baby and shouldn't go. Later he won a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Before he finished, he had a second chance to go with Hamp. He took it, and married a home-town girl he had known for years. They were still in their teens.

Quincy wrote for the Hampton band. Some time after the Stockholm disc, he went out on his own. His reputation grew, and finally he made an LP for ABC-Paramount, called This Is How I Feel About Jazz.

Quincy told a funny story connected with the album: the picture on the back of the liner, showing him amid Greek ruins and looking disconsolate, was taken in Athens when he was with Dizzy Gillespie's big band (for which he had written and which he had rehearsed for Dizzy) on its Middle Eastern tour for the State Department. Quincy had fallen asleep in an outdoor barber's chair while getting a haircut. When he awoke, the man had also shaved him—but thoroughly. And so there he sat in the photo, sans mustache and looking inconsolable and more than a little disgusted.

Quincy played a lot of vocal discs during those months in Paris. He had a sympathy for singers. He was at that time writing a lot of charts for French singer Henri Salvador, whose work gassed him. He played a tape by a singer I'd never heard. The guy was marvellous — rather like Nat Cole, but with an even softer, mistier voice, and with a superb musicality. The approach was rather like that of certain jazz trumpeters, and the singer did tricks with intonation and time that reflected an unbelievable assurance and skill.

"Who in the world is that?" I demanded.

Quincy laughed. "Me. Henri had to learn a tune in English and I did it to show him how the words should be pronounced."

"Man, you should do a vocal album with your own charts," I said.

"Maybe I will, some day," he said.

But he never has. And the public doesn't know what it is missing.

The summer passed. We talked of many things, from Andre Hodeir, to whom he introduced me, to Brigitte Bardot. How did she get into the conversations? Sacha Distel, the French guitarist, was going with her at the time, and Distel was a friend of Quincy's, and Bardot was perpetually in the club where he was playing. Quincy thought she was "kind of a nice chick, not at all what you'd expect."

We talked too on the seemingly irresolvable subject of whether the Negro musician swings more than the white. Quincy was of the view that generally, there was this tendency. But he thought it was an environmental thing. "When you go to those church meetings and hear that handclapping, you get the beat drummed into you before you're 5 years old," he said.

But he was by no means dogmatic about it, or even very firm on it, and there were many white musicians for whom he had deep respect and admiration, including Zoot Sims.

Zoot was in town that week, and was going to work on a recording date with Quincy and Sarah Vaughan. Quincy was using the strings of the Paris Opera for the album, issued in America by Mercury under the title Vaughan and Violins. Two of the tunes they were to record were Misty and The Midnight Sun Never Sets. The latter had been written by Quincy and Henri Salvador (Salvador contributed the music for the bridge). It had first been recorded by the Swedish Radio Studio Orchestra with Arne Domnerus featured as soloist. (This version is available in this country on a Mercury LP titled Quincy Jones plus Harry Arnold Equals Jazz-) Olle Helander had suggested the tune's title, and someone had added lyrics.

Quincy suggested I go to the Vaughan recording session, but I said I couldn't: I had to go to London that weekend to see Robert Farnon, the arranger and composer. Quincy exploded in enthusiasm.

This seemed odd. Farnon is a screen and symphonic composer, best known to the public for a series of mood music albums on the London label. I have always loved them, finding much more than mere mood in them. But I had met too many jazz musicians whose range of interests is narrow, and I had forgotten for the moment that Quincy was no ordinary jazz musician, and so I expressed my surprise that he should be interested in Farnon's music.

"Are you kidding?" he said. "The arrangers in New York call him 'the Guv'nor.' Man, he came to New York a while ago and they threw a party in his honor. It was a huge apartment, but it was packed with people. Every arranger in New York was there. Somebody said that if you'd fired a bomb in the place that night, there wouldn't have been another note of music written in New York for five years. Everybody was there."

I was glad to find a fellow member of the Farnon fan club — though later I was to learn that it is by no means a small group. It includes such men as Andre Previn and Oscar Peterson, and there is in New York a group of Farnonesque arrangers that is sometimes known as the "Farnon disciples."

Anyway, I had to go to London to see Farnon and couldn't make the Vaughan date.

I drove Quincy toward central Paris. He said he was getting ready to go back to America soon, that there was a lot he had to do there. He was thinking about forming a band. He said Jolie and Jerri were going on ahead of him.

He was on his way to mail some letters, and I let him out of the car at a post office. It was fall, and the first chill was in the air. Fall is the most beautiful time in Paris. I shook hands with him, because we had both acquired the French habit, and said good-bye. I said I'd call when I got back from England, but I stayed there longer than I had expected, and when I got back, Quincy had left for New York.

In January of 1959, after a year's study on leave from the Louisville Times, I came home. On the boat I thought about Quincy, and the improbability that our paths would ever cross again. I was saddened by the reflection.

In mid-March of 1959, I was named managing editor of Down Beat. Two days after I arrived in Chicago, Mercury Records told me that Quincy Jones had done an album for them, (The Birth of a Band), that he was forming a big band, and that he was in town that day to do a series of interviews with disc jockeys and others. Did I want to see him?

"Do I?" I said. "Where is he staying?"

They gave me the hotel number. I called, anticipating how I'd put him on the telephone, not telling him who it was. He didn't even know I was back in America. But I hadn't said five words before he recognized the voice, gave a chuckle, and said "What're you doing at Down Beat?"

With my surprise completely deflated, I demanded, "But how did you find out? I know rumor travels fast in the music business, but this is ridiculous!"

"Ralph Gleason told me last night in San Francisco."

The occasion called for a drink. For a dinner. We had both.

Quincy made me aware in the next few weeks of the incredible casualness with which people in the music business use the long distance telephone. He'd call just to chat, or talk about the band he was forming. Sometimes he'd start the conversation in French, as a gag. But he speaks French with a horrendous accent, and it's unmistakable, and I could spot his voice faster in French than in English.

Gradually, I began to count on his phone calls, to look forward to them. I was becoming aware of many, many things, and not all of them were pleasant, and I found myself looking to Quincy for information and explanation. On the one hand, I felt the warmth and honest cameraderie of the jazz world. On the other, I felt the Florentine subsurface of danger — of put-downs, and cliques, and special interests, and twisted thinking.

But worst of all, I was becoming hypersensitive to the race situation. I had once thought it simple: jazz was the one field of honest fellowship. I was finding out that this was not true, and I was staring Jim Crow in its vicious face.

I was learning about segregated locals of the American Federation of Musicians — more than 40 of them in the United States. I was getting to know Chicago musicians on both the north and south side, and found that not only was there little cross-pollination of ideas going on, but the two groups hardly knew each other. I was learning how hard it is for the Negro musician to get studio work, and how mixed groups have broken up because of trouble with bookings. I found it terribly depressing. One night, when Quincy called, I told him I thought I'd had it: it was more than I could take.

"Don't be ridiculous, man," he said. "If people like you chicken out, who's going to fight it?"

In subsequent weeks, Quincy became a tremendous source not only of fact and sensible opinion about jazz and those who create it, but of strength as well.

I saw him next at Newport, with Milt Jackson and Jerri. He had shaved off his mustache. He had decided that when he took his band out, he wanted to look young, so the young audiences could more readily find an identification with the band. This was typical of his attention to subtle detail. Under his warmth and gentleness, there was a flinty shrewdness.

Jerri was teasing him about the removal of the mustache. She said it made him look so young — which it did; he looked 18 — that she was embarrassed to walk down the street with him. People would think she was robbing the cradle.

Shortly after Newport, the three of us spent an evening together in New York. He introduced me to a number of things of real beauty, not the least of which was Jerri's cooking. And Jolie — Jolie had grown if anything even prettier. But she had forgotten all her French already.

That night we sprawled on the floor of Quincy's study in the 92nd St. apartment, listening to Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, the orchestration spread out on the floor, and Quincy shaking his head in appreciation. I asked him to play the Vaughan and Violins album, which I had never heard. At one passage in the woodwinds, I said, "Hey! You got that from Farnon!"

"I did like hell," he said, laughing. "We both got it from Ravel."

The next time I talked to Quincy in a state of depression, it was not Jim Crow but Crow Jim that had me down. I had just come back from Monterey, where I thought I felt a distinct draft. Certain white musicians told me that they had felt it too.

Felt what? An indefinable and very subtle condescension of some Negro musicians toward the white musicians, a vaguely patronizing air.

I told Quincy that Crow Jim disgusted me as much as its converse. I said that it seemed to me that there was a certain element in jazz that professed to want equality, but really wanted revenge. And these few dangerous individuals were trying to downgrade the white, not lift the status of the Negro. It seemed to me that they were like that type of woman who tries to prove her intellectual and social equality by the constant belittling of her man. And all that such women succeeded in doing, as a rule, was to build bigger barriers.

But the most distasteful thing about Crow Jim, I said, was that in a certain sense it was insulting to the Negro. And finally, the idea was downright dangerous.

To argue that the Negro musician had a natural edge over the white was to help perpetuate the idea that Negroes and whites are basically different. And that idea could be twisted to evil ends, and it opened the way for white bigots to compare the allegedly superior talent of the Negro for jazz to the ability of a trained seal to balance balls on his nose, and to argue that in other areas the Negro was an inferior breed of man. This in turn paved the way for everything from segregation to gas ovens and extermination camps. Maybe I was hypersensitive, but one of the things I did in Europe was to make a pilgrimage to the ruins of the Belsen concentration camp. The massive graves, each containing a thousand bodies, left a permanent scar in me. And when I felt the draft of Crow Jim, I sometimes remembered the lonely song of the wind in the pines at Belsen.

And even if that interpretation were exaggerated, the Crow Jim idea seemed to me still to be dangerous. Even if you made your point that you thought this was due to sociological, environmental factors, it could still backfire. If the Negro, because of a greater lack of inhibition and reticence in his playing, were capable of a stronger and more earthy jazz, could it not be argued that he lacked the refinement and restraint for classical music? And what would that do to the argument of those who are annoyed that there are few Negroes in American symphony orchestras?

This was not to deny a difference between jazz as it is usually played by Negro groups and jazz as it is usually played by white groups, or to deny that there was an identifiable Negro tradition and continuing core to jazz. But it was to decry a tendency to make the breach wider, and to make impossible the mutual musical fertilization that de-emphasis on the differences could produce, and, above all, it was to decry a tendency of certain opportunists in jazz to exploit the difference for their own ends — whether those ends were economic or neurotic.

Thus, no matter how you looked at it, a constant drumming on the racial idea in music was treacherous. And I was very disturbed by it that night on the phone. I do not know how clearly I expressed my feelings on it. But I said that it seemed to me the friction was getting worse, not better.

"It's not getting worse," Quincy said. "This problem is something we're all going to have to live with, but the situation is getting better, not worse. I hear a lot of talk about it, too, but that's all to the good. The whole thing is out in the open now, where we can all see it, and deal with it."

We talked about it for quite a while. Quincy convinced me that the situation was indeed getting better. Still, even now, my optimism is cautious.

We talked about Quincy's new band then. He was lining up some remarkable talent for it. It was to be a name orchestra, almost completely. Quincy planned to use such musicians as Clark Terry, Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, Melba Liston, and a pianist from Seattle named Patricia Bown. I told Quincy no one could ever accuse him of racial bias: he was using two women in the band.

I looked forward to the band's opening date with eager interest. It was scheduled to start its national tour in Chicago, and Jerri was coming with him. Then, shortly before the opening, he called again. There had been a change of plans.

Quincy was to write the charts for the Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen musical Free and Easy. What's more, his band was to play the score, and on top of that, the musicians would actually appear onstage, as part of the cast, in costume. Some of them would even have lines. And most fabulous of all, the show was to open in Europe. The company would tour the continent for six months, ironing out whatever wrinkles there were in the show, and then return to America for a further tour before opening on Broadway.

Things seemed to move very quickly after that. As Quincy got more and more involved in the show, our chats became less frequent. As word got around the business that this band was to get the most remarkable kickoff any new band ever had — a year's guaranteed work and a tour of Europe in the bargain — musicians all over the country manifested interest. One of the members of the Count Basie band told me he'd love to go, but he understood Quincy wouldn't take anybody from Basie's band. That seemed strange. I told Quincy about it. I asked him if he wanted the man.

"No, sir!" he said emphatically. "I won't touch anybody from the Basie band! Basie's been good to me, man, and I don't forget those things."

Not long after that, plans for the show were completed, and the band left. The show opened to rave reviews for the band, somewhat less enthusiastic reviews for the show. But that's what Europe was intended to be: the place to iron out the show.

What  Quincy's future plans  are,  I can't say. He never talks about his plans until they are well on the way to fruition. He wants to write a Broadway musical, as well as just scoring one. And he once said something that is perhaps significant. "All the musicians moan about the level of American popular music, but all they do is moan about it. They wouldn't think of going into it to improve it. Well I'm going into it. I don't want my band advertised as a jazz band, even though it is. I don't want to scare the kids off. I want to try to do something about popular music."

He probably will. Everything seems to come easily to Quincy. The legendary struggles and heartaches of show business and music have never been his. He has achieved a position of remarkable eminence — and he's only 26!

I once asked him why there had been so few hassles in his life. He said he didn't know. And then, after thinking about it a moment, he added: "It is probably because I never do anything, never make a move or an advance in my career, until I am sure I am ready and prepared for it."

Yet there is one slight storm cloud on the horizon: I smell a put-down coming. I strongly suspect that Quincy is going to have the experience of every jazz musician who commits the cardinal sin of becoming successful and making money: there are those who will find excuses to belittle his music.

I said something about it to one musician. "Don't worry," he said, "they won't get at him. He's become too big for them to hurt."

I saw the put-down tendency satirized beautifully by Harry (Sweets) Edison. It was shortly after Quincy and the band left for Europe. Barbara Gardner, who contributes articles periodically to Down Beat, introduced me to Sweets, who later told me she had mentioned my relationship with Quincy beforehand. "I'm gonna put him on," Sweets told her. And he did.

He mentioned Quincy to me. "Quincy," he said with a tone of enormous contempt, "ain't nothin'."

Instantly there was fire in my eye. "What do you mean by that?" I demanded. And then I caught the mischief in his expression, and I knew there was something afoot.

"Say," I said, "hasn't Quincy had you on a lot of his record dates? And there's something else I remember too. Didn't you teach him trumpet or something like that?"

Sweets grinned then. "I wouldn't say that, exactly. I showed him a few little things on the horn. He was only a little kid then. That was in Seattle."

Sweets reminisced about Quincy, for whom he had an affection that was almost grandfatherly. "When that boy puts something on paper, you know it's gonna sound right," he said. "And what's more, he's one of the cleanest, nicest people in the business."

I told Sweets about the time I said I had no desire to meet Quincy because we would probably have nothing to say to each other. He chuckled.

Later, as I was leaving, he held me back for a moment and the mischief returned to his expression. "Are you gonna be in touch with Quincy?" he said.


"All right," he said, "next time you talk or write to him, you tell him I said he ain't nothin' since he got rich."”

Source: February 4, 1960 edition of Downbeat

Postscript of the fate of Free and Easy as described by Quincy in this Les Tomkins 1963 Interview:
Source: Jazz Professional
My band originated with the tour of Free And Easy. We were signed up by a production company which was putting on a Broadway show. They had a contract with Sammy Davis to join the show when we got to England, which was three months after the European tour started. This was the show that Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and Arne Bontemps wrote. It was originally called St. Louis Woman, then they revamped it and called it Free and Easy, but it was basically the same story.

The show lasted about three months, then it was in financial trouble and everything, because of the problem of having 70 people and 35 tons of equipment  to move around Europe — which isn’t very practical.

And I had very high salaried musicians, because I had probably the best musicians in New York. We had a two–year contract, but it ended up being only three months. So we decided: “Well, we’re in Europe. Let’s stay here and see what we can do.” I think I became 20 years older during this time — it was really rough. But it was interesting. I can’t say it was all rough, because I don’t regret one minute of it. I’ve said many times that I’d never try it again, but that’s a lie, I think. I wouldn’t do that again — but I would try it again.

I would have liked to have experimented more than I did with various tone colours. The band was designed with that in mind—a custom–made vehicle for all the colours in the world. With a guitar player that plays flute and we had, I think, something like 35 woodwind doubles in the reed section alone. Jerome Richardson alone played 11 different instruments.

We wanted to do it — but it was the thing of survival. So we had to stay mostly with the book that we had from records and so forth. We didn’t have time to experiment with it like I really wanted to. But this is the way you grow up, by making mistakes. You take a giant step and jump in the water — and you learn [Emphasis Mine]. Now we know that much more planning would be necessary to make a thing like that get off the ground.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thank you.