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10/22/14 10:53 PM An Uncut Blindfold Test With Paul Bley, Around 2002 | Today Is The Question: Ted Panken

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Today Is The Question: Ted
Panken on Music, Politics and
the Arts
APRIL 1, 2013 8:27 AM
An Uncut Blindfold Test With Paul Bley,
Around 2002
Im not sure exactly what year Paul Bley agreed to sit with me for the DownBeat Blindfold Test, but given the track
datings, it was probably 2002. He was playing the Blue Note, staying in an apartment on W. 9th Street with a questionable
sound system. Wed become acquainted not long before, when he and Gary Peacock joined me together for a few hours on
WKCR, which is a show I have retrieve and transcribe some day. Anyway, it was fun to do, and hopefully the transcript
will be both entertaining and illuminating.
* * * *
I have something to say as a little preamble. Mike Zwerin, a number of years ago, invited me to review records, thinking
since I was so poor at the time that I might be able to make a little pocket money. He was living in New York in New York
at the time, so you know how long ago that was. He handed me a giant stack of LPs, maybe 20 LPs, and I said, Wow, this
is going to be fun; Im looking forward to it. So I got home, put on LP-1, listened to it, and by about 10 LPs He was
sitting with me actually. I had nothing to say. He said, Youve heard all these LPs and you havent said anything. I said,
there was nothing worth talking about. That was the end of my disk jockey career. I think I gave him one paragraph. By
that time he was playing the organ trios, the Prestiges [LAUGHS] How am I going to talk if you bring records that dont
require any talk? So I hope this is not going to be the same situation.
1. Ornette Coleman Mob Job (from SOUND MUSEUM: HIDDEN MAN, Verve/Harmolodic, 1996) (Coleman, as; Geri
Allen, p; Charnett Moffett, b; Denardo Coleman, d) (5 stars)
Well, Im not a fan of tempo medleys. It started at one tempo and proceeded to another. There was no reason not to have
the written material be in the same tempo as the track was going to be in. [ALTO SAX ENTERS] Definitely Ornette
Coleman, of course. Well, its a waste of time with the pianist. Theres a good reason he doesnt use piano. See, the horn
player can make the transitions to wherever he wants to go at any time, but the piano player actually has to change their
mindset to get rid of the key center. [Any idea who the pianist might have been?] I dont care. [Did you think the pianist
worked as successfully as possible under the circumstances?] Im not really concerned about the pianist. [How many
stars?] Stars! [LAUGHS] Anything with Coleman deserves 6 stars. [When do you think it was from?] It sounded like a
home recording.
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That was fun! I had my own label. But I couldnt afford myself.
2. Ahmad Jamal, Aftermath (from OLYMPIA 2000, Dreyfus, 2001) (Jamal, piano; James Cammack, b; Idris
Muhammad, d) (5 stars)
Wonderful trio, very exciting, they played really well together. My comments are not really about this trio. Lets go all the
way back to the beginning of what were talking about. Music is language. Its conversation. If its language and
conversation, it should not be repetitive..repetitive..repetitive..repetitive. You got it the first time I said that word. The
next three times I said it was adding to a level of redundancyredundancy Now, were not talking about profundity.
Were talking about language, and aspiring to be ideas. Not profundity. We havent gotten anywhere near that. Thats not
even on the table. So if its language, lets remove all repetition, because its insulting to the listenerinsulting to the
listener. You get my drift? Anything you play twice is once too much. I loved it. I loved the drummer. I loved the bass
player. I loved everything. It was on a very high level. 5 stars. Ahmad Jamal would be my guess. Hes come a long way.
Hes a good friend, by the way, but I dont really know his recent work. But were very close, because we have been in hotel
rooms all night in Bologna, Italy, etcetera, etc.
Ill tell you a funny story, which may or may not be included. It was 5 in the morning in a hotel in Bologna, and Ahmad
had just got off the phone. I said, Ahmad, youve been on the phone a very long time. He said, Yeah, I just blew the
amount of money I earned tonight on the phone. I said, Well, Ahmad, doesnt that indicate it might be time to go home
to Chicago and do it in person instead of on the phone?
3. Tommy Flanagan, How Deep Is The Ocean (from SEA CHANGES, Evidence, 1997) (Flanagan, p; Peter Washington,
b; Lewis Nash, d) (no rating)
May I have this dance? The last time I asked somebody to dance was the opening night of Ornette at the Five Spot,
playing opposite Benny Golson and Art Farmer. They sounded really good, and they played the first set, and its a
wonderful band and way out there. And then Ornette went in and did his first New York set ever. And I thought, Wow,
everybodys completely blown away. But then Art Farmer and Benny Golson went back on the stage and did the second
set, and I asked the bartender to dance. Today is the second time Ive ever asked anyone to dance. Ornette had turned
Benny Golson into the orchestra at the roof of the Taft Hotel on 7th Avenue and 51st Street overnight. A single set.
[Unlike most of the people in the room, you knew what you were in for.]
4. Keith Jarrett, Prelude To A Kiss (from WHISPER NOT, ECM, 2000) (Jarrett, p; Gary Peacock, b; Jack DeJohnette,
d) (5 stars)
What is the real meaning of the initials NEC? Ive had a lot of fun with that at the school. Oh, whats the real meaning of
ECM? Do you know that? Easily Castrated Musicians. We can do this all day, Ted. [You're good at it.] Thank you. I
collect them. Poor Duke. [You're tough. Unlike most musicians, you are not imprisoned by tact.] Poor Duke. [LAUGHS]
[Do you play Ellington's tunes?] I know all of Ellingtons tunes. I knew them all when I was in short pants. But when a
musician dies, its time to give other guys a chance. [But you still play older things from the songbook.] Oh, if you pay me,
I will play [So if I paid you whatever your fee was, you would do an Ellington...] Absolutely. Of course. We aim to
please, as they say in the bathroom urinals.
The problem with the recording of bass is its the least accessible instrument to listen to. God forbid somebody in the
audience coughs, or there goes the solo. You ask yourself why is the bass so possible in that standard format, that trio
format. The trio format is flawed. If youre going to put three musicians, it should be because theyre three musicians,
and the fact that one plays the trombone and the other plays whatever is not the point. Youre hiring individuals. Any
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format is already dead. Big band, string quartet, piano trio. The fact that it already preexists the occasion means that
everything is uphill. Because its not an original format. So you talk about lack of originality. [Doesn't the logic of that
lead that you eventually run out of formats, and nothing will be original?] There are no formats. Theres only great
players. [It's only the individual.] A collection of great players. Were in a new century now. Its time to give all the old
ideas a rest. Theyre no longer valid just because the century changed. Your time is up. Its expired.
You know, if a 7-year-old played only white notes, they could sound this good. Its called modal. The Aeolian mode, in
particular. Ah, a modulation. Its very nice, and she will go to bed with you. Whoever youre listening to this with. [Is it
recent? Older? Older musician? Younger musician?] First of all, all eighth notes are not created equal. Its a little too
simplistic rhythmically. Hes doing a very good job. Hes a very fine pianist, and its a very nice track and so forth. But its
not worth discussing. Im looking to be offended. [It seems the things that offend you are things like this.] No-no, I mean
offended in a good way. [LAUGHS] I think it was very well done. Id give it 5 stars. For what was attempted, it was a big
success. [No idea who it was?] No. It could have been anybody working on 8th Street. [It was Keith Jarrett.] Oh. Well,
Im sorry to hear that. [It's his post-illness record.] Well, he certainly has bounced back recently, kicking ass with the trio.
Boy! He has my 1964 date, Turning Point on Improvising Artists, the one with Gary and Gilmore Hes got that down
pat with Gary! He took over that. Thats a big step for him. He went out of standards all the way to 1964. And who
knows, were looking forward to 1974.
5. Kenny Barron, Beneath It All (from SWAMP SALLY, Verve, 1995) (Barron, p., keyboards; Minu Cinelu, percussion)
(5 stars)
I love this recording. This is the first new information youve brought me today. The town crier in the old days used to
stand in the town square, and say, Hear ye! Hear ye! Ive come to inform you. And if he had nothing to say or said
something that the town already knew, they would get upset, because he summoned them into the town square and told
them something they already knew. Its wonderful! The piano player did not need the rest of the band. But they were
great, the way they went into what I call a second CDs worth of music. Were really talking about two separate issues.
The piano player did not need help. It engaged everybody in their curiosity minimally, and there was no way to predict
where he was going to go. And the fact that we happen to have this wonderful band hit and do great things was just a
wonderful plus. But I personally could have stood a lot I could have heard a CD worth of the piano player, and I
probably wouldnt have interrupted it with this conversation. I loved it, and I loved the second part. It just goes to show
that youre going to have to go to a foreign country to get some fresh input in jazz. You need foreigners. You need people
who speak a second language to be added to the stream of music. Its such a wonderful situation now, where the world has
sent everybody Airline tickets are so cheap, that you can hire a band where every player comes from a different
continent, a different city, and they can play together at the drop of a hat and they all live in Brooklyn Heights. Its just
a wonderful situation! When anyone talks about jazz not in a great period, its just that theyre not widely enough
informed. [So you thought that the piano player was not American?] Well, certainly the band didnt play this good off of
being a bebop band. So I assume that he comes from the same country as the rest of the players. So I cannot guess who
this is. [Well, it was only two musicians.] Ah. [It was Kenny Barron and Mino Cinelu.] Wow! [And Kenny was playing
piano and synth.] [LAUGHS] Wrong! Wrong like a mother! No wonder Kenny is as loved as he is. A monster! Kennys a
monster! Six stars. [LAUGHS] Fuck you, Kenny Barron! I hate him. Im going to tell him that next time I see him, too.
6. Hampton Hawes, Soul Sign Eight (from HAMPTON HAWES AT THE PIANO, Contemporary, 1976) (Hawes, p; Ray
Brown, b; Shelley Manne, d) (5 stars)
Theres no need to go any more. Its beautifully done, well-played, etcetera, etc., but its nothing that harmonically and
rhythmically wasnt done in the 50s. If youre going to redo something, redo a style where your triads are quite simple,
youre staying within a key, youre not adding anything to the literature of the music I mean, the purpose of making a
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record is not to redo your own stuff or somebody elses stuff. The purpose of making a record is to add to the literature of
the music, which means youre bringing in some elements that are not widely available, and youre indicating to other
musicians that following along the suggestions that youre making with this recording of yours might be of some interest
and it might be of some utility to somebody who is playing. If the record is already in existence My rule is that if its
already for sale at Tower Records, buy it. Dont make it up. [And you have no idea from the sound or the touch or the
style who this might be.] First level players. It could be one of a number of people. And I was very happy for them. Its
nicely recorded. But, my first record on Wing Records in 1953, contained this information. I outgrew it, and I hope this
pianist does the same. [AFTER] [One reason I played this is because it was a person who developed his own sound and
was doing it in the '50s, and so the sound, therefore, from my impression, would be unto him.] For Hampton Hawes, its a
big accomplishment. This is a big accomplishment. Its the best Hampton Hawes Ive ever heard by far. Still
containing no new information, but well-played. 5 stars. It a big accomplishment. I love Shelley Manne in rhythm
sections. The rhythm section was nice, man. Way Out West, Shelley Manne? Wow. What an imaginative drummer. I
worked with him. We played the Antibes Festival in France. But Id rather let that track rest.
7. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Oren (from SUPERNOVA, Blue Note, 2001) (Rubalcaba, piano, keyboards; Carlos Henriquez, b;
Ignacio Berroa, d)
You know, its a similar situation here to when someone wants to tell you a joke. You start before they start the joke with
an open mind and a positive frame of mind, willing to accept the premise of the story and looking for the punchline at the
end, and so forth. But as the story keeps going on like the beginning, just continuously, time is the enemy of the joke.
Because youre waiting for the punchline. Its called the suspension of disbelief. Im sure you know the term in poetry. It
was suspended. I enjoyed the high production values. The pianist had a very nice touch. The fact that it had only one
chord in it was a little abrasive, and that that method was going to run out of time even faster than it would normally.
Because one chord is one chord is one chord, etcetera. As the country-western musician said, Three chords and the truth
is the definition of country music. I thought that was nicely coined. But this one only had one chord! And it wasnt even
Country-and-Western. I prefer to wait for the movie. [Any guesses?] Ill have to see the film and be reinterviewed. It
certainly wasnt worth listening to without a film accompanying it. Well played. No disrespect to the musicians. And a
pretty melody, by the way. An original melody. Its like the organ trios. The only question is why. [Pleasing the people.]
[LAUGHS] Oh, by the way, pleasing the people is the exact wrong premise for young musicians [I've heard you say
this.] Thank you. You know all my rants. [I think you have your contradictions. Would you care to bestow stars?] Stars.
As I said, when I see the film and listen to this film score, Ill be happy to rate it at that time. [Well, I need to play it a little
more, because I can't print anything you've said if you won't give it stars.] [LAUGHS] You may not have brought enough
records. If you had brought a real package of records, we could have done this and been out of here in 40 minutes. I could
have said, Forget it, keep it [Can't you just please me and give some stars here? You can even give it a pro forma five
stars.] No-no, five I cant give. You need a star system that says I have nothing to say. [Then you can say "for the way it
was played, such-and-such stars."] But how about unrated? They do that in porn movies. Unrated it. [This isn't a porn
movie.] Well, it gives you a license to make an escape without [Not according to my editor.] Oh, he wants stars, huh?
[He wants stars.] Have we run out of alternatives. Is that the problem? Its not possible for me to deal with this level of
Im very loathe to give somebody a very low rating. Which is why you need to be able to interviewee a pass.
8. Vijay Iyer, Atlantean Tropes (from PANOPTIC MODES, Red Giant, 2001) (Iyer, p; Stephan Crump, b; Derrek
Phelps, d) (5 stars)
Ill give it 5 stars. The plusses far outweigh the minuses. The plusses are of no use to the musicians. When somebody
comes up to you at the end of the set and says, That was great, theres no new information. We know that was great.
Thats why we played it. Lets talk about the minuses. I always prefer to couch profundity in humor. Someone was
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interviewing Albert Einstein, and they were trying to impress Einstein with their insights. Einstein, who was a violinist,
turned and said, thats very profound, but not very funny. So you need to be more than profound.
Now, this is definitely one of the top things you played today, and theres nothing I can say negative. I just have a small
facetious aside to make. And I admonish musicians with these facetious asides. This one is: If you use up all your eighth
notes in your youth, you wont have any left to play in your old age. Doesnt matter what the instrument. Im not
supposed to know what youre doing. If I know what you do, I dont like it. So youre constantly supposed to elude me. It
was incredibly well-composed, well-played, the horn player was great, there was unity through the whole track, exercise of
the imagination, beautiful use of chords the list goes on. Its almost a masterpiece. I might say it was a masterpiece.
Today it was definitely a masterpiece, based on what else Ive heard! [LAUGHS] But remember, were in the post-Albert
Ayler-Paul Motian-Sunny Murray period. You cant get away with meter any more, certainly as an entry level artist and a
new artist. You cant get away with meter. I gave my metronome away when I was at Juilliard. I broke mine. They need
to be smashed. Because breathing is not metronome. Breathing is circular. Up and down phrases, rushing through
[What about the heartbeat?] The heartbeat is also not metrical. Its PAH-BOOM, PAH-BOOM. And you cant measure it
exactly right. If youre walking around the room, its definitely not metrical. And remember, youre in a new century. Its
such an exciting time. This is the perfect time to wipe the blackboard clean and start with a fresh page.
9. Brad Mehldau, Quit (from TRIO PROGRESSION, Warner Brothers, 2001) (Mehldau, p; Larry Grenadier, b; Jorge
Rossy, d) (5 stars)
Are you going to continue to play Keith Jarrett for me all day today? Its no small accomplishment to play Keith Jarrett.
The problem is, he was there first. Its who you avoid thats more important than who you support. Its not hard to draw
up a roadmap of who to avoid. Just check the Downbeat Readers Poll. If its already been recorded, its not a good idea
to try to improve on it. Its a magical track, by the way. These players are all great players, and a masterful track, and very
worthwhile doing it and if I owned the label, I would support the production. But I fear for the pianist. [Why do you
fear for the pianist?] Because when you are born into a world of giants, you have to be an iconoclast. Theres no way to
treat them on their own terms, because you lean to their sensibility. Youre at risk. So you cant work through them. You
have to destroy the icon. [So you're postulating the Oedipal theory of music history.] Well, I dont know if Id put it
exactly in that slant. But what Im saying is that its who you hate thats more important than who you love. And if you
hate somebody, then I wont recognize who you hate. But if you love somebody, its going to defeat the whole purpose, see,
because you always get hurt by the one you love. Thats a nice turn of phrase. [I've heard it.] Thank you. Unfortunately
Ive heard it before! [Was that an older or younger player?] It was a masterful player, whatever age. Way on top of it.
Certainly I much prefer somebody who is that developed than somebody who had less to offer. There was certainly a lot to
listen to.
You know, the trouble with being a bass player is that if the piano player can play faster than you, you should go home.
Why would you want to play with somebody who cant move through the music, move notes at least as fast as a pianist,
which would be the reason to not ever play with a pianist. See, if I play with you, without any other value judgments, we
want to be equals. We want to play equally. So the way the trio in this case solves that problem is either the other players
play down, play less than they can, to be polite and accommodate the less facile musician. Just as at a dinner
conversation, if youre the young person at the table who cant keep up with the conversation, its the responsibility of the
other people to speak slower and leave a lot of silences, and invite the other person to air their side of the conversation.
Playing in a trio, for the piano player to be running at the mouth and If you have Gary Peacock on the bandstand, thats
not a problem. But if youre going to play with a player who is really a time player, you have to really The whole date
would be about making this person equal to the other players. Thats the whole premise of the date. You cant go past
somebody. You have to take them with. The audience judges the band by its weakest player. Not by the accomplishment
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of the best player, but by the difficulties. [AFTER] Its too late for him. If there was no Keith Jarrett, there would be room
for a Brad Mehldau.
10. Sonny Clark, Tadds Delight (from SONNY CLARK TRIO, Blue Note, 1957/2001) (Clark, p; Paul Chambers, b;
Philly Joe Jones. d) (5 stars)
Hey, Tadd Dameron! Beautiful. A very nice sentimental tune, very well played, very enjoyable, well written. I did know
the composer, I think Tadd Dameron. It was perfect of its generation. It was beautifully played. The piano player
sounded good. Somebody like Hank Jones would be perfect playing this material. I was amazed how good he sounded,
Hank Jones, and this pianist equally well. So who is it? [Do you think it was of the time?] Oh, very much so. The way the
recording sounded, too. Six stars. [AFTER] I dont know his work. I know of him, of course. I was in California for two-
plus years, and worked every night for two-plus years. We had one night off. So Sonny must have come by the Hillcrest
Club and maybe said hello or something. But I was too busy to socialize.
11. Wayne Shorter, Atlantis (from FOOTPRINTS LIVE, Verve, 2002) (Shorter, ts; Danilo Perez, p; John Patitucci, b;
Brian Blade, d) (5 stars)
I love it. Its really beautiful. But please, dont bring a concert audience into my bedroom. The fact that the concert
audience liked it was reason enough to discourage me. Its not a commercial. So dont tell me somebody else liked it. Im
the person whos supposed to like it. By the same token, dont grunt and groan on the bandstand. Let the audience do it.
In a live performance theyre supposed to do the grunting and groaning as a result of your playing, and enjoying
themselves. The problem is that when you write a tune, youve pretty much told the players that youre going to be at this
place on the map at this hour, playing this hour, playing this harmony, and then when the bars continue at this place in
time youre going to be at this place harmonically, and thats called ornamentation. Ornamentation is not improvising.
Ornamentation is a pre-set set of changes in which you play those changes as prescribed. Now, to try and create melodies
with all this information thats fixed and given is almost impossible.
So they did a beautiful job. But once again, I mention its 2002 now. Its too late to tell the players what notes come
where. It has some beautiful augmented harmonies in it. The joke about augmented is that the player had an diminished
sensibility and an augmented ego. Thats the joke. Youre not supposed to tell me that its all augmented chords. Im not
supposed to guess that. Youre supposed to keep it from me. The same with electronic jazz. If I can tell what the setting is
on a synth player, then I dont like it. The idea is to design something that tricks me and fools me, and I have to go find
the guy and say, What was it? Its wonderful!
So it was very well played, and beautifully done, and for what it was, it was a great accomplishment. Now, once again, you
may have brought the Latin world into it; its 5/4 and all that. I think theres a Spanish name here with the piano player. I
could saynot Rubalcaba Theres two guys; they both work for my agent. It wasnt the one who played simplistic track
Danilo Perez. Danilo is a good friend. [I know that a lot of the Spanish players have listened to you a lot.] Which is
strange, because the album that I really wanted to make, the Spanish album that I wanted to make, having spent some
time in Florida with some of my best friends in that part of the world, I have really only been able to suggest in my earlier
playing the possibilities of what that leads to. [Any idea who the tenor player was?] No. But very nice use of space. Great
use of space. Very sensitive. Im impressed with your tracks. Its been illuminating, the things youve played for me
today. As a matter of fact, when you come up to me on a tour and you show me a really good photograph youve taken of
the band, I take the photograph! I say, You make yourself another copy. Im taking this! Theres definitely three keepers
so far. Youre going to have a lot of trouble leaving the room with it under your arm. [AFTER] Wow. Amazingly sparse
playing for Wayne. Wow. Wonderful. Very good. It really turned me on. Five stars.
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12. Cecil Taylor, Looking, Second Part (from LOOKING (Berlin Version), THE FEEL TRIO, FMP, 1990) (Taylor, p.;
William Parker, b; Tony Oxley, d) (5 stars)
I cant listen to any more of this, because its too influenced by Cecil. [But it is Cecil.] Of course. If you play trumpet and
sound exactly like Louis Armstrong, youd better be Louis Armstrong. But what more is there to say? Its Louis
Armstrong. Cecil is to be avoided like the plague if youre a pianist. If youre a drummer, its not a problem. [Why do you
have to avoid him if you're a pianist?] Because he did it before you were out of knickers. [But not before you were out of
knickers.] Im very fond of Cecil, which is why Im trying to protect him from his imitators. At one point, we thought that
wed do Weve played on the same bill, at the same festivals and all that, and at one point I thought that he would do the
ballads and I would do the fast, frantic stuff. But then, brilliant as he is, he went on and did the ballads himself! Cecil is
wonderful. Hes one of these wonderful, wonderful musicians who are much more than just musicians or
instrumentalists. Their personalities color life itself. Its been a blessing to be in his presence. End of story.
I remember in the 50s he played with Steve Lacy. He was a wonderful combination with Steve, like hot knives with
butter. A perfect antidote. That was one of the great combinations, like Roswell Rudd with John Tchicai. The Jazz
Composers Guild had these wonderful ensembles that were perfectly framed, and Cecil, of course, belonged to that
period. Whenever youre in the presence of giants, be very If youre a professional musician who is responsible for the
life of that instrument that you play, when youre in the presence of giants You would think that would be a good thing,
like you paid a lot of money, great expectations most probably youre going to be even more than satisfied. So
everything seems positive. But if you are a good musician, you have a lot of problems, unless it happens to be the Count
Basie Orchestra with Joe Williams or something and its not about anything except having a good time If you like it too
much, youre at risk.
Its not a recent recording. It doesnt sound like it was done in the last year or the year before. 1990? Thats old Cecil. Six
13. Matthew Shipp, Paradox X (from NEW ORBIT, Thirsty Ear, 2001) (Shipp, prepared piano; Gerald Cleaver, d) (5
With your permission, Id just like to make a one-line joke. I wasnt prepared to hear this. Thats the funniest thing I can
come up with. 5 stars. I loved it. Its very nice. It was a drummers tune. It was set up for the mallet player, who did a
beautiful job. Its amazing how it engaged you. I liked it. But I prefer my joke. [AFTER] Ive met Matthew in airports.
14. Art Tatum, Cherokee (from THE COMPLETE ART TATUM SOLO MASTERPIECES, Pablo, 1954/1991) (Tatum,
piano) (5 stars)
Saved the best for last! [LAUGHS] Well, I think the interview is over. The art of playing piano. Wonderful! Ive been
having a problem with the tunes that are very popular looping them. The very fact that the tunes are 32 bars, repeated
over and over and over again, somehow that lingers beyond the performance, and I might be playing Cherokee for three
days and nights. Thats a serious problem with looping. Because if you do anything twice, you may have set me in motion
to an infinite repeat. [Are you saying that hearing something like that might trigger something in you...] No, its not a
need. It might actually loop The 32 bars may continue repeating even after the gig is over or the CD is off. The tune may
go on ad infinitem for hours or even days. So I prefer to only listen to unfamiliar things that I cant identify, which is
good. Its not possible to loop. I call it looping.
When Tatum died, the rest of the world said thank goodness hes gone! You couldnt be a pianist and be on the same
planet with Tatum. And its amazing, because the content was almost nil. I mean, its how he played it. Its the fact that
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he could play everything so well that was great. It wasnt what he played. I mean, there are guitar players, like Tiny
Bradshaw, who played an equivalent intellectually. But this is a perfect case of ornamentation to the Nth degree. Which
means you can do a bad thing great A bad thing done in a great way is better than a great thing done in a bad way! You
can play with that sentence and look for meaning. But all the rules can be broken by somebody like Art Tatum. Because if
youre looking for linear creativity in terms of improvisation in this period, thats a minor accomplishment compared to
the fact that he can make that instrument sound like no one has ever played it before. When this guy was on the planet, he
threatened every living pianist, Classical or Jazz. When youve got a giant roaming the planet, you know, with the trees
rumbling and the dinosaurs hiding in the bushes and so forth, well, thats a very bad time for an aspiring musician. You
have to wait until this guy passes before theres even room to THINK about what you want to do. Jazz history is full of
giants on particular instruments that have I mean, if you were an aspiring tenor saxophone player that didnt wear a hat,
Lester Young defeated your purpose. Each instrument has its nemesis. Thats the word Im looking for, is nemesis.
Youre supposed to be the first one to recognize that there is a nemesis, and it can affect you greatly and threaten your
existence if not your livelihood. So its serious business, attempting to be the 11th person to play this instrument or the
fortieth person to play this genre or the hundredth person, and so forth A serious business. You cant go in there
without a thought in your head, looking for an inspiration. Its not going to happen. Six stars.
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Blindfold Test: Paul Motian
About Ten Years Ago
A 2001 DownBeat Profile of
Lee Konitz, Who Turns 84
Dr. John (Mac Rebennack),
Uncut Downbeat Blindfold
Test, 2006
In "Blindfold Test"
In "Alto Saxophone"
In "Blindfold Test"