Eras: Inner Jazz Views

Ed Hamilton reflects on jazz as a series of eras through remembrances from various interviews over the years

Eras begin, end, and start anew. President Obama’s first has ended and his second era is beginning just as the new year of 2013 begins. As the Obama era starts and continues, jazz is an enigmatic sampling. Eras chronicle time periods of events or persons involved in specific genres: President Obama, MLK, Muhammad Ali, Watts Riots, 9/11, Columbine and interviewed jazz musicians with their parting quips are each sound eras still heard after they’ve gone. Among the remembrances of jazz friends who allowed me their inner views of their jazz spirit: Ahmad Jamal, Gene Ammons, Benny Golson, Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Yusef Lateef, Monk, Charles Lloyd, Lorez Alexandria, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Carl Randall, Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith, Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, Jimmy Bond, Tutti Heath, Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Lou Donaldson, Ndugu, Gerald Wilson, Roy Ayers, Garnett Brown, Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, Vic Vogel, Red Holloway, George Benson, Kenny Dennis, Gil Scott, Bill Henderson, Harold Mabern, Jimmy Merritt, Willie Bobo, Poncho Sanchez, Grover Washington, George Duke, Natalie Cole, Ray Barretto, and Mingus.

Some lasting words from Charles Lloyd and the Heath Bros regarding their time as musicians: ”We’re Passing Thru” and as Donald Byrd said “Steppin’ Into Tomorrow”; Herbie about the future of what was to come- “You’ll Know When You get There”; Eddie Jefferson said “When you see danger facing you-don’t get scared”; and Miles after getting billy-clubbed on his head while standing outside smoking a cigarette where he was performing said, “The last thing I want to do on earth before I die--- is slowly choke a white man to death.” And Tootie Heath remembering Jimmy Bond’s last words about Nina Simone who they recorded with on her first album and Bond who attended Juilliard with Simone. Telling Bond he had run into Simone at this Melrose club and told her he and Bond would meet for lunch, Bond told Heath, “ I don’t wanna have any lunch with that crazy bitch.”

Garnett Brown during our talk regarding his lecture to the UCLA Jazz Studies department under Kenny Burrell said , “Make certain you spell my name with two T’s.”

Canadian Viv Vogel anticipating Freddie Hubbard’s guesting with his orchestra said, “I heard Freddie’s lip was affecting his playing---But whatever notes come out---It’s gonna be pure and unadulterated.”

At the Jazz Bakery in 2006, I asked Ahmad why he decided to adopt a Muslim name, he answered, “My birth name was Fritz--- a German name and after converting to Islam. I made the decision to change to Ahmad Jamal---after all, I really wasn’t happy being a black man named Fritz and I wasn’t German.”

In 1969 Gene “Jug” Ammons had just been released from Joliet and came to the newly opened Redd Foxx Cub and after a surprising set with Sarah Vaughan who was in the audience, we talked and Jug broke open a bottle of Chivas Regal--- poured me a glass and said, “Here---young blood. Bottoms up.” ---and I immediately asked ‘you got a chaser?’ Jug answered, “Your Saliva.”

Benny Golson was performing at Ronnie Scott’s with the Roots group with Buster Williams, Ed Thigpen, Black Arthur Blythe, Von Freeman, Nathan Davis and Kirk Lightsey. I told him I was teaching History at a junior high and trombonist Garnett Brown was my neighbor, he said, “I know where your school is--it’s down the street from my L.A. house and at different times me and Garnett played with Blakey...and Nathan Davis said, “Me and Garnett was in the Army together--tell him I said what’s happening..”

Herbie Hancock was at the Lighthouse with his Mwandishi group around ‘73 said after our interview[--”Man you did the best interview I ever had done..”
Gil Scott at the Roxy in 1974 when I asked was he into the herbs like Bob Marley quickly interjected sticking his hand in hs pocket pulling out a J and said, “ED they grow in my pocket.”

Willie BoBo whose birth name is Willie Correa told me , “ I got my name from Ella Fitzgerald who said i was the life of the party and dubbed me BoBo.”

Lee Morgan with Harold Mabern, Jimmy Merritt and Benny Maupin after playing a burning “Willow Weep For Me” at the Lighthouse told me just before we interviewed, “Can you wait a minute while I talk to these youngsters”, (two teen musicians) and in the same breath said “Where can we go see the fight? (between Ali and Frazier-1971) I said, ‘Around the corner at a theater doing pay per view---who you taking?

In Montreal at the Hyatt Jam session 1996, after the day’s Jazzfest, I had just heard Joe Henderson had passed. Around midnight, Freddie comes in as Roy Hargrove, Larry Willis, Christian McBride were jamming hard--Freddie looked at me and said, “Damn, look at him sounding like Blue Mitchell--I better get back home and get my shit together...”

Yusef Lateef at the lighthouse around 1970 when I asked him about Audiophysicpsychic, he said a little sarcastically, “It’s’ self explanatory..”

Monk after a great set at Shelly’s Manhole with his son T.S. on drums around 1971, I asked ‘Where you been you haven’t been out here in L.A. for a while’. He staccatoed quietly “Europe- what you got?” T.S. broke in saying “I’m sorry man he’s tired”. I said ‘It’s OK---I got some great notes I’m reviewing you for SoulJazz’. and Monk started laughing his ass off.

Carmen McRae following a wonderful set at the Playboy Club in Beverly Hills in 1969, I’m asking Carmen how do you spell her last name--she caustically spat back, “Don’t you know how to spell my name?” I shot back, ‘I want those who haven’t bought your lps yet to know how to spell it correctly when they go to buy it..She smoothly replied, “OK darling... I feel you now.”

Nancy Wilson after her song with Nat Adderley at the Cannonball Adderley Benefit at UCLA--Cannonball had just passed---I was sipping some good wine and Nancy came over and said, “do you mind sharing some of your grape juice with me?” Of course you know what I did...

Horace Silver returning back to Concerts by the Sea after a years absence. I asked how he was doing and where had he been--he said, “I’m feeling great--I’m a dad for the first time with a new son named Gregory”...Gregory’s 34 now...

Sonny Rollins after an inaugural set for the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) called me and said, “Come on over to the Continental Hotel in Hollywood.” Upon entering Sonny said, “You organic?--would you like a rye crisp while we talk?” I said “you got any water to go with it’?

Carl Randall who passed away just before Christmas had run into me at the Central Avenue Jazz this summer. He said, “Man I know you”. I said, ‘You remember when you were fixing telephone wires at my cousins house..He was moonlighting as an AT&T lineman, He said “Yeah, I remember. You gotta keep your day job until the gigs get permanent” and I said ‘yeah and that was you at the Lighthouse. He said, “That’s right--playing tenor with Donald Byrd--I had just done my hitch.”

Pharoah Sanders and I first interviewed in San Francisco 1970, after an exhilarating set at the Both/And where he had Lonnie Liston Smith on piano, Jimmy Hopps on drums, Cecil McBee on Bass and an exotic dancer shimmering with bells around her waist to “The Creator Has A Master Plan”--I ran into Pharoah at a grocery store in L.A., 2011, and made him remember our interview--I said ‘You remember we were at the Keystone and you had some Panama Red?’ Pharoah immediately cut in--”Anymore around?”

Percy heath was at UCLA for the Cannonball Adderley Benefit and I asked him how Mtume his nephew, Jimmy Heath’s son,was doing in NY--he said, “Man he’s rich --- He makes more money than I have in my whole career.”

Gerald Wilson after being honored at LACMA. I said ‘Gerald, you’re 94 now right?’ Gerald whipped back, “Hold it man. I know i’m old- but not that old--I’m 92.”

Cannonball after a set at the Playboy-Club responded when I asked him to play “Jeannine”---Shit-man that’s too old.” He had just released the “Country Preacher”.

Kenny Burrell out at UCLA and Donald Byrd on my jazz program at KPFK both both said the same thing to me when I said I was tired of going to school-I had just got my BA. Their responses were “Don't ever get tired of learning--education keeps your mind fresh and sharp”..Kenny and Donald both have their Doctorates in Music--Donald’s got 2 law degrees two masters--Kenny got a Doctorate and 2 Masters

Lou Donaldson on winning the NEA award for 2012, It’s an honor; I should have gotten 47 years ago when they started giving them out--I was almost 5o then--and tell Garnett brown and Kenny Burrell them old Octogenarians (Garnett’s in his 70’s Kenny is 81) I said What’s going on?”

Ndugu Leon Chancler said on his 60th birthday as we watched the shuttle being towed down Crenshaw. I said ‘you were 18 when we first talked and now you’re 60 years.’ He quipped “Damn it fells good---I’m almost catching up with you ED.” I interviewed him when he was 18/back in 1970 he had just been employed with Miles and Freddie.

Grant Green on his last Lighthouse recording, “ED, I sure like to play the young kids music--James Brown “Make It Funky” and some Beatles’ A Day In the Life.

Roy Ayers at the Whiskey when I said I had his first album “West Coast Vibes” with Curtis Amy, “Man, don't nobody have that--- it’s been out of print for ten years” I said ‘I bought it in 1963 when it first came out.’

Stanley T. on two occasions at the Lighthouse and The Jazz Bakery ‘71 and 2006 --’You and Shirley really got 9 kids-?’; he said, “Shhhhh-don’t tell nobody-” and at the end his last California gig at the Bakery after a dynamite set--Stanley said, ”Who you say you are n-----? I rapidly answered--’The MF who bought 100 of your albums’--he said, “Ah Shit---I remember you know.” It was his last Jazz Bakery date--he went back to the east coast and had a heart attack on stage. Freddie Hubbard talked on the phone don the and he said, “I told him to slow down a little. But he love it (the road) as much as I did.”

Garnett Brown after an interview was printed about being selected a faculty member of the UCLA Jazz studies Dept. by Kenny Burrell---Garnett told me, “Garnett has 2 T’s at the end.”

George Benson saying how bad he and Dr. Lonnie Smith were playing with Lou Donaldson---”Me and Lonnie could play up some Blues with Lou.”

Wayne Shorter on his association w/Herbie Hancock--”Me and Herbie are into beyond the music comraderie-it’s humanistic.” They go way back to their Bluenote collaborations on ---”Speak No Evil” and “Night Dreamer”.

Pancho Sanchez’ concert at UCLA, 1995, with guest Freddie Hubbard speaking on where he is from---Pancho said, “Cal Tjader would always say I was from East L.A. where all the immigrant first and 2nd generation Mexicans were from; I kept telling Cal I was not from El Este (East L.A.). I’m from Norwalk.” Freddie was invited for this set and was on Pancho’s new cd “Skydive”. Freddie asked me, “Who is Pancho? I got invited to record and play this set, but don't really know his music.” I immediately schooled him on his years with Cal Tjader.

Grover Washington standing outside of Concerts by the Sea in between sets with people lined up the stairs outside the downstairs venue. “Howard’s got me doing 3 sets and I’m getting a breather--we can interview up at the Berkeley JazzFest later.” This wa ‘72 and Berkeley was a smoking set for Grover.

George Duke on piano at Cannonball’s last gig listening to a tape I gave him --”Man that was 1975--- Cannon’s last date here at the Lighthouse--we was smoking”. Cannon played soprano sax---a rare hearing occasion.

Natalie Cole at the Now Grove after our dynamite lunch/interview that was printed in Ken Jone’s “Soul Magazine”. In a radio spot Jones’ tease said Natalie Cole tells all-’DJ’S must get theirs in order for her to get played.’ Natalie said to me at her Grove opening, “We got to talk---and in a hurry.”

Ray Baretto at Dave’s Pasta House, a great Dance and play venue in Montebello after I asked how did he get the idea to do “El Watusi” in 1963---a Billboard top hit in NY. “They were doing this dance--and I liked it and said it would be a great piece of dance music and it went to number 5 on Billboard.”

Lorez Alexandria told me in between sets at Red Hollloway's Parisian Room, 1969, about her best album “Lorez the Great”--I had some of the baddest jazz men in the biz on this Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson. We had a blast.”

And on Charles Mingus, the “Beneath the Underdog” author’s unexpected response when we talked in 1971, in L.A., at the “Bit & Apple”, Mingus replied when asked where had he been. He had not been in L.A. (his home) for many years---”I’ve been talking with the devil”; and I said ‘what was ya’ll talking about?’ He said, ”We was talking about what was happeniing in Hell.”

Once Bill Henderson and I did a Bud commercial and in our interview, I bragged about knowing jazz music when I heard it on the radio. Bill said, “I bet you $20 on the next song played on the radio we were listening to--It was KBCA the L.A. station. I listened and said, ‘its Sonny Stitt-”Miss Ann’s Blues.’ Bill said, “uh oh.” The dj said ‘this is a new one from Sonny Stitt---Miss Ann’s Blues. And he handed over the $20..We laugh to this day on how I got him.

After artists pass on record companies have been sitting on dividends that are unreleased tapes on artists--they sit on tapes for years and release the music after the deaths of the artists. Why? Because the artists music is timeless and companies maintain control and keep the tapes in their vaults because the tapes are long term investments---They know artists will die at some time and that is why an artist fights for control of their masters--- the whole recording history with that company. GiGi Gryce was the first to start his own music publishing as did Donald Byrd who also fought for and obtained his masters. Tapes are like investments--- like stocks and they make money for the record company when artists die and the tapes are later released now as cds---they are dividends.Timeless. But are the surviving families reaping any of these stored in the vault dividends. Take a listen to the Buick commercial with Shaq and Etta James'’ “Somethin’s Gotta A Whole On Me” popularized by Rapper Florida..This one must have slipped out of the vaults, but Florida firmly stated he had asked Etta for permission before she passed leaving 2 sons as survivors. Obviously Argo Records missed out and didn’t reap these vaulted dividends.

Jazz is era of timelessness--- an eternal never ending passing of time interpreted thru musicians’ intervention with sound. Spoken soundly..........

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Ed Hamilton