When I moved from Philadelphia to New York, I stayed with my Aunt Joyce and her five children in Harlem. That was my first year at Goddard College, when I was 19. I used to go to jam at a place called Count Basie’s, on 125th Street, and guys like Freddie Hubbard and Horace Parlan would come to the sessions. Not long after I saw Horace, he was picked up by Charlie Mingus. This would be 1959.
He could make all 88 keys sound at the same time, especially on the blues. And it’s amazing: Because [of the polio he suffered with as a child], he played with only seven fingers—five on the left hand and usually two on the right, sometimes a third. He was an incredible man, a lovely man. You couldn’t find a better guy than Horace.