On the Music
Played at Bop City
It was exciting
to me because it was basically a new music in its developing stages.
The music of Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Miles, and drummers
like Max Roach. Art Tatum came there and I even had the pleasure
of having breakfast with him one morning. It was fantastic and challenging
because I was a student as well as an admirer, a fan. I was playing
many times with my heroes right away. That's what was blowing my
mind. I never knew who I was going to play with, who was going to
be at Bop City. And I got to know and play first hand with these
folks. People like Paul Gonzalez, out of Duke's band, and I told
him, he was the first person who played the saxophone so well I
actually thought he swallowed it. I'd never heard anybody play on
that level. That was when I was seventeen.
Schooled at Bop City
Bop City because
of its inclusion of all this new, different music became kind of
like a school. It was a conservatory, a classroom, a performance
room; it was all that in one. It was also a place where you learned
the behavior, the modus operandi of just how to handle yourself
in that kind of company. These were thrills that were unspeakable.
If people love art and they love music, think of what it does to
the artist. It's unutterable. Sometimes people would get up and
the world would come to an end because of what they were doing;
the music was that good. Sometimes a person would play an idea that
you'd like to duplicate or build from. That's how I really learned
to play, by watching other people play the saxophone. I was able
to compare, in my mind, a creative art like jazz improvisation,
especially in the heat of something like Bop City, to being in physical
combat. To understand the preparation that you have to have, certain
skills and certain knowledge and then what your body can do. We
really wanted to prepare ourselves musically, artistically, so we
could demand, command, and deserve the audience's attention.
On Playing with John Coltrane
was just a kid, a young man, 24 or 25 years old, when I met him.
We were on the bandstand with Frank Fisher and Pony Poindexter.
It was a weekend and he was here with Johnny Hodges. He didn't
play that well, I mean, at 24 years old he was just a good player.
I was more fascinated by his name than I was by his playing because
I thought, Johnny Coltrane, what kind of name is that for a black
guy? I remember we did have coffee after and we were talking about
music. I said I wish I had more technique. I remember John saying,
you don't need more, you have lots of technique. That was our
first conversation, the year I got out of high school. I didn't
see him again until five years later. He came to my 23rd birthday
party. We were listening to lots of Sonny Rawlins' records. That's
when I was very impressed with John. We did some practices together
at my house. John was beginning to really sound different and
play some very profound things.