In one conversation, which led to this particular experience, I expressed to Raymond that I felt I was at a musical standstill. I felt I needed a teacher to continue growing and learning my instrument correctly. I had met with some teachers to discuss lessons but the best was out of my price range and the others frankly didn't measure up as teachers. Raymond called me up and told me he talked to someone on my behalf and I was told to go meet this musician at his gig. The musician I was set to study with was Arthur Harper. Harper was a funny, lovable guy. I showed before the first set of the gigit was a school night and we talked. He told me to stick around, he wanted to hear me play and he'd allow me to sit in on the second set. I listened to Harper deal the entire first set. He sounded wonderful. I felt like I was listening to someone play on par with the recordings I heard of Paul Chambers
. He had the language in his playing but another, entirely personal way of saying what he was saying.
The band always took a long set break. They left the club to sit in their cars and relax that's the best way to put it. When the trio returns to play the second set, Harper turns to me and says, "I'll play the first one then you come up." I patiently waited. Something had changed in Harp's demeanor so he began telling me he was going to play another. Then he said," Come back next week." I'd sat there, waiting to play but now I was frustrated and annoyed. Then, the moment of divine intervention arrived. The tune "What is This Thing Called Love" was called. The activities of the long, relaxing break had taken their toll on Harper. He still had good moments but he was sluggish and falling behind. When he heard the speed of the tempo, he frantically motioned for me to get up and play. I actually finished out the rest of the night. The others on the gig in the rhythm section were organist/pianistplaying only pianoShirley Scott and drummer Mickey Roker
. They talked to me at the end of the set and laid such heavy compliments on my abilities and the level I was playing at the time. I was sixteen years old and was more than adequately keeping up with seasoned musical veterans. Their words, coupled with the fact that they began hiring me for the gig most weeks for the next year and one half before I left town for college, inspired me and made me proud. I don't think I ever really made the choice to be a musician. I think I'm more of an eclectic Renaissance man with numerous talents and abilities but that music has risen to the fore as the most viable to support my family and self. I cook, study some foreign languages, compose and arrange music, write a heck of an essay or letter, play a few different instruments for self- entertainment and fulfillment, build and design furniture. I entered into music never knowing the full scope of what it entailed. I never knew I'd travel as extensively as I have the last 22 years. I was scared to fly on airplanes. I didn't take my first flight until age 19. My first flight was to New Orleans for attending an IAJE convention to perform in 1990. I was petrified, terrified! What has sold me on music is it's healing capabilities. We as musicians, put the spirit of others in turmoil and conflict at ease with our sounds. It doesn't matter if it's a happy romp or if it's a moody ballad that forces one to reminisce. We are chicken soup makers, we are physicians, [and] we are old grandmothers with remedies, concoctions, and old wives' tales.
GC: Did you do more practicing or listening when you were younger? Do you think playing is as important as practicing? Why or why not?
DB: I didn't begin playing double bass until I was a high school junior. When I jumped in the pool, I felt like I was behind and needed to catch up. I felt I had a good foundation in terms of listening. I had a variety of resources at my avail. I had my mother's collection of vinylminus some Duke Ellington albums I'd broken around age five and my brother Derrick began collecting while away at college so I had access to his collection after he'd bring albums home at semester ends. About age seven, I began collecting jazz, pop, funk and rap albums and singles. I had 16 years of musical listening in my ears and soul and consciousness before I played a note on bass. I had been listening to jazz from birth but I also had learned how to listen, feel, and appreciate many of the other divisions of music.
I practiced in a focused but random manner. I was self-taught on bass as a result of the manner in which the instrument made its way into my musical life. I had studied violin from fourth grade through the completion of high school. I never felt the instrument was spiritually or physically for me but my mother wouldn't allow me to quit and I became more than quite proficient at it.