AAJ: Has anything else that you've arranged or composed been played or recorded by anyone else?
GD: There have been a few things. I would always write stuff but I would never write them down because I didn't think it was that good. I thought of myself as a working musician whose emphasis was jazz, which I loved the most.
But when I was working with Nat Adderley, I played something that I was writing and he said, "Man, that's great! Put a bridge on it and we'll record it." So I wrote a bridge and we recorded it.
AAJ: What was the name of the song?
GD: It's called "Who's Kidding Who?" All of a sudden, everybody thought it was the hippest song in this little circle of people. Nat Adderley played it, Larry Willis
. So I have all these people recording this one tune! I'm like, "Hey guys! I have other tunes!" So Vincent came over and asked what else I was writing. So [Herring] recorded another song I wrote called "Holly's Secret," which I wrote for my stepdaughter. Then Red Rodney recorded another record with Gary Dial and myself where I was playing synth. Downbeat reviewed me as a synthesist, I was called a "bop synthesist." The record was called Red Alert (Landmark, 1991).
Red wanted to reach a wider audience so he decided he wanted to more commercial. He liked my be-bop playing so he wanted me to be a part of the record. It didn't pay that much or anything, but I didn't care, if it were free I would have [still] done it. Red wanted everyone to write so everyone in the band wrote. So I wrote a few things and he really liked some of my pieces. There's also this saxophonist, Mark Vinci
who recorded a few of my songs. He recorded my song called "Flight of the Feather."
AAJ: Let's move on to the present day. How did your upcoming album come about?
GD: Jana Dagdagan, my publicist, was helping me get my thoughts organized in terms of moving forward during this part of my career. She's a pretty amazing young woman who is inclined both in music and business, and has worked with quite a few notable musicians.
I did a little jazz gig a year ago and recorded it. But I was talking to Jana about a couple of things and she's been a huge encouragement. She also mastered the recording.
AAJ: But you do have a release under Mapleshade with Jay Anderson
GD: Yeah, but that was 20 years ago and I feel like I'm a different player now. I had some great people on the record but I just feel like it was so long ago that it doesn't represent who I am now.
AAJ: So what happened in between those 20 years? I almost feel like you're a musician's musician. Students from Manhatthan School of Music and New School know who you are and speak highly of you. When I interviewed Takuya Kuroda and asked him about his time at New School, he spoke highly of three teachers: Laurie Frink, Bill Kirchner
, and you. Why didn't we see more Gerard D'Angelo records between during that time?
GD: Well it had to do more with playing than recording. 20 years ago, I started teaching at the New School and I was gigging a lot. But I was taking all sorts of gigs and I wasn't really thick in the jazz scene. I did play with Red Rodney, Nat Adderley, and Chris Potter but I was also trying to survive in the music business. I was willing to do other gigs and I enjoyed doing other gigs, but I was never the hardcore jazz guy who was just out there doing that.
As much as I loved it tremendously, I never had that kind of confidence that I was that. I was just kind of who I was: this working guy. By the time I hit 40 and I got the teaching gig I thought it was great because I was teaching stuff that I loved to do. When that happened, I began towithout analyzing myself too muchsee myself as a teacher and less as a player, even though I was working with Stokes and other people. I don't think I really had the confidence.
AAJ: So it didn't occur to you that you were a good musician despite teaching at two really well respected institutions that students from all over the world wish to attend?
GD: No, that never occurred to me. I always felt and fortunate that I was at those two schools, but I never saw myself as outstanding in anyway. If I had an outstanding quality, then it was my ability to relate to people. During those years, I think I didn't jump out there as much because I didn't really see myself as a really great jazz player. That's not really a good enough reason not to do it, so maybe there's more psychological reasons that's not worth figuring out because where I'm at now is more important.
But a lot of it had to do with my life going into this teaching thing. I was very busy at Manhattan School of Music and I was very busy at New School. So I was thinking, "What am I going to do? These kids all sound great. What am I going to do? Go out on stage and explode?" So in my mind, there were all these great players and students out there so I think I was becoming comfortable in my safe niche. I was hiding out in this niche. I was like, "The students really like me. Let's just behave."
You can easily become comfortable, but I do think it's important to go out there and try things. I do feel that looking back, I had a lot of wonderful teaching and playing experiences. But now, I feel like I want to I'm a little nervous about itput myself out there.
So my goal for the next two and three years is to record a lot, put some stuff out on YouTube, try to play, and put myself out there for better or worse. If it were to work, then maybe I can really have a diversified career. Maybe I can cash in on a little bit of a teaching a career and a playing career.