Lonnie Plaxico: Striving for Originality, Noteriety
LP: That was indescribable. He was real cool and relaxed and opened minded and patient. He treated me like, I guess, he would treat anybody else. I was 22 when I first joined. Immediately he had me on dates. He had me in Japan, in Europe, recording live. I was a part of the Art Blakey All-Stars at 22. I was in Japan recording with Benny Golson, Terrance Blanchard, Curtis Fuller and Wynton. I was part of an all-star band at 22. He could have easily said, like today most people would get political and say “We better get Buster Williams or Ron Carter,” because they have more experience. But he didn’t do that. I mean, he let me go out there and do my thing and learn.
AAJ: Anybody else, like DeJohnette?
LP: DeJohnette and those guys, they were the same breed. They encourage you to be you. It’s unbelievable. Dizzy. They were all fun to be around and be in the studio with. Dexter Gordon, I mean, it was easy. The music demanded the most. They knew if you were really paying attention. They didn’t have to say nothing. It’s a conversation going on through the music. It’s not about speaking to you, you know? They knew you knew, or you didn’t know, just from playing.
AAJ: How did you hook up with Cassandra Wilson?
LP: I met Cassandra at a jam session. My father’s from Mississippi. Immediately she connected. Her father’s from Chicago, but he moved to Mississippi, so we connected right away. Whenever she had small gigs a long time ago, she would call me and then when she did her first CD [Point of View], I was a part of that. We’ve been in and out of each other’s lives since I’ve known her, but always still connected musically.
AAJ: Are you still doing stuff with her?
LP: Not as much as last year, cause I’m doing my own thing now and that’s my priority. I hope that we can do something together, with my band and her band, cause we’re on the same label. We did something in Japan earlier this year, but I’m really focusing on getting work for my band. My music is the total opposite of hers. It’s all in your face. Hers is kind of more mellow. I’m just really focusing on what I’m doing right now. I’m still doing work as a sideman, cause having your own band, in the beginning, there’s not a lot going on. That’s why I’m talking to you right now, getting interviewed. So you can help me let people know. Cause this is my sixth CD and people haven’t really come to me for interviews. It’s a bassist thing, you know? I don’t play the trumpet, so people really don’t pay too much attention.
AAJ: Was that a valuable experience with her? She’s gotten quite well known.
LP: Everybody I’ve worked with. I’m sure I haven’t even seen some of the benefits yet. I’m seeing them now. Realizing that I’ve been playing with her for the last seven years, my name is out there, so it’s easier to get an interview, for me, being on a major label and being a part of her band. It should really pay off, not that I was looking for any payoff, but when I think about it, it’s like: Wow, you really put in a lot of time with someone and you’re a part of her success also. So I think it helps out a lot.
AAJ: You guys are playing the festival thing, that’s got to be good. You’re playing George Wein’s festival, that’s got to be good exposure when you get on his circuit. Do you think it’s because you’ve got the new music coming out?
LP: Yeah, and also because we’ve been bugging him since last year. I’ve been trying to get people to hire my band since my last CD, so I follow up on it. They like the new CD. I’m sure being on Blue Note helps a whole lot. It’s all political, but also according to the work that you have done before. I mean, people do know who I am, but it’s still so political. You still gotta go through the back door until things really open up. And I’m willing to deal with whatever I have to deal with. I have the patience and I have nothing else to do.
AAJ: The list of people you’ve played with is certainly impressive.
LP: It’s like, after that, who DO you play with? I mean, if Herbie [Hancock] called me today, I still would rather do my own music.
AAJ: I see you’ve got a release party at the Green Mill [9/28 and 9/29] in Chicago. That’s a hot place. Do you have a history there?