All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource


Marshall Allen's Muse

By Published: October 18, 2004

AAJ: You need to delegate it to other people.

MA: Some people are qualified in this job or that one, and 'you got it,' you know. I just stuck with the music end of it, keeping the music going and writing in my melody book. Keep all the parts together, and that's enough to keep you busy. You book the gigs and you've got to be the pay collector and all of that, keep the books, and people are always bothering you. I said 'no, no, let me do the music and keep it quiet.' Let 'em have the business end because some people can do it better than others. My mind is on the music, not the business.

AAJ: The Arkestra was one of the first bands to be self-reliant, from a business perspective.

MA: That's the thing Ra'd always say to us - we've got to run our own business, run our own [record] company, and take care of business as well. You've got a lot to learn and a lot to do, so you don't have time to be so free. You've got to run around and not waste time. We're always working toward the next century, so you've got to have it ready by that time.

AAJ: You've got to have a goal in mind and work toward that goal. That's always been uncommon, even in some larger groups.

MA: You get musicians who are going your way, and you can do things. Like any organization, you get the core and you can take care of business. If you care about the music, what you're doing, the people, and all those things - it's a big job. You expect people to like the music, so you've got to be on top of the music, because you affect people's destiny. You've got to do it right to help people, and to help yourself. I keep that in mind, the spirit of things, and that's better than knowing everything - I don't know everything. Don't put me in the limelight; I'll just stay in the shadows and do my job. That's more beneficial to me and everybody else than putting out good product.

AAJ: There were a ton of recordings released over the Arkestra's history, but things have slowed down recently in terms of putting out records.

MA: There are a lot of concerts, but not many albums now. There are really about two or three hundred - I don't know, I really can't count - of our albums out there, and I released two in ten years. One was a concert, and I did a couple of sessions in the studios. I've got enough stuff to do four, five, six albums more. All I'm doing is to keep writing in my melody book and stuff, so I'll get around to it. A lot of it is in concert, and the last album we put out was a concert we did in Switzerland.

AAJ: Do you feel that there is less of a need to document the process now than there was in previous periods?

MA: You do the same things you always do, you document things and talk about them, and other people document things, you know. When you get it all as a whole, you get a good picture. It gives people an idea of what the band is doing, where they live, how they do things. When you put all that together, some people write books about different people in the band, and each member has his own story. We've got cats that remember a lot more things than I do, so they can remember a lot of events. Each person has their own story, like in Space is the Place (John Szwed, 1997).

AAJ: And out of the contradictions, you can get an idea of the whole.

MA: The whole picture was for the musicians to get together and give people what they need for a changing world. You have this talent that must be used properly, so you use spiritual things too, so the music can be pure and when something comes from you that's beautiful, I can get some of it and it will enhance me. But if you've got other things coming into the music, it might not be as good. All we're doing is for the people, to play music and a joyful noise. Don't forget that you have a gift, and you must use it properly. You want a better world, you've got to create a better music. The people are part of the band, too. If it's by them, it makes a better world too.

Sometimes it isn't all about the money, you know. I used to dream about that too, but you've got to have a good product first. Sometimes money just floats, but that doesn't stop things - it just gives you more experience in how to be sensitive and keep steppin' and survive like everything else.

AAJ: It's been a real test of survival for everybody involved.

MA: That's true. So we've got to get something that works.

AAJ: If the group hadn't had those trials, it might not have worked so successfully.

MA: I'm still at it, and I'm still picking musicians who have been in the band to help out. Like Sunny used to say, it's a creative band, so people come to the band, not me. He wants to do it, so he's come here to do it.

AAJ: By this point, there probably isn't a need to recruit, though.

MA: I'm still looking for those who come through and want to do it - I don't stop anybody. If they really want to be in this band, they can come and be in it. When we go on road trips and to gigs, sometimes I can have more pieces than other times. If we make a travel band, it's always cut down for expenses. If we're playing in town, I can add five, six, seven people to the band. That's the way it's always been, anyway.

comments powered by Disqus