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Joe McPhee Interview

By Published: June 16, 2005

AAJ: In what capacity did you work at Hat HUT?

JM: From 1981 to 1985 I was a vice-president of Hat HUT records, whatever that means, in charge of promotion and marketing. And we established a branch of the company in West Park, New York and I worked in the office there. And I was supposed to be a liaison between the musicians and the company, in addition to the promotion and marketing and stuff. And I had a lot of hope that I could effect some kind of real, meaningful connection between the company and the musicians, but it didn't work out that way, and in terms of distribution and sales of recordings, it didn't help very much either, because radio didn't work, distribution was abysmal, and, you know, jazz is a small part of the whole spectrum of the music industry and the particular genre that we're involved with is even more infinitesimal part of that. No matter what I did I couldn't effect anything. And then I found that the worst part of it was I played a lot less—almost didn't play at all. It was an interesting experiment.

AAJ: Going back to something sort of related to your recent recordings with the Bluette group, there's this topic of religious music, and it seems that throughout all human history and all human cultures, music has always been intimately connected with people's religious practices, and especially in America, and especially with the jazz tradition there's a very large connection between certain religious communities and certain musical communities, and I was wondering, you know, if you fit into this pattern yourself.

JM: Not really; I think it's more about spirituality than religion, and in that sense, I think it's tied and it's about spirituality in the community of people, humanity, more than religion—religion doesn't interest me—formalized religion and stuff like that, but in terms of jazz, most particularly coming out of a Black culture, where the church is a very important part of it. For me personally in particular, I didn't come from—I came from a family that are immigrants to the United States—my parents came from the Bahamas— I'm the first of my family born in the United States—and they came from an English background with an Episcopal church, as opposed to the Baptist church—didn't hear a whole lot of Blues and so on—the music I listened to was from the Caribbean and so on, so most of the music I got in terms of jazz was through my friends when I was a teenager and stuff like that. My father liked jazz and he played—he met Dizzy Gillespie once, and I have my mother's uncle—Alfonso Cooper was the leader of the group called the Savoy Sultans, which was a very famous band in a period which was between sort of Count Basie kind of things and so on—it was called a jump band...

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Photo Credit
Sittng by Serge Vincent
Playing by Steve Glabman

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