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Interviews

Gary Bartz

By Published: July 15, 2005

AAJ: How hard was it to be yourself?

GB: Well, when I look back on it, that is what we were trying to do, that was our focus was because we realized that there is already a Charlie Parker, there is already a Jackie McLean, there is already a Cannonball Adderley, there is already an Eric Dolphy. So whatever they did to find their voice, that is what I had to do to find my voice. And from my generation, that was how our main focus was looking for our own voice, because we realized that that would be where we would be most successful. Because if you want Charlie Parker, you called Charlie Parker. Of course, there is a market for people that sound like Charlie Parker if Charlie Parker can't make the gig, then, okay, give me somebody who sounds like Charlie. But we were not interested in that, we were interested in finding our own voice. So we just did whatever we could and whatever we could think of to do. And I don't know whether it was I couldn't even say how, you know, I couldn't say you how. All I can say is the how was the knowledge that that's what we needed to do. So that's what we were striving for.

AAJ: Do you agree with the way music schools are putting out kids now, that they're teaching them that, This is exactly what so-and-so was doing in 1958? And I think a lot of the kids coming out of the schools aren't having that experience you had of like I needed to find my own voice. They were saying, I can play.

GB: Uh-huh.

AAJ: I mean, I see so many young people at jam sessions and concerts now, and each person sounds like they came straight out of Coltrane or

GB: Right.

AAJ: straight out of Charlie Parker, and they haven't found their own voice. And I wonder if the music school is at fault for that.

GB: No, I don't think its at fault. I think what's going on now is that everything is turned around. Whereas we see, because we didn't have music schools. And so we had to learn the best way we could, and so everybody learned in a different way. I didn't learn like somebody you know, the next alto player learned. Even though we worked (Inaudible) like I used to practice with Eric Dolphy every Wednesday. We had a standing engagement for every Wednesday. I would go down to his loft and we would practice. But I met Eric when I would do some things Mingus. And he had this experimental big band that he would do at the Village Gate. And I didn't get paid. Eric probably got paid. (Laughs) You know, Rahsan Roland Kirk was in the section, I remember. I think Julian Priester was in there. I don't remember who else was in there.

AAJ: Was Ted Curson(?) there?

GB: Ted might have been, too, yeah. But it was a big band. And Mingus would just (Inaudible). He would start a song. He would come over to Eric. Eric was the leader of the sax section, and he would hum a melody or something for him to play, then Eric would give it to us, and we would play it, and then he'd do the same, Mingus would do the same to the trumpet section, to the trombones. So it was an improvised big band, which was (Inaudible).

AAJ: This was the Jazz Workshop?

GB: Yeah, it was definitely a workshop, yeah. (Laughs) But like I said, I used to practice with Eric and the reeds. But what we would practice we weren't practicing it, we were practicing technique, because we found out I love to do duets, but I didn't find many people that enjoyed doing duets with me. So I mentioned this to Eric, and Eric said, Well, I love doing duets, too, and I have the same problem. So that's when we started our standing Wednesday engagement at his loft. And so then we couldn't find music hard enough to challenge us, because saxophone music, there's not a big backlog of saxophone music. So we ended up with oboe music. So we got the Bach Fugues, you know, oboe, because oboe is the same range, B-flat to high-F. And so we started we would have so much fun doing that. But we weren't even talking about style so much as we were trying to learn the instruments. That's what I was doing at that time. And that comes. So and back to your question, I think the schools are a good thing, but everything is backwards now. We found the style while we were looking for our technique. What happens now is in the schools they learn the music, and then when they come out, then now they have to find their style. So I don't think it's a detriment, it's just a different way of doing it. And I see them now as they get older, they develop their styles, their own styles.

AAJ: Right. If only you had a tape of one of those duets with Eric Dolphy.

GB: Oh!

AAJ: You could make a million dollars off of that.

GB: I know. [Laughter]

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: Was it difficult working with Mingus? Because I know he had a very strong personality.

GB: Yeah, he did.

AAJ: at times. Was that a difficult experience?

GB: Most of the time, no. Most of the time, no. He was a gentle man. I mean, everybody had their peccadilloes and things that they but for the most part it was only one time I thought he was going to I didn't know what he was going to do, I thought he might knock me out. I heard all these stories about him punching Jackie McLean in the mouth.



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