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Gary Bartz

By Published: July 15, 2005

AAJ: And John Handy, I think, punched him in the mouth.

GB: Yeah, so I thought, Well, okay. This is my night to be punched in the mouth.?"] (Laughs) But fortunately, it didn't happen, and he yeah. That's another story. I'm writing a book, I'm writing an autobiography, so all of that is going to be in the book. But this had to do with the time he had a month-long engagement at the Mercer Street Playhouse. I guess that would have been back in the 70's I'm not sure, 70's or 80's. And we'd had a problem. It was a long time (Inaudible)...

AAJ: We will leave it at that.

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: And after that you were in with Art Blakey?

GB: Well, after Max. I had worked with Max for about a year Max and Abbey Lincoln, because that was the band, it was Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln.

AAJ: And was that was with Coleman Hawkins as well?

GB: No, no. That was a record date. No. The band that I joined of Max and Abbeys was Julian Priester on trombone, Ronnie Matthews on piano, and Bob Cunningham on bass. That was my first professional job.

AAJ: Wow, that sounds like a great first professional job.

GB: Yeah, it wasn't shabby. Then I moved on to Art Blakey.

AAJ: Who was in the band with Art Blakey?

GB: John Hicks, Lee Morgan, Victor Sproles and John Gilmore was I was taking John Gilmores place. So he stayed on for a while while I learned the book, because we never rehearsed. I never rehearsed with Art Blakey. I think the one rehearsal I ever did with him was a big band, because he had a big band. And he would rehearse at his sons loft sometimes, at Sonny's loft.

AAJ: I bet it was great playing with John Gilmore.

GB: Oh, yeah, I love John.

AAJ: He taught Coltrane some things, I think.

GB: Well, everybody teaching everybody things.

AAJ: Yeah.

GB: You know when you say teach someone, I don't know whether he taught him as much as John heard some things that he later developed. I mean, you learn from everybody, I think. I learn from non~ musicians as well as musicians. You are learning how to play your music and create, create sounds.

AAJ: What are some of your memories of playing with Art Blakey, maybe one in particular?

GB: Well, the one thing is that I joined Art I joined the Messengers from my dads club, because I was in New York. I was living in New York. Like I said, I went to Julliard for two years, 1958 and 1959. And so I was living in New York. And my dad bought a club in 1960. So I started commuting down to Baltimore to do the weekends down there, and whenever I wanted to, probably. And then after he got it really up and running, he started bringing big name groups to the club. And so I worked there one time with Max, like I said, Cannonball. I don't think Cannon worked there, but I know he came there one time. He was doing a concert somewhere. And he came by because my mom would cook, you know, and they would come by and eat. And Cannon and Yusef definitely liked to eat in those days. (Laughs) And Art Blakey was working at my dads club. The North End Lounge was the name of the club. And John Hicks is a good friend of mine for many years. And so he was trying to get me in the band, because he knew John Gilmore was leaving. So he was saying, [whispering] You should get Bartz. So my dad got wind of that, and he called me in New York, and said, Why don't you come down to Baltimore and sit in with Art, because Art had never heard me. And so I came down and sat in. And Lee was the straw boss, he co-signed it. I wouldn't have been in the band without if Lee didn't want to play with me, he would have gotten somebody else. But so Lee said, Yeah.

AAJ: What year was that?

GB: That was 1965. And so that's how I joined that band. So that was a memorable thing for me because of the way it happened.

AAJ: I just am imagining, not having heard the music, but I have a pretty good idea of what it sounded like, just from what Art Blakey was doing around that time.

GB: Well, I'll tell you, my first record was with that band, with Lee Morgan, John Hicks, Victor Sproles and Freddie Hubbard, because at that time Lee was not as reliable as he could have been, so Art wasn't sure he was going to show up for the record. And he called Lee. Lee knew about it, but he called Freddie to come just in case Lee didn't show up so that we wouldn't blow the date. And they both showed up, so my first record date was with Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan.

AAJ: Wow.

GB: (Laughs).

AAJ: Were you ever drawn to wanting to participate in the avant-garde stuff.

GB: Oh, yeah.

AAJ: The loft scene of the 70's.

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: or was it more like you just wanted to be in the straight-ahead world (Inaudible) did you want to (Inaudible).

GB: Oh, no. I have never really looked at it. I don't look at music like that. So you know, labels are for people who I don't want to put anybody down, but for non- musicians, that's what labels are for.

AAJ: Exactly.

GB: because musicians don't have labels. But yeah, I mean, I played with everybody. We did the loft things. I remember one time we used to go down to Kiani Zawadi's loft. And I think Grachan Moncur, he was working Somewhere... Grachan Moncur III. And he is a good friend of mine. I met him at Julliard. He and Andrew Cyrille , we used to hang out a lot..

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