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


Gary Bartz

By Published: July 15, 2005

AAJ: I just saw Andrew the other night.

GB: Oh, really?

AAJ: With Joseph Jarman and Ornette Coleman

GB: See, so I mean, we came up together. We went to school together. We came up together. And he can play anything. We play music. I don't know, labels mean nothing to me. I mean, I know what they mean, of course.

AAJ: I wish they meant nothing to the rest of the world.

GB: Yeah, I do, too.

AAJ: Its so hard too.

GB: But that's the business, you have the business people

AAJ: Sometimes you have to say like, I like jazz. Or even this newspaper is called

GB: (Inaudible)...

AAJ: All About Jazz.

GB: I abhor that word.

AAJ: Oh, me, too, but I mean, you can't get around it.

GB: Well, I get around it. I don't accept it. It's like they say, well, the n word, for instance, you can't get around people going yes you can. You can get around it. You can get around anything.

AAJ: I know Yusef hates it. And I prefer creative improvised music.

GB: Well, yeah. I call it composing that's what we do.

GB: Composing. We compose music on the spot. That's what we do. So we've raised the bar. Most composers sit and write, and you know, months and years, sometimes, on a piece, where we [snaps fingers] do it just like that.

AAJ: Yeah.

GB: And I don't think there is any music that has ever reached that higher level. Maybe Indian music. A lot of Indian music is improvised. I mean, there are improvised musics around the world. But this is, I think, the highest.

AAJ: Definitely, for a lot of reasons. [Laughter]

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: I'll skip around for a second, I'll go ahead and then come back. With your work with Sphere, what was it about Thelonious Monk that made you want to devote a band to that repertoire?

GB: Well, Monk, like any great composer from Beethoven on, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Mingus, Mozart any great because, see, I don't know for me, it's musicians. It's not genre, it's music. And so I studied music. But any great composer, their songs are lessons. But I'll say any great song is a lesson, which is what makes that song a hit and makes it so popular, is that there is something about that song that no one ever heard before, and so this is a new thing you have to learn. And so each song now, I realize with Monk and Trane, especially, and then when I go back, I see it with other musicians, too, is if you have a musical problem, the best way to work that problem out is to write a piece of music addressing that problem. And so then when you learn that particular piece of music, you then have added something to your musical knowledge that you didn't have before. And so that's why Monk is so important, because his music I mean, almost every song he wrote was like a musical problem. And once you solve it you have to figure out the key, you have to unlock this key, and once you unlock it, then you can play that song, you understand that song, and you understand how to apply that to other songs. So that is why he's so important for me.

AAJ: So this kind of goes back to what I was talking to Yusef about, earlier today, is we as musicians I play bass so

GB: (Inaudible).

AAJ: what can I told Yusef if I go to Time Square right now, and stop 100 people and ask them, Who is Charlie Parker, maybe one of them is going to know.

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: So what can we as musicians do to change that?

GB: I'd say maybe two would know because (Inaudible)

AAJ: what can we do to get people to know? And does that bother you, the way popular music is going now, that it is just more and more everything is influenced by that music, but people don't realize who they were.

GB: Where it comes from.

AAJ: It's only a short time ago, like forty years ago.

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: And you can go back thirty years into rock music, or whatever you want to call that, and people can tell you who was doing what, but if you go back just ten years before that, they are going to say, Well, who is that?

GB: Yeah.

AAJ: What can we do to further that legacy?

GB: Well, I think the problem is the problem of the world. I don't think it's necessarily an isolated problem just dealing with music. I think that there is a problem in the world, and that is why that is going on, because education I mean, what's called education is not education. What's called news is not news. People are so I don't want to use the word brainwashed, but that is probably what it is. I mean, you go to school, they teach you, George Washington never told a lie. Come on, I mean, give me a break. I mean, please. This is what you are going to teach I mean, in reality, we are human beings, we are adults. You are going to teach young kids to grow up thinking George Washington never told a lie. I look at my money, like especially this to me tells a lie is that this is a bill from Belgium. If you'll see that this is a $200.

AAJ: Oh, wow.

GB: You see that, that is Charlie Parker right there.

AAJ: Wow, that is incredible.

GB: They couldn't do it because it is a copyright infringement, so they made a silhouette of him. But that is him, there. That is Adolphe Sax.

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