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Listen To This!

Gary Steele Blindfolded

By Published: October 25, 2005
GS: Yeah, well Mingus could do anything he wanted. I'm really reaching back, because back then I was just starting to plug into Bird and Diz.

Artist: Charlie Parker
Track: "Funky Blues"
Recording: Charlie Parker Jam Session (Verve 1952)
Personnel: (in order of appearance) Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone; Charlie Parker, alto saxophone; Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Oscar Peterson, piano; Flip Phillips, tenor saxophone; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone
Composer: Johnny Hodges

GS: I'll have to listen to this for a minute. We've got time don't we? (Hodges solo starts) That's gotta be Johnny Hodges. Yeah, that's easy. But we'll see what happens here.

AAJ: I'll fast forward to the next solo.

GS: That's Bird. How did they get those two together though? I've never heard of this.

AAJ: It's Bird's jam session.

GS: Well, Bird was the renaissance guy. He changed the way the way everybody played, then you know what happened about ten years down the line. Trane changed it all again. But I love Bird because the minute he played I understood completely what he was playing, you know? There was no mystery to what he was playing. And that was very cool for me. Trane just blew my head open, and I never got over that. Bird was totally understandable to me.

AAJ: This is the third alto player blowing right now. (Benny Carter soloing)

GS: Uh, that sounds... well, there were so many guys playing in that style but that sounds like Willie Smith to me. Do I get another chance on that? (Piano solo starts) Too late. Bud Powell never played that many trills in his life, so it ain't him. Piano players, piano players, geez. That could even be Oscar throttling himself down a bit, I don't know. You got me.

AAJ: It's Oscar. I agree, it sounds like he put his chops in his back pocket for this one. Let me skip to Tenor solos.

GS: (Flip Phillips soloing) This guy. That's Ben Webster. (Looks for reaction) Wrong, huh? You're not going to tell me are you? He sounds a little bit too hip for Ben Webster. A little bit closer to bebop than Ben Webster was. (Ironically, Ben Webster starts soloing. After one phrase...) Oh god. Well, he was close to Ben Webster! They were sitting near each other! This is getting hairy, now.

AAJ: Well, you got the real Ben Webster on one note.

GS: Oh yeah, but there's no excuse. The other guy I was going to say Paul Gonsalves, but it's not... Paul Gonsalves has a darker sound than that.

AAJ: Yeah, It was Flip Phillips.

GS: Was it? He was playing in the days when all the Italians had to change their names. Louie Bellson was Bellsoni. Flip's name was something real Sicilian sounding. I think it was a social thing. Back then, Italians couldn't get into golf clubs or anything else, you know?

AAJ: I don't know if you can hear the bass.

GS: Not very well. He's just playing quarter notes like they all did on stuff like that. I'll just take a wild stab and say Ray. It's hard to give stars for this one. I'd knock a couple of stars off for that (jam session) business.

Artist: Miles Davis
Track: "Milestones"
Recording: Milestones (Columbia, 1958)
Personnel: Miles Davis, trumpet; John Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; "Philly Joe Jones, drums
Composer: Miles Davis

GS: That's Miles and his thing. I think maybe Cannonball is on this, too. That sounds like Cannonball to me. I was in Europe when Cannonball hit in the Mid-Fifties and it spread like wildfire that there was this guy back in the States that was the second Bird. He was this school teacher from Florida, and he went up to New York and just tore it up. And they call him CANNONBALL! He was in trouble with the law a lot, which is unusual for jazz musicians. He said sardonically. Actually, he had a veracious appetite and "Cannibal was his original nickname. But they changed that. He changed it.

AAJ: Is that right?

GS: I think so, yeah. 'Cause anything he saw, he'd eat. He could eat a whole cow at one sitting. He was legendary. This is Miles. The thing I like about Miles is, a lot of the great players to me is a lot of them... they never played a grace note. They always just played the note that they were going for. Dexter (Gordon) never played a grace note, but you go to Clifford (Brown) and that's all he did so you know, what's that all about? But Miles, just listening to Miles, he's one of the greatest teachers ever to record as far as listening to somebody and somebody telling you how it should be, you know? You won't hear a grace note in a car load from this guy. Never. It's like Muhammad Ali, he never threw a punch below the adam's apple. How did I go there? Anyway, I watched all his films. He never threw a body punch in his whole career. There's Trane. Enough said there.

AAJ: Maybe that's why Miles was so into boxing?

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