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Interviews

Tim Laughlin: Bourbon Street in the Yucatn

By Published: November 4, 2005

AAJ: What's the name of that album?

TL: The album is called Pete Fountain and his Mardi Gras Strutters ...I think it was released in the '60s, early '60s I think. What I did was to just play along with that album, play along with Pete, and he made it so simple that you could actually play along with him, you know; I didn't really had his timing, and all that, but I understood what he was saying in the ensemble...

AAJ: The embellishments...

TL: The embellishments, the harmonies, and the solos, you know, and he played so pretty...so it was a little easier for me to pick out than if it would have been a Benny Goodman album, you know.

AAJ: Do you see yourself as part of that [New Orleans clarinet] style, you know, like Johnny Dodds who had this amazing lower register...

TL: Well, that's what New Orleans clarinet players are known for: their jazz sound...Irving Fazola is another one.

AAJ: Fazola, that's right...

TL: But those guys played [the clarinet using the] Albert system. And I've been accused of playing Albert system, you know [laughs], because I get the same type of tones, that fat sound. But yeah, that's why Goodman liked New Orleans players. And I think that's why I was more of a Goodman fan than an Artie Shaw fan, you know, because Benny played the whole register. So there's definitely a distinction between the New Orleans players and the other [clarinet] players, I think it's the sound they get.

AAJ: Let's talk about something else. I got through the Internet a few months ago a recording of a concert by Ornette Coleman playing at the New Orleans jazz festival, and Ellis Marsalis went on and jammed with him. So I sort of got the impression that even if their music styles don't seem compatible at first glance, there's really a continuum, you know, some people might still say that Ornette is "out there, but people can just play together...

TL: Sure.

AAJ: So do you feel the same way, or rather, how do you feel about the avant-garde, the more experimental kind of jazz, do you see it as part of the same tradition [than you]?

TL: [Hesitates] Well... probably not in the same tradition as [to] what we're doing, you know? The only thing new and experimental we're doing is the new melodies. Although I wouldn't consider myself a modern player, I have some borrowed licks that I play on here [holds the clarinet] [from sax players] that I like, you know, like Paul Desmond, Sonny Stitt, I grew up listening to them but later; [this happens] especially when I play the saxophone.

But I was never a big fan of the avant-garde or the way-out experimental stuff, because my roots are in New Orleans. So I don't know if there's a connection between the two per se, but some of the stuff Jelly Roll Morton was playing could have been considered avant-garde by some people, in making the piano sound like an entire orchestra, the way he played...

AAJ: And the way that he used random noises in his music, car honks, city noises, that's what Rahsaan Roland Kirk or the Art Ensemble of Chicago did later, they incorporated noise into their music, that's definitely avant-garde.

TL: Exactly.

AAJ: And how do you feel about bebop clarinet players like Buddy DeFranco and Tony Scott?

TL: I know Buddy!... I really like this guy, I played with Buddy DeFranco when I was seventeen... and I really think there's a place for that, but you know, talking to guys like that, they kind of looked down at the New Orleans guys, like Pete Fountain, because they don't do what they do, you know.

When I talked to Buddy about Pete Fountain, he kind of looked down at him, and I was kind of surprised at that. And speaking of Tony Scott, he made some comments on a magazine that I don't agree with... you know, but on the other hand guys like Cannonball Adderley, he loved Pete, Benny Goodman loved Pete, so I don't think there should be room for any kind of jealousy, it's a wasted emotion. Nobody plays like Buddy DeFranco and nobody plays like Pete Fountain, so it was kind of disappointing to actually hear them say things like that.

But I think they're remarkable musicians, you know. I listen to Buddy a lot, and he changed the way we think about the clarinet...

AAJ: By transposing what Charlie Parker had done in the alto into the clarinet...

TL: Exactly. I think my ears went towards the swing players, but I admire the stuff Buddy can do, you know, and when I heard him live, when I was in a band playing with him, he blew me away. Totally.

AAJ: I can imagine.

TL: What an spectacle!

AAJ: Do think that New Orleans jazz is in a way closer to the people? You know, that people can get connected with it more easily...

TL: I definitely think there's more of a connection because of the dance aspect...and the movement, our New Orleans music has a movement and it has a groove of its own...but New Orleans jazz is not one thing; New Orleans jazz can be King Oliver, New Orleans jazz can be Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans jazz can be Pete Fountain, and I hope that one day they can say that New Orleans jazz is Tim Laughlin, because of the material I'm writing.

Kids 200 years from now will be playing my songs and hopefully they will look at the tradition the same way I do, as far as it's evolving, not reinventing itself, but everybody is trying to put their own stamp on it, you know... to stand out, or maybe not stand out but to leave one's mark, and that's why I came up with the idea to have the swing songs with the originals, you've got to have your sound. And there are all kind of sounds; every generation has its own sound, what people look for...



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