Marc Edwards: Free Jazz Drummer & Percussionist
AAJ: What other musicians did you meet while you were attending Berklee?
ME: I should mention I met drummer Don Sweatt, a very talented drummer at Berklee. He could play jazz but he excelled at playing funk extremely well. Irvine Elligan, III was very good at arranging songs (charts as we called them at Berklee). We had many long discussions about music and my growing interest in Indian spirituality. Irvine couldn't get into that, but he loved talking about music. He graduated from Berklee and taught there for a short time. Irvine did a beautiful arrangement of one of the Fifth Dimensions songs, "Paper Cups. Tenor saxophonist Junior Cook was in the room. Junior Cook taught at Berklee briefly for a few years. He was impressed and went over to checkout Irvine's arrangement afterwards. I was so proud of Irvine. The musicians in the ensemble liked the chart too.
I can recall a trumpet player by the name of Eric. I can't recall his last name. Eric had perfect pitch. I was in his room at the dorm and I played a chord. I asked Eric the name of the chord. When Eric gave his answer, I said, "I got you. That's not the chord I played. I already had been informed that Eric had perfect pitch. Eric didn't argue; he came over and said, "Play the chord again, Marc. I did and Eric played a different note on the instrument that I was blowing. We could both clearly hear that he was right. I had heard the chord one way; Eric heard another chord which contained the notes of the chord I was playing, blowing into this keyboard wind instrument. I told Eric, "Okay, now let's see if you can get this one! Eric burst out laughing when I said that. I was amazed at the phenomenon musicians call "perfect pitch. I don't have it. Maybe in a future lifetime, I will develop this ability. Eric's main focus was funk.
Another musician by the nickname of El Dorado was also interested in this music. During that period my attention was on free jazz. I didn't approve of the dance music. My position has changed dramatically, as I've come to realize that the music of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone are valid musical expressions. The music during the sixties was far superior to the stuff we're hearing today in hip hop.
There was another talented funk drummer whose real name I've forgotten. We called him "Smoky. Smoky was the funkiest drummer I've ever heard. If James Brown had heard him play, he would have had one of his representatives make him an offer to work in his band pronto. Smoky was in a class by himself. He was just as good as some of the drummers that have helped James Brown get to where he is today. I have no idea what became of him.
Robert Garcia was another monster jazz drummer. The only information I have on him is that he once played in the marching band for Florida A & M. This college drum & bugle corps stood out above the rest back in the day. Their routine was completely different from what other colleges were doing during that era. I loved Robert's playing, he was also physically strong. Alan Dawson spoke favorably about Robert Garcia. He went to New York and tried out for a few groups and no one took him. I could never understand that. The last I heard he got a day job driving a truck. I never saw him again. I have seen a Robert Garcia listed in the papers such as the Village Voice, performing at some of the clubs; however, I don't know if he's the same Robert Garcia I met at Berklee.
I saw two composers at the school, although I didn't get to know them: Alan Broadbent and Alan Silvestri. Alan Silvestri did the soundtrack for the movie Predator. The CD [of the soundtrack] is out of print. I cannot understand why Hollywood allows certain popular soundtracks go out of print. It doesn't make any sense. Alan Silvestri continues to write scores for motion pictures today.
Tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce was at Berklee while I was there. He now teaches at the school. Abe Laboriel was a monster on the electric guitar. He changed to playing electric bass afterwards. He has a video out which teaches young musicians how to play this instrument. Abe has worked with Al Jarreau, George Benson and Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis, just to name a few. I have seen Johnny Mathis sing at Radio City Music Hall. At the time, I was more interested in dancer/actress, Debbie Allen of the Fame TV show, a very short-lived series. She performed before Johnny came on.
I also met drummer Keith Copeland. I saw Keith on television playing with Dr. Billy Taylor. I met trombonists Art Baron and John Licata at Berklee. Art has worked with just about everybody in the music business including Stevie Wonder. Art Baron was the last trombonist Duke Ellington ever hired. I met an attractive singer while I was at Berklee. I remember her first name only, Janet. David had an interest in her is all I can say. She did work with Abdul Hannan.
Abdul Hannan was one of the more interesting musicians living in Boston. He played alto saxophone and flute. I recall Abdul because he did a recording with David called The Third World , (RITE, 1968). I never bought the album. The last time I saw Abdul, he was playing on 42nd Street next to the headquarters phone company building, 1095 Avenue of the Americas, sixth avenue. Abdul was on the other side of 42nd Street holding captive a small crowd of listeners with melodious sounds from his flute. Adbul Hannan made an impression because he was very intelligent. He always knew how to uplift my spirits. If anyone knows his whereabouts please get in touch. My email is provided at the end of this interview.
Bassist Chris Amburger did attend Berklee. I didn't play with him in the ensemble classes. Bass players were in great demand during that period. Chris did join Apogee, however his appearances were rare at times. There were other musicians I met, however, I can't recall them at the moment.