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Interviews

Creed Taylor, Incorporated: The AAJ Interview, Part 3-3: 2004 State of the Union

By Published: July 7, 2004
AAJ: Are there producers in jazz or pop or elsewhere today whose work you find particularly appealing?

CT: Well, I certainly would have to mention Quincy, regardless of what the genre of music is, just the professionalism and the originality that he puts into stuff.

AAJ: Burt Bacharach is the other singer that I wanted to mention!

CT: That would be nice. You know, I've never met Burt. He's an excellent pianist. Speaking of soft romantic singers, I was just about to get going again with Jobim. He was in New York for the 25th Anniversary of Verve Records. I wasn't with Verve then, of course, but I started talking to him again and we were definitely going to get back together. He went back to Brazil and developed his circulatory problem. He died the day after he went into the hospital.

I'll tell you who I really enjoyed producing, to go back, was Chris Connor. She had an exquisite ear for the best lyrics and the most startling kind of juxtaposed poetry. To me, Chris Connor was a gem of a singer. But she had health problems, too, and kind of slipped away.

AAJ: What are the biggest obstacles facing jazz musicians today, and are they different from the obstacles facing musicians when you started out at impulse in the 1960s?

CT: Not to the same degree. Now, that is a tough question. From an educational standpoint, musicians today are far more sophisticated, of course, than they were twenty-five, fifty, years ago. With all of the universities and Berklee being there, anybody with any talent drifts into a university and comes out a totally well-schooled, disciplined person.

I don't think the social condition exists today that existed when Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Kai Winding, all those guys would get together in Gil's apartment just off midtown Broadway and rehearse and rehearse and not think about where the money was coming from because they all looked out for each other.

But nowadays, and this doesn't just pertain to jazz, but the arts in general don't have the same homegrown person to person contact that existed then, experimental groups without—it's a sociological thing and I don't think it has to do with jazz per se. But it certainly...how can I say it?

AAJ: It's fair to say that society seems to grow more fragmented.

CT: That's it exactly, and with communication being so easy, with the fragmentation you're talking about thanks to the computer and all the electronic devices—plus they're confounding the issue with all the available "canned music," you know.

AAJ: The sense of community is lost in a lot of things, it seems.

CT: Here's an example of what I'm talking about: When I was at Duke, I guess I was a sophomore, Claude Thornhill's band came through. I was absolutely mesmerized listening to that band —which had, by the way, two French horns, Lee Konitz, Tony Scott on lead clarinet, Gil Evans arrangements—in the gymnasium on campus, and when the band was finished the gig, we all went out to this joint somewhere between Chapel Hill and Durham, some nightclub, and jammed until daylight. Nobody was getting paid, of course. But those jam sessions and the musician to musician contact made all the difference in the world, because the communication was just different then.

That brings to mind, I gotta tell you this: There was a bar called Charlie's Tavern smack in the middle of the city, a half block from Birdland, and there was an alley way leading from the musicians' back entrance into Charlie's Tavern. Charlie Parker used to come in and hang out, Zoot Sims, Kai Winding, Gene Krupa, you name it, and Bethlehem Records was right across the street from Charlie's Tavern and Birdland.

I would go down late in the afternoon and I could get a band together inside of fifteen minutes—you know, three horn players, a rhythm section, whatever—and talk about, "Why don't we do this thing (like Bud Powell's whatever he happened to be doing at that time)? Let's just go out to Rudy Van Gelder's and see what happens." If they didn't have transportation I'd get transportation, they'd come out, and sometimes they would get paid and sometimes they wouldn't get paid, I don't know, but the main thing was to get together. I could always get a group of players to come together and record. You think about the available recording facilities then, it was just a ball if they could get with a group to record. This was before there was any financial significance attached to the record business, really.

AAJ: What one piece of advice would you give to a young person who wants to grow up and be a record producer?

CT: I think you have qualify what he's going to walk into. In the first place, I think he's got to be a bit on the pushy side and walk in and say, "This is what I want to do. Are you interested?" Then have a plan; to walk in and say, "I want to be a record producer," "Oh, really? Okay..."

The people in the business have very little time, very little patience, with an untried person. This person really should be a player, it would help. And he should say that, "I've been listening a lot to so-and-so. And I think that I have the ticket to put him in an environment that would make him play like he's never been heard before."

It's just like any other business: If you're selling vacuum cleaners, it's, "Well, I've got the best one. It never wears out." "So let me try it."


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