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Ted Daniel: Brass Tapestry

By Published: November 14, 2007

AAJ: It's interesting because, as I've gotten more involved with improvised music, whether it be the New Thing, free music, or bebop, I almost am more comfortable—if one is to put labels on Ornette Coleman or his music—that it has more of an allegiance to Charlie Parker or something like that, and the stretch to me now doesn't seem so great as perhaps it would have seemed at the time.

TD: Well, in '59 it was a big stretch [laughs], because you've got to understand that it didn't happen before. There wasn't anything to relate it to—Cecil was out here on the East Coast, but there was not a group like that, that hit that hard. It was something new.

AAJ: So one would assume that Don Cherry was something of a revelation or an influence, too.

TD: No, not at all—he didn't play like Clifford, Lee or Booker. My approach to the horn was not in there, and nor did Miles appeal to me because of their approach.

AAJ: Because Don is a lot more brittle, you might say.

TD: Yes, he is a lot more brittle, and I like Don and I like what he did, but he didn't move me like the other guys did. His freedom did, I liked what he played and understood and appreciated that, but it was the group itself that really moved me. If you notice on my first album, the one I produced [Ted Daniel Sextet (Ujamaa, 1970)], one of the tunes is "O.C." That group was very influenced by Ornette's way of approaching things. I'm not gonna say that I was doing Harmolodics, but as to the spirit of how he moved his music and musicians, I was very influenced by that at the time.

AAJ: If one listens to you on that record, there's not any brittleness to your sound, despite the free-blues approach that's coming out of an early Ornette bag.

TD: My approach is a lot more physical than, say, Don or Miles.

AAJ: You mentioned Bill Dixon as an influence, too. Could you speak more about that or any personal experiences with him?

�TedTD: I didn't know Bill at the time, but I've met him since then. I actually saw him at the October Revolution [1964] and was impressed then. He played so differently and I was impressed by the boldness of approaching the horn the way he did. That way he played opened up even more areas for me to look at, the subtones and those kinds of things that people don't usually attend to, but he did spend a lot of time with that. So I said okay, there are some areas of the horn that need to be explored also.

AAJ: Right, because if the music is predicated on saxophonists, then the expression of a brass player might need to find a unique area that a saxophone can't get to.

TD: I think Bill did that, but I was also influenced, like everybody else, by Trane and trying to play and putting out a lot of sound on the horn, which you really can't do on the trumpet like you can with the tenor. But that influence was there, and in attempting to do that, I began to develop a style of my own. So Trane was a major influence in regards to the physical approach to the horn. I have a background as an athlete also, so in order to play the trumpet I have to physically be involved to the point where it happens on a more visceral level.

AAJ: It's more of a totality of approach.

TD: Yeah, and Bill's thing was really laid-back and maybe touching sounds but it wasn't as physical, if you will.

AAJ: But there's a weight to it, a heaviness.

TD: Yes, there's a heaviness to it, in the sound, and he just approached it in a different way. In using space, he got that heaviness, if you will.

AAJ: So, as you had returned to New York, a lot of players had left.

TD: Yeah, there was an exodus! [laughs] But really, no trumpet players left New York for any extended periods save maybe Don. And Lester [Bowie] just bypassed New York for France with the Art Ensemble.

AAJ: What made you choose to stay on?

TD: Actually, I went over later in '69, in the fall, and was there for a couple of weeks. I had got work at Newport and in the fall went to Paris, and that was related to the Actuel people. That's when I first saw the Art Ensemble of Chicago in Amougies in the festival that Actuel had put on there. I just didn't want to live in Europe—that wasn't something I wanted to do, and my stuff was here. I came back and Dave was here, other people were here, though many musicians did leave and stayed over there, but I was beginning to work with Andrew Cyrille (I think the first gig I actually hired him!), then Archie would call me, Dewey Redman, so I began to get busy here and didn't need to go to Europe except for tours.

AAJ: How did the band that recorded for Ujamaa come together initially?

TD: Originally I was working and rehearsing with Arthur Jones, the alto player from Cleveland, and we were teaming together. Then he left and didn't come back from Europe. At that time the delegation to New York was from Cleveland—they come in droves. At this point in the late '60s and early '70s, Cleveland was it—you had Arthur Jones, Otis Harris, the Reverend Frank Wright, Bobby Few, so there were quite a few cats who came to New York from there.

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