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Ted Daniel: Brass Tapestry

By Published: November 14, 2007

AAJ: And you guys worked quite a bit, it seems like.

TD: Yeah, we had a lot of gigs both in the States, in New York and down to Philly and then we traveled, went to Europe on three or four tours.

AAJ: You get the idea that that the New Music wasn't really well-accepted, but it seems that with a band like that, in hindsight to me now, it was rather popular. The band with Dewey Redman, too, seems like it had pretty extraordinary visibility, though maybe I'm misinterpreting the facts.

TD: Well, it worked but not enough [laughs]! But yeah, it did work, those bands worked then more than I do now. In the '70s, those were pretty good years for me—I worked a lot more, and things got kind of funny in the '80s. With Dewey and with Andrew, I had gigs down in Washington, in Philly, and here in the City. So you're right, we did work a lot and I was busy. Plus, at that time I was still doing my own thing with trios and so forth.


Also, the guys from Chicago came into the picture in the mid '70s—the Art Ensemble, Henry Threadgill and Air, and the guys from St. Louis in BAG, and in fact, as you can see from some of the players in that Energy band I had, those guys were just coming into town.

AAJ: And you even had Kappo Umezu over from Japan in that band, too.

Was that orchestra, then, inspired by working with Sam Rivers?

TD: Yes, and it was inspired by the fact that I always liked big bands—I remember my father taking me to hear Count Basie play in town, and I was about nine or ten years old. I couldn't understand how those guys could come down in front of the stage and play these long solos, and they don't read any music! I didn't know about improvisation; that was prior to hearing Clifford Brown and all of that, and I was like "wow!" I never forgot how big and grandiose that sound was, so then I heard Trane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965) years later—this is how a big band could do it, you know? And from all those experiences, and working with Sam, I started writing for big bands, for a rehearsal band—that's what Energy really was.

We had several gigs here in New York, and I got one gig at Cami Hall with a trumpet section of Lester Bowie, Ahmed Abdullah and Olu Dara. Charles Stephens was on trombone, too.

AAJ: So you pretty much got the who's who of who was playing in the '70s in that band.

TD: I had a lot of New Musicians play in Energy in the mid 70's. These cats had just come into town and were trying to work. So then I had to let it go because you can't really work a big band, you know, but in the late '70s I did work at Rashied Ali's place with a big band. But I did record some of it and plan to put some of it out in the future. In the '80s, I formed a smaller version of Energy for a while, which included James Zolller, Michael Marcus, Joe Rigby and others. We often played at a club named after its address, 1st on First, on the Lower East Side.

AAJ: At the time, I guess it would've been finances that precluded the material from being issued. It would've been interesting if the big band had put out a record, how the landscape might've changed as far as the recorded history of the music.

TD: Right, I think about that too. At that time, there might have been only two or three big bands working. I followed Frank Foster's Loud Minority into Ali's Alley in October of '77, and there was the band over at the Vanguard with Mel Lewis and Thad Jones, and maybe one other big band—but it was probably just the two of us [Energy and Thad and Mel band] working every Monday night in New York, and I was not happy that I didn't get any press during those eight months for that because at that time the press was going to the cats who had just come into town. That's just the way it is—you can jump on that, if the new cat's in town from wherever, and they write about them. Anyway, that band was constant and it was good and it didn't get any press. I suspect it had to do with jazz politics, not the music.

AAJ: Right, it wasn't so much the aesthetic of the music because that had already proven itself.

TD: Sure, and that's why people don't know about it—we didn't have the press.

AAJ: I guess Earl Freeman had his band too—the Sound Craft thing, which was pretty wild [Universal Jazz Symphonette, recorded 1975 for Anima Records].

TD: I wasn't aware of that—I met him in Paris.

AAJ: He seems like he popped up everywhere during the '70s.

TD: Yeah, he was a pop-up kind of cat [chuckles].

AAJ: So, could you discuss a bit where things went in the '80s for you?

�TedTD: Well, I was playing a little bit, not much, and things had changed for me so I had to make some changes around survival and so forth. I had to get into a different kind of work, so I got into social service, working with people and becoming a therapist, a psychotherapist, and that was what I did. In '82 I did a recording and a tour with Andrew called The Navigator (Soul Note), and Henry Threadgill started calling me for work in his big band and sextet. A couple of times he took us to Europe for a week, John Stubblefield and a whole bunch of cats, so I started doing big band stuff with him. Then he called me for his small group with Fred Hopkins, Deidre Murray, Newman Taylor-Baker on drums, Reggie Nicholson, and Bill Lowe on bass trombone. That band was smokin', and we recorded for RCA- Novus an album called Bush, Rag and All, a very good album.

Then I did some different things with him and spent a month in Belgium with him; he was a visiting artist over there (this was in the '90s). In fact, in '94 Henry and I were guest artists in Amsterdam with the October Orchestra, which consisted of famous Dutch, French and Italian composers as well as ourselves. So I did some music performances throughout the 80's and 90's, but mostly I was working at my day job.

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