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Take Five With...

Take Five With Ahmad Alaadeen

By Published: January 13, 2008
After several moments of actually being up close and watching the musicians as I listened to their music, I thought about what my mother said. I immediately ran back home to our porch. Of course, she was there waiting on me. That particular band, which I heard rehearsing almost everyday was, of course, Jay McShann's famous unit. It also included Charlie Parker. The positive impact of this experience stayed with me. My love for music and choice of occupation was cemented.

Your sound and approach to music: It takes a long, long time before you can come into your own. You have to have a starting point. I've had several strong influences.

First, Charlie Parker. Then here comes Miles Davis. And then here comes John Coltrane. What I call the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost! The three guys I love most! They are three distinct personalities, but they had an effect on me because they were so real in what they were playing, and they were spontaneous. They were something different I had never heard before, so I began to emulate and imitate that. Put it all together, mix it all up. It's like what Coltrane said; everybody dips out of one big bowl. Everybody is contributing. So, that's the way I learned. Eventually I began to play from within myself, because I had something to say other than what they had influenced me with.

Anecdote from the road: I associated with Miles Davis quite a bit in the fifties. Miles was a student at Julliard, but he said he learned more from Charlie Parker than he did at Julliard. I first met Miles, in 1950, when my high school friend and I skipped school and went to Miles' hotel room. They were advertising that Miles Davis was coming to play at the Boulevard Room. Back at that time these guys would travel around and barnstorm, travel to different cities and play as singles with whoever the local rhythm section was in that particular town.

So Miles comes in; I think he was there for a week or two. We found out where he was staying so we went up to visit him; I had my horn, my friend had his trumpet. We went to the desk and asked what room Miles was in. We went up and knocked on the door, knocked and knocked, and finally Miles came to the door, naked. He says, "What do you little (famous Miles expletive, plural version) want?" We said, "We come to see you, man." He looks at us and says, "Come on in." We went in and sat down, and he went back to bed. This was about 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. He slept until around noon. We're still sitting there.

He comes out and says, "Are you m-fers still here? Are you hungry?" He gave us some money and told us to go across the street and get some salami and crackers and a pickle. We did that. But we made the mistake of getting a hot pickle. He bit down into this pickle and started cussing, "What are you trying to do? Yang, yang, yang," you know. He cussed us out bad.

Later, I performed with Miles a lot. I asked Miles to show me some changes and he replied, "Don't worry about it; you're from Bird's home town." One time when I was performing with Miles, they were playing a tune that I didn't know. I was trying to learn the tune while Miles was taking his solo, I was fingering the keys. Evidently, I was making too much noise, so Miles turned around and told me to stop it. But I knew that my solo was coming next so I kept on trying to learn the tune. This time Miles turned around, he didn't say any thing, just punched me in the jaw."

What is in the near future? Right now I am working on my methods book. I learned jazz at the sides of the masters, not in a formal college. We would never memorize anyone's solos or imitate the way someone would play. We had to have our own unique style or we would be kicked off the bandstand. My book will include my teaching methods that are unique to the way in which I learned jazz. Things I learned before jazz was introduced into schools and universities. I'll also include some stories from my career.

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Download jazz mp3 “Wayne Himself” by Ahmad Alaadeen