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A Fireside Chat with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre

By Published: May 7, 2003

KMM: I left Chicago in '74 because I could only get so large in Chicago. I could only do so much in Chicago. If I wanted the world to recognize me, I had to come to a place that the world would come to. New York is the marketplace for any type of art and for a whole lot of things. New York is like the marketplace. You come here if you have something to sell. So to stay in Chicago would have been artistic death. I got out. My mother asked me, 'Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or are you afraid to be a small fish in a big pond?' I told her, 'I ain't afraid of nothing.' She said, 'Then why are you staying here?' So I got in a car and came to New York City.

FJ: You immersed yourself in New York's loft scene.

KMM: That is true because that was the purest thing happening in New York. It went on as long as it was supposed to go. It lasted as long as it was supposed to last.

FJ: Have you been able to transcend the 'avant-garde' label?

KMM: They had to come up with some kind of name, but actually, what it is is black classical music. That is what it is. Musicians are playing black classical music. The music is not mainstream. It is more classical oriented due to the fact that most of the people who play it have studied pure music, but we are black.

FJ: Documentations of your work without exception has been of your own compositions.

KMM: That was one of the rules of the AACM. You don't play no music that you didn't write. That was one of the rules of the AACM. You never hear any AACM musicians playing Rogers and Hart or George Gershwin songs in their concerts or on their records because that was one of the things we were against. We were trying to become known by our own work, our own compositions.

FJ: Would you ever consider breaking that rule?

KMM: Oh, sure, but it is a spiritual thing. I probably would have a whole lot more money if I would record things that are more popular, but I don't know, it just worked this way on a spiritual level. It is very deep.

FJ: On your CIMP recordings, Dream Of... and South Eastern, you have been working in a trio form.

KMM: That is a tuba and drums.

FJ: Why didn't you play flute on South Eastern or Dream Of... ?

KMM: I lost my flute. Somebody stole it. One day, I was coming from rehearsal. I had my flute hooked up on the end of my saxophone case. It was tied with a belt or something around the case. I stopped at a newsstand to get some candy. After I got the candy, I picked up my horn and the flute fell off the end of the horn. I walked back down to the train and sat down to wait for the train. I looked down and saw that the flute had come off of my saxophone and so I ran back up there to the newsstand and asked the guy if he had seen anything and in New York, nobody saw nothing. I ran down a couple of corridors and I didn't know which way to run, but I was running, trying to find the guy who had picked up my flute, but I didn't see nobody.

FJ: And the future?

KMM: I have a new record coming out on Entropy. It's something we did when we did this mini tour of the United States. We went to Cleveland. We went to Madison, Wisconsin and Detroit, Michigan. We did this record in Detroit. It is supposed to be coming out at the end of this month. I just came back from Poland. It was OK. We played three cities in Poland. I am waiting for this record to come out on Entropy. I want to see what it will sound like. We had a pretty good groove in Detroit and that is where it was recorded, in Detroit.

FJ: Are you finding work apart of those brief dates?

KMM: No, no, New York is not a place where you work at. New York is a place where you live at. You live in New York and you work the world. Basically, you don't get too much work in New York. If you go to Europe and your name starts ringing in Europe, then the people in the United States will start to give you some action. If you don't become a success in Europe, they won't give you any action in the United States. Even if you impress the people in Europe, you still don't work that much in the United States. You still have to go on the road and work one time out of the year in New York. When you do get a gig in New York, you get a pretty good gig and make a nice amount of money, but you don't work regularly here in New York. You just live here. You work by being on the road and going to other places. I guess it is because my name hasn't really caught hold in Europe. I don't know what it is or why. I can't get a regular date here in New York. It would help things. Once my record becomes popular, I might be able to get a gig here in New York on a regular basis for a little while.

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