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Interviews

Charli Persip

By Published: February 12, 2009

AAJ: I see you also worked with one of my favorite musicians and people, Randy Weston

Randy Weston
Randy Weston
b.1926
piano
?

CP: Oh yeah, Randy was great. When I recorded with Randy it was the first time I got to play something in three (3/4 time), "Little Niles". After I got to play on that album, Elvin Jones

Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
—we were very good friends, Elvin and me—was getting ready to record "My Favorite Things" with John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
and he asked me "How do you play in three, I don't know what the fuck to play?" I was so shocked; as good a drummer as he was I was flattered and shocked and everything and the rest is history. If you hear "My Favorite Things" and you know he learned how to do it. Another band I was very pleased and flattered to have been with is Gil Evans. That was the other band I played with that helped me learn about listening and broadening my concept. I went with Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
after Billy Eckstine. Gil always said that there were two drummers he liked to play in his bands, Elvin and myself.

AAJ: Lets talk about your band; you've been doing the Superband since the 1970s, right?

CP: I call it Supersound now because of the Phillip Morris Superband. I was advised not to sue/fight them even though I had the name first because you're going up against serious money and a company like that can just keep postponing things so my wife, god rest her soul, said change the name to Supersound. Started out as trumpeter Gerry La Furn's rehearsal band in the late 1970s, and I became the drummer in 1979. The idea was to make it the resident band at Manhattan Plaza, but things didn't work out and when Gerry wanted to keep the band together he asked me, since I had the bigger name at the time, to be the leader. So the first album we made was as co-leaders. Right after that Gerry got upset with me because he wanted things I didn't want and as a leader I vetoed them. I don't mean that in a negative way. I don't like to brag, but I have become somewhat of a master of programming, I know how to program really well. I learned from bands how to do it. I would program and Gerry would complain. He liked to sneak in low energy and build up, I like to kick off strong. I took the band over and made some personnel changes and Frank Foster gave me seven arrangements, then fired me from his Loud Minority band because he felt I should have my own band. That's how the band got started and we did our first album in 1985.

AAJ: What was your goal, your musical goal, with the band?

CP: To play music starting from the bebop era and into whatever the music is now and hopefully something into the future. You hear the band now you'll hear a little bit of fusion, you'll hear Afro-Latin, you'll hear a whole lot of bebop of course. Thats really the musical direction of the band. Another reason I wanted to keep the band together, and I don't mean to be racist or anything, was because here's a band led by a man of color so other musicians of color can aspire to. Most big bands are led by white people and then they have basically white people in their bands. I had a really great talk once about this with Mel Lewis

Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
—we were really good friends—we talked about that whole situation and he said if you're a white band leader you know more white musicians than musicians of color.

AAJ: But your band seems to be pretty integrated.

CP: And that's what I wanted. At one time I was thinking of naming the band just Culture. I like diversity. I don't want it all people of color, I don't want it all white, I don't want it all Asian, I don't want it all women, I don't want it all men. I want a little bit of everything.

AAJ: Where did you find all these musicians in the current band?

CP: They find me. Every musician who is in this band today called me. I never called anybody. Maybe when someone left I did, but that's rare since usually when they left the band they would recommend somebody. They really seem to love me and I love them. You can feel a really great great spiritual feeling in the band, and that's what I want. We've all heard about the tyrannical bandleaders, the liars and the cheaters who've held up the money, we've all been through that. So one of the my goals was that everyone was going to be very comfortable and very happy to be in the band. And they know they can trust me as far as the money is concerned and that's what's kept the band together.

AAJ: On the new album I see band members have contributed quite a few of the charts.

CP: That's the other thing. As the band grows we're being more self-contained as more members are bringing music into the band. The last arrangement we brought into book numbers 136.

AAJ: What is your input as to how the charts are developed?

CP: I let the composer write the way they want. Then when they bring it in to the band I may reshape it to some degree, without hurting the composer's ideas. That way the band can have some kind of identity.



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