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Bobby Bradford: Self-Determination in the Great Basin

By Published: October 28, 2009
AAJ: It involves a lot of trust. But even as that music had become historically valid, there still wasn't a lot of recording or performing opportunity in the States for the New Music during the 1980s, for example.

Bobby BradfordBB: There never was much work. John came to attention with the Octet pieces, like Night Fire [Black Saint, 1981] and the Roots and Folklore series [Gramavision]. When that crystallized in his mind and we recorded it, those records became viewed as his best work, even though I think the Flying Dutchman records and the solo Moers album were very important also, as well as our duet repertoire [Tandem 1 & 2, Emanem, 1982]. It's like when Ornette won the Pulitzer he should've got in the late 1960s, when his work was still fresh, even though it's good that he finally was awarded for Sound Grammar [Sound Grammar, 2005]. That's good stuff, but his greatest was a long time ago. Of course that's just my opinion.

AAJ: It's tough because this music deserves recognition, but that recognition has to be timely and for the right things. You don't want to take the small nugget that's offered, either.

BB: Yes, that's very true. But it sure felt wonderful when we played as a duo at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland to about 800 people. If there was a way we could have figured out how to have a base in Europe, we would have done it. It just wasn't feasible—we couldn't come over with a knapsack and a horn, and just wing it. The audiences were there, though.

AAJ: Could you discuss a bit more in how you teach—is it structured from your experience?

BB: To some extent, but I don't just teach an oral history for 14 weeks. I only bring my personal experience into focus when it's about the music that I played. I precede it with a serious look at the blues and the Negro spiritual, especially as to how people can grasp their relationship to jazz. When I move to the New Orleans style, I don't talk about anything other than what's in books and on records. I take the class through Bix Beiderbecke
Bix Beiderbecke
Bix Beiderbecke
1903 - 1931
and the Chicago sound, swing and Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
versus Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
1905 - 1956
, Lester Young
Lester Young
Lester Young
1909 - 1959
, then from bebop up to the tail end. I only talk about my own life when it's a situation where I can say "I was there." People say that Eric Dolphy was the heavy in LA during the '50s, not Ornette, and I have to say "whoa" and stop them right there. I lived it, you know.

Selected Discography

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Ingebrigt Haker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love, Reknes (Circulasione Totale, 2009)

Vinny Golia Quartet, 'Sfumato (Clean Feed, 2003)

Bobby Bradford Mo'tet, Live at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Waterboy, 2003)

David Murray, Death of a Sideman (DIW, 1991)

John Carter, Castles of Ghana (Gramavision, 1985)

John Carter, Night Fire (Black Saint, 1980)

Bobby Bradford Extet, Midnight Pacific Airwaves (Entropy Stereo, 1977)

Bobby Bradford, Love's Dream (Emanem, 1973)

Bobby Bradford with John Stevens and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (Nessa, 1971)

John Carter/Bobby Bradford Quartet, Flight for Four (Flying Dutchman, 1970)

New Art Jazz Ensemble, Seeking (Revelation, 1969)

Photo Credits

Page 1, 3: Frank Rubolino

Page 5: Brian McMillen

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