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Interviews

Bill Cosby: If You Could Hear It, You'd Smile

By Published: June 2, 2010

AAJ: That's a great concept. I've been to Newport a few times, and it really is hard to hold people's undivided attention in that large open-air setting.

BC: I've played Newport four times, and at times it was hard to get through to the audience.

AAJ: There's something the musicians call the "zone," and you only get to it once in a while.

BC: The Playboy Festival gets 18,000 people, and we really do it. The audience is appreciative, and don't forget one thing, mon frère, Mr. Philadelphia! We're East Coast musicians and we're playing for the West Coast people. And they are applauding us. We're out here competing with the ghosts of Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
, Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
1924 - 1994
trumpet
, and Bud Shank
Bud Shank
Bud Shank
1926 - 2009
saxophone
!

AAJ: So, tell us about the musicians in "Cos of Good Music."

BC: OK, now, Ingrid Jensen

Ingrid Jensen
Ingrid Jensen
b.1966
trumpet
, on trumpet and flugel horn, plays as beautifully and hard as Woody Shaw
Woody Shaw
Woody Shaw
1944 - 1989
trumpet
. Maybe more accurately, she can "hang with" Woody Shaw. Marc Gross
Marc Gross
b.1966
saxophone
on alto and soprano sax, I heard with Jimmy Heath and James Moody
James Moody
James Moody
1925 - 2010
reeds
with their big band. Gross took a solo on Dizzy's "Manteca," and the lights went out, and he kept playin'! So I'm listenin' for his fire. Jay Hoggard
Jay Hoggard
Jay Hoggard
b.1954
vibraphone
on vibes is a professor of music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In hip jargon, he's BAD!

AAJ: That means he's GOOD!

BC: [Cosby responds with a long, deep chuckle.] Exactly! Now, we're leaving out my pianist.

AAJ: D.D. Jackson

D.D. Jackson
D.D. Jackson
b.1967
piano
?

BC: That's right! Now this is a guy who's gonna take those keys and pull 'em up off the piano! He'll be crawlin' inside and underneath! I'm tellin' you, he's fantastic!

AAJ: Sounds like you've got a very exciting group.

BC: Here's what's exciting. If you could be there, you'd come to our rehearsal, with nothing miked, and one of those old box pianos, in something like the back room of the Village Gate, and everything's acoustical. I had Don Braden

Don Braden
Don Braden
b.1963
sax, tenor
write out my concept of "Sweet Georgia Brown." What I want to capture with this tune is the rhythm section flow that sounds and feels like the guy playin' the spoons, straight 4/4, and it stays just that, and all it does is build different crescendos. The rhythm follows the soloists, but it stays just there, and the soloists have to do it. I've got it in my head, but I'm musically illiterate, so I've told Braden what I want, and I'm gonna start this out with Mr. Gross and Ms. Jensen playing the bridge, and repeating the five notes of the bridge. But then they will begin to play off each other- just the two of them. And they're playing lightly, having fun, so that they're drawing you in. You hear these two playing, [Cosby scats the idea]. Trumpet and saxophone, just out there, and then way in the back, you hear this sound- the bass, drums, vibes, and piano on 4/4, almost like a march, with the drummer playin' on the side of his drums to mimic the spoons, and it's like a dance is comin.' If you could hear the rehearsal, you'd smile.

A Postscript on Youth and Jazz

AAJ: Just quickly, I had in mind to ask how you think jazz can be brought more to the younger generation, who are exposed to other pop music much more than jazz today?

BC: I think the problem is the short attention span of our youth comin' up. And also they can think this music is for the older people, so the prejudice is there. And if you don't have that sound, they're not going to listen. Whatever else you do, you've still got to do what Duke Ellington said. "Get it out there." The more you play it, the more they're gonna love it.



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