Take Five With Dezron Douglas
Hailing from Hartford, CT, Douglas is a product of the Jackie McLean institute. Quickly establishing himself as a dominant voice on the jazz scene of New York City, Dezron began to work with such giants as Louis Hayes, Pharoah Sanders, Lewis Nash and Kevin Mahogany.
Teachers and/or influences?
My biggest musical influence is my Father Minister Alton Douglas. He was the first person to put an instrument in my hands. I was also highly influenced by my Great Uncle Walter Bolden. He was a prolific drummer and composer from Hartford, CT that became one of the core members of second generation of bebop in the late '50s. Jackie McLean entered my life at the perfect time. I was 18 and I really didn't know what I wanted to do after high school. Jackie encouraged me to leave my fulltime job and enroll in his program at The Hartt School and, from that moment on, he was always in my ear. I studied bass privately with Dave Santoro during my middle school and high school years and I began and still continue to be a student of Nat Reeves since my freshman year in college.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
The first time I saw my dad's band play. The Faith Harmonizers of Hartford, CT were a popular gospel quartet on the east coast in the '80s and '90s. My pop was a singer in the band. He had a great rapport with the bassist. I loved the way the bass captured the feel of the church. I remember being in church with my mother, Alicia Strong, when I was five or six and listening and locking into what the bassist was doing during "Praise and Worship" service. That was the first moment I fell in love with music.
Music is a spiritual connection between the instrumentalist and the Creator. All those pretty notes and great sounds don't just happen overnight or with lots of practice. Faith is my rock in this music. I practice so that I can let go and let the music (The Creator) take over me and allow me to communicate with whomever I am onstage with in a highly intense conversation.
Your dream band:
If I could be a sideman in Jackie McLean's quartet in the '60s that would be my dream gig. To play with JMac, Billy Higgins or Art Taylor, and either Mal Waldron, Gil Coggins or Walter Davis....man, that's music happening. If I could lead a dream band it would be a septet ( I love horns ) with JMac, Dexter Gordon, Booker Little, Curtis Fuller, McCoy Tyner and Arthur Taylor. That's the band that I am feeling at this exact moment. Ask me tomorrow and it might be different cats. I'm still very much in a love affair with hard bop and free-thinking music from the '60s. That was a time when music was really moving forward on so many levels.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
I was on the road in Russia with Cyrus Chestnut and Neal Smith. We were in Moscow at the time and I had to exchange some money. It was in the dead of January in what seemed to me to be a Frozen Tundra. I'm from Hartford, CT and I had never felt cold like that until that point. I walked to the exchange place, which looked like a fortress. Inside was one giant staircase with a Guard sitting behind it. He directed me up the staircase, which to my surprise was covered in ice. Inside? Yes!
I made it up the stairs and changed my money, but completely forgot about the wet staircase. Let's just say I tumbled and slipped all the way down what had to be at least 22 stairs (concrete and ice). I had a serious cut on my leg and my ankle was jacked up. The eerie part of it all was the Guard who was behind the staircase watched me fall all the way down on his monitor, he then chuckled when I landed, and as I walked by him on my way out he said absolutely nothing. Later that day we checked out of the hotel and Nutman treated us all to a box of chicken from KFC, which was actually MFC (Moscow Fried Chicken) for our three-hour drive to Tver. Let's just say them couple pieces of chicken I ate came at the right time.
I just recently played The Bimhuis in Amsterdam. Wow is all I can say. There is really nothing fancy about the place, but it is by far one of the best experiences onstage and even better response from the audience. My favorite spot in NY is a tie between Smalls in the West Village and Dizzy's in Columbus Circle. Both stages are Premiere yet they are sooooo different.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?