A Fireside Chat With Grachan Moncur III
FJ: Your most celebrated collaborations have been alongside Jackie McLean.
GM: I met Jackie probably, I thought it was still in high school, coming home during the summer vacation. I was kind of like an early starter. I used to go around the clubs very early, sitting in and everything. I met Jackie when he used to come over to Newark with Art Blakey. Now, we're skipping way up because during the time when he was coming to Jersey, I knew of him before that, but we got tight when he started coming over to Jersey. This is a little later after I had got some experience of playing in a jazz group down in Laurinburg for about four years. When he used to come in town, I used to sit in with him. I sat in with Blakey and him just as a kid. Me and Jackie got kind of tight because Jackie liked the way I sounded and he saw this potential. I was a comer. We kept in touch and it was later on, that I used to come over to New York after I graduated from high school. I started going to Brooklyn and I started jamming at Birdland and all different things like that. I think it was a couple of years before I got with Ray Charles. I went over to Jackie's house one afternoon and we practiced all day and we kind of exchanged tunes and he saw the kind of progress that I had made since the first time that I had sat in with him. It was after I went with Ray Charles and I left the group. I was living in Brooklyn and I ran into Tony Williams and me and Tony got tight. Tony had just got in town working with Jackie in The Connection. So me and Tony got very close talking about the things we wanted to do musically and where our heads were at. We had played a little bit together. So Tony told Jackie about me and Jackie told him, "Yeah, I know Grachan." And Tony said, "Yeah, but Grachan is in town now and he's doing some new stuff." He knew that Jackie was getting ready to form a group. But it was really because of the fact that me and Jackie had shedded together maybe a year or so before that. With Tony's enthusiasm about him calling me in reference to the new group he wanted to form. I guess he knew that Tony's ear was sharp too. So right away, when he called me, it was just at a time where I had been home all during the summer and I had been doing some shedding with Bobby Hutcherson. I had met Bobby when he was working with Billy Mitchell and Al Grey. When I first met him, I was really impressed with Bobby's playing and we exchanged numbers and we immediately started rehearsing everyday together. Bobby and I had been rehearsing together for a couple of months and when Jackie called me between shedding with Bobby and writing a lot of music, a lot of new stuff that I was hearing and working them with Bobby and talking about them with Tony, when Jackie called me, he happened to call me on the same night that I had finished writing "Frankenstein" and "Ghost Town."