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Vince Wallace: A Jazz Legend Stands Tall in Oakland

By Published: October 5, 2003

AAJ: Did you do a lot of rehearsing for these sessions?

VW: Very little. Mostly, there was no rehearsal at all, except we'd rehearse the tunes in the studio just before we laid them down. We did Spherycle in two days. For the CD With Love from Oakland, it was Gene and I, Steve Husted on bass and Si playing piano. [Tim Ross plays piano on six tracks, Perkoff on thirteen of the two-CD release.] Si and I are such veterans. All I had to do was just mention to him, "Let's try this. Let's play 'With a Song in My Heart,' let's play 'Canadian Sunset.' Let's do it like Eddie Hayward did it and ease into it." And he knew what I meant.

AAJ: That's the advantage of playing with guys you've played with for a long time.

VW: Yeah. I've got a whole list of cats I know in San Francisco right now, and I approximately know what tunes they know. I know what they can do. For example, there's only one guy who can play this tune called "If There is Anyone Lovelier Than You." I think it's a Rogers and Hart tune that Coltrane did. It's on a very rare album, and the only person that knows it is (San Francisco-area pianist) Mark Levine. So whenever I play with Mark, I call that tune. When I'm with Si Perkoff, I can play "Blue Lou," "The Lullaby of the Leaves," or some other tune that most guys would say, "No, I don't know that one. Is it in the book?" They'll always have to refer to some book to play the tune, and that's really bad. It shows that they don't really know the tune, and it's really easy to get the wrong substitution when you're just looking at a fake book.

AAJ: You've got some pretty young guys that you're playing with at the Bulldog. You mentioned before that you like playing with the younger musicians.

VW: I sure do.

AAJ: What's good about that, particularly?

VW: Just the fact that they're still young and on the right track. And in time, they'll be very good.

AAJ: You feel like you're helping these guys develop?

VW: Yes. Plus they give me energy and support. They drive me on to greater heights.

AAJ: Help you feel young?

VW: Yeah, but music in general helps you feel young. Music is sort of a . . . you can go in feeling sick and come out well in the end. You break a fever, you replace your low energy with high energy.

AAJ: I guess you're lucky.

VW: Yes, I'm very lucky.

AAJ: Other people have some of the health issues that you've had, but they don't have music.

VW: Right. I don't know what they have, but they should have something. Or else, what good is life?

AAJ: This may seem like the stupidest question in the world, but can you tell me where the music comes from?

VW: Where it comes from?

AAJ: Yeah.

VW: It comes from out of the air. It comes from God. It comes from the source from which all life comes. It comes from the cosmos. It's out there. It doesn't belong to anybody. It's a reservoir that everybody who's a medium for music can tap into and share. It's something that belongs to everybody and should be shared with all the people of the earth. It's a powerful force and something that we can't live without. The world without music would be a terrible thing. It would be like being born without your senses. Music's very important. If you take it away, life would get awfully sad very fast. Music can express so many different things'happiness, sadness, joy, pride, victory, defeat, whatever. It's an all-encompassing thing. The more you're into it, the more you feel its ability to express all these different things.

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