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A Fireside Chat With Perry Robinson

By Published: November 13, 2003

PR: I met Brubeck through another clarinetist, Bob Fritz from Boston. I met him through Gunter Hampel. I met Gunter Hampel and Darius Brubeck all around the same time. This clarinetist Bob Fritz introduced me to Gunter and then he moved to New York for a while and we would hang out. Muruga and Darius had a group and Bob called me up one day and told me that he was playing with the Darius Brubeck group. When they came back here to do a gig, they wanted me to sit in with them because Bob Fritz just got a job as a composition teacher in Boston and he was going to leave the group. He passed it on to me.

I met Darius there and we both played together. We recorded an album called Chaplin's Back, based on Chaplin's music. Then I joined Darius' group and I was in his quartet. The rest of the kids came at one point and then they asked their dad (Dave Brubeck) to form one big family group and they did that. Chris Brubeck had a rock group and Darius had a jazz group that I was in and then we added Jerry Bergonzi, the saxophonist. It was just Dave playing with his sons. Later, he got the quartet to travel with him, his quartet and then Mulligan came on. It was terrific. By that time, Danny Brubeck had taken over on drums.

FJ: Once a fan of Mulligan and you find yourself playing with him years later.

PR: Yeah, that is the great thing about life. I told Mulligan. Subsequently, in my book, I write about stories of me and Mulligan. He was drinking a bit at that time. He had been off drugs a while. We had some out scenes in hotels. In New York, we hung out. It was a great thing to play with him. We hung out. Then Paul Desmond came on.

FJ: Recently, you can be found collaborating with Lou Grassi in his various PoBands.

PR: Oh yeah, Lou and Po is a wonderful thing. That has been a wonderful group, Po. Of course, Wilber Morris just passed on. In fact, I just talked to Lou now and what we're trying to do, I haven't even told Henry this yet, but we want to get the next Po group with Henry Grimes as guest. We've been having these guests.

FJ: Joe Jarman and John Tchicai.

PR: Steve Swell was in the first group. In fact, I have a duo with Steve coming out on Drimala. It is a duo we did that is coming out. You've got the scoop on this, Fred. We didn't even talk to Henry, but it is a natural thing to do the next Po album with Henry. When Wilber died, Lou was saying what bassist could fill his shoes and that might be the end of Po, but now with Henry, at least we can do another one and get him in there and it would be a very spiritual thing. I think this will happen.

FJ: So you have been playing a good deal with Henry of late.

PR: Yes, I flew out to California. I was one of the first people of his old friends. Marshall called and when he called me, I almost fell off the stool. In my book, Henry is a whole chapter. Just before the book was finished, we heard a rumor that he was homeless in L.A., but there were so many rumors through the years.

I called Henry. I was the first to speak to him. His playing is powerful, Fred. It is getting better than ever. Nobody can believe it. After thirty years of not playing, he got this bass from William Parker and when I went out, I went out to California four months ago, and I played with him. He was strong and beautiful. We didn't even play any tunes. It was all free playing. It was all amazingly beautiful and I could see his old energy coming back and now, he is just powerful. We did a three hour live recording. We're going to be going out as a trio now.

FJ: Who is in the Grimes Trio?

PR: It's Andrew Cyrille and me and Henry. I am the only one who ever recorded his compositions.

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