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A Fireside Chat With David Weiss

By Published: February 7, 2003

DW: Yeah, the only thing I still love about the first record is Myron's compositions because Myron didn't write anything for this one. It just turned out that way. Those, to me, are very long developed pieces and they are very interesting and to me, that is my favorite part of that record and that still holds up. The rest of it is, well, we're OK. We were a little young, but the concept is still strong and it is still there. It was like three years ago now, so we are light years ahead of that. I guess that record holds up in the overall scope of things, but to me, I think this one leaves it in the dust. We have all just grown so much and played together so much. Also, our growth as composers and players, there is no comparison.

FJ: I had to practically do a Where's Waldo thing to track down Freddie and that took me a few years.

DW: (Laughing) Yeah.

FJ: I heard you were the one to bring Freddie out of a self-imposed retirement (see New Colors on Hip Bop).

DW: Yeah and no, he says that on stage and yeah, OK, if you really must say that. Yes and no. If I want to take credit for any part of that, it is just finding the context for him to work in. The idea of, we talked about this for a couple of years before we actually did this, because I actually did a couple of arrangements on a record that he did in '93 or '94. That is where I met him. It was also part of the impetus for me putting the Octet together because I liked the sound, the arrangements I did for Freddie. All trumpet player diminish. I have certainly heard the argument enough. It is a little noticeable with Freddie because nobody soared to the heights of Freddie Hubbard, just pure physicality and we don't even have to talk about the musical part of it. Nobody played longer, higher, harder than Freddie Hubbard for that many years. Whatever anybody says about what his other habits or lifestyle choices or whatever, which people tend to focus on, there has still been nobody else who has done that so that somebody could say that this is what would happen to a lip if you did that, that long. It would happen anyway.

People want to blame supposed drug use or real drug use or whatever for all of Freddie's problems. It's not true. That much abuse on a lip, it is going to give out no matter how correct you play. In that context, all trumpet players do something else. Miles went electric. He still made brilliant music to me, but he certainly wasn't playing as much. Just about every other trumpet player sings. They all do something else. They play less or they sing. They change up their thing to electric. Dizzy was playing electric the last five years of his life or even longer. Freddie told me of nights when they did that United Nations band where Dizzy could hardly get a note out and the next night, he would just play ridiculous and show everybody he's Dizzy Gillespie. But trumpet is a difficult thing like that, it is just the lip. No matter how correctly we play, it is going to deteriorate. It is a very athletic thing. Most athletes retire when they're forty. So my thing was Freddie ain't going to sing. Freddie ain't going electric. Freddie is known for balls to the walls hard bop playing. That's what he does.

So how can we still present that in a way and take some of the heat off Freddie so he doesn't have to work as hard because he is sixty-five now. That is why I think the octet works. I arranged his tunes, so the stuff still has some impact and Freddie still has some good nights. We just played in Boston and he played about the best he's played since we been doing this. It is shocking when his stuff starts coming out. He is still an amazing player, even diminished, the lines still come out. His harmonic conception is almost unlike any other trumpet player. His time and his feel, he is definitely weaker, but all that stuff is still there. That is what I would take credit for if anything. We found a way for him to get his music across in a powerful way still because when he played quintet, it would put too much pressure on him. It was too much for his lip at this point in his career.

FJ: You can't take away Freddie's place in history.

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