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A Conversation Between William Hooker & Ras Moshe

By Published: March 11, 2003
WH: Definitely a problem. In terms of being able to lead a group in a legitimate festival, or college situation, or arts situation, and get the kind of pay for the group that is supposed to be, so that I as a leader can give the other people in the group what they're supposed to get. Along with the icing on top of the cake, like a nice place to stay, like good food, like somebody that's going to take you around, to show you you're just not a stranger in a strange land. People that make you feel comfortable, what you're doing, so that your life is just a little more livable. Yes, there is definitely a prejudice against that, there has always been, and much of that prejudice I gotta say has been instrumented by the musicians themselves. Because they've gotten into that certain groove, where we have been forced to get certain gigs based on this whole quartet or quintet situation, which has to have the quote-unquote leader up here, in such and such, and it keeps on going down, and the drummer seems to be the one on the bottom. That's so for great drummers, and you've named them.

Even separate from music, I've noticed this in a lot of different things. I've noticed this in architecture, I've noticed this in painting, I've noticed this in dance. You should see what happens when I take Makiko and Mark Hennon to a place and they just look like, 'what is going on? William, what are you doing?' What do you mean what am I doing, I'm expressing myself, and it just so happens that, it's something that Ornette Coleman said to me. I happened to meet him on the subway one day, and we talked all the way up to 50th Street, and he said to me, 'William, the problem is, you play ideas. You don't play tunes.' (laughs) This deals with something that is even beyond drums, saxophone, bass, piano, whatever. This is beyond the fake book, whatever. This gets into, what is the idea for the day? So if I say something like, 'This piece is entitled "The Continuity of Unfoldment,"' what do I mean by that? That could take a lot of different twists and turns. A lot of different things one can put in there. Different nuances, different artistic expressions a person can use, when a person says something like, 'This is entitled "The Continuity of Unfoldment."' The door's open to anything, basically.... So when a person says you play ideas, you don't play tunes, I think you understand what he meant by that.

RM: That you're playing what you have to say. Because it is easier sometimes. Someone once asked me to do a concert playing "A Love Supreme," and I didn't do it because I said number one, how could I? That was his spiritual statement about his-John Coltrane's-life changing for himself, and his personal vision. You can play the notes on the horn, but that's personal music. I mean, I listen to it, I listen to Trane almost every day, and Pharaoh and Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp. I listen to them constantly, but I didn't, I wanted to play what I had to say, which is coming out of that. Two, people are always picking "A Love Supreme," on top of that. You've got "Meditations," "Cosmic Music," all these beautiful records, you know, and "Reverend King," "Expression," "Offering," "Stellar Region," so there's a lot of other material to play, too.

WH: Yeah, but you got to remember that's one reason why I was just so happy to reuite again with Louis Belogenis, because he went through a certain transition after he played with me for a while, then he went out, due to the configuration of the group, and then he started playing with Rasheed. And in playing with Rasheed he got introduced to Trane's music on a very intimate level, which I could seriously appreciate. A person like Rasheed sharing those kinds of insights with him. I know now he's a different player. He's a much different player, in terms of his sincerity toward those particular pieces. But that's a whole other thing. Because I find that in a lot of different people that I work with, Mark Hennon, speaking about when he studied with Cecil Taylor...

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