Trumpeter Ted Daniel was born in Ossining, New York on June 4, 1943. Encouraged early on by his father and brother, Daniel played trumpet from age nine and throughout high school played in bands with his brother and the guitarist Warren "Sonny" Sharrock, a neighborhood pal. Stints at Berklee and SIU provided some context, but the university of the Lower East Side jazz scene provided the most fruitwhere he played with Sharrock, Byard Lancaster, Dave Burrell, Archie Shepp and others.
In the 1970s, he worked regularly with his own groups and those of Shepp, Dewey Redman and Andrew Cyrille, recording for Impulse!, IPS, Black Saint, Soul Note, Sun and his own Ujamaa label. Less visible in the 1980s and 1990s, he has returned to the scene, working with the likes of violinist Billy Bang and his own groups, International Brass and Membrane Corps and, with Michael Marcus, Duology. In advance of a 2007 spotlight gig as part of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) Festival, Daniel took time out of his schedule to speak with AAJ contributor Clifford Allen.
All About Jazz: I wanted to start at the beginning. It seems like you came from a musical family; could you elaborate on that? I understand your father was a musician.
Ted Daniel: Well, with regards to my father, he was an amateur musician, a saxophonist. He actually was friends with Tab Smith, a saxophonist who was in Count Basie's band, and they grew up together in North Carolina. He always loved music, and he passed that on to his children. He bought me a trumpet when I was about eight or nine years old, and I was playing in public schools, so that's how I got started playing the trumpet. My older brother played piano; his name was Richard. Actually, he and Sonny [Sharrock] were closer in age, and they used to have a singing group, doo-wop stuff, you know, and that was the first music that we all were involved in through the '50s, you know. The kids listen to rap nowwell that was our version of it.
AAJ: Jazz came slightly later for you, then.
TD: Yeah, I was an early teenager. I heard jazz in the house, you know older music like Count Basie's stuff or Louis Jordan, that type of stuff my father was into and we'd hear it every now and then. I actually heard a Clifford Brown record, Study in Brown (Emarcy, 1956), by accident when I was babysitting for my sister. She had a big record collection and I saw the Clifford Brown album and put it on because the guy had a trumpet on the cover. I was about thirteen at the time and I said "Yeah! This is what I want to do, this is it!" I had never heard bop before. That's how I got started on getting into jazz.
AAJ: So you were mostly playing in marching bands up to that time?
TD: Yes, up until hearing that my understanding of the instrument was reading the little music they taught us in school, marching bands and that type of thing and in high school it was concert band. So, there were no private lessons. We'd go and learn our parts, you learn as you went that way. I could read music and that sort of thing, so after I heard that Clifford Brown record, I started listening more. I'd say when I was about a junior in high schoolSonny had finished and he had begun to study guitar, and that's when we started to put things together.
AAJ: Didn't Sonny have a brother too, Gary?
TD: He had several brothers; Gary was one of them and he was involved in music to some degree.
AAJ: I recall reading something in Valerie Wilmer's book [As Serious As Your Life (Serpent's Tail Press, 1980)] to the effect that you and Sonny were related, but you've since said that's not the case.
TD: We grew up so closehere in Ossining, my mother and his mother were very close, and so what happened was that we spent all our time together. Sonny was the oldest, then there was my brother, then his brother Wayne, and the four of us had grown up from preschool. That's how that got started; we just grew up knowing the families.
AAJ: Were you guys the main followers of jazz or creative music in Ossining? Were there other people?
TD: Not at the time; this was a small town, nobody was playing here or anything. A couple of guys were around who had played years before, but they were no longer active. We were the guys who started it in Ossining. We were thirty miles north of the City, not very far, so if you were on the express train I'd say Yonkers, Tarrytown, then Ossiningit's up on the Hudson.
AAJ: It sounds like in high school you had a pretty strong peer education, but could you discuss what happened after that and how you developed your craft? I got the impression that you studied trumpet in college.
TD: What happened was that I had decided that that's what I wanted to doI wanted to playbut I really didn't have the jazz foundation, because in those days you didn't have jazz in the schools like you do now. Anyway, I went to Berklee [College of Music, in Boston] for a semester; Sonny had started there too, and so I went there for a little while and then stayed in Boston for about a year after that. That's really where the education happened [laughs].
It was unfortunate that the trumpet instructor didn't work for meat that time in the early '60s, you had a lot of professional cats going to Berklee to study. It was very advanced, but I wasn't. I don't think the trumpet teacher really wanted to teach me, so I didn't get any good instruction from him.