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A Conversation Between William Hooker & Ras Moshe

Andrey Henkin By

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WH: The only thing that I can't really rationalize, as a person whose been out here playing for a while, trying to make my own way, in a lot of different situations, is the fact that a lot of people want to play the music, but when I put them in a situation where they come up to the studio and they begin to play, or they come into a gig, and I'll just extend my hand and say, 'Come on up and do whatever you do.' They always seem sort of timid about the fact that the music is not theirs. It's as if I'm giving them a portion of something that is mind, which I disown completely. Because it's not about me, it's not about them. I find this whole personality thing kind of interesting in a sense because a lot of that personality stuff is based on the fact of who can almost make it, and who is going to ultimately have a harder way of making it. And that changes people's attitudes about where they want to be, who they want to hang around with, where they put their energies in a sense. So one of the only things that I can say is, I'm really hoping that a lot of young cats, they start to see that it's about shedding as much as possible. It's definitely about shedding as much as possible. Because myself, when I was doing what I had to do, I was playing a lot. I was really playing a lot, I gotta admit.

And that's one thing I see a lot of people can't do now, in terms of the ability to go on the scene and play, even though I haven't been to some of the places that say they have open sessions and stuff, but that, combined with the fact that in New York City, everybody has to worry about how to survive and make money. So you get this whole thing about people who don't even know how to play, and they'll get up in your face and start talking about how much you're going to pay them. Half of them don't even know how to play. (laughs) It's true! It's true! It's like, here I am at my job, right, Ros, I'm at my job today, so when I go to play, I'll go down to a place and I'll say, alright, tonight I'm going to have a good payday, and tomorrow I'm just going and playing. I'm playing for the music, whatever it is. If you think I'm going to drag a drum set around, you're not going to get a cab with all this nonsense.

But the point is, some of these cats, they just get there, and the next thing you know, you're talking to them like employer to union person or something. I don't know how it works. So in that case, that's the reason why I shy away from a lot of situations that I shy away from, and a lot of people I shy away from. Because I know ultimately, they're going to start asking me these wacky questions that have really nothing to do with how my schedule is, in terms of us being able to go into the studio and play, what kinds of things are out here so that maybe if I got a little bit of a name, I can go out here and get us some gigs or something. Very few people also do that too, because of this whole every man for himself mentality. And a lot of times, we don't even use all the collateral we have given to us, because we're not put in a situation to use it.

I'm just trying to encourage everybody, older cats and younger cats, to be able to play and almost get rid of that particular attitude about things. Because it's definitely perceived, and when things are perceived that way, you really feel strange if you are the quote-unquote leader walking into a place, because you know that you're going in to do something with a club owner, or whatever, and you're trying to make an opportunity for yourself and other cats to play, and then, as soon as you walk out the door and you try to think of who you're going to play with, you know that somebody's going to come up with some wacky question like, 'Am I going to be staying in a Holiday Inn, tonight, or what's my situation? Can I get my per diem money to go and buy myself whatever?' It's crazy! I'm serious. It's literally crazy. And because of that a lot of times I've chosen to go to places and play with local cats, because it's less of a-it's kind of a strain when you take a band out on the road. It's really a strain. Trust me.

RM: With younger musicians, in a way, there seem to be two things happening. And I don't mean every younger musician, because I played with some, very good people, in spirit, too, and musically. But in some, there's a resurgence of interest in the so-called avant-garde, but, sometimes because of their class background, but not always, they understand less and less socially about the music. And I think that's the reason for certain kinds of arrogance, or thinking that they're on the same kind of level as somebody who's been playing for a while. Because the social and cultural understanding of the development of this music is not always hand in hand with the resurgence in appreciation of the later areas of jazz. Not with everybody. I'm not a predictor of how people feel. This is just certain situations I've seen. It takes them time to realize certain things. You can't say this, you can't do that.

I've seen musicians who've been playing the free creative music for a while now, and they are very tolerant with a lot of things that younger musicians do, and older musicians, of course. But I commend their tolerance, because there's a lot that's understood less and less, culturally and socially. I don't mean that in a separatist sense, because I view it as people's music. It's of black origin. I don't have a problem with the word black music, but it's the voice of the people. I commend the tolerance that a lot of older musicians have for a lot of the ridiculousness that's out here. To deal with the factionalism from the 70s, all the way down to dealing with the so-called youth phenomenon. Which is happening even in free music-it's not just happening in the Wynton Marsalis camp. It's easy to think that you have the key, just because the absorption rate is faster.

You can get certain things under your finger at a faster rate, but that doesn't mean that you should be arrogant and think that you're on the level-you can get there, you get there through practice. But to think that it just comes immediately, because of the fast absorption rate, that's not good. You have to have patience, and you have to have respect for people playing this music. I've seen situations with guys who've been playing for a long time, and some younger musicians will just say things that are not, that are disrespectful. This is not the case all the time. I'm not in the habit of talking about musicians or people like that. It's just observations on the music scene.

WH: Do you have a question for me?

RM: Yeah. How do you feel about that? Being involved in the post-Charlie Parker music, there's a resurgence of interest in it. Do you find that things have changed for the better as far as venues to play, for musicians? And is there less factionalism than before, about 'you can't play here,' or something?
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