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A Conversation Between William Hooker & Ras Moshe

Andrey Henkin By

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RM: Things get better. It's like two things happening at once, especially if you're a creator of jazz. There's the certain kinds of issues that get to us I bet you already know about. Combined with that, the exposure increases a little more too, because I've noticed there's a lot more younger people taking an interest in post-Charles Parker music. The ironic thing about that is sometimes they might not always know about Bird. But at least the enthusiasm and the urge to express yourself musically is valid, and hopefully they will learn about the music that came before, as well. I don't believe that you have to play it, because I believe that the so-called avant-garde is a very important form of music. And amongst a lot of the younger people, some know about so-called bebop and some don't. But I believe that you have at least know about it, in order to not play it, to play yourself. That should be the guideline of how you know your instrument, but I don't believe that you have to play what Bird played, because the bebop musicians, I don't believe they were concerned with being mainstream, or they were saying, 'Let's play something inside today.' I think they were playing what was being played in that time. The music changes, just like it changed from King Oliver and Coleman Hawkins and Red Allen. There's a swing versus bebop thing that happened, too. A lot of people talk about bebop versus the avant-garde, but there was a heavy swing versus bop thing, too, even though bop was utilized in swing. So it's getting better, it's good to see a lot of young people take interest in people like Albert Ayler, and Pharaoh and Cecil Taylor, and Jimmy Lyons [sp?] and all these kinds of people. That's good.

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.

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