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A Conversation Between William Hooker & Ras Moshe

Andrey Henkin By

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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...

I have a lot of stories, but most recently, man, I feel like I'm just here to ride the crest of the wave out, play the music that I have to play, hopefully get as many good gigs as I can possibly get. And I'm not thinking about the entire situation of music in general. I'm thinking about my own history, and how much my contribution has been to the entire vocabulary. And so therefore I think that at this point, I should be getting things that should be just due. Because I've played a lot of music, ain't no doubt about it. And so I just naturally look at arts centers and things like that, things that happen on a really strong high level, to be able to do music in, and by the same token, I look at all those idiosyncratic projects, too, because I see those as breaking into other crowds, even though many of them may not be musically based as high a standard as if I played with true quote-unquote hardcore musicians. Many of those situations are opening up, so that colleges can be investigated, new cities can be investigated. I can meet new people, I can get free tickets to be able to go someplace and travel to see the great art of the world and stuff like that. That's another thing about it. I just love creative life, art, etc, etc. I don't know. You finish it off, what you think. Where do you think we're going with our efforts?

RM: Creative life, I think that the creative life and creative music will never stop. The only catch is, what you're going to reap materially, in a sense. You have to not be fazed by that. When the money comes, that's nice, but the music will live. The same issues that exist because we're not playing bebop will be there too. But because we're here talking now, and I know people like Albert Ayler and Trane were going to wonder if their creations were going to last. And I think that they would be happy, and there's people all around the world playing this message of free music right now, too. And young people from different parts of the country, it's changing their life, it's changing them around from a lot of the things that their parents taught them. The unhip parents, that is. The music is talking about what's happening socially, realistically. It's the true voice of what's going on around you. That's never going to stop. Just don't get discouraged about trying to gain something materially, because that's not what the music is for. In that case, you should develop other aspects of yourself so you can survive. It'd be better to have a day job and keep your music pure, than compromise your music and say you were trying to reach somebody. Thank you.

WH: That's it. That's us.

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Alan Nahigian
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