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Benny Golson: Dizzy Gillespie Sextet with Dexter Gordon: Blue 'n' Boogie

William Ellis By

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Well—I've been around for a long time, and during the time when I got started there were no such things as albums so there were no covers! This was the time of the 78 recording with three minute at tops for each recording so whatever the person was going to present they had to present it within the three minute framework. That's what I grew up with when I started.

I had many heroes in the beginning, my first one was probably Coleman Hawkins and then Don Byas, Ben Webster, Lucky Thompson, but then one that really got me down the line was a fella named Dexter Gordon, and he made a recording with Dizzy Gillespie ["Blue 'n' Boogie" 1945] and when I heard that my life changed again.

It changed when I first heard the saxophone but when I heard that recording of Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon it opened up something else for me cuz his style was different from Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas and Ben Webster—it was another sound—even different from Lester Young.

Like I said it opened my ears up when I heard that and I started trying to do other things because at that time I didn't have my own interpretation or concept—like money in the bank to reach in and do what you want to do. I had nothing in to reach in to get. So I was eclectic, imitating everyone—piano players, guitar players, trying to understand what this thing called jazz is all about—especially improvisation cuz that's what jazz is all about. Nobody comes to hear the melody over and over again; after the melody they want to know what you've got on your mind musically! And you have to have something to say. You should have, and it takes a while to get to that point.

Dexter had something to say in a little different way than the others, and to me, at that time—it's a long time ago—it was pretty hip, pretty hip.

Everything was so new—so all those early days were like an adventure, and still are today. I'm an old guy today but I've still have my ears open and I still think there are things I would like to do that I haven't done yet even in my old age you know. And it's still has that sense of adventure to it. Yeah, it's an adventure of sorts and I'm committed, I really am and I guess like Sonny Rollins said "There's no end to it."

They ask me a lot of times "Mr. Golson -what is the favourite tune that you have written?" And my answer's always the same "I haven't written it yet." There's always something to do.

Benny Golson: The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow in September 2015.

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