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Branford & Ellis Marsalis: The Dawn of Marsalis Music


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I don't think any of us are going to sell 10,000 records this year. I mean, my music is getting... we're selling less and less as I get better and better as a musician. That's something that I always believed would happen based on what happened to Miles.
The first family of jazz, the Marsalis of New Orleans, have seemingly been in the eye of a musical hurricane for the past twenty years. With the news that Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his father Ellis Marsalis had severed their ties with Sony music, comes the announcement that they have formed the independent label Marsalis Music.

Multiple-Grammy winner Branford Marsalis has recently recorded Footsteps Of Our Fathers, a tribute to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, to be released in late summer/early fall. This first release will set the tone for Marsalis' new musical adventure.

Mark Corroto and Gerard Cox recently sat down with Ellis and Branford to discuss music, life, and the status of jazz today.

All About Jazz: What is the significance of Jazz in the twenty-first century?

Branford Marsalis: How the hell do I knows. (laughter)

Well, Jazz is like anything else... it will only be as good as the musicians who play it. And one of the things that we lack is really, really good musicians. I was talking to this guy who teaches at Otterbein, where we are playing. He used to play professional football for the Cowboys, and he was saying that he just can't watch football anymore. One of the things I was saying to him is that the money changes everything... because when you have the kind of money that these guys are making... what I was saying is that we as a nation really like to believe in this "All men are created equal" thing, which is just kind of hogwash... I mean, there are people who are smarter, who are stronger, who are faster. And sometimes, much like the Amadeus movie, we like to believe that the greatness that people achieve is the byproduct of hard work... and sometimes they can just do it. They're better than you are, so they can do it. And if Jazz was in the environment where we were getting paid the same kind of money that professional basketball players were getting paid, you'd be amazed by the number of talented musicians that would come out of the woodwork... the problem is that they wouldn't have the kind of dedication you'd necessarily want them to have.

It's one of those things you see in sports all the time, and that is why people are becoming disenfranchised with sports. Because sports has a mythology in our country. We'd like to believe in certain things, you know, the solitary kid shooting the basketball off of the rim on his farm back in Indiana, and all that kind of shit. Man, these kids are just 17 years old. They are bigger, stronger, and faster. They get paid millions of dollars, and they can do things we can't do. And they don't have the dedication; they do it because of the money. And because jazz does not have that kind of money, people who could have the intelligence to be Jazz musicians simply do other things, because they want money more than they want to play music. So... I don't know whether it is relevant in the 21st century, because I don't think any of us can actually discuss that until the 22nd century. You know what I mean.

Everything that is great, that has been great musically, has often been decreed so after there is enough perspective and time goes by. I mean, we can look back in history books and see musicians who were declared great in 1700 and we don't even talk about those guys now. It's only through perspective and time that you're able to find out whether musicians live up to the hype, we should say. I don't know if that's a question... well, I know it's not a question that I can answer... I don't know if it's a question that can be answered honestly, without some generic sound byte. I don't think that it's possible. But I can say with certainty that if we can find a way to get people who have the intellect to play to choose jazz instead of other things, boy, it would really be something else... it would be like the 60s all over again.

AAJ: But they didn't choose, and of course your father didn't choose to play jazz for the money in the '60s, '50s.

Ellis Marsalis: Yeah but when you were black in '50s Jim Crow, there was very little that you chose. If you had a skill—or had the potential for a skill—you would exploit that to whatever capabilities that existed. And there was always the mythology of "Well, we could move to New York or you could move to Los Angeles." And it was two steps better than where I was, just in terms of being able to make money. But from the creative standpoint, there was a small window of time where musicians like Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and even musicians that didn't have as high profile were people that you could learn from, if you really were interested in music and wanted to learn. Well mostly that's gone. You know, there's no endless amount of that.

AAJ: Do you feel the academic institution is a bad replacement?

EM: It's not a replacement at all. You have to realize that academic institutions do the things that think to be in their best interest. When they have jazz programs, they have jazz programs because they perceive that it increases the enrollment in a segment of their program that looks good at the time when you have the negotiations for the funds for their institution. I just retired from a university. And being involved... I was kind of semi-administrative. I wasn't like the chairman or assistant or any of that. I was in a chair which had certain administrative responsibilities to it. But it gave me the opportunity to get to know, first hand, the people all the way from the chancellor down.

And I saw how they ran the school. I saw what the objectives were. I realized what the monetary situation was. And the school should have been called state-assisted, not state-supported... 'Cause the state's giving 25% and these guys have to raise 75%. So, when you present some idealistic situation, especially in a non-scientific arena, then it's extremely difficult to speculate because it's almost all about the money. Just about. And in a way, the NCAA and them are going to find out that they are no longer going to be able to continue to deny that. And it's all sort of in the same kind of pot, if you will.

AAJ: This follow the money thread began with Branford's opening and then as you've carried on how does that relate to Columbia, Sony Music, large record companies. Did they have a jazz division for sentimental reasons? (BM laughs) or did they...?

BM: There was a time when Columbia was its own place. It was a big company, but it was its own company, it was a part of the Columbia system. You know, CBS, television, radio and it was just like over there. It was just over there, and they were doing their own thing. They had rock stars and they had this.

But there was always a little corner, because the people who ran the company were music guys. They were music guys. They loved music; they were working in the music business. They started out as hustlers. They started out selling 45s, whatever it is. They worked in radio. They worked in this. They were promoters. They were music guys. Some of them had law degrees, some of them didn't. And they always left a little corner for creative music, because maybe it's because they had a soft spot in their heart or maybe it's because they realized that record companies could not survive on mega-hits alone.

For every guy like Michael Jackson or Billy Joel there was some strange group. You know, like Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarian Rescue Unit or Return to Forever, or Weather Report. Or all these things that were on Columbia records that you would never, you know, you wouldn't consider mainstay groups. And sometimes they actually kept the company afloat. They sold just enough records collectively to make a nice little tidy sum there. Once Columbia became a part of Sony it was this huge, huge company. And stocks are so much more popular with the average working person now than they were 30 years ago or even 20 years ago, when I first joined the company. Now you have to have people running these companies who are good at keeping the bottom line. I mean, there's a lot at stake. They can't afford to sit around and say well, you know this guy's a really creative musician and 25 years from now he might turn us a profit or he might sell a lot of records for us, because if he's not careful he'll be gone in 25 days.

AAJ: Right, you have to answer to the shareholders.

BM: That's right, quickly—by quarter. So they really don't have time or inclination to be concerned with some off the road, off the beaten path music—on any level, not just in jazz. In popular music as well. You don't see these really cool, hip groups. I mean somebody like Bjork, for instance. You're not going to see people like Bjork on a major label. You know, it's fringe music. It's vanity music in a way. Mariah Carey just got dumped for some two million records. I mean, I can't believe we live in a time when 2 million records is a flop.

EM: They started that with TV years ago. Because Steve Allen had a real hip TV show. But see, he only had ten million viewers and the opposition had twenty.

BM: So that's that.

AAJ: So all of this parallels all of—I don't want to say popular culture, but—all of culture. It's the same with book publishing. There used to be small houses that put out things that they wanted on the shelves for 30 years. Maybe you won't get it today, but in twenty years someone's going to recognize this author. Are you saying that nobody's going to sign a Thelonious Monk today or a Herbie Nichols, for that matter?

BM: Hell, I'll sign a Herbie Nichols. I'll sign Thelonious Monk!

EM: First of all, the chance of you even getting a Thelonious Monk is slim to none. But I do think if we really look back at it and examine it closely, you find out that what Branford is talking about now... it's not unlike with Musicraft and Dial and Bluebird and some of the ones that I don't even remember. Columbia was around at that time. What they had was a John Hammond, who was a really wealthy guy, who could get his way with things. Consequently, he could sign Billie Holiday. Now there might not have been anybody else at Columbia Records that could have done that. I don't know.

I heard the story of what he had to do to get Charlie Christian in Benny Goodman's band. Benny didn't even want him. He flew him in, or brought him, when the Goodman band was on a break, and put him on the bandstand to play. So there was no way Benny could avoid hearing him. And once he heard him, you see, eventually he became part of the unit. But the thing is, there's so many combinations of circumstances that exist within the framework of the way things are at different times, so when you start looking at bottom line, when you see where there are people who are still promoting the myth. You see, we are looking at a great example of that right now, day by day, with Enron. And now it's peeling away, you know, so we going see the emperor in his bare, you see, but for the most part...there may be twenty other ones out there, just like that.

AAJ: Oh, absolutely. So with respect to the timing of this label that you're starting. Why now? What conditions exist now? You're telling us this now that this is good timing.

BM: Are you talking externally or internally?

EM: I mean externally the conditions are always basically the same. You know, it's not that much of a change. I know Branford is right at where people would usually refer to as middle age.

AAJ: I'm the same age as he is.

EM: I'm on the other side of that, you see, so it's great. I mean, I just retired, you know, and it turns out to be a good time because everybody is of the same philosophical persuasion. And I don't think the times in and of itself, whatever we mean by that, have that much to do with it. If there's enough interest, if there's enough dedication, if there's enough understanding, and people with the skills to create a kind of an infrastructure that allows you to function... and there's good enough experience... Branford was with Columbia, how long?

BM: Twenty years.

EM: Okay, now I was with Columbia nearly seven. And to understand the mechanics of how all of that operates, you kind of have to go through that. You see, when you come out of it with some experience and then you make some decisions to say "I'm gonna start a record label..." you have the experience of having gone through this. Also, one thing, and I think it's great, is the fact that we live in a country that has a certain amount respect for entrepreneurship. You just got to figure out how to do it. (Laughs) Its not like you go around to the corner market and say "O.K. I'll take two pounds of entrepreneurship and I'll take twenty next week..." but to be here and to be able to do that!

AAJ: Are you taking any cues from some of these smaller jazz labels that are really getting a lot of note, at least in the jazz press? Basin Street, Atavistic, AUM?

BM: No.

AAJ: No?

EM: No. Well, Basin Street... it's interesting that you would mention it, because Basin Street was started by a kid who grew up with some of my kids. And what he's doing, I don't know what his capitalization is, but I don't think he's hurting. It's not so much that we would be taking cues from him. I think, essentially, there are some things that have to be done the same way. Now, he is Mark Samuels who's got Basin Street. Mark Samuels just signed Henry Butler, who is a pianist, rag blues, you know. He did a recording with my younger son, Jason; he's also working with Los Hombres Calientes. It doesn't seem to me that Mark is going in that-in a specific direction as far as jazz is concerned. But I think in the final analysis, Mark is signing or recording some people who may never really be heard, if it's going to be left up to Columbia, Warner Brothers, Capitol, you know. And I think it's always been like that.

I mean, one of the first jazz recordings I ever made was in 1962. It was on the AFO label, and this guy was a friend of ours. He had a pretty good hit off of a Rhythm and Blues recording called I Know. And as a result of that, he went into the studio and said, "Well man, you guys should be recorded." And there were some other people that he recorded singing, some people around New Orleans. At the time where we were still sitting behind screens in the buses, you know, we couldn't go downtown. And that was what he was doing. And there were a lot of other little labels. You know, they were doing a lot of things, like... Allen Toussaint was recording all kinds of stuff. You see, there's always been like, Imperial, or like the guy in Chicago, Chess was recording....

BM: So the way that we're different is that there will not be any sort of premium put on trying to get a hit record. You know, a hit record has... everybody has... there are several interpretations of that. Jazz guys are always trying to play pop tunes on their records. You know, always trying to get a song played on jazz radio. And, uh, I'm just not going to really try. You know, like, it was interesting when the Coltrane box came out. He recorded "My Favorite Things" and it was a hit. So Bob Thiele, in his infinite wisdom, decides that the trick is that, you know the reason the song was a success was because the song was in a minor key and it was in 6/8. So then, the next time, Coltrane records "Chim Chim Cheree" in a minor key in 6/8. And then he records one other thing, which one was it?

AAJ: "Greensleeves"?

BM: "Greensleeves" in a minor chord in 6/8. And they don't work as well. See the point is that you have to be really, really naive—or really an arrogant ass—to believe you have a formula for anything. Who knows why people buy what they buy? Anybody that says that they do is a liar. If the record companies of major labels really knew what people like, they wouldn't sign so many groups. They'd sign one group.

Like for instance, and one of things I was telling the guy, if Impulse really had their pulse on what was going on, they would have just signed Coltrane and sat on it. But instead what they did was signed him, and Keith Jarrett, and they signed McCoy Tyner, and they signed Charlie Haden. They signed all these people, they signed Archie Shepp, they signed all these people, and you know those records did really well for them. If they really knew what the hell they were doing, they would just sign one group and sit on it. And say "great, Coltrane's the guy." And people are going to forty years from now... you know, you don't know.

AAJ: Well, obviously for a smaller or independent label, will we hear more Branford Marsalis every year?

BM: No.

AAJ: Let me ask you in terms of this: we would get The Dark Keys, and then we would have to wait a whole year?

BM: Yes.

AAJ: But the smaller labels, Atavistic, or Ken Vandermark or other labels we may hear seven of his records coming out in a year.

BM: Who wants that? I mean people aren't going to buy seven of your records.

AAJ: Jazz nuts buy those records.

BM: I don't even think the jazz nuts buy them. That was my argument when Wynton put out twelve records. He put out twelve records in 2000. And I was working for Columbia at the time in a, whatever you want to call it, in an executive position but it wasn't really an executive-management position. I was against it. I said, "this is a mistake." This is a mistake. I mean, people are not going to buy twelve records. People are not going to buy four records—they might buy two. But he was determined...and you know, the first one sold okay, and then everything just, you know, jack-knifed after that. It just went right down the tubes.

So the whole point is really not to develop some massive catalog for myself. I mean, it's not a vanity label. It's to give creative musicians an opportunity to make musical statements. And when I say creative musicians, I don't subscribe to the notion that just because people call it "jazz" that it is automatically creative. I mean jazz has its boring middle line too, just like popular music does, and just like classical music does. You know, and when you listen to radio stations like the jazz station in New York City, the music that they play is very middle of the road-mainstream.

You know, you listen to those jazz tunes and see if you ever heard this formula before. It starts out with some sort of rhythmic vamp in the beginning of the song (singing "doo doo doo do do do do doo doo doo do do do do"), bang! And then they start the melody. And it's the trumpet playing the lead and the saxophone guy playing the little doodles underneath. Then they get to the bridge and the saxophone plays the melody and there's trumpet doodles underneath. Then the saxophonist plays a solo, the trumpet player plays a solo, and the pianist plays a solo. Then the bassist plays a solo—and when the bassist plays a solo the drummer's going' chik chicka chik chika (drum noises) on the side. And then they trade fours with the drums and then they take the head out-and every song sounds like that on the whole record. I mean that's like THE jazz formula. If you buy records, it's like, if you get a buck for every time you hear that formula, you're gonna be a rich man. You know, like, to me, that's not creative at all.

AAJ: So, when you're talking about creative, will your label be re-signing David S. Ware?

BM: Perhaps, yes. I see nothing wrong with that.

AAJ: And, uh, David S. Ware obviously is not going to sell 10,000 records this year.

BM: I don't think any of us are going to sell 10,000 records this year. I mean, my music is getting... we're selling less and less as I get better and better as a musician. That's something that I always believed would happen based on what happened to Miles and based on what happened to Coltrane. That was one of my hopes is—that you know, one day I'd get good enough to stop selling records! (Laughs)

AAJ: Well, how is it, though. And the reason I bring this up is that we're basically the same age. I've read interviews of you in the past, and when you were younger you listened to Led Zeppelin—on your fist album cover—and Parliament. And I've come up with a formula where people who are now 42 do James Brown, Led Zeppelin. Then they do Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet, and Fleetwood Mac. And most people my age (you're different because you're a musician), then they stop. And then twenty years later, they listen to the oldies station.

BM: Uh huh.

AAJ: Some of us follow. They say: "Wow, I really like the saxophone line in 'Moondance'"—and say, "Wow!" Then they explore a little further. And they keep going. And obviously as a musician you didn't stick with just playing...

BM: Yeah, that was a terrible saxophone line in "Moondance," by the way. (Everyone laughs)

AAJ: But it hooks someone.

BM: But the point is, man, is that the problem that we have in the United States of America is that we are philosophically the descendants of the English. And if you look at the history of Europe, of music in Europe, they were easily the worst country in Europe when it comes to appreciation of music. They are just cretins when it comes to it. And the English and the Americans both see music as entertainment and nothing more.

And what music does for most people is it serves as background. It's like a soundtrack of all the shit going on in their lives. And that why you say, they get to a point and then they stop-it's because their lives stop. And then they start grabbing for the earlier parts of their lives that they actually liked better than maybe what they see right now. And that's why you find people, even in jazz guys, you find guys caught in a time warp. There was a guy heckling me at a jazz concert in Indianapolis, a guy just reminded me of this yesterday. Two years ago, and he had on a green leisure suit with white patent leather shoes, which was the popular dress in the fifties. And he had on this fifties thing, (background laughter) and he was telling me, you know, the music I play sucks.

EM: I missed that, man—I didn't see that.

BM: (smiles) No, you weren't paying attention then.

EM: That's right. (more laughter all around)

BM: You weren't paying attention, but if you see those guys, man... those dudes that used to listen to, like a, Dinah Washington, and hang out at them bars, with them big, long bars and they had the juke box in the corner. They all had on them white patent leather shoes and that look. And my man was just like, you know, "Your music sucks! Why don't you play something we know!" and blah blah blah. And I finally told the guy. I said, "Man, it's not my job to sit here and recreate for you a time in your life when you thought, you know, was the best time in your life. That's not what I'm doing here." And he shut up for a second when I said that. So I said, "Well, I guess I got him." And then he left.

And I think that with people in music... For instance, I was talking with some friends and we were having the same discussion about music. We were arguing about music, and "Betcha By Golly Wow" came on. And they started saying, "Man! Boy, now that's my song." Cause the song, I think the Delphonics did it, back in the day. You know, this is an R&B song. "Man, that was my song, man...I remember the first time I heard that song. I was going with blah, blah, blah." You know, and another one: "Yeah, I was on my first date, that song was on the radio." And you know, they all had stories about the first time they heard "Betcha By Golly Wow." Then they got to me and I said, "yeah I remember that song. Soon as I heard it I said man, that's a great song." I didn't relate it to anything. I didn't relate it to any other activity, other than listening to the song.

And that's the difference between lay people and musicians.... for them, the song is always associated with something else... which is why you do a movie in the seventies, or a movie in the sixties, they pull out all this sixties music and stick it on the soundtrack. You know what I mean, if you're going to do a war movie, you're going to hear Hendrix, you know, you're going to hear "California Dreaming.'" In every war movie, cause that's about Vietnam, you're going to hear these songs...."C'mon Baby Light My Fire." Because to them the music is endemic of a certain point in history. Whereas with musicians, great music is just great music.

I mean, when I'm listening to Bach or when I'm listening to Beethoven, I'm not thinking about what life was like in the 18th century or the 19th century. I'm just listening to the music. This shit could've been written yesterday for me. And that's what separates musicians from lay people.

AAJ: But with respect to a label and where you're going. Just a quick example... I brought a friend to see you and your trio in Akron about ten years ago. And he's not a jazz fan. But he jumped out of his skin. He was so excited. I mean he didn't really know what this was about. He sat through the show. We came back stage. He was so excited. In my experience with students—we used to have a lot of young employees working for us—we exposed them to jazz, and they loved it.

BM: I don't find that to be with most people. He's an exception to the rule. He's not the rule. And our band is different than most jazz bands, because we don't really play in a style that allows you to do all the other shit that you do. You know what I mean? Like when you play at a club like Ronnie Scott's. Ronnie Scott's is a club in London. And the whole point of a club like Ronnie Scott's is that people join the club. You pay your dues for a year and they let you in for five pounds. And people join because it's... if you've ever spent any time in London... London shuts down. Ronnie Scotts is open 'til 3:30. It's the only club open, so people can come in. Jazz is usually playing in the background, and they can talk. And have a good time and talk and the music is on.

But when we're playing, you can't talk. It's just that the style of the music that we play, it stops at unpredictable points. Or you're out there talking, and the music gets real soft. We play this really soft ballad and they can't talk during the ballads without looking like pigs. Or we play this music that's so aggressive that they have to shout over it. And that's not what they come to jazz clubs for. They come so they can have some nice dinner music in the background and they can talk, you know. And most guys will oblige to them. They play like that. Like (sings makes music songs). Not like, you know, bang! Not like the way Elvin Jones and those guys play. Just hittin' the drums. And playing real loud.

So we have a certain kind of energy that's more affiliated to rock & roll.

AAJ: Jazz has gotten stigmatized as being background music, like pop music.

BM: It is off in the background. But I think that's why I often feel that I don't really like high school kids who don't listen to pop music, who only listen to jazz. I find them to be very suspicious people, you know. Because one of the things that our music has is a certain kind of emotional immediacy that I think comes from listening to popular music when you're a kid. When you just have guys that sit around learn how to read all the fake books and learn theory, when they play... it has a light sound to it—a light, feathery kind of sound to it, you know. And a lot of people like that light shit.

I mean, I don't like light sound. I like to have a very dense sound to the music. And I think that people that do respond to that that aren't jazz fans they will respond to the energy that we have on stage. Cause we have a lot of energy. And a lot of jazz groups do not have energy on stage. They're technically great, and they can play up and down. But they do a lot of wiggling and dancing kind of sometimes, and that'll get people going. They give 'em eye candy. I mean we just, we have a lot of energy coming off the stage when we play.

AAJ: So that may explain why my friend jumped out of his skin...

BM: Perhaps. Or he can just be a guy who is exceptionally in tune to music.

AAJ: But is that what your philosophy is for this new label?

BM: Man, my philosophy is just to put out good records. I'm not looking for an audience. And I think that's where those guys wrong. It's like they don't believe in the music. They don't have faith in the music. So they always think, we got to find an audience for this music. Man, it's hard enough to make good music. If you sit around and worrying about the audience, I mean, you're gonna suck.

AAJ: How will the audience find your music?

BM: They'll find it. It's there. How do they find anything? I mean, they'll find it!

AAJ: For a lot of younger audiences, it's from touring bands.

BM: Well, they'll tour.

AAJ: You were here last time and there was a buzz. And you came back and there's more of a buzz. And the third time you came back...

BM: They'll tour. Our musicians will tour. But they can also buy the records off the internet, they'll be able to buy the records in the stores, and this is the most crucial part, they will be able to buy the records at the venue. Because jazz audiences are not the types that are going to camp out at 3:00 o'clock in the morning and wait to say that they were the first in line to buy a record, you know. And most of them are adults, and they have real jobs. And they're not going to say, "Let me swing over to Tower Records and pick up that record." So you have to make the record available to them in a manner that is convenient for them.

EM: You know, I managed to convince Columbia to that once. I understood why they didn't do it. Because I had a meeting and I was telling them, I said that because of the nature... I was on tour at the time with Marcus Roberts. It's the two pianos. And I'd say like if we could get somebody in the area we going in to come out to the venue and set up a table, you know. And sell the records. I tell you it would be a whole lot better than trying to do it the way it's done. Well, I understand why they couldn't do that. But first of all, they're not in the position to be picking somebody. I mean if they, you know, picked Tower, then there is the little record shops and stuff over there, that's going to be upset. So, I could understand that. "So," I say, "Look, why don't you just present it as the means of an opportunity for somebody to do it." We were in Chicago, Illinois, and one guy did. I remember it wasn't a big store. He came out and Marcus, I think, sold about eighty. And I sold... I forgot what the number was, but it was worth him coming out to do that. You know what I'm saying?

So the creative aspect of what is taking place here is not only at the level of the music and the musicians, but also creative from the standpoint of marketing, you see. And there's any number of things that you can do, but to really try to find people... like I met a kid yesterday. Youngster, and from what I understand by the general definition he's like a middle-class kid who studies, starting to play jazz and it looks like he is really interested in jazz. But he's also good with classical music, man, he played one of Chopin's etudes very well. Now....

BM: (interrupts) and he doesn't listen to pop music, so I don't like him. (laughs)

EM: Well, a lot of times you never know, some of that'll change.

BM: (more laughter) I'm kidding, Dad.

EM: Well they got people like that, man, you know they do. He's right. They do have people like that, cause, like, see... I was fortunate in a strange way. In the later years of my life, my wife and I had a son who became a musician. So as he was growing up I was sort of able to peep off the antenna and see where a lot of these kids were, through him. Cause otherwise than that, I would've been lost out there. I don't know what these kids are doing and there were kids exactly like what Branford would describe. They were going to the high schools that he had gone to. And listened to one jazz record after the next jazz record and they don't listen to no pop music and all that. Whereas he was different. Boy, was he different! At ten years old he was a huge fan of the Monkees, from the TV shows, and sent for records and all that. So, I was able to tune in on that. And like basically, what he said is true.

But what ultimately, I think, can happen is that a label—which is a business, OK—can ultimately affect people. Like throwing a pebble in the water, and the things go out like that. There's ways in which labels can actually do that. Right now, there are some things I think about theoretically, but until such time as everything is online and going, some ideas that I'm thinking about may work, and some may not. You know, they just become another one of my ideas. But the way things... For example, there is a way to sponsor things in schools, you know, so kids can be exposed to that kind. I remember one situation, which I thought was a surprise. Freddie Green played guitar with the Basie Band. The Basie Band came into New Orleans and the Jazz and Heritage Festival does an outreach. They reach out to kids in public school and they'll sponsor workshops and what have you.

So Freddie Green was asked to do a workshop, and I was asked to host this workshop. Now, to me, that's impossibility. I mean, Freddie Green's whole thing is rhythm guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar. So we got this audience full of kids, high school kids, from one school is John F. Kennedy and another one's McDonough 35. You know, public schools. So, I'm thinking to myself, this is going to be a disaster. I don't have a clue as to how to proceed with it. Freddie Green was glib in the sense that he could talk about some things. And that we'd play and he'd do his thing. The "we" I'm talking about at that time: Victor Goines was playing saxophone, Reginald Veal was the bassist.

But to make a long story short... towards the end of it, about five or six kids in the middle of the audience stood up and said "Hey, man! Where can we get tickets to hear this? I ain't never heard of Count Basie. Who is Count Basie?" And it floored me, you know. I was standing there saying, "Wow. Where is this coming from?" You know, the overall audience was nothing like one would think inner-city kids... and this is inner-city kids, however you want to define that. So, what I'm saying is that a label like this can affect things that happen this way... not just in a little cloister kind of situation where the whole objective is just to, "Well, lets see if we can get a jazz hit, whatever that is." You see. So I'm optimistic about it.

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