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AAJ: That's great. What about your own bands, and the evolution of your own music?
ME: After I left David S. Ware, I began playing with my own band. The first band had Matthew Shipp on piano and Rob Brown on alto saxophone. The result of this collaboration was the Black Queen CD on my ALPHAPHONICS record label. On that date, I used Fred Hopkins on bass. Fred was one of the true jazz greats. It's amazing that the jazz industry still hasn't given this man his fifteen minutes. Although Fred is no longer with us, if I were an aspiring bassist, I would study his CDs or whatever I could get my hands on. Fred Hopkins was a monster on the bass. I really wanted to use William Parker, but, David felt that I would be better off with another bassist. This controlling aspect of David was one of the reasons I left the band. I have also used Vattel Cherry on bass in the past. Matthew Shipp and Rob Brown were in fine form for this recording.
Matt knew how to give Black Queen a hip sound while Rob Brown and Fred Hopkins swung on "Lite Free. Correction, the entire band swung on "Lite Free. I like Fred Hopkins' solo on "Bumblebees and Marigold Flowers. He nailed this piece right down to the sound the bumblebee. I'm glad we got it on tape during this recording session. LaVerne Maxwell gave an inspired reading of the eponymous poem I wrote for Black Queen and "Creation, a poem for those into New Age practices. I happened to be in Midtown, walking down Broadway towards the 42nd Street area when I saw the editor of Essence Magazine, Susan L. Taylor, being escorted to a waiting limo. When I saw her, the words "Black Queen flashed into my mind. I wrote the poem shortly after this encounter. This became the title for this album. When it comes to inspiration, it can come from anywhere.
My actual debut was a duo performance with Daniel Carter, multi-horn player. We did a performance at the Chase Manhattan Bar and Grille at 98 Third Avenue, between East 12th and 13th Street. This series was put together by drummer Tom Bruno. It was the New York City Artists Collective. Drummer Cindy Blackman played in this series with multi-horn player Zussaan Kali Fasteau, before Cindy went on to work for rock star, electric guitarist, Lenny Kravitz.
Cindy also performed off and on with George Braith. George played on the streets following somewhat in the mode of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, blowing more than one instrument simultaneously. He calls his horns the Braithophone. These are two different horns, straight alto and soprano melded together. George told me that when Cindy played with him, his band would attract larger crowds. The public hasn't gotten used to the idea of seeing a woman playing drums. Drums are considered a male instrument, not for women. Of course this isn't true; it's just that few women drummers are seen playing in public.
I also was able to get work for my band as a trio using Rob Brown and Vattel Cherry or Hill Greene on bass. I enjoyed working with these guys. Vattel has moved and is no longer in New York City. Hill's still around, so he'll remain in the band. "He's it until he dies or I find someone better, to paraphrase a quote I heard in the movie, Starship Trooper.
I have worked with two other bassists: Tom Abbs of the Jumparts organization and François Grillot. Tom used to set up gigs at the Piny Pony on Ludlow Street for a time during the years 2000-2001. I could be off with the years. He also had gigs at the Brecht Forum in New York City. Tor Snyder gave me a ride home after we did our show that night as it had started snowing. I was short on cash [I normally take a cab to the gigs] so I had to bring a small drumkit to the forum. By the time we left Manhattan and were heading into Queens, the snow was coming down really hard making it difficult to see. I would have been in deep trouble had Tor not given me a lift that night. I had taken the subway to get to the Brecht Forum. This show took place on Friday, January 20, 2001, 11 pm.
Sabir Mateen, Tor Snyder and I did perform at the Piny Pony one time. That was the best night I've ever had playing back-beat rhythms. I was sounding like a funk drummer that night. François played with Paul Flaherty and I when we did a performance at the Lucy Parsons Center in Boston. This took place on Thursday October 16th, around 7:30pm. This was a small bookstore selling politically-oriented books and publications. I noticed a book by filmmaker Michael Moore on the shelves. The gig was originally billed as duo performance between Paul and I, however François really wanted to play with us that night. We let him join us as I had warmed up with tenor saxophonist, Stephen Gaucci while I was waiting for Paul to arrive. Paul did enter the room a few minutes later.
When he came in I was already playing with François. It proved to be a good outing for us. Stephen Gaucci was a member of the band that went on after usNegative Dialectics. Hugo, the promoter of this event had a cameraman in the bookstore and it was videotaped. This was the first time I ever got a copy. Many people love to videotape jazz artists and in all the years I've been in this business, this was the first time I actually got a copy. Fans who claim they love the music so much should do the right thing and give jazz artists copies of those videos and photographs. It's not enough to tell your favorite artist, I love what you do musically. Show your love by giving the artists a copy of your video and/or photos. This can be done as hard copy photos or digital images. This shouldn't be a problem as digital cameras have flooded the market place. These images can be sent via email.
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AAJ: Can you talk about Charles Gayle? I've heard the Knitting Factory album you did with him.