Ted Daniel: Brass Tapestry


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I was also influenced, like everybody else, by Trane and trying to play and putting out a lot of sound on the horn, which you really can't do on the trumpet like you can with the tenor. But that influence was there, and in attempting to do that, I began
Ted DanielTrumpeter Ted Daniel was born in Ossining, New York on June 4, 1943. Encouraged early on by his father and brother, Daniel played trumpet from age nine and throughout high school played in bands with his brother and the guitarist Warren "Sonny" Sharrock, a neighborhood pal. Stints at Berklee and SIU provided some context, but the university of the Lower East Side jazz scene provided the most fruit—where he played with Sharrock, Byard Lancaster, Dave Burrell, Archie Shepp and others.

In the 1970s, he worked regularly with his own groups and those of Shepp, Dewey Redman and Andrew Cyrille, recording for Impulse!, IPS, Black Saint, Soul Note, Sun and his own Ujamaa label. Less visible in the 1980s and 1990s, he has returned to the scene, working with the likes of violinist Billy Bang and his own groups, International Brass and Membrane Corps and, with Michael Marcus, Duology. In advance of a 2007 spotlight gig as part of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) Festival, Daniel took time out of his schedule to speak with AAJ contributor Clifford Allen.

All About Jazz: I wanted to start at the beginning. It seems like you came from a musical family; could you elaborate on that? I understand your father was a musician.

Ted Daniel: Well, with regards to my father, he was an amateur musician, a saxophonist. He actually was friends with Tab Smith, a saxophonist who was in Count Basie's band, and they grew up together in North Carolina. He always loved music, and he passed that on to his children. He bought me a trumpet when I was about eight or nine years old, and I was playing in public schools, so that's how I got started playing the trumpet. My older brother played piano; his name was Richard. Actually, he and Sonny [Sharrock] were closer in age, and they used to have a singing group, doo-wop stuff, you know, and that was the first music that we all were involved in through the '50s, you know. The kids listen to rap now—well that was our version of it.

AAJ: Jazz came slightly later for you, then.

TD: Yeah, I was an early teenager. I heard jazz in the house, you know older music like Count Basie's stuff or Louis Jordan, that type of stuff my father was into and we'd hear it every now and then. I actually heard a Clifford Brown record, Study in Brown (Emarcy, 1956), by accident when I was babysitting for my sister. She had a big record collection and I saw the Clifford Brown album and put it on because the guy had a trumpet on the cover. I was about thirteen at the time and I said "Yeah! This is what I want to do, this is it!" I had never heard bop before. That's how I got started on getting into jazz.

AAJ: So you were mostly playing in marching bands up to that time?

TD: Yes, up until hearing that my understanding of the instrument was reading the little music they taught us in school, marching bands and that type of thing and in high school it was concert band. So, there were no private lessons. We'd go and learn our parts, you learn as you went that way. I could read music and that sort of thing, so after I heard that Clifford Brown record, I started listening more. I'd say when I was about a junior in high school—Sonny had finished and he had begun to study guitar, and that's when we started to put things together.

AAJ: Didn't Sonny have a brother too, Gary?

TD: He had several brothers; Gary was one of them and he was involved in music to some degree.

AAJ: I recall reading something in Valerie Wilmer's book [As Serious As Your Life (Serpent's Tail Press, 1980)] to the effect that you and Sonny were related, but you've since said that's not the case.

TD: We grew up so close—here in Ossining, my mother and his mother were very close, and so what happened was that we spent all our time together. Sonny was the oldest, then there was my brother, then his brother Wayne, and the four of us had grown up from preschool. That's how that got started; we just grew up knowing the families.

AAJ: Were you guys the main followers of jazz or creative music in Ossining? Were there other people?

TD: Not at the time; this was a small town, nobody was playing here or anything. A couple of guys were around who had played years before, but they were no longer active. We were the guys who started it in Ossining. We were thirty miles north of the City, not very far, so if you were on the express train I'd say Yonkers, Tarrytown, then Ossining—it's up on the Hudson.

AAJ: It sounds like in high school you had a pretty strong peer education, but could you discuss what happened after that and how you developed your craft? I got the impression that you studied trumpet in college.

�MichaelTD: What happened was that I had decided that that's what I wanted to do—I wanted to play—but I really didn't have the jazz foundation, because in those days you didn't have jazz in the schools like you do now. Anyway, I went to Berklee [College of Music, in Boston] for a semester; Sonny had started there too, and so I went there for a little while and then stayed in Boston for about a year after that. That's really where the education happened [laughs].

It was unfortunate that the trumpet instructor didn't work for me—at that time in the early '60s, you had a lot of professional cats going to Berklee to study. It was very advanced, but I wasn't. I don't think the trumpet teacher really wanted to teach me, so I didn't get any good instruction from him.

AAJ: It's interesting, because when I spoke with [pianist] Dave Burrell, he had not disparaged Berklee. He gave the impression that there were some good people and that there were some sessions after class or after-hours, associated with the school.

TD: Dave was there when I was there too, and he was a very hard worker and got a lot of work done. I'm just saying that that was my experience with the trumpet teacher, but the other information and the experience itself was good, and I got that.

AAJ: Of course, it hinges on the professors and how good they are or whether you're able to get on with them and so forth.

TD: Yeah, the trumpet teacher was not a good experience for me (private trumpet instruction was a piece that was missing from me) but be that as it may, it didn't discourage me from continuing with it. I went out to Southern Illinois University and studied out there, and I did get some good instruction. There was a Dr. Philip Olson who was very good, and he farmed me out to his best graduate student, Fred Berry, who was at that time (1963-1965) a graduate student in trumpet.

He was helpful and really the first ongoing private study I had. I didn't know it then, but I later found out that the he was part of the scene that produced the AACM; he knows those people.

I stayed out there for a couple of years, and then my buddies Dave, Sonny, and Byard [Lancaster] had all moved to the city. This was about '65, and they said "come on out," and so I left school [laughs] and came to New York City in September of '65. That's where I met a lot of different musicians who were on the scene, Pharoah [Sanders], Giuseppi [Logan], all the cats that were here in the city. Albert [Ayler], Archie [Shepp], Grachan [Moncur III], and I jammed with them, and Dave's loft on Bond Street was a famous place, I even had a chance to sit in with Elvin Jones there! It was happening; Dave and Byard had this loft that was a good place to be, and I learned a lot about music there.

AAJ: Dave had spoken very highly of the scene around that loft, and that Archie would come and rehearse his band there and Byard was teaching Marzette [Watts] to play saxophone at the time. But you didn't—at least at that time—get the opportunity to record, if I'm not mistaken.

TD: What happened to Ted was this—he got drafted! [laughs] That was in the spring of 1966, so I was only in New York for about six or seven months before I got drafted, and I was shipped off to Vietnam. When I got out of the service, I had gotten a scholarship to study music at Central State in Ohio, and actually my brother was out there as well. Ken McIntyre was teaching out there, so that was a good place for me. That was in '68 when I got out of the service, and I stayed out there just about a year because I had to come back to New York.

In that time, though, I formed a band with my brother called Brute Force. Sonny had been working with Herbie Mann for a while, and they came out to play a concert at the college. He heard our band and wanted to record us, and he ended up recording us [for his label, Embryo]. That was all in that year, '68-'69.

AAJ: Wasn't that record actually made in Ohio?

TD: No, it was recorded in New York. The photo on the cover was taken out there, but it was recorded here. I got back to New York in '69 and didn't leave until '89. And so that's why I hadn't recorded before '69, because I wasn't here.

AAJ: That makes perfect sense. It probably also allowed you—well, maybe not in Vietnam, but at least in Ohio—some time to get your chops together.


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