Ted Daniel: Brass Tapestry


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AAJ: So it's in the offing to record again as a duo?

TD: We're working on it and are open to interested parties. The same thing goes for my quartet, the International Brass & Membrane Corps—I'm working on that.

AAJ: I am curious about your response to the Festival of the New Trumpet and things going on around that. Do you have any ideas or opinions about it?

TD: I worked it for three years in a row, and Dave Douglas has been doing a great job, I think it's quite a good idea and it's working and growing. Actually, I went to see him at the festival last night— Dave, Jeremy Pelt, and Eddie Henderson—and they're fine musicians, all of them, and I really enjoyed it. I think they should continue the festival, and they will—this is the fifth year of it, I think, and I did the second, third and fourth years. I think it's a positive thing; it gives people exposure that wouldn't normally get it, and the names I mentioned that I went to see certainly have a reputation, but there are those who aren't well known who get a chance to play and get their music out.

I appreciated it because that's where my band IBMC got its New York exposure. Just to let people know, the International Brass & Membrane Corps will be performing at an AACM concert series on the 12th of October [2007], and I'm really very proud of that gig because they asked me to play in their series. I'm not from Chicago, so I feel very good about being a part of this very prestigious series.

AAJ: And they must have an affinity for you and your work.

TD: Part of the impetus is that I've played with a lot of them—Henry, Jerome Cooper, Fred Hopkins, and Reggie Nicholson, you know. I have a relationship with guys from Chicago, and for Muhal to ask me if I wanted to do it, it's such a great thing and I'm glad to do it. To put my band on such a high level in New York City, it's really an honor.

�Ted AAJ: Have you toured that band?

TD: No, I haven't left the New York area with it. I think if I record something and get it out there, people will be aware and I can start a little noise with it. But I have to get recorded.

Well, you had asked before about the festival and how I think it would have been different back in the day. The scene has changed dramatically in that you have a lot more musicians, and so the chance to play has been diminished. Even though there's a lot of clubs in New York, the influx of musicians is more than the clubs can reasonably accommodate. But the reason why there are so many musicians is that people from all over the world are coming to New York to play their music.

You have Europeans, Asians, Caribbeans, South Americans, Africans and Middle Eastern musicians here now that weren't here in the '60s and '70s. There are a lot more musicians and not many more places to play. The music itself has changed because it's more of a world music now, so the influence is coming from a lot of places. In the '70s it was more homogeneous, and now it's different—more diverse—and I think that's the way it is in all aspects of life.

Musically, one has a larger musical menu to draw from, but that doesn't translate into more lucrative places to perform. With regards to working, it's much more difficult for me to do on a regular basis. The people who I have working with me have been around a while and play very well, but I am very careful about what I ask them to do.

AAJ: In the '70s, too, you had the loft scene which seemed like a very good arrangement for a lot of people.

TD: It was, and you could make a little money. You could organize, and I think it was a little better. People would come out to the lofts and have a good time, there was a good crowd, and there were a lot of recordings in lofts too. It was different, though, a smaller group of people.

AAJ: It was more of a community thing.

TD: Yes. And now, though I don't live in the city, I go there quite a bit, and I don't see or feel the community that we used to have. You can't expect it to be the same.

AAJ: Right, things just happen to change.

TD: So, it's not the same thing and it won't ever be the same thing. It's more difficult for musicians to make a living with the music now; it just seems that way to me.

AAJ: Competition—if you want to look at it in a capitalistic sense, it can be good but it can be extraordinarily frustrating to try to get one's art just out there, you know?

TD: Yes, and at the same time, with all these different influences, the richness of the music has been diluted a bit. It's not as strong.

Ted DanielAAJ: When you have that many different stimuli, where do you pick from?

TD: Right, that's exactly what I'm saying. I go out and listen and there are good ideas, and sometimes there aren't so many good ideas. The scene is struggling to find itself; it can't be the same as it was, and I think it's a little scattered in its direction, with regard to being a solid entity. You listen to the music that came out of the '60s and '70s, cats were playing in a certain way that you could identify with; now they bring to the party the things they want to do, and I don't think it's all jazz or out of that idiom or tradition.

AAJ: Which is freeing in a way, but if you don't know what you're doing or don't have a basis, it can make things very difficult.

TD: You know, I suspect that in the future people will be talking about what a great period in the music this time was, and in some ways they are right because it is a major change in how and who is making the music. But you feel it's a little shaky here and there—this is before it solidifies again.

I think the good thing about being a little older is that you have your feet on the ground with regards to what you want to do; you have certain experiences that you're drawing from and that's one of the things that makes me happy about this band now—the cats there know who I am and what I've been doing. It's simpatico that I have a lot of foundation that I can use. But I'm very happy about being back on the scene and playing what it is I'm playing.

AAJ: The work is coming from three different angles, so there's a lot of interesting stimulation that's coming through.

TD: I've always been like that, and when you mentioned earlier in the conversation about Brute Force being very different from working with Sunny Murray, yes it is, but those are interests that I have and I enjoy going in those diverse ways.

Thanks to Ted Daniel and the staff of All About Jazz New York for making this interview possible.

Selected discography:

Michael Marcus & Ted Daniel, Duology (Boxholder, 2007)
Billy Bang, Vietnam: The Aftermath (Justin Time, 2002)
Julius Hemphill, Rag, Bush and All (RCA Novus, 1988)
Andrew Cyrille & Maono, Metamusicians' Stomp (Black Saint, 1978)
Ted Daniel & Energy, In the Beginning (Altura, 1975/1997)
Ted Daniel, Tapestry (Sun, 1974)
Sam Rivers, Crystals (Impulse!, 1973)
Dewey Redman, The Ear of the Behearer (Impulse!, 1973)
Archie Shepp, Things Have Got to Change (Impulse!, 1972)
Ted Daniel, Sextet (Ujamaa, 1970)
Brute Force, Brute Force (Embryo, 1969)
Sonny Sharrock, Black Woman (Vortex, 1968)

Photo Credit
Top Photo: Courtesy of Cornelia Street Caf
Bottom Photo: Courtesy of Firehouse 12


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