Chapter 8 FB: What kind of progressions have you seen in the evolution of jazz... AMG: Progression? FB: Yeah in other words say when you came back from being with Woody and you said you went to hear Coltrane, you were kinda like reassessing things or seeing how music is developing. Since that time what other progressions have you seen in the evolution of music that either please you or disturb you? We were both disturbed about hip-hop. But what other phases of the jazz world that you've seen that you dig or don't dig? AMG: Well I'll tell ya. What irritates me with young people when they say... they start talkin’ about Coltrane, and they start talkin’ Sam Rivers and they start talking about guy. I know both of those guys well. And those guys can play any style and they practice and they have 40 years of experience. And they start playin’ something a little different than from other people and they figure that they did it in 40 years that they can do it in 2 years. It doesn't work that way. It's a process. Now whether... I like some... I know some of them would say I'm crazy, but some of the things I heard Coltrane do that night I didn't like it. But I look... I know what he stands for and that's good. I didn't go there as a saxophone player. I went there as a person and my feelings inside sayin’ I didn't like it. Because when I left I was hurtin inside. Two drums and things. But I know that Coltrane... All the stuff he plays. How much he practices. They say if you passed Trane's house and he wasn't practicin then he wasn't at home. I know Trane personally. When we travelled with Woody's band he practiced all the time during the tour, I never see him outside on the sidewalk in Paris drinkin wine or anything. I had my wife and I was havin’ a ball. He was practicin’ and I know this. And then the young... the interpretations that young people get. AMG: That disturb me because saxophone is an easy instrument to play badly. And there's a lot of bad players out there and they think they're playin’. And that bothers me as a teacher and it bothers my ears. I know. When you start sayin’ Free Bag stuff like that to me, that's a cop out. Learn to play and do all the stuff and everything. Then if you want to free yourself...They spend 2 years playin’ free bag. Free from what? They can't play. And that upsets me. It is ... to this day it's like I said I heard Trane and I know what Trane can do. The night that I heard Trane he had two drummers, he had Phil Sommers there...I was talkin’ about inside of me. I wasn't talkin’ about saxophone. Because I would never even compare myself to what Trane can do with saxophone. It wasn't that. I said my feelin’. I probably would want to slap my wife if I had seen her. That's the feelin’ I had and that's not the feelin’ that I want. That's not the feelin’ that I want when I .... FB: No. I hear that kinda rage and disquiet and discomfort, unhappiness with a lot of the new music I hear nowadays. It makes me sick. I don't want to listen to it, It's too upsetting. AMG: Too upsetting. If people want to hear that that’s great. If people want to be upset great. It has nothing to do with old school or new school. When I go to hear Joe, or Dexter Gordon any of the saxophone players. Joe Hendinson, Joe Lovano, anybody Bill Pierce. I go there not as a saxophone player. When I go there and pay the thing, I don't go there to be a jazz critic. You go you're a writer you go for two reasons for the feelin’ and and the other things too which is good. When I go there it's not as a saxophone player. And when I leave that place if inside of me I feel good, It doesn't have to be one of those guys it could be a guy I'd never heard. Then I like it. But when I leave there and I 'm upset and nervous and all that... That's not what jazz is all about as far as I'm concerned. And like I said saxophone is an easy instrument to play badly, AMG: And close is also the piano. Those guys who are great as a kid. Great background good teachers and learn good classical music and everything. Then they find out I can't make it in classical well I'll play jazz. Boom. Next week they're a jazz player. That's where classical got the advantage, you can't do that. You can't play Bud Powell and then say, “I’m gonna play me some classical music.” You know and start playin’ classical. And then you get the opposite. Classical players all over the piano and then they say they can't make it and they say, “Well, shit I'll play some jazz” then and then they're a jazz player. But if they don't want that they say avant-garde and that’s . And that's happened in jazz. They can dislike me and everything. I heard some tenor player that played. It just disturbs me. My radio? cuts off. It disturbs me. I can tell in their playin’ in the first place, he doesn't have a good sound and that he's using tricks 'cause there's certain keys that you can do tricks in Bb you can do overtones. And that's what key they're playin’ in. If you ask him to play a ballad, he'd say “oh I'm traditional.” they've got names for music. "traditional or old fashioned." Even if it's an outside ballad. I don’t care. One of his ballads he couldn't even hold the whole notes. And I know that from experience. And these guys get big write ups now about how great they are. FB: So as a teacher, you would teach the craft, but how do you teach, how can you instill in students a sense of a feel good emotion? Can you give them that? AMG: Well no. What I deal with. Direction I don't... I teach fundamentals. I lose a lot of students that way. If a student doesn't have a good sound and I tell him to practice long tones he looks at me like I'm crazy. But long tones are boring. You play clarinet... FB: Sixteen whole notes, work on your tone, Man that's boring. AMG: That's boring. Especially if he comes to Berklee and he's playin’ long tones and the kid next to him is playin’ 15 years and burnin’ oh he just can't stand that. I mean long tones, fundamentals, the mechanics of the saxophone, that's my main thing is the fundamentals. My other thing is you must listen. I just tell them that. They must listen to music if they want to be in music. You'd be surprised how many kids want to play music and don't listen to music. (FB: no.) You have to listen, then by listenin’ I let them make their choice of the direction they want to go. FB: So do you say listen to: Johnny Griffen, Dexter Gordon...you give em a list of people? AMG: I name all the good listen to... Sam Rivers, John Coldrin, Joe Lovano, if you want to go back and hear some ballad playin’ I'll recommend Hawkins. Different…(FB: Willie Smith.) Yeah. I had Tony Hot, He could play everything good sound and he'd never heard of Earl Boston. And Earl Boston is one of the artisimo he's one of the greatest. I said to Tony Hot, "You ever heard Earl Boston, he said, “Nah I never heard of him.” I said go listen to Earl Boston, and he flipped. He couldn't believe it. So then he got that. But he don't play like Earl Boston.. FB: That's right. No, but he's got a nice sweet sound when he wants it. AMG: That's what I try to do. FB: Tony's become a damn good teacher himself. He was teachin’ in Newton after he was here. AMG: Well he's had... he took Jimmy... job at queens...He's the professor at Queens now. I give credit to myself any time you hear any of my students the first thing you're gonna say is, " Man he's got a good sound." But that has it’s…Now it's a disadvantage in a way. When Tony Hot and all those guys came to school they came here to play the instrument. Kids now, come they're all in a category. If you want to play traditional you go see Andy. If you want to play out if you want to play this way you go see this guy, if you want to play another way you go see this guy. FB: Oh so they put you in a box. AMG: They got you boxed. They want to play some old stuff you go to Andy. If you want to play some outside you do this. And all the guys that they talkin’ about the faculty here... has all the fundamentals, good sound, know tunes, been playin’ a hundred years. Nobody in this faculty hasn't been playin...I been playin 50 years. All the cats have been playin’ 30-40 years. FB: The kids think they got you figured out before they even go. AMG: Oh yeah you go to Andy you get the old stuff. It's amazing. But the only thing about it is I guess they call that progress. Another thing I tell the students too which is I guess supposed to be progress is this... I've written a couple of books myself. AMG: I said to a student, I said, “who's your favorite player.” They say “Dexter Gordon. “I say that's great. Or anybody. Next lesson he comes in he has a Dexter Gordon book, boom. With all the solos. I said, “Did you listen to Dexter play?” “No.” He hadn't even heard him play, but he's got all the solos there he's bought. When I was comin’ up we had to pick out all that stuff the bird did off the record. We had to sing it. We could sing it. The girls hung out with us could sing. They'd listen and we picked this stuff off the record. We happened to write it down or get somebody who had to solo he understood it. Now I got the students who like Dexter they want to play his music they've never even heard him play. It don't work that way. FB: His sound he gets is not what you see on the page. AMG: No you can't write it on the page. That's what they're doin’. As soon as they…There's nothin’ wrong with doin’ research. I buy some of the books sometimes too to see what the guys can do, but I've been playin’ 50 years. When they learn how to play and listen to these people. They should transcribe themselves. If not, but one chorus of a player that they like. When I got a student and I say, “Who's your favorite player?” And he starts wonderin’. Right away that gives me somethin’ that he doesn't really know what... Everybody's got to have a favorite player. “Oh I like ‘em all,” they say, well I do too, but Don Boss is my man, I couldn't play like Don. Because Don Boss had too much technique so I listen to “Prayer.” 'Cause prayers kinda fit what I was doin’ technically. But I didn't say I liked everybody. FB: Anybody you named in the last few minutes. You listen to the first two bars and you know who that is because of the sound. The sound is absolutely like a thumbprint man. You can’t copy it. AMG: And the one guy…Another thing that a lot of the students do...They would tell another student who played better than they. I don't want to copy Coltrane, this kid is copyin Coltrane you know. He can't play this one can't play, I want my own thing. Keep your own thing it's just nothin’. Coltrane…That kid who's copyin’ Coltrane, what he will develop is a concept in sound and everything. And the music change and he‘s gonna change. When I was comin’ up every alto player in the country played like Bird man, but I could tell Sonny Stiff, I could tell ??? and I could tell Charlie Mariano. I could tell all who is who. None of ‘em sounded like Bird. FB: Nope. He was their model, but they didn't sound like him. AMG: That’s right. They didn’t sound like him. Campbell’s sound. I like Campbell’s sound. FB: It's beautiful. It's like a Cadillac. AMG: That's right. You got to have a mid?? You can go to a basketball court and see kids playin’ basketball. And you can tell who the kids like as a player by sight. That Doesn't mean you're not gonna play necessarily you could grow 6 feet taller. I mean 2 or 3 inches taller and you'll be able to do something different than he can do. Same thing with the playin’ too because if you say at 18 or 19 I'm gonna do my thing. You don't have anything. FB: Right. You got to have something to build on.