BOHP_2005-05-19_AVega Chapter 14
FB: If you get... I know you made the decision, you know, that your wife laid down the law and you decide not to travel. AV: Yeah, well she said, “You can travel if you want, but sell the house” -- so it would be a major decision. FB: Are there any career moves you wish you made that you didn't get around to? AV: I've had a great life. I mean I ended up playing with all the great bass players, all the great drummers and working opposite icons. FB: And you had a happy home life? AV: Yeah, and I won a few championships with the baseball team, which that article in the Globe said I'd won, but I was in the middle, the city series in there, plus the playoffs. FB: Did some of the people who've come up through your ranks over the years either as singers or players, have some of them gone on to fame and fortune? AV: Yeah Harry Allen's working all around. And of course Rebecca. FB: You said he came up with his parents from Providence when he was 12 or 14? AV: Yeah he used to come up once a month with his parents to do my talent show. His parents would rent a room, buy a dinner and Harry would play and he had a chance to hear [Ted] Casher or Dick Johnson while he was there. That didn't hurt. People like that, the Holidays and Bobby Mover and some of them. Some of the singers did well, they're all over the country. I still get CD's and stuff they send me. FB: From who? Just name a couple. AV: There’s a guy Jan Slow; he's in Jersey. He's more of a blues type thing. My drummer Joe Architelli in Vegas, he's been there. He was on that “All by Al” album, when Alan played vibes, he played drums on a couple of tunes. And a lot of the singers, they're all over the place, I don't even realize it. I did a show for the Dana Farber Cancer thing the other night for Freddy Taylor and they had a couple bands and they said the girl, dance, they had three dancers. Stan Strickland was playing tenor there, I had my trio and then Stan played with us. He said that girl says she's steady with you at the studio. I still have a lot of energy -- I don't know where -- but I hang around and listen. We get through at eight and I hang around and listen to bands. Then at 10:30, I went to Storyville to Scullers and heard The Yellowjackets. We'd do some funky stuff, I wanted to brush up on that. The week before I went with Cassandra McKinley, one of my proteges, to see the Funk Brothers. FB: Oh yeah, I was at one of those shows. AV: That was an energy show. FB: Yeah, Cassandra's pretty good. AV: Yeah, well Cassandra studied with me. Then I used her quite a bit. So I still listen. FB: That's important, keeps you fresh. AV: That always bugged me that some of the guys in town were supposed to be you know pretty good players. If I'm working opposite [Ahmad] Jamal, George Shearing, Jo (inaudible) with Cannonball Adderley. You mean to tell me they shouldn't be at some time or another at that series, shouldn't be every piano player in town there listening to them? And I didn't see a lot of them. Not to just support it, just to learn something. So I still go, you know I'll be 84. FB: That's what keeps you young, keep those ideas popping. AV: Yeah so I listened to, I wanted to hear what the, like I said the Yellowjackets, see what they're up to because we do some funky stuff on the some of the nights we work. FB: And it depends on what the singers call for, too. AV: Yeah that's why I still play, I still watch, I get home from work last night and even though I knew I had to meet you at nine this morning, I watched the American Idol show I had on my tape. My TIVO (which is a new digital recording thing) records two shows at once, so I got all kinds of stuff on there. FB: You might maybe even learn a few tricks from MTV and VH1? AV: I listen to all that stuff because if I want to do open mic and stuff, especially at the Hilton I was doing show tunes, jazz tunes. The next day Ellen O'Brien at Ryles recently, she's around, I used her at Remington’s. She started with me, she was in high school. FB: So you keep updating your book and you have to learn new tunes though, some of them come in with a lead sheet and say lets do this one. It'll be something you haven't heard before or maybe by a band you hadn't run into before. AV: I'd get an idea of the different styles and stuff. I still listen to a lot of the different piano players see what they're up to. Listen to show tunes once in awhile. I mean I don't bother to learn all the... at that time in the years I was at the airport Hilton from '79 to '84. So I was keeping up with the new show tunes. But I did work the Ritz for awhile and I had to play Tea Dance, I had the trio and the violins. And I was playing Vietnamese waltzes and all that stuff. Society style for the dance and we did that quite a bit. FB: Did you ever work the pits? The pit orchestras at the theatre? AV: Yeah a few times I filled in. Like I say I could have been in the pit at the RKO, but I went to the Hi-Hat fortunately. I could have been buried in the pit there. FB: But I mean no matter how much new material comes out, there’s still a lot of room for reinventing the old chestnuts. The Tin Pan Alley stuff from the 30's and 40's, it's timeless. AV: Recently I took a thing like “Angel Eyes” where I used to play it slow, and at the Lucky's I do an instrumental. I can't start off with a slow tune. So I did it, moving harmony and do like a funky beat. You know then get into the swing. FB: After 1956 when Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz introduced the Brazilian music to the country, everybody wants to hear a bossa nova or a little samba beat. I mean that’s, every drummers got to learn those licks and you got to learn all the material. AV: Yeah talking about that... When Freddy had the jazz workshop in Paul's Mall, that was in ‘65 to ‘70, I did five years on Route 9 in Framingham at the Marador. I used a trio and singer. And that was the hard area, but I had two months off, January and February, I finally could take a vacation because I had a contract for the rest of the year. So I'd go on a cruise or something like that. Then I'd do a week or two at the Jazz Workshop, Paul's Mall usually. I worked with Flip Wilson, the comedian, and Horace Silver was in the other room. I knew Horace when Stan Getz came into The Hi-Hat and said, “Who's with you this time?” I said well I picked up a rhythm section at Hartford. So you know, everything goes around. I had a chance to do Paul's Mall a few times. At that time I think what happened was... see the old days, the 50's, when you went to the Hi-Hat if a guy said to me who's there this weekend? I said Gene Ammons, I'd say I don't know him. I said, Well, come hear me and you'll like this guy.” When they went, no matter who was there, you could tap your foot to it. The rhythm was there, you got melody, rhythm and harmony. The harmony was listenable, wasn't avant garde or real bizarre. Good harmony, good rhythm. You didn't know the melody it was usually something you could relate to. FB: And if they hadn't heard “Jug” [Ammons] before, they'd learn about Jug. AV: Yeah. Now you go to, you go into the 70's and you go to hear some of the groups at the workshop. You know Andrew Hill's there, he's got a piece of music like that and he's looking at it and he does one tune for twenty minutes and sometimes the people have no idea what the melody is, no idea the harmony, a little too much for them. And some of the groups coming in weren't playing any rhythm to speak of, nothing you could tap your foot to. The guy coming in who was not educated in music, you know he doesn't know what to relate to. So that sort of killed it. FB: Yeah the avant garde stuff was for a very very small percentage... AV: Yeah they were all doing the modal thing which is OK, but I want to hear a guy play the changes of “Shadow of Your Smile” sometime instead of doing four tunes in a row where they're playing on two chords. FB: Yeah, that got tiresome. AV: You know I want to hear Bill Evans that'd be great playing that, or harmonic stuff. But the next five groups come in, they're all playing two changes all night. No matter what the tune is they're playing. FB: Yeah that's too much. AV: Yeah I mean on my CD I got “Wave” I go into a modal thing, but that's the only tune I do it on. If I'm playing “Mr. Lucky” or some other tune, I'm playing the changes. It's a challenge and then people could relate to it because there's rhythm there. But that period there made it tough.