Charlie Mariano

BOHP_2007-06-18 - Charlie Mariano - 1
FB: Berklee Oral History Project, Volume 23. Here we are at Charlie Mariano's beach house in Salisbury, our first remote shoot, and we're really fortunate to be here in the august presence of Mr. Mariano, one of the all-time great alto players and all-around world musicians to come out of the little Beantown. CM: Hahaha... yeah! FB: Charlie, thanks for inviting us up. We're really thrilled. CM: Wow, thank you very much. FB: You're boston roots go way back to the forties, and, I mean musically... CM: Well, yeah, that's right. I started playing in 1941 professionally. That's when I started playing saxophone, and my first big influence and the reason why I chose saxophone was because I heard Lester Young, and I said, 'Ooh, that's what I wanna do.' And so, yeah, I've been with it ever since. FB: The first gig that I know about or was recorded was that you were playing at Izzy Orts? CM: Izzy Orts! That's right. Yeah, I started in Izzy Orts I think, maybe, like 1942, and I was there part of 1943. And I started first, like, upstairs, with a band that was led by a Hungarian piano player, a refugee... FB: Peter Albrecht? CM: Yeah, his name was Peter Albrecht. He came from Hungary, and uh, he had a band that, uh, Izzy Orts had a downstairs and an upstairs, with a band on both floors. Upstairs was like, uh, well actually, they did the same thing. The band upstairs, like, played for dancing and two shows a night, I think, and downstairs, also. Downstairs was a black band, and upstairs was like, a white band. FB: Did they have a white audience dancing and a black audience dancing? CM: Yeah, I mean, in those days it didn't matter too much. There were blacks, like, coming in, and, you know. And, so I started upstairs, like, with Peter Albrecht, and he took me under his wing and taught me a lot about like, chord changes and theory, and so on. You know, it was great. It was great. So he would like write out for me every night maybe like three or four standards with chord changes, and so on like that. And, in those days, this was like unusual because most horn players didn't know anything about chord changes. We played mostly by ear, and we had to learn like, for instance I was playing alto, so I had to learn the melody of course, and the second voice down. FB: Okay, yeah. CM: Because usually it was a trumpet playing the melody, and I had to learn the second voice down. FB: So figure out counterlines, and improvise with the lead horn. CM: Yeah, I mean. You know, there was not a heck of a lot of improvisation, but a little. A little, but it was mostly just playing like the popular music of the day, and so you had to play the melody and you know, and the particular harmony line. FB: So there was swing tunes, some tin pan alley, and the shows, and Hollywood musicals... CM: Yeah. FB: And not so much the black big band charts like Duke and Count Basie, and that stuff... CM: Oh, well we did some of those stuff, too. FB: You did. Okay. CM: Yeah, sure. Yeah. And uh, anyhow, so I was upstairs, and then eventually downstairs, the alto player that was in the group, he got drafted. So, they invited me to come down. I was playing in a black band for, until I got drafted myself. FB: That was a different kind of a book, and a different learning experience for you. CM: Yeah, yeah. But it was a great experience because both upstairs and downstairs they had like, in the house they had like, about maybe fifteen singers or so. Women singers, and they would like, you know, like... FB: Rotate. CM: Be upstairs and do fifteen minutes and then come downstairs, you know, fifteen minutes (chuckles), and it went like that the whole night. Plus, we played for dancing and shows, and two shows. FB: That's a fine old tradition that a guy like Al Vega, who's your age, is still carrying on in Boston. The singer showcases, it's sorta like, Boston Idol, you know what I mean? CM: Yeah, yeah. FB: Everybody wants to be a star, everybody wants to do a couple of tunes, and they bring their family, and they drink a lot of booze, so it's great for the club! CM: Yeah, yeah. Al Vega, I played with Al. FB: I'll bet you did. CM: Yeah, ???, I don't remember what the band was, but yeah, we played together. FB: Al's still on the scene. CM: Yeah. FB: He's still, he was my first interview in this series. CM: Yeah. FB: We oughta catch him, you know. CM: Yeah, great. Say hello for me. FB: I will certainly do that, and I will do that. He's still coaching baseball... CM: That's good! Good! FB: (laughs) Anyway, um, so that was '41, then you got drafted... CM: That was... no, I started to play in '41. So, '42 and part of '43 I was at Izzy Orts. And incidentally, like, around that time is when I met Ruby Braff, okay. He was a couple years younger than me, so I was like maybe eighteen. He was sixteen, already playing good. FB: Yeah... CM: Most of the young Jewish guys at that time were playing Dixieland, so he stayed with that. And there were a few other like really good players around... FB: Sammy Margolis. CM: Yeah, that's it! Sammy. Sam Margolis. Exactly, yeah. FB: I got records that they made in the sixties for Storyville, for George Wein's label. CM: Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. Yeah, so anyhow, then I went into the army for four years. When I came out, this was like I guess early 1946? And, uh, I went to Albuquerque 'cause one of the guys I was stationed in the army with who was in a band, was living in Albuquerque, so I went there for half a year. And then I moved back to Boston and eventually hooked up to Schillinger House, which was like the original Berklee. FB: Sure. Larry Berk was there. CM: Larry Berk... FB: And who else was on the faculty? CM: And a lot of the guys were there, like Joe Viola was already there, Bob Scher, uh, I don't remember. But anyhow, Schillinger House, sure. I started to go there because I got money from the government... FB: The GI Bill thing, huh? CM: The GI Bill, for schooling, and they paid a little bit for my living expenses 'cause I already had a kid, and uh, yeah, it was great! It was great. FB: Just a couple of quick backup questions... CM: Yeah. FB: Izzy Orts... Was that a guy's name? CM: Yeah. FB: Was he the owner? CM: Izzy Ort, yeah. FB: What was he like? CM: Um, probably a gangster (laughs). FB: But a Jewish gangster. CM: He was a little short guy, very tough. But he was fine to us, you know...yeah. FB: Okay, and were there any good musical experiences while you were in the army? Were you playing in the army bands? CM: Well, I mean, it was the usual thing. I hadn't been playing that long so I was still learning a lot. I wasn't playing any lead at all 'cause I had like, uh, it wasn't until I started to go to Schillinger House that when I started to Joe Viola, he worked on my sound, you know. Otherwise, before that, I could improvise maybe okay for that time, but my sound wasn't fantastic, and Joe really worked on that and opened up my sound. FB: Somebody told me that when Joe sat down with a horn player he met you halfway. He didn't make you fit into any kind of a box. CM: That's right. FB: But would hear what you had to go with and then enhanced it. CM: That's it. Absolutely. When I started at the Schillinger House, I was already into bebop very strongly. That's what I wanted to do. And I wanted to sound like Charlie Parker and so on. You know, so I was copying a lot of his solos down, and Joe always encouraged that. He didn't say 'Oh, you have to do this, you have to do that,' no, he just helped me with my sound... FB: So he neither encouraged you nor discouraged you for copying Charlie Parker. He said 'go ahead and do it'? CM: Yeah, he didn't like, you know, I was never a terribly good reader. Of course he tried to get me to read better, and I was reading okay, but I've never been a fantastic reader. What I was always good at was like, uh, being able to look at a piece of music and interpret it better than, you know, just actually reading it. FB: Mmhmm. Right, you'd give a little bit more of a color or gloss. You'd get the essence of it, but you wouldn't be following it note for note. CM: Yeah. I mean, you know, to this day I'm not a fantastic reader. It's okay, I can read. FB: But Joe enhanced... he brought out the best in you, you think? CM: He brought out, yeah, absolutely, especially he helped me with my sound. And that was, I think, terribly important. FB: Is that a matter of breath control or embouchure adjustments? CM: Well, yeah, like one of the main things that he tried to stress was the position of the tongue in the mouth, because we're all different and so we all have a different configuration there. He'd have me drop my tongue in the mouth to get a bigger sound. And, yeah, that's how it started. FB: You had a big sound early on. I could hear that in those '51 recordings. Plenty of oomph. CM: That was Joe. Thanks, Joe. And Joe was a sweetheart. Jesus, what a nice man. Besides being a terrific musician. FB: That's what everyone said about him. Even Jane Ira Bloom in the seventies. She loved him, like a grandfather. CM: Joe like, you know, he helped lots and lots of people.
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FB: Umm.. the rock evoloution was already underway there, and you'd involved yourself with some fusion bands.-Ah, during the course of the years there, -bands like Embryo and Ambush. - Bands like that.- You wanna talk a little bit about that?-phase?-In your career? CM: Yeah, um, Yeah okay, Yeah I mean you know, I've always, have not really given too much thought about what labels are put on music, if I ... if I think that it's ah , ah ..rewarding for me, -I wanna try it. you know so, I don't care what it is, - I mean- in the mean time I'll play with like whoever you know. -like these days there's an Argentine guitar player that I do alot of gigs with in duo.- His name is Kike Sinesy(sp) he's a nuevo tango guitarist, he plays great, we get along fine, -so you know I don't have any problem with, with like ah, you know - well this is differnt music, I mean - you know who cares- its all music.- you know.- FB: Right. CM: and mostly, and of course now these days the communication and travel is so much easier. Ah, - there's a lot more of that going on, with people from differnt cultures getting together and playing and making music together, and its fun. FB: Actually there's been a lot of that, there's been all manner of fusions going on in the last couple of decades. CM: Yeah, and its ...its ..you know, a lot of it is not.. you know maybe it's not fantastic, but then- a lot of it is really nice, and if you are involved in that it can be very enjoyable, -it is for me.- I don't care what it is , I've been... the last , I'd say 10 years or so, I've played a lot with ah, ....more than 10 years, I've played with... Rabia AbuKalhil(sp) who is a Lebonese Ut player. That was alot of fun you know. FB:Oh Yeah CM: You know also I've played with an Ut player and his brother, a percussion player from Algeria, orginally from Morocco,so- North African,- It's great!- I don't feel strange in any of these settings, because having the experience with the ah.. Indian Music, I'm closer to this idea of not working with Harmonies, - Its melodies. - FB: Uh, yeah.. Right a lot more liniarity going on there. CM:Coming from my background, which is ah.. I'm an Italian American, the lyres is naturally in my band. FB: The Bell Canto Alto ....Right.- CM: What... FB: The Bell Canto Alto ....Right.- CM: Oh okay. FB: No but you make a point there, and that again, with the Ut music and Argentine Tango Guitar, both of those they're minor melodies are going to sound a lot like the Blues, once in a while. - You know? CM: OKay .. okay.. Yeah FB: I heard that when I heard .. ah ... Rahim.. CM: Rabia AbuKalhil FB: and there's another guy from North Africa to, whose name escapes me at the moment. He records on ECM. CM: Yeah,, well ... Sure.. Well .. There's a bunch of really good playersplayers. FB: There's a couple of um..-Yeah, - I mean Piazola. Sure- That stuff was really gutsy. CM: Sure-Yeah FB: And they've- Like TayTay would say.You know- I consider myself a black musician, -because he was Catalan, because he was a minority in Spain, but also because he dug the blues, and the Catalonian folk music had a real blues underpinning to it. - And you know that cause you worked with Tay Tay. CM: TayTay huh?- What a sweetheart.- FB: Wooh. Fabulous. - But I ... CM: He was a very nice man. FB: But he, I mean he considered himself black. You know he identified with Ben Webster. CM: You know -he probably never looked in the mirror because he was blind, so- he thought he was black. FB: {laughter} - So anyway, you didn't mind teaming up with..uh electric bass, a little bit of Rock Rhythms.. CM: Oh ..I ..I don't care, Yeah I mean I'm not a purist, I never havebeen. I mean hey, I know a lot of Jazz players they say oh wow, I don't like that ol electric stuff. Hey-come on ..- I think some of the electronic instruments have some wonderful sounds. Hey-It's all music, so who cares what it is.- FB: Yes, you can say that when your own sound and your own personality is sculpted and well defined and readily identifiable, and your sound to me, when you just started Joe Violas classrooms,the sound was there and you're identifiable Clark Terry... you know. CM: Well thank you. FB: It's got alot to do with alot of things. But, um. Have you kind of monitored your own,-Growth. CM: no... FB: Do you ever listen in the mirror, do You listen to your recordings and say, -that sounds like me.- Or I'm having an off day or anything like that. CM: NO I don't really think about it too much, but I think this is a natural evoloution or progression... if you are a musician, - these things just come.- they-naturaly.. They come naturally because you don't have to be thinking about them like ...for instance .. a sound.. I think most horn players get an individual sound through the experiences that the've gone through in life.. so my sound.. is a result of .. what I have experienced. - FB: hmm .. hmm.. yeah.. CM: like say if I had to analyze my sound .. I'd say there was a little pain in there because I went through some painful expeiences you know FB: Okay, we're int othe 70's - and ah.. You wanna tell us little about your experiences with Eberhat Beiber..and.. CM: I was Eberhart Beiber for about 7 years. Ah... wonderful, I love that man.- It was so much fun, ah.. but I didn't play any alto cause, he didn't like alto. - So I only played soprano.-but It was okay with me.. I don't care really, its the saxophone and thats what I play.-- So. FB: YOu still sound like yourself on that as you do on Alto. CM: I think so.. Yeah.. its great.. Yeah.. FB: Where did that.. where did that band take you? CM: Well.. ah.. ah.. Well you know that Eberhart is originally from Germany.. - So we played mostly Germany, but we also went to like England, New Zealand, and Australia, ah.. America, a couple of times. FB: You were already well established in Germany, by then CM: Yeah thats right. FB: Tell us how you met Dorothy. CM: I met Dorothy like in 1986, after spending two years in America, I tried to move back. I tried to move back several times, and it never worked cause I couldn't get any work here. - So I was back like.. for two years from 1982 - to .80...no .. 84-86, and of course I was mostly in Europe, cause you know .. that's where the work was.. I met Dorothy like in Stutghart(sp)- My wife is orginally from Stutgart, and she was friends with the guy (werner?) Shelptmeil, - Who was running the Payatha house in Stutgart, one of the main places to play in Stutgart,.. and ah .. that's how we met.. She was walking around and I saw her, and of course wiggled my eyebrows a bit, .. and then I' mean I met her before 1986, but thats when we finally got together was in 1986. FB: Big music buff? CM: (laughter)- We have a lot in common, she's not a musician, she's a painter, and also was doing set designs and costume designs, for the ballet company in Stutart. FB: Yeah, well .. thats.. there's definitely a lot in common, but not too much in common. I mean you're not both playing horns and things like that. CM: Yeah.. Yeah.. FB: That's great.
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FB: What about some of the bands you worked with in the 80s like Stone Alliance? What was that like? CM: I never worked in Stone Alliance, but I used the Don Alias who was an old friend of mine from the Boston days and Gene Perla who I also knew from Boston.(FB: Great guys.) Yeah great guys. And I had a band in Europe mostly in Germany, but other players with Don Alias and Gene Perla and Stu Goldberg. FB: Did he have any Boston roots? CM: No. FB: Were both those guys on the faculty at Berklee at one point? CM: No neither of them were on the faculty. Gene Perla was a student there and Don alias was I don't know if he was going to school or not but he was in Boston for some years. FB: Maybe he was at the conservatory. CM: Yeah could be could be. I'm not really sure. We had a lot of really good guys at that time. And the drummer was like he was Jan Christensen. Marvelous. He was the first drummer also when I worked with ??? group. Great great player. FB: Do you have any fond recollections of that band? CM: Yeah sure. It was all good. It's great to play with great people. These are all great people. They make me sound good. FB: That's right. How about the albums, the standard albums you made for Joride Poujoule with Tete? CM: Tete. He's from Barcelona. He had a record company there for fresh style. FB: Yeah fresh style. I wrote some liner notes for some Boston band a couple years ago. CM: He had me record with Tete from when I first came to Europe in 1964 I met him in Copenhagen with Neil ??? FB: ??? Matra? CM: I mean Neil ??? was already playing fantastic and Tete.I did these recordings with Tete. And the last time I went I went iwth Sal Nistico, he was messed up. We didn't finish the album. FB: Yeah too bad. CM: Yeah he was a sweetheart and what a great player. FB: What about your own, your legacy among the guys you had as students. CM: Jerry Bigonzi. But he was alerady playing great. When he came to me I said, why don't you teach me? He knew more than me already. Great player wonderful guy. He was like one of the yougn musicians who came up in Boston like Harvie Swartz was also.. they were all going to Berklee the same time as RichieByra for instance. I still play with Richie once in a while. FB: Does he play in Germany? CM: Well sometimes, He has a professorship in Leipzig. FB: Does he really? CM: Yeah. So he does that like. And he also lives in New York some of the time. I see him every once in a while. FB: And Harvie Swartz has been in the Manhattan School of Music I think for sometime. (CM: Yeah could be.) He's always doing something new and different. He's a Boston boy. CM: Yeah he's a Boston boy absolutely. FB: He's got a samba band or a salsa band now. He's really gone and study he's worked so much with Latin bands. So he 's got a real feel for the salsa rhythms. CM: Good he's a good musician. FB: Yeah and a nice guy. CM: Yeah, and a nice guy.
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FB: So you worked with these, these were your students at one point? CM: These were my students. When I was teaching. FB: So these are your kids you had in ensemble or ear training or something. CM: YEs right FB: The last time you were at Berklee was in 70 71. CM: Well I Came to Europe in 1971 and I taught one semester in 1975. I was trying to move back to America. I realized that the first day I started teaching at Berklee again why I had left. FB: too many hours Taking up the day. CM: I tried to quit teh same day. Bob Share was still there. And he said Geez I'm sorry CharlieI would let you go, but I can't. I stuck it out for the semester. FB: How did you get a long with Bob Share? CM: Wonderful. Bob Share was a sweetheart. We got along great. FB: The musicians always loved him because he CM: He was an understanding guy. He was a sweetheart. FB: And he was very diplomatic and a little bit warmer than Lee. CM: Oh definitely. Lee still wasn't that involved in those days. FB: Oh it was Larry still. CM: Larry was still there. Larry and Alma were, they were still there running the whole thing. Lee was there a little bit. FB: Bob was sort of the seargent at arms CM: He took care of everything. FB: He was very capable as far as I remember. CM: Geez HE died way too young. FB: Yeah way too young. I still see his widow out at concerts once a month Dorothy. She still gets around and about a bit. She looks great for her age. Very dignified. Good natured. CM: Yeah well she was a beautiful woman. FB: What else would you like to say to the Berklee audience? CM: Let me just say some of hte people that I went to school with there and later like were my faculty members, I mean some wonderful guys. Herb Pomeroy he did a fantastic job there, Ray Santisi great. Ray was my best friend for many many years. But besides that he's a great musician. These guys stuck it out there and they had the patience that I didn't. I mean yo uknow I think it's great because the world has profited by their examples. FB: When you grow up with guys that you played with in 1952 and you go back to the states and somebody sets up a gig for you at a place like Rigatta bar what goes through your mind? How is it to play with people you played with as kids? What's the feeling like? CM: PRobably did it out of curiosity's sake for more than anything. And it was great. These are really wonderful players and great people. So it was fun for me. The reason why I didn't do it this year was because I 'm not in the best of health, so I figured it was too much to lug my horn around and practice before I do this gig and to come over for one gig it didn't make any sense. So I decided to cancel it. FB: We really appreciate you taking the time to talking to the Berklee community at large. We wish you the best with your health and future endeavors.I'm gonna put up an all points bulletin for some of your European releases in recent years. Thank you so much. CM: Thank you Fred thank you.
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FB: Who else do you remember from your student days at Berklee? CM: From my student days, well, already when it was still the Schillinger House, Herb was there, Ray Santisi was there, Quincy Jones was there... FB: Any personalities or particular gigs or anecdotes from any of those people? CM: Well, I mean, you know, it's hard to remember all of that because there were two or three music schools going on at that time. Berklee was one of them (Schillinger House), and also the Khan school of music, where a lot of the black musicians were going. So, Sam Rivers, I think... FB: Sure. CM: He was around at that time, and it was a good time. There were a lot of good young musicians around from all over, and because of the GI bill, a lot of the young musicians were going to school. Otherwise, I wouldn't. FB: So you were in and out of the classroom and you had plenty of gigs... CM: There were not plenty of gigs, no. There were plenty of gigs, say, when I was working at Izzy Ort's because a lot of the musicians were getting drafted so for a young musician like me just starting out I had all the work I could handle. But then after the war, it got very, very tight. FB: I see. CM: And that was also getting near the end of the big band era. FB: So there were the Sunday jams, and there were Tuesday night beboppers' nights, are those the nights you liked to show up? CM: Well, I dunno I mean I played there, but maybe once or twice for a week at a time usually. FB: When you played, who was in the band? CM: Eddie Schwartz and Jimmy Woody. FB: Jimmy Woody, wow, yeah. CM: Actually Jimmy Woody was around at that time, too. He didn't come originally from Boston. A lot of the guys were there at one time or another. Gigi Gryce was around, Jackie Baird came from Worcester, Sam Rivers I don't know where he came from. I think he came from down South some place, originally. But he and his brother were in Boston at that time. FB: I didn't know about his brother. CM: Yeah, he had a brother who played. Bass player, I think. FB: Mm, okay. When did you hook up with Nat Pierce? CM: That was early on. I think probably '48 and of course what that was mostly was a rehearsal band. But it was great. It was great for young musicians to be with other musicians mostly the same age or so. And Nat was already writing good, and he taught me to write big band, yeah. Nat taught me to write. Yeah, and I was there with some good people. Dave Chapin was the... FB: Dave, sure. CM: Yeah. FB: God bless, yeah, he's still around. So Nat had this rehearsing band that you'd get to play once a week somewhere? CM: No, just every once in a while, we'd have a gig, and then also what happened was there was some recording involved. FB: Right. I know that band did get recorded on the Phoenix label at one point. CM: So that kept the band going and every once a in a while we had a band. It started out as not Nat Pierce's band but Ray Bordin. It was his band. And then, I don't know what happened to Ray. So Nat took it over. He was mostly doing all the charts. FB: Yup, I mean, before too long, he was selling 'em to Woody Herman, right?
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FB: In that same vein, let's see, what about the quintet with Herb, with Twardzik, recorded for Prestige? CM: Right. FB: Was that a working band in Boston at the time? CM: No, not really. It was just some of my favorite musicians, so Ira Gitler, he approached me or called me on the phone, I don't remember now, and said 'I'd like to record you' blah blah blah, so I get these guys together, the best people I could find. FB: Did you do it in New York? CM: No, we did it in Boston. FB: Did Bob Weinstock show up? The guy who owned the label? The Prestige label? CM: I don't think so. FB: Ira just sold 'em the tapes. CM: Yeah. That was Ira Gitler. And we did it like, at the studio where also Nat Pierce and so on, like, I don't remember, there were a couple brothers... off of Boylston Street? No, this was downtown in the combat zone. FB: Oh, alright. Who else... Shorty Sharrock and Larry Clinton? CM: Oh, okay, well these were a couple big bands that I had some gigs with. FB: In Boston? CM: No, even on the road. FB: Okay, you were out with those guys. CM: Most if them, I went out... a few gigs. Where'd you get all this information? These are things I forgot all about! (laughs) FB: Tell us about, we're moving along chronologically here, there was a little scene in Lynn in the early fifties. You played the Melody Lounge... CM: The Melody Lounge...eh... Nate Finkelstein... he had this place, The Melody Lounge, it was like seven nights a week and Sunday afternoons, and I forgot all the people that were there, but for quite a long time Jackie Baird was there... FB: Terrific. CM: Wonderful. And he was living in Rosslyndale, not far from where I was living, and we used to drive out there together and drive back. FB: What was Jackie like when he was a young guy? CM: Jackie was a wonderful guy. Always very friendly and a fantastic musician. FB: And he had that crazy sense of humor. CM: Sweetie, you remember Jackie Baird, huh? You know, my wife met him, we played together many years ago in ____ FB: Oh, sure. CM: Yeah. He was just a great guy, and I've learned so much from him because he was already a wonderful player, and also not too many people realize what a great writer he was. I'm not talking about just his compositions but his arranging! This guy could write. FB: Herb kept that aluminum baby, The Ballad For John Nebbs, in his book for years with that great, rich sax section... CM: Yeah! I know... that's what I mean. FB: Was Jackie always kinda zany and have a wacky sense of humor, too? CM: Yeah! Oh yeah. FB: I remember that. Off the bandstand. CM: I think always. Sure. FB: And he had a great sense of being an entertainer. CM: Yeah. FB: Like Cab Calloway, like Dizzy Gillespie. He was always 'on', and he would make google eyes like Count Basie would and fall off the end of the keyboard like Hank Jones liked to do... CM: Sure. FB: You know, guys were into showbiz. CM: Yeah. Yeah. FB: You never forgot that entertainment aspect. CM: Yeah. Yeah, it was a great time for me. And it was around that time also, I don't remember who was all there with us, but Jimmy Zattano was a lot of times up there in Lynn, and Dick Wetmoore, played cornet and violin. FB: Sure, I remember Dick. CM: Yeah, it was a good time. FB: Yeah, he played down the Cape with Bobby Hackett much later. And he'd show up at Scotch & Sirloin and do little dance gigs with the Troudin brothers. CM: Uh huh. Oh, okay. Yeah. FB: Yeah, that was on the fringe of Ruby Braff circles, too. Did Ruby ever go up to Lynn? Ruby Braff? CM: Uh... no. FB: What was with Lynn? CM: When? FB: No, why? Why Lynn? CM: Why not? Somebody calls you and says 'I got a gig for you,' you go there. FB: But, there was a lot of shoe business in Lynn. Maybe they wanted you tapping your foot so you'd wear out your sole and buy new shoes. CM: (laughs) I don't know anything about that. FB: George Wein's family was from Lynn. CM: Oh yeah? FB: Originally, before they moved to Newton. CM: Oh, I didn't know that. FB: His father was a doctor in Lynn. Then they moved to Newton and that's when he went off to B.U. and he met Joyce and he started the club scene... CM: Oh, okay... FB: You must have worked Storyville eventually. CM: Yeah, sure. Yeah, I did. FB: I don't think we're quite ready for that yet.
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FB: Ok after Nat Pierce and Berklee for a while you hit the road with Kenton. How did that happen? CM: Yeah I think that probably happened through Boot Vasooly, I think. I'm not sure because it was never really talked about. But I got a call and thank God for that. That same year and we're talking about 1953 I was with Chubby Jackson, Bill Harris' group. And then later on that year I came back to Boston and I was broke. So I was working at Filene's for 2 weeks as a salesman and I got a call to go with Kenton's band. So of course I did. FB: I bet. CM: And I took Lee Konitz's place. Because the Kenton band went to Europe and after they came back from Europe a lot of the guys left the band. FB: Who was in the sax section besides you? CM: Davey Scheelkraut was the other alto player, Bill Homlin was there, Zoot Sims was there for a little bit, and Frank Rosalino was still there, Countie Cadoli was still there. Some wonderful players, FB: Swingin band. CM: Yeah it was great. But I didn't have any time to really rehearse. I just jumped on the bandstand and played the charts. FB: Well you read well enough to read those charts. CM: I guess so because they didn't fire me right away (laughs). FB: You had some damn good writers. Some good writers. Homlin and Russo, Bill Russo. CM: So these were the two main writers of that band. We also had some Gerry Mulligan charts in there, Johnny Richards. FB: Jerry Richards of course. You didn't have to read those Bill Gredgener charts did you? Bob Gredgener. That space age stuff that Kenton used to.. CM: I think they had already discarded those. I never played any of that. FB: How bout Shorty Rogers? Did write a few charts for Kenton? CM: Shorty? I don't think there were anything by him. After I joined Kenton's band I moved out to Los Angeles. Because I figured it would be easier because I was in the band for like 2 years until I couldn't stand it anymore. Because you know, you say Stan Kenton everybody's thinkin about all the concert pieces and the jazz and so on like that. Well what it was mostly we were playing for dancing. So we were doing these ballrooms all over the country and it was a different book. A lot of the charts were written by Stan Kenton. FB: Pretty square. CM: Yeah not terribly interesting. FB: I just read Anita O'Day's autobiography. She thought Kenton was a nice man but she was bored by the band. CM: Yeah. I mean the band always had like some really good players, but there were also some players that weren't so great. You know normal.
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FB: So you were getting yoru big band chops in and you survived for 18 months? CM: Yeah,and I was playing a lot of lead in those days, too. You know that was a challenge in the beginning but then they get to be so repetitive and boring. FB: So you just severed your relationship and moved on. CM: After 2 years I quit, and I was still living in Los Angeles so I started playing with Shelly Manne and Frank Rosalino and you know I was doing a lot of recording in those days. FB: You were on a lot of contemporary records with Shelly Manne and his men. He had some good people working with him. Leroy Vinegar, Red Mitchell. CM: Well he was never in the group when I was there, but I've played with Red, sure. Wonderful. FB: Who was on piano? Ross Freeman? CM: Ross Freeman. Ross Freeman and Stu Williamson on trumpet and Hal trombone. FB: Oh nice. Underrated. CM: Very underrated. He was a great player. FB: So you stayed on the West Coast there for a couple years? CM: I stayed on the West Coast until that started to get to me too because I was from the East and the weather was too nice out there. FB: You were lookin for some winter? CM: Yeah I mean I was ... I was doing a lot of recording, but the recordings were like scale mostly. And I think in those days it was something like 25 dollars a session. It was not great at all. It was hard for me. I had three kids already at the time. FB: Did they all move to the West Coast with you? CM: Yeah, and it was a difficult time. I mean if it hadn't been for Shelly Manne, and also like the music scene there. I never felt like a West Coaster. I'm just from Boston I felt like... So I moved back to Boston in 1958. FB: So socially you felt like an outsider? CM: I don't know about that. There was something missing. There was not the energy that you've got in the East... FB: Too laid back. Too cool not enough hot. CM: Yeah I told them I was in the East Coast West Coast jazz wars. I didn't want to be known as a West Coaster, you know, that would have been embarrassing. FB: Like the Mets and the Giants or something you know. CM: I moved back in like 1958 because things had started to slow down on the West Coast and I was anxious to get back to the East and as soon as I did it felt like I was alive again. FB: Wow.. CM: The energy of music making completely different. FB: Fascinating. That's good to hear. I mean it's good to hear you voice that. CM: I mean I was playing with good people out there. But of course you know all those guys were from the east. Shelly Manne came from Worcester, Massachusetts. Shorty Rogers. Frank Rosalino was from Detroit. FB: So there was the lure of the studios and the summer and the beach and all that stuff. CM: I was still a newcomer on the scene and so I was getting once in a while recording sessions but I was never on that studio scene. FB: Gotcha. So back in Boston you.. CM: Back in Boston I started to teach at Berklee. FB: Mmhmm.
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FB: How is it different at Berklee in the 4 or 5 years you were gone? You were out with Kenton for a couple years, you went to Japan for a bit... CM: No, that was later. FB: Oh that was later. Sorry, sorry. CM: Now '58, I was there only for two semesters, '58 and '59, part of '59, and then I moved... Toshiko and I married and we moved to New York. So I was only there for two semesters, I think. FB: Was there anything you liked about teaching or didn't like? CM: Well, it was great. I was there like... when a lot of good people were there. Gary Burton was there, Mick Goodrick, John Abercrombie, Gary Mcfarland... FB: Sure. Terrific players and writers. CM: I don't remember all the names. There were a lot of really good people. It was nice to be there. Arif Mardin was there as a student. Toshiko was there. The guitar player from Hungary... FB: Gabor Szabo. CM: Gabor Szabo, exactly. FB: Oh, that reminds me. Yes, there was an international jazz festival in the fall of '58 that took place downtown at the John Hancock Hall. And Toshiko played, you were there, Gabor Szabo. There was an international program that involved musicians from around the world who were jazz players. CM: Yeah. FB: Richard Vacca asked me to ask you if that experience or that particular scene had any bearing on your international interests. CM: You know what? I don't even remember it. So, the answer to that is no it had no bearing at all. FB: So, Toshiko and Gabor and you were all on the Berklee faculty. CM: No, the both of them were not on the faculty. They were students. FB: Okay, but they were called in to play at this festival. CM: Yeah, well. Sure. FB: Okay, so there was a good student base. What was the scene like for faculty people at Berklee at the time. Was it fair minded and above board or did you guys feel like you were... CM: You know, the thing is with Berklee especially in the earlier days... I don't know how it is now, I couldn't say... but in those days, man, they hired me and let me do whatever I wanted. Of course, I was teaching not only saxophone, but I had small groups and big bands, and I was teaching harmony one or two years and theory and so on. But, they never told me what to do. They just... FB: ???. CM: Yeah. I taught whatever I wanted. FB: Okay, good. Do you have any other recollections of Berklee at that time or any other things you remember from that period? CM: Well, through the years while I was teaching there there've been some marvelous musicians go through there, you know. And so of course, you know, I remember some of these people, but it was always great. FB: Did you have any dealings or did you work with any of the good students out around town? CM: Oh, sure. Yes, I did. FB: Such as Gary or Abercrombie or people like that? CM: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. I played with a lot of them. FB: Chick Corea must have been around the scene by then. CM: You know, I've never played with Chick Corea, because I never knew him when he was coming up in Boston. I was away, and then when I came back he was gone. FB: Yeah, he didn't last too long. CM: So I never played with him. FB: Okay, let's see. In that second round when you were back from the west coast, how had the scene shifted in the Boston scene with the advent of Storyville? CM: For professional musicians it was very difficult to make a living playing. So thank God for the teaching thing because, you know, when you have like, and I'm sure it must be like that now, too, you have so many young musicians studying, and of course they all want to play too. FB: That has not changed. CM: No. I'm sure it hasn't. So it was very difficult if you wanted to play more, you know what I mean? I had to do some stupid gigs. I remember Herb and I being out in Revere some place playing in some club just to be making a living and playing. FB: And the challenge was to get a GB gig and then be able to jam at it. I guess Herb was pretty good at getting a wedding and then loosen up a little bit and start playing some stuff that would be considered a little 'out' perhaps. CM: Yeah. The nice thing about the teaching was that if I felt like I could always play with the students. That was okay. One way to keep my finger in the pie, you know. FB: And then back in town again, when you married Toshiko, there was also the musical side of things where you had a working quartet. CM: Yeah, that's right. FB: And, you did one great album on Candid around 1960 that I thought was a really a nice one. This was in New York now. CM: Yeah, this is in New York. That's right. That was with Gene Chirico who had played with Toshiko in Boston. And let me see... I don't remember who the drummer was at that time. Also, Eddie Marshall came on. Eddie Marshall from, I think, Springfield. FB: Uh huh. CM: That was a lot of fun. FB: Sure. CM: And we went to Japan the first time on tour with that group. And then I think the second time it was still with Gene Chirico but with Tutti Heath. FB: Tutti Heath! And when you played in Boston, sometimes Alan Dawson sat in. CM: Yeah, sure. Yeah, probably. I know we did one gig, Toshiko and I, with Tony Williams. FB: Swell. CM: Yeah. Before he went with Miles. FB: You were both writing equally for that band? CM: Yeah. Exactly. FB: I can't remember the Candid album really well, but I remember there was a lot of good energy there. CM: Yeah. It was fun. FB: Okay, well now we're moving on into the sixties, and... CM: I started to get some nice things going. Toshiko and I played a lot at Birdland and other places. I went with Mingus for... I was in a small group of his where Mingus wanted to play piano (laughs). And that was with Danny Richmond. And he had on bass... Milt Jackson's brother... I forgot his name. It was Richie Williams on trumpet and Booker Irwin and myself. Three horns. FB: Sextet, nice. Mingus did some great writing in those days. CM: Yeah. Absolutely. FB: Did you tour the country? CM: Well, we didn't do that many gigs, but we played in Philadelphia for a week at some club... FB: Showboat, maybe. CM: And I'll never forget that because when we went there the first day, Mingus did an interview at some radio station, and he was talking about the Philadelphia police, which he shouldn't have done. Because that night they were waiting for us. After the gig when we went to the hotel, as we pulled in front of the hotel, the police were there. 'Up against the wall!' You know, the whole thing patting us down and so on, spread your legs, and then the next day they were waiting at the club for us. FB: A little brotherly love. CM: They had us come in the office one at a time, checked our arms, and so on. They took Danny Richmond away and put him in jail. FB: Was he using? CM: Yeah. Yeah. So, Mingus had to get a drummer. They got some young guy. I feel so sorry for the poor guy. I don't even know who it was, but (laughs) Mingus gave him such a hard time. He'd say, 'Here's the time!' kicking the bass drum, you know (laughs). And then Milt Jackson's brother playing bass, Mingus would jump up sometimes off of the piano stool, and grab the bass out of his hands, you know (laughs). But, he was nice to me. Never hit me. And he was very nice to me. FB: He needed some extreme provocation. I mean mostly he was all about the music. He wasn't a violent guy. CM: He was very nice to me all the time. Later on, too, when I was in that bigger band of his, that 10 piece band, which was a joy. We had like a gig at the Village Vanguard for a month. We were there for a whole month with that band. FB: Was that the one that recorded Black Saint and the Sinner Lady? CM: Yeah, exactly. FB: That's a true classic. CM: Yeah, all except for the flamenco guitarist. He came on just for the recording. And also that band, when we did Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, I didn't have any solos. And a week later after we did the recording, he called me up and said "Come to the studio" and he had me sit in the middle of the studio and he said, "I'll point to you when I want you to play and I'll wave you off when I want you to stop." FB: You didn't have a headset? CM: Yeah. FB: Oh, you were listening in, okay. CM: Yeah, I was listening in, but this was like only me after we had recorded the whole thing, you know. So that's how I got all those solos on there. FB: Boy, that was brilliant. I couldn't tell. You couldn't tell it was overdubbed. CM: No. I know it. Yeah. FB: That had some good engineers there, too. That was a fantastic piece. CM: And also that same band did the Mingus Mingus Mingus album with some solos in there. I forget who were all there. FB: A couple guys sitting in. CM: I think John Handy and Booker Erwin and... I don't remember. FB: Mingus was still playin piano a lot of the time? CM: No, Jackie Baird. FB: Oh Baird was on that one? CM: Also, on Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Jackie Baird. FB: Oh, okay. It was the sextet with... CM: With the three horns. FB: With the three horns, yup, okay. CM: Yeah. FB: Tasty stuff. That's definitely a high point. CM: We also did the... I forgot, like... There was one gig there... I forgot, town hall? FB: The town hall concert. CM: The town hall concert. I was on that, too. But, Mingus was asking everybody to come and do that gig, you know (laughs). When we got there to do the gig, the band was all set up. It was a whole bunch of people, close to thirty people I think. They had some tables out in front of the band with copyists still writing out parts and passing them to the band. FB: I remember seeing that in the video of Mingus's life. CM: Really? FB: Yeah. CM: George Wein had organized that gig. And Mingus started out the concert saying "I just want you people to know this is not a concert. This is a recording. And if you want your money back..." (laughs) FB: Well I'm sure those who stayed, however late it was, enjoyed themselves. CM: Probably. Sure. There were a whole bunch of people there. FB: What did you like about Mingus's music? CM: Well Mingus was a wonderful musician. He doesn't get.. Mingus doesn't get enough credit for his bass playing. He was a wonderful bass player. Of course he was a character so that's what attracted people. But his writing was great, and his compositions were wonderful. And he knew how to get the m ost out of his musicians without really putting too much pressure on them. Who knows, maybe it might have been partly fear, that we wanted to keep him happy so he wouldn't hit us or throw something at us or chase us with, you know I've heard some stories. He like chased some people with knives and stuff. I'm talking about guys on the band (laughs). FB: But he always raised the bar high in terms of musical content. CM: That's it! He made you try. FB: And the electricity between him and Richmond was staggering. The pulse was always fluid. The accelerando, the decelerando, the dynamic level would go up and down. It was like a landscape. CM: Exactly. I think I learned a lot about dynamics from him, you know. And to this day, I think that that's one of the most important aspects of music that you can have. Dynamics are very important. That's why some of these, you know, free bands like that are heard around the late sixties or the early seventies, free music was there. A lot of these guys started up here and stayed there. There were no dynamics! That's not music!
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FB: A lot of people didn't know how to work a pulse to the music either. CM: Yeah. FB: To get a dynamic flow where your pulse races and then it cuts back a little. It's like living and breathing. CM: Mingus did that. He probably was the first guy that I ever played with who would speed up and slow down, and so on. I mean, it was fantastic. FB: This is truly organic music. It's green. It's vibrant. Around that same time you did a session with McCoy Tyner. How did that come about? CM: I think I was still living in Japan at the time, so that would've been 1964, I think. FB: '63 or '64, yeah. CM: And it was just a spur of the moment. I was there in Newport, I think playing with Stan Kenton's band as a soloist. Bob Thiele had Clark Terry and me sit in with McCoy Tyner's group -- trio. Bob Cranshaw and Mickey Roker. FB: Oh, nice. So that was for Thiele. Okay. CM: Yeah, I think so. Because that was still for... FB: Impulse. CM: Yeah, Impulse. That was still for Impulse. And also, I think before that I did that album with... FB: Elvin Jones. CM: With Elvin Jones. You know that? FB: I don't. No, I don't know that one. CM: Oh, okay. FB: Yeah, that's a good one, too, eh? CM: That was nice. That was a lot of fun. FB: I'll dig it up. I saw it in the discography. I don't have that big collection that Steve Schwarz does, you know. I got a lot of holes in my background. CM: It doesn't matter. FB: But you like that one? CM: That was great. FB: Oh, Elvin is so splendid. CM: For me that was a highlight. Sure. FB: Oh, let's go back. Let's go back to Berklee... CM: Yeah. FB: And talk about what Ray reminded me about last night and that was the incepetion of the jazz workshops... CM: Oh, okay. FB: Which was a real, living educational scene. CM: Okay, well that had to have been '52 or '53. I know '53 it was on, but I don't remember when we started it. It was my idea to get some of the best musicians in Boston involved in a little school. So we named it the jazz workshop. Herb was there, Ray Santisi was there, Jimmy Woody, Jackie Baird I think, there were a whole bunch of people involved. Really good people. I can't remember now everybody. But we rented a building in that same area where the jazz workshop was... later. FB: It was like an empty factory building and you rented pianos and stuffed them in the rooms. CM: Exactly. We moved a whole bunch of things in there. We tried to set up a little school. Because none of us were at Berklee at that time. And so we started an alternative jazz school with the people that I like that I thought could make a difference. FB: So at this point you had already studied with Joe Viola and you learned a lot from him but you wanted to apply it in a more practical setting than Berklee, than Schillinger House was offering. So you were able to find students who would come down for lessons? CM: Yeah, but of course it was not terribly successful. We tried it for a bunch of months, and out of that, Vardi Harotoni organized this jazz workshop gig which was... I forgot it was in some bar. FB: The Stable. CM: Yeah the Stable. That grew out of that. It was mostly the same people involved. I was there for a little bit but not much first of all I went on the road and then went with Kenton so I was not there. FB: But Ray said Larry Berk came over at one point and said, "Oh, this is good. Why don't you bring it over to Berklee?" And so he made an offer collectively that you couldn't refuse and you said, "Okay, let's move it over to Berklee." That took care of the rental situation. So you took the practical gigging hands on scene and took it over to Berklee. CM: I was not involved with that. I was already gone. FB: Something like the Berklee labs and... the session rooms now.. CM: Probably. FB: Okay. I'm just wondering whether you personally thought that Boston made any unique contributions to the East Coast scene. CM: No, I don't think so. No, I didn't. It was just a whole... I say east coast but we're talking about cities like Chicago and Detroit, too. The West Coast jazz thing was like isolated. FB: Okay. San Francisco and L.A. CM: And it wasn't even really like typical of the West Coast, actually, because a lot of the musicians associated with that style the west coast style came from the east. FB: As you pointed out that's true. And a lot of the things that kept it afloat was the network of the small clubs that were played by Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and those guys in the fifties, the Haig and places like that. The musicians who played there, some of them, were supported by the studios. They had their day gig for good money and they would jam at night to let their hair down. CM: Yeah I know a lot of those guys were heavy into the studio scene, sure. Yeah. FB: I mean there's always been a buck to be made in Hollywood as long as you're in the right circles. CM: Yeah, yeah. FB: Charlie, maybe you would just briefly recap your observation about the reasons why you moved from California back to the heart of the jazz scene in the east. CM: Well, I mean, I wouldn't say the heart of the jazz scene. But, we're talking about how I felt about the difference between the West Coast Jazz and the East coast jazz. And when I say east coast jazz I'm talking about all these cities like Chicago and Detroit that are not really on the east coast. We're talking about a particular style of music. The west coast thing was very unique to that period and probably some specific musicians that were involved in that. So they called it West Coast jazz. Like Shorty Rogers was one of the main people in that movement. I think that the difference was that East Coast music was more heavily influenced by black music. So we were looking up to people like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie -- people like that. On the west, there were black musicians on the west, but they were not part of what was called the 'West Coast jazz scene'. FB: Fair enough. Okay.
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FB: Once you were back in the east, you were involved with, as we said, Charles Mingus for a while and Mccoy Tyner. But you also had a growing interest in the music from the Far East, and I was wondering how that came about. CM: Well, it probably all started... Let me first say that around that time like in the fifties we were already, most musicians in America were acquainted with Ravi Shankar and these people. It was all North Indian music. So we knew some of these names: Ravi Shankar, Ismila Khan, Shanaikla, Alaraka, and so on. We were already associated with those names, so we had heard some of that. For myself, I was still too much into bebop to be influenced by that at all. But then it all started to change when, probably because I was getting older anyhow, and as you get older your musical tastes start to change a little bit or start to gel. I don't even know what the reason for that is, and probably not all musicians experience that, but I did. I wasn't looking for anything new, but I was probably not satisfied with, like, what I knew up to that point. You know, I had to be satisifed with it because that's what I was doing. But then I started to hear other things. So it all probably started with me when I went to Japan, and then I lived in Japan for two years, and of course I heard a lot of that music. In general, Asian music is built on different premises. They're not dealing with harmonies at all. The West, we are, as improvisers we are controlled by what we improvise by the chord changes and chord progressions and so on. Asian music is not like that. They don't have any harmonies, really. So it's all melodic. And so I started to be interested in that when I heard Japanese music, and it was beautiful. And I said, 'Well look at this. This has nothing to do with what I know, but it's beautiful music.' Are you acquainted with Gagaku music? FB: I've heard some of it, yes. CM: I mean this is like imperial court music that exists in Japan even to this day. It came from China originally, and then it died out in China but still exists in Japan. And this is fantastic, man! I went to see a Gagaku concert when I was living in Japan... I mean, unbelievable. You have a whole bunch of musicians on stage and there's nobody leading or anything. They just play, but everybody knows when to come in exactly. You know, because everybody's listening to each other, and they know where they're supposed to come in. It's a natural flow. Wonderful, wonderful. Anyhow... FB: Is this the music that accompanies No Dramas? CM: No, but probably similar to it. FB: You have a large number of koto and other string instruments... CM: Yeah, there were different instruments involved. There's the shiriki, which is like a double reed instrument, there's a flute ire, (FB: shakahachiand percussion) Yeah, I'm not sure. I don't remember but... yeah, all those... koto, shamisin, and... FB: So this sort of struck a chord with your... didn't strike a chord, it struck a note with your lyric muse. CM: Yeah, but I still didn't get into it. I started to get into it heavily when I was still teaching at Berklee. I started to teach at Berklee again from 1965, and in 1967 I was sent to Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur to coach the ??? Malaysia big band. And I think Herb had been there either the year before or two years before that. I don't remember now. I think maybe the year before. Anyhow, I was in Kuala Lumpur for five or six months. FB: That's a long time. CM: Yeah, it was fantastic! And so I learned so much there... about food (laughs). Because Malaysia is marvelous. You have all these ethnic groups there. I'm talkin about this time 'cause I don't know how it is now. At that time, in 1967, there were maybe like 45 per... no, maybe even more... 55 percent of the population were Malayas and about 35% Chinese from different parts of China. So the food... and then Indians about 12 percent or something like that. And the rest were mixed. Some Europeans and other people. Even the Chinese, for instance, you could get the common Cantonese food, but I think most of the people came from Fro???. They were brought there originally to work the tin mines and the rubber plantations. And a lot of them came without women, so they married Malay women, and out of this grew Nyonya cuisine, which were Malay women cooking for their Chinese husbands. So you have like a fantastic combination there. You know, this is great. There's also Straits Chinese cuisine. FB: Okay. CM: And about the music, when I first got there, before I started to work, they brought me around to visit different temples and things. One of the temples that I visited was a Hindu temple in downtown Kuala Lumpur. And I heard this music they were practicing in the back of the temple. And I said, 'Wow what is that?!', so they brought me back there, and I listened to the music, and this is the first time I had heard ???. It's a double reed instrument related to the oboe. It's a South Indian instrument also used in Sri Lanka. And it's related to the Shanai of North India. FB: Is it wood rather than metal? CM: It's wood. FB: Does it have a bell like an English horn? Is there like a globe at the end of it? CM: No, it does have a bell, but it's straight and it's long... it's about like maybe this long. At that time it was pitched in Eb. Now it's pitched in D. Don't ask me why. It's the same instrument, but i guess (laughs) maybe it was easier that way. And so I heard this instrument, and I asked the man who was playing it who was the chief musician of that temple if I could study with him and he said yes. So, that's when I started to study Carnatic music, which is South Indian classical music. And then as a result of that, a few years later when I was living in Europe... I moved to Europe in 1971 just to see how it would go, and it started to go fine, so I was busy playing, and I didn't have to teach anymore. Not that I don't like to teach, but teaching at that time for me was a little bit too much like a day job, because I was doing 30 hours a week, and that's not including the time that you have to take to make up tests and correct them and this and that. And I wanted to play more. While I was at Berklee at that time from 1965 to 1971, they would let me out sometimes. I did three tours with Astrud Gilberto, mostly Japan, and some other places. FB: The Brazilian influence had already struck big by then. CM: Oh yeah, sure. And I had a few other gigs, but not too many. So, it was nice to get to Europe because I got to play more. And that's what I love to do mostly.
BOHP_2007-06-18 - Charlie Mariano - 9
FB: Could you tell us why the South Indian music was so appealing? What was in it that made you say 'wow'? CM: Well, I mean the South Indian... let me say North Indian music is beautiful, I love it, but to me it was a bit more exotic to me. When I heard South Indian music, I could understand it more. I could feel it more. It was more to me like... I don't know how to say this... black music. Yeah, I mean I could feel like the rhythms easier, and there were different instruments involved, and so on. It's all Indian music so mostly it sounds to most Western ears same. But it's not the same. There are some... FB: No, no, it's not. It's very structured, is it not? CM: There are some subtle differences, that if you know them, then you can hear them. You can hear differences. FB: I always thought that this Carnatic music was very evolved and therefore very complex. And that it was so structured that it really didn't leave a lot of room for improvisation. CM: No, it doesn't. When I started to study this... I was not allowed to improvise at all. That's what I wanted to do because I'm an improviser, but no I had to learn the traditional way. I was taking three lessons a day an hour at a time. An hour in the morning at like 6:30 in the morning, and in the afternoon and evening. FB: If it were a language class they would call it 'total immersion'. You were throughly steeped that you were bathing in this music. CM: Yeah. Yeah. FB: You were trying to catch up and learn a lot in a short space of time. CM: Well, sure, because, you know, that's why for instance I know a lot about Carnatic music, but I still don't sound like an Indian because I started too late. My vocalist that I work with a lot, Ramamani, she started when she was like four years old which is normal for classical music. FB: A lifelong pursuit. But you made sufficient progress in your own eyes and in your teachers' eyes gradually over the course of the few months that you were in Kuala Lumpur? CM: Well, no, I was just starting. I'm still... whenever I go to India, even now... or like the last time I went I was there for four months a year and a half ago. I was studying, and I did my first classical concert a year and a half ago in Kuala Lumpur. FB: And this is all composed music, not improvised? CM: Well it's mostly all composed music, but I improvised a bit, too. FB: So there are cadenzas in places like allaps where you can stretch a little bit. CM: Exactly. I was allowed to play some allaps and to improvise a couple of times in there. FB: This is under the strict supervision of guys who have been doing this their whole life. And you were able to cut the mustard with these guys. CM: Yeah. I'm not a master at that, for sure. But the things that I'm doing with the Carnatic percussion people... it's nice. I guess you would call it fusion. Yeah, whatever it is, we're having fun doing it. They enjoy it, and I enjoy it. FB: It's not jazz and it's not strictly Carnatic. It's somewhere in between, leaning on the Indian side? CM: Well, let me say that what the Indians are doing is strictly classical music 'cause they don't know anything about Western music. But little by little they are being influenced by the Western tradition of music, because it's there. FB: Yeah. Uh huh. To me, I'm thinking, I'm trying to think laterally, it'd be a little bit like yourself or Stan Getz or somebody playing with Harry Lookofsky's strings. It's a Viennese string ensemble, they're playing the traditional instruments of Mozart, but they're writing some bluesy lines for them, and they're stretching a little bit, and they're learning how to swing a little bit. Is there any of that? CM: Sure, but I think what we're doing is nice music, and we're enjoying it. So, you can't ask for more than that. FB: Okay. And you've been following this continually now for forty years. CM: Yeah. FB: It started with that Berklee trip to... CM: Yeah, but you know, at the beginning of course it was difficult for me because I didn't have anybody to play with, and I didn't know enough. But then I met the Carnatica people in 1980, and we've been working together ever since. Not all the time, but every once in a while. Like we just did a tour in Europe, and also we did a radio production with the WDR big band in Cologne which lasted a week and a half or so. And we did a concert. So, that's all been recorded and so on. They like that. The Indians. Myself, I don't find...that's a great big band... but I don't find that music terribly interesting. It's too confining. I like to work with the Carnatic percussion people in a much smaller group, just with maybe two percussion players and a singer and myself. That's enough. FB: But at some point, you know, after you'd gone to Europe, the Nagaswarm was part of your... it was in your battery of instruments. CM: Yeah I tried... FB: Fusion bands. CM: I tried to play it, and it was okay, you know, I was... FB: It was certainly a novelty. And it wore well because it was so different, and you had sufficient command to put it over. CM: Yeah, well, I can't say that I've ever played it really well. But, (laughs) I tried. FB: You're your own worst critic. Probably, you know. CM: You know, I mean, that's a difficult instrument. Oh, boy. FB: But you like the challenge as well. CM: I like... yeah... CM: I like yeah.