As Published in Cadence Magazine Fall 2007


Tell us something about your early musical & and non-musical background?

I started studying classical piano with a local teacher, Mrs. Olivier when I was around six years old. I can still hear her yelling at me from her kitchen, “Harold, stop playing by ear and read the music!” I was always amazed how she could tell. Never did become a great reader because I could memorize so easily. Won a few local and regional competitions over the years but eventually convinced Mom to pay for a “popular” music teacher. Much to her disapproval, he wore loud plaid sport jackets, smoked incessantly and had tobacco stained fingers. The only song I learned from him before she‘d had enough of his “bad influence” was “That Lucky Old Sun” which he’d written out in big notes, floating in space, without a staff. She still has a copy of it in a drawer somewhere.

I didn’t play anything for a while in my early teens but had two great 45 records in my collection that I played a lot. One was a shuffle blues tenor solo called “Soft” by Tiny Bradshaw’s band (who I got to hear in person at the same Newport Jazz Festival I attended where Paul Gonzalvas played that famous 20 minute solo on Ellington’s Diminuendo in Blue), the other was a Latin song by Joe Loco‘s band, the title of which is to far back in the mists of time for me to remember.

Salem, Massachusetts was a yawning chasm of jazz. I wasn’t exposed to it until my sophomore year of high school when my brother returned from a summer waiter‘s job in western Massachusetts hotel with a coverless purloined LP of the George Shearing Quintet. This was the one with Margie Hyams on vibes and Chuck Wayne on guitar. Once I heard that record it was all over for me. I was hooked! There was a tune on that record called “Changing With The Times” that totally blew me away. The song was composed of many time signatures, 4/4, 3/4, and 5/4. I tried to figure it out but never got to imitate more than the first 4 bars of it in Eb. However, in 1987 I was playing with the Phil Woods Quintet on a Concord Records package tour in Japan along with George’s duo with bassist Neil Swainson.

This was the first time I‘d met George in person. I seized the first opportune moment to tell him his tune was the first jazz tune I’d ever heard and was one of the primary musical events that set me on the path to playing jazz piano. I asked him if he remembered how “Changing With The Times” went. He said, “Wow Hal, that was a long time ago. Give me a few days and I’ll get back to you.” A couple of days later I got a message to meet George on-stage at his sound check. This being a moment I’d been waiting for for over 40 years I borrowed Jill Wood’s cassette recorder and hurried to the stage. George fluently played the tune in it’s original key (E natural!) took a stunning chorus on it, stopping afterward to go over a few chords that were crucial to the tune. At the end he stood up and asked “Any questions?” Speechless, I managed to mumble “I got it” as he rode off into the sunset. One of the rare “circles closed” that occur in one’s lifetime. The tape is one of my most cherished possessions. I preserved the tape onto a CD, transcribed the tune and have it on my list for an upcoming trio recording.

Being of a somewhat rebellious nature, my grades all through my early school years were in the lower range. Junior year of high school my parents, with a faint hope I might have some aptitude for science, packed me off every day onto a train to an engineering prep school in Boston’s Copley Square. The school was across the street from a jazz club “The Stable’s” the long-standing home of the Herb Pomeroy Quintet. I’d spend my lunch breaks there, enthralled, listening to them rehearse, eventually taking bongo lessons from the club’s porter.

My parents faint hopes wrecked on the shoals of be-bop, I returned to Salem High to try to get through my senior year doing the least amount of work possible. To my great good fortune, the school’s music teacher, Mr. Deveau, recognized my youthful musical fever. Without hesitation he’d write notes to my teachers excusing me from class, ostensibly to help with the music for that year’s “Senior Review,” the end-of-the- year’s extravaganza put on by the graduating class. I spent most of that year in Mr. Deveau’s back room jamming on the upright piano with a trio with a girl bassist from Tennessee, if I remember correctly, and a drummer, John Pramas. Knowing almost nothing about music, let alone jazz, I wrote three original compositions and played them at the Senior Review to the, at-first stunned silence then reluctant applause of a completely baffled parental audience. Thus went my first ever public performance.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old I had an accident that destroyed the sight in my left eye. At the end of my senior year I was informed by the Massachusetts State Vocational Rehabilitation Board (created to pay for the schooling of disabled students so they wouldn’t be a burden on the State in the future) that, my disability qualified me for full tuition for a scholarship at any school I desired. My parents, bless them, wanted me to take over their grocery store, a goal not on my list of aspirations. The last thing my parents were going to do was pay for me to become a jazz musician, so I jumped at the chance, applied and was accepted at the Berklee School Of Music, as it was called at the time. I bid goodbye to Salem High, afraid to look back for fear of being turned into stone. I forgo‘d attending my, (according to the school principle), “reluctant” graduation. They had to mail me my diploma.

During the of summer of 1955 I took two piano lessons with my later mentor, premier Boston jazz pianist Ray Santisi, the regular pianist with the Pomeroy Quintet. After the second lesson he said “forget it kid, you’ll never play.” Not so incidentally, ten years later I had his job with Pomeroy’s band. I had completely forgotten the incident and to Ray’s great credit, he reminded me of it stating “I’ll never pre-judge another musicians ability again,” a lesson I took to heart as well.

Your were a scholarship student at Berklee School Of Music during the 1950 s. Please give us a glimpse into the school back then (curriculum ,students,etc.)?

At the time I began at Berklee in 1955 it had recently been renamed from the original “Schillinger House” after the Russian composer and musical theorist Joseph Schillinger. Schillinger Analysis, though not part of the current curriculum, was the theoretical mainstay of the school’s program. At the time I considered it dry and boring, though I was later thankful as it gave me a thorough analytical and theoretical foundation to help me figure things out when Ahmad Jamal or Sonny Rollins weren’t around to ask “Hey man, what was that?”. Many years later I realized what a beneficial effect Schillinger had on shaping my overall perception of music.

The school was in a small red brick colonial style building on the corner of Newbury and Fairfeild streets. I doubt we had more than 100 students at the time, the majority of them there on veterans scholarships. I was there from 1955 to mid 1957 when I studied piano with Ray Santisi again. The first time I’d studied with him he’d sit at the piano and you’d stand, looking over his right shoulder to watch his hands. Since I didn’t know anything at the time I had no idea what he was doing and didn’t learn shit. The second time I studied with Ray I knew a lot more. I’d stop him and ask him “hey man, what was that?” and he’d show me. I learned a lot from him then because he’d let you pick his brains. Herb Pomeroy’s arranging class was as much a jazz theory class as it was an arranging class. I think I did only one arrangement while I was in it but Herb was cool as long as you got out of it what you wanted out of it. That class had a definite influence on my orchestral approach to playing the piano.

One of the most rewarding classes at the school, which is also not part of the current Berklee curriculum, was the “Chord Substitution” class taught by Salem homey Bob Share. Bob was a mercenary bastard and more or less ran the school at the time. To his credit it was he who created the monster that is now called the Berklee College Of Music. School wags dubbed it “The Bob Share Cocktail Hour” because he’d sing and play these inane little melodies over the substitutions. We worked from the old, original 1000 tune “Fake Books.” The tunes were illegally photocopied from the original Library Of Congress copyright cards that were, in those days, used to register one’s copyrights. The songs often had, at worst, 3-note Ukulele and, at best, 4-note Guitar chord symbols that were the norm on sheet music of the day. What was great about them is that they were the upper structures of the original chords the composer wrote. Graduates of the “Cocktail Hour” could divine the more modern substitute chords that fit the melody while remaining true to the composers harmonic intentions. This was one of my favorite courses from which I was eventually earned the monicker “The Change Master.” In those days everybody got nicknamed by everybody else. Bassist Gene Cherico was “The Time Master,” Organist and arranger Charlie Bechler was “The Drag Master.” Sometimes you could have a dozen nicknames, but the nicknames were not for you but for the namer so you’d know who was calling it. My first nickname “Og,” from the series of childhood books “Og The Caveman,” was tacked onto me by Herb Pomerey as in my freshman year I was rather portly coming at and eighth of a ton. Since that class I always try to work from the original sheet music when re-harmonizing a standard song.

Charlie Mariano was teaching there at the time as well as pianist/arranger/composer Bob Freidman who wrote the music for one side of the First Berklee School Band recording, my first recording venture. Poor Bob. He was teaching the entry level pianists and I really put him through it. At one point, overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know, I buttonholed him at one of our lessons. “Bob,” I asked, You know me, you know I really want to play and work hard as well. Tell me what the “secrets” of jazz are. I won’t tell anyone else if you tell me. Man what an asshole! Bob, totally incensed, yelled, “There are no secrets to jazz, just hard work and talent,” and roundly, and deservedly ejected me from the room. However as time progressed I learned there were secrets. It did make me wonder though if the reason he got so mad was that perhaps he didn’t know those secrets.

A teacher to whom I’ll be eternally indebted is Harry Smith. One of the nicest gentleman one would ever want to meet, he played piano for Berklee’s Sunday afternoon TV talent show “Star For A Day” and was the school’s vocal coach. Harry had perfect pitch and a calligraphic “hand“ that was mechanically impeccable. There were a paucity of transcriptions in the 1950’s. As a young student my ears weren’t good enough to copy solos and chord voicings but I could always go to Harry and put an order in for a solo. Two weeks later he’d call me into his office and hand me, in a machine-like hand, perfect transcriptions of Red Garland solos, my model-of-the-moment. Try as I might, when I played his solos and block chords, it just didn’t‘t sound like Red, the epiphany being, as much as you’d want to play like somebody else, you had to find out what sounded good with your sound or touch.

The school was very “loose.” Because of its small size you got good individual attention. Combos were great and because of Herb’s arranging class, with writers like Arif Mardin, Chris Swanson, Gary McFarland, we always had interesting music to play. As a fledgling jazz music school the administration wasn’t overly scrupulous with it’s grading. In one case the school graduated a bassist who on his final exam didn’t know what a unison was! Of the 100 students that started when I did, I doubt that there are five, if that, who survived and are at this time playing professionals. The rest either quit, were in jails, mental hospitals or dead.

The school was much reviled in the neighborhood as the loud music was always irritating them. In protest they’d encourage their dogs to shit on the sidewalks in front of the school. It was like walking through a mine field. Not only could you hear the school but, during the summers could smell it from 3 – 4 blocks away. I have a vague recollection of having commemorated the circumstance in a composition entitled “The Sidewalks Of Newbury Street.”

Looking at Boston from afar the cities jazz scene remains such an enigma. I imagine you did some serious hanging out while a student?

It is one of the crimes of jazz history that, like New York City, Boston has no jazz museum. If it had, Boston’s ubiquitous influence on jazz music would be generally recognized. The influence of Berklee notwithstanding, the town has a rich and varied music history. Most of Duke’s band were from the boston area and at one time almost all of Woody Herman‘s and a large number Kenton’s band were comprised of ex-Berklee graduates.

In the 50’s we had ultra-modernist pianist Dick Twardzik, baritone saxist Serge Chaloff, Charlie Mariano, Jaki Byard, Alan Dawson among others of lessor name recognition but great influence: bassist John Neves (John, a total ear player, taught me how to play well structured “free” solos), drummer Jimmy Zitano, then in later generations, Steve Kuhn, Tony Williams, Sam Rivers, just to name few. Like today, the school was a magnet for musicians and a lot of competition for gigs. However, there were a plethora of mafia owned clubs where could almost always get a job playing in strip clubs where you could play, if not jazz, at least blues or rhythm and blues.

The steady gig that got me away from home for the first time, living on my own in Boston, was at a cavernous bar called “Izzy Ort’s.” Situated in Boston’s “Combat Zone” it was down the street from the famed Old Howard Burlesque Theatre where I used to do my homework in the loges. Izzy’s was carpeted with saw dust, smelled of beer and the was a rough joint. The safest place was on the bandstand. I played the piano standing up, playing shuffle blues from 1 pm in the afternoon until 1 pm at night, 40 minutes on and 20 minutes off, for $120 a week. I was, at 22, “shitting in high cotton,“ money in my pocket, a fine whore for a girlfriend, she buying me clothes and me lookin’ good, driving her Cadillac. I must have thought I was really living the life of a jazz musician.

Berklee had no dormitories. But my fondest memories are of the hallowed, but somewhat dingy, halls of 905 Boylston St., a old brownstone building directly behind the school over one of those mafia “b-girl” clubs. If you can imagine five stories of budding and broke beboppers, eight rooms per floor, most with upright pianos in varying condition, a community kitchen and bathroom, all for $25 a month, utilities included. There were jam sessions day and night until the cops broke them up after 10 pm when the neighbors complained. Afterwards some of us would go to the internal fire escape and have scat “cutting” sessions to see who could out-scat who. It was a gathering place for all the Boston musicians as well as those coming through town every week to play at George Wein’s Storyville or the Hi Hat Club in “Soul Town.“ Rumor had it that “Bird” had anointed the place by jamming there one early morning.

One of the least credited forces of Boston’s musical scene that had a global effect on the music at large was the influence Sam Rivers had on those who apprenticed with him. I played with Sam for 6 years (what I consider that my post-graduate education) and recorded “A New Conception (Blue Note) with him. Under Sam’s tutelage, we were the first to play free on standard tunes. Sam had a quartet, originally, with Phil Morrison on bass and Peter Littman (of Chet Baker fame) on drums. Phil Moore was the pianist before I joined the band. After Peter, Tony Williams played with us for years before he went with Miles’s band and was later replaced by Steve Ellington. Sam used to get hired as a sideman and, because his playing was so strong, eventually the club owner would ask him to bring in his own band. Sam would then fire the other guys and bring his own quartet into the club. We stayed working using that techniques for years until we found a home at The Mt. Vernon Coffee House in Cambridge, Mass.

What remains uncredited is how Sam influenced one of the most influential jazz bands in history, Miles’s quintet with Herbie, Wayne, Ron and Tony Williams. Tony brought the concept of playing free on tunes into Miles’s band when he joined it. That was a Boston influence if there ever was one.

Boston has long had a reputation for it s racial divisiveness. How did you come to be drawn to cats like Jackie Byard, Alan Dawson and Sam Rivers?

Boston was a segregated town. “Soul Town,’” the area for 10 blocks in either direction from the corners of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenues, was packed with clubs: organ trio’s, and big bands. There were house rhythm sections that backed up touring single musicians and the famed Hi Hat Club that booked touring black bands and musicians. The gigs were inter-racial. I have a tape of Bird playing a Sunday afternoon Symphony Sid radio broadcast from the Hi Hat with Herb Pomeroy playing trumpet and Al Vega on piano.

One of my fondest memories was the shoe shine parlor on Mass. Ave, about a half block west from the Hi Hat. They had a back room with carpeting on the floor and walls with and upright piano and a drum set. The place never closed and anyone could use the back room to rehearse, jam or practice for free because it drew customers into the parlor. The vibe was totally supportive and relaxed and I always felt nothing but welcome.

Boston was that last town to have a black and white union. As a matter of fact, the white union wouldn’t let me join. They actually auditioned me and refused me membership because I couldn’t read well enough! I think they were just messing with me but I immediately went across town and joined the black union. The dues were cheaper and they could of cared less if I was black or white as long as I had the bread. I only joined the white union when both of them were later combined into one organization.

There was some “Jim Crow” as well as some “Crow Jim” in both directions but somehow it never affected me though there was a white “establishment” that was selective about which black musicians were “acceptable.” Jaki Byard, John Neves, Alan Dawson, and bassist Larry “Lanky” Richardson, were in that category. Tony Williams and Sam, as well as a Monk-ish pianist Ali Yousef (who taught me a lot) weren’t.

My dear friend, bassist Benny Wilson, along with “Lanky” Richardson were my “protectors“ in those days. They used to watch out for me, make sure I didn’t get into trouble I couldn’t handle. If I couldn’t they could. A frequent over night guest after many all night – early morning jam sessions, their old lady’s would cook for me, do my laundry. Another was the great trumpeter, “Wahgee.” He was a fireman and played like Miles. Wahgee, Rocky Boyd on tenor, myself, Benny Wilson on bass and Dickie “The Bandit” Banda had a quintet based upon the sound of Miles’s Prestige recordings. Drummers Baggy Grant, Randal Dash and Bobby Ward (who invented playing the hi hat four-to-the-bar that Tony made famous) were more a part of the black scene than the white.

One of the hippest bands in town was inter-racial. Trombonist Gene Distatio’s quintet. A dentist-musician who had the Monday night bands at The Stables for years. That band was “integrated” if you will, and had myself, either Tony or Steve Ellington on drums, Benny or Phil were the bassists with Sam on tenor.

Jaki was always an enigma. He arranged for and played tenor sax in Herb Pomeroy’s big band taking a perverse delight in “tweaking” Herb’s ire. Whenever he’d solo he wouldn’t play any notes, just squeaks and honks. Jaki could play like Bird if he wanted to but just refused play anything that was recognizable except sounds. He’d arrive at The Stables and during intermissions, write out one of his arrangement‘s transposed parts from a score in his head! By the last set he’d hand them out to the band and they’d play it.

Jaki had a little studio just down Newbury Street from Berklee. I probably learned more from him than anyone in town other than Sam, Ray and Madam Chaloff (Serge‘s mom). Trying to leave his studio at the and of my first lesson there were two oak doors side by side. Inadvertently I open his closet and all kinds of music scores fell out. Symphonies, string and brass quartets, fugues, etc. Piles of them slid out of the closet onto his rug. I had 18 lessons with him and a few years later I went over my notebooks from his lessons to find nothing in them. It was then I understood his teaching technique which I have since adopted. Jaki got your mind going, he “swung you,” stimulating your mind to consider new concepts. He wasn’t so much the teacher as a mental catalyst. While I thought he was teaching me I was actually teaching myself. He was a true genius. As a pianist he was ambidextrous, could play anything in his left hand he could play in his right and had a unique and original style. He used play intermission solo piano at The Stables opposite Herb’s band, often out-swinging the band to standing ovations with his four-to-the-bar left hand imitation of Errol Garner. It was Jaki who, when the time came for me to expand my horizons encouraged me to “take my spear and shield and go to New York City.”

During my early years in “Bean,” Sam Rivers was out of town but I’d had heard about him for years. For some reason I had the feeling that when he came back to town we’d hook up, and we did. We were like minds with similar interests in expanding the boundaries of bebop. Playing with him he pushed you beyond your limits. Space doesn’t permit me to relate all his mind-bending, ear-stretching techniques and experimental ideas here but this vignette should give you an idea about how dedicated and hard working he was.

In the years before his return to Boston, one of the rumors about Sam was that he had these amazing “practice books” of exercises he’d made up. No one, including me, had ever seen them and I was never sure it wasn’t just a myth. One afternoon, after I had been playing with him for a few years, I was hanging out at his apartment. Sam lived in a “railroad flat” where all the rooms were situated off a single, long hallway running down the center of the apartment. Sam always practiced with the radio, TV, and record player on full blast. He said it helped him concentrate. He was practicing walking up and down the hallway (he liked the acoustics) from the kitchen at one end to the dining room, where I was sitting, at the other end. As he walked up and down the hall playing, his volume would get louder or softer depending on which direction he was going.

At one point he was off in the distance at the kitchen end and I spied, laying on top of the TV, three spiral-bound music notebooks. They looked like the same kind of books I used myself. I thought “ahah, could that be them?” While Sam was still at the other end of the apartment I ran over to the TV and grabbed the books, ran back to the couch, opened them up. Sure enough they were his legendary practice books. I started memorizing everything I could all the while hearing Sam’s sax getting louder as he walked, playing his horn, down the hall toward the living room. By the time he got to the living room door I had memorized three pages. There were 12 tone runs and “I’ve Got Rhythm” changes with a chord per beat with double-time 16th note melodic lines written over them. It was an insight into how he organized his thinking, all of it mind opening stuff. Sam got to the living room doorway, spotting the books in my hands. Yelling “ahah” he ran across the room pulling them from my lap. I told him “too late Sam, I’ve already memorized three pages.” I asked him why he wouldn’t show his books to his pianist, friend, and brother in arms? He said “I worked hard to come up with all that stuff. Why should I show it to you? Work out your own!” A completely understandable and righteous attitude. I immediately excused myself, saying I had an errand to do and ran home to write down as much of what I had stolen I could remember. Although I lost my original practice books, having to replace them by memory, I still have one of his 12 tone runs written in my old practice book.

Alan Dawson was from the preceding generation, married with kids and very family orientated so we didn’t hang much. However, at one point, while I was house pianist with Herb‘s quintet and big band at The Stables, their drummer Jimmy Zitano was having serious marital problems that were affecting his behavior to the point where he was fired and replaced by Alan. I loved Jimmy’s playing, he was fiery, rebellious, but tolerated because he kicked ass. Alan played great but had one appalling habit, he was a “lick-stepper.” You played an idea, he’d play it along with you (stepping on it) making it difficult to finish an idea if he didn’t think it was going in the same direction he thought you were going. It almost always stopped my line at that moment, messing with its continuity. At this point I had been playing a lot because of the steady the gig at the Stables and my chops were in top shape but I began to lose chops while playing with Alan.

Cocky as I was, in frustration and youthful naivete, I gave Herb an ultimatum that it was either Alan or me. Since the was no substitute for Alan, who could read fly shit, and Ray Santisi, Herb‘s original pianist, was in town, it was me. After that I was persona-non-grata with the Boston “establishment.” You just don’t do that to the powers-that-be. Consequently things got chilly for me for a while. The only cats who would hire me were Gene, Sam and the other black musicians in town. It got so bad that I eventually had to get out of town. I went to Europe and spent a couple of weeks in Munich, Germany, then to Paris for a few months to seek my fortune then returned to Boston. That began a very difficult period for me where I didn’t play at all for two years. Lesson learned, I have never since given anyone an ultimatum. It was after this period that I eventually got the gig playing with Chet Baker and moved to New York City for the second time.

What do you think of Sam Rivers piano playing (something he seems to do less and less recently)? Moreover why haven’t you cats worked together again?

Sorry man but I don’t offer opinions on other musicians playing. Those kinds of questions are not very fruitful.

As far as us playing together again…we each have our own directions to follow. When we played together before, it was the appropriate time we were supposed to play together. After that we just keep on truckin’ and you can’t go home again anyway.

During the two years that you took off from the scene -how did you survive. What kinds of musical things did you shed on?

Mostly by my wits. It actually may have been longer than two years, maybe more like three. I’m not very good with chronology but after I quit Herb’s band I hung around Boston. I had a few house band gigs at Lennie’s On The Turnpike. Lenny Sokolof was a sweetheart. If I was having trouble paying my rent he’d front me bread if I had a gig in his joint coming up in a couple of weeks. I would boogie out to his place in this little white Fiat I got for pushing a broom in a used car dealership for two weeks, the only day gig I’ve ever had. It was where I first played with Phil Woods. From time to time I’d also get the house gig at Conneley’s club in “Soul Town“ where I had a chance to play with, among many others, Sonny Stitt, Brett Woodman/Johnny Hodges and “T” Williams, Tony’s dad. Also had a few gigs with Gene DiStatio’s Monday night band at The Stables.

Then things got really sparse. At the time Yugoslavian trumpeter Dusko Goykovich was going to Berklee. He’d let me crash at his place when I was between pads. I thought I might try my hand in Europe and he recommended I go to Munich, Germany. He wrote me a letter of introduction to Albert Mangelsdorf but when I arrived there I was told he wouldn’t be back in town for another week. So, I hung out until he arrived at this local club. He was standing at the bar having a drink with friends. I went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and, handing him the letter, told him Dusko suggested he might be looking for a piano player. Albert looked at the letter in his hand and without opening it, looked me in the eye and said “no.” He turned around to the bar again to finish his discussions.

Feeling a definite chill, I split town the next day and went to Paris. I hung there for a couple of months, playing a few gigs with another Miles style quintet. The last gig we played was a band contest which we won. Got paid $50 each. I was looking at the money in my hand and said ”screw this, I can make $50 in Boston with having to be a contestant.” So I bought $500 bucks worth of hashish from the doorman at a left bank jazz club, strapped it to my chest and took the next flight I could get back to Boston. That kept me alive for quite a few months during which I moved around a lot. Lived in Philly for a year finally ending up sharing a rent free garret apartment in a suburb of Providence, R.I. with my good friend, alto player, Joe Ferguson.

I had no piano for that period, didn’t play very much. I practiced on a kitchen table, visualizing the piano keys. It was a very low period in my life.

Your recording output overall has been sizable. During what point in your career did you start to record?

Other than the recordings I did with the Berklee Big Band my first two recordings were with Chet Baker in the early 60’s. It was in the period when Chet first returned from his years of living in Europe. He’d just been released from serving a sentence in an Italian jail and moved to New York with his new British wife Carol Baker. We toured for about three years with Phil Urso on tenor and Philadelphia’s Charlie Rice on drums and Jymie Merritt on bass. Chet and been away from the US so long the older laid-back groove style of playing he was used to had gone out of fashion. Rhythm sections were playing on top of the beat at the time. I‘d always felt I played to far behind the beat (you can hear it on the first record) and was working hard to get on top of it (you can hear it on the second record) so I convinced him to give me a chance to hire my own cats. Got my old cohort Steve Ellington on drums and Mike Fleming on bass but Chet didn’t like playing on top of the beat. He said it felt like the rhythm section was rushing. Eventually he got to like it though.

The first three recordings under my own name were made in the early 70’s for Mainstream Records with Mike and Randy Brecker on the first (The Guerilla Band) and third (Wild Bird) outings. I believe they were the first recordings of Mike and Randy. Very fusion, with double rhythm sections and experiments in Compound Rhythms and hiding “one”of the bar. The second release was my first trio release (Inner Journey) with Another old cohort from my early days in New York during the 60’s, Bill Goodwin on drums and Dave Holland on bass, a very experimental and challenging album for me.

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