I need more Monk in my life (always)
A lovely remembrance
Coming to New York in 1959 was really exciting. I’d never been there before, and after checking into the hotel we went down to the Five Spot for a rehearsal and I had never seen anything like that before, derelicts lying there on the street. I started to bend down to help one guy and one of the other musicians who was playing the Five Spot said, “What are you doing?” The guy’s lying on the sidewalk! “Hey man, you’re in New York City! You can’t help that, man!” When we started playing every night, the place was packed with people not just from the art world, from everywhere. There were famous painters, poets. One night I was playing — you know, I usually play with my eyes closed — and I happened to open my eyes and looked down and there was Leonard Bernstein with his ear next to my bass, right on the bandstand. He asked me where I’d studied and I told him I was self-taught and he couldn’t believe that. He invited me to come up to the Philharmomic, and years later, when I was sure he had forgotten men, he was of tremendous help to me with the Guggenheim Foundation, when I applied for a fellowship in composition.
One night we were playing, Cherry was taking a solo and all of a sudden I heard the solo change direction and I opened my eyes and it was Miles. He had gotten up on the stand, taken Cherry’s horn and started playing. And there wasn’t a night when I didn’t open my eyes, look out at the audience or the bar and see some great bass player checking me out. Paul Chambers, Percy Heath, Mingus. Those were exciting days. Then we went on the road and scared everyone to death in the towns we played — Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia. The musicians would come to hear us, word had come down the grapevine, people were expecting something new.
"Do you remember the happiest moment of your life?"
"One time back in 73’, I went to see a show at the Village Vanguard by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He was amazing. He could play three saxophones at one time. I went to his last set of the night, and I got there early and found him sitting at the bar. I went up to him and asked if I could join him on stage for a song, but he told me that he wouldn’t have the time. ‘If you change your mind,’ I told him, ‘I’ll be sitting in the front row corner.’ I told him exactly where I’d be because he was blind. Then right at the end of the show, he started waving toward my table. I got up there and started playing, and at one point he motioned for the whole band to stop, and I got to play a solo up on the stage. Everyone was clapping for me. I rode home on the subway that night feeling like a king. Feeling like I could play with anyone in the world."
Horace Silver died today at the age of 85.
These are but a few of my favorite records with him as a leader. It’s a very long list and I have all his 50s and 60s output both as a leader and as a sideman.
If you are one of those that knew me from the now defunct Blue Note forums many years ago, then you might remember me as “The Hard Bop Disciple”. Yes, that was me selling all those original Blue Note pressings, including the signed ones from Horace Silver. I got those signed records from my mentor who told me many stories of his escapades in the 60s, some of which included Horace Silver. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some tidbits at a future date.
R.I.P. Horace Silver
When we played on Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder, it was one of the situations that was really funny. I always think in my mind, “What would have happened on Sidewinder had it been somebody like McCoy?” It could have been a whole different thing.
I remember Barry Harris saying, at the date, Barry saying, “I’ve never been on a hit, so I’m gonna play as funky as I can.” Well, he ain’t a funk kind of player, in saying as far as his sound and his groove is not in that kind of thing. But it came off. He was able to pull it off.
I just remember the date, we laughed. I’m laughing my can off. First of all, “Sidewinder” wasn’t a tune we had really rehearsed. We needed one more tune at the record date. Lee Morgan went into the bathroom. We don’t know whether he’s getting high or… We had no idea. He’s in there for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and we’re just waiting. We need one more tune to finish the date. When he came out, he put the music down and it was “Sidewinder.”
There was a slight problem with the unveiling cord, but brothers gonna work it out!!
My favorite Miles Davis story: the time he waited until just before a show to inform his band that they would be playing pro bono. The results were two live albums (Four and More and My Funny Valentine) that are among the best of his expansive discography.