Well, Oscar, having read my feature on you
and my review of one of your concerts, any comments?
There’s one off–hand comment I must make, Les,
pertaining to the Trio—this is before having read your critique
on the concert and the article you wrote—and it’s a humorous
remark made by Ray Brown to me. He said: “It’s about time that
we retire now—when we start getting good reviews in England!”
But, seriously, my reaction naturally I’m always pleased with
a review in which the reviewer enjoys what we have to offer
musically. However, to carry it a little deeper than that, I’m
even more pleased in that with this particular review you repeatedly
mention the one thing that I think is a basic and an embryonic
part of our group—and that’s musical exuberance—in depth.
This is one thing, if nothing else, that we
have always tried to retain—not forcibly, because it isn’t always
like that. This is a necessary component, I feel, in modern
music. You find this in people such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy
Gillespie, Basie, Ellington. I’m not saying that we rank with
them, but I’m just saying that this spirit, this exuberance
is found in their music because it’s a by–product of belief
and honesty in what they do.
We don’t walk on the stage with apprehensions.
The apprehensions, if any, come afterwards in a reflective sense,
in which we review what we’ve done in that particular segment
of the concert, or that concert. And then it is worked over
mentally, talked over, rehashed and possibly revamped—to alleviate
in the next concert whatever difficulty occurred in that concert.
By doing it this way, I feel that our group—and I must say this
out of ego, speaking truthfully—has at last come through.
I was very pleased this year that, quietly,
without any fanfare and hat–raising, the group won the All Stars’
vote as the outstanding group of the year in Playboy magazine—which
is the first award this group has ever won. This pleased me
even more so than having won the piano award myself, because
over the years, apart from looking at it in a selfish light—I
have been playing with a group—and I believe strongly in what
my group has been doing.
I can’t tell you how pleased I am that at long
last we have been able to project the honest confidence, whatever
inventiveness we have, and musical compatibility. Over the years
I’ve listened repeatedly to—not only reviewers or just average
listeners (and in most cases that’s one and the same thing)
but also musicians who have said that this is the tightest group
they’ve ever heard, that this group breathes as one person,
moves, thinks as one person.
Yet it’s strange, it took us until 1963 to
win this award. I’m even more pleased because we won the award
from what they classify as the All Stars—the players. I wasn’t
concerned with the public awards to that extent.
I’ve been very pleased over the years to have
won various polls on my instrument from the public, but the
first time I ever won the Musicians’ Silver Plaque for being
the pianist of the year—I must say this pleased me more than
anything else. In fact, if I had to think of any other moment
to cap that moment it would have to be the group winning this
particular award as a group from the other voting musicians.
To have you receive our projections, so to speak, insofar as
exuberance and warmth and musical compatibility are concerned—this
pleased me extremely in the article and in the review.
The last time you interviewed me, we were discussing
the tremendous amount of accent that was being put on the matter
of technique and so forth. We went through all of this. Well,
you know, over the years, as I told you then, time answers all
questions. And a player is a player. That’s the way it is. And
I believe the resurgence of our group is proof enough.
To me you seem to have somehow come to terms
with your technique. You’re now in a position where you can
say that your technique is your servant rather than your master.
Right. Any artist, and obviously any group,
is continually in the process of investigation and growth. They
move through musical transitional periods. Because of this you
see things in retrospect and say: “I think I’ll adjust this,
or I’ll tighten this screw here, or I’ll lessen this, or I’ll
add to this particular component of my playing.” We all do this
over the years.
I can remember Ray talking to me many years
ago about playing—and I was complimenting him, as I often do
both guys in my group. He said: “Yes, that’s fine, but when
I get to the point when I can play everything completely in
tune and with the right amount of impetus that I want—then I’ll
really feel happy. So I’m glad that it’s coming through as it
is now, but it’s not what I want to do.” This is exactly what
I’m saying. It’s a refining process. And I think that in some
ways you could almost say that it’s unfortunate that the public
has to be a part of this during the weaning period of various
artists. But you’re out there, and once you’re out in front
of the public you have nothing to hide. I’m open for criticism
the same as anyone else. The only point I raised in that original
conversation with you was as to the direction from which it
came and the validity or background of the reviewers.
I still say this—although it doesn’t bother
me as much now as it did then. Because, you know, when a group
is still, as I said, searching and working on something, any
kind of off–hand comment, regardless of which quarter it comes
from, is distracting, if nothing else. When a group starts to
move as one instead of three components, as in our case—then
it really makes a difference.
I still don’t hold any reverence for much of
the criticisms written because I don’t think many of them are
musically honest. I don’t think they’re aware. A good instance
is several nights ago.
Without calling names of cities, we walked
into a concert hall and the group really felt like playing.
I couldn’t wait for Douggie to finish announcing us. However,
as exuberant as I felt, I walked out and found an instrument
that I wouldn’t ask my worst enemy to play on.
Well, these are all things that you have to
contend with—and without crying the blues, so to speak. You
know, everyone runs into this in the profession. But, as I say,
on the night of review, who knows what is transpiring—instrumentally
speaking even? That standpoint alone is a point of conjecture
in most artists’ lives.