JG: As an opener, Cannonball, what would you say you see in the immediate future of jazz?
Cannonball: It's kind of cloudy to me. Essentially, it's a little bit cloudy because I'm not encouraged by what I see developing in music as related to acceptance on the part of the various jazz audiences; that is, the jazz audience has become smaller and smaller, whereas jazz-oriented groups have had a broadening of the audience; so the people who say we are playing the real jazz, they get further and further entrenched and the fans become smaller and it's a thing that makes me very concerned, really, because I am not convinced that people are just suddenly going to say, well, yes that's it, that's beautiful, because they have never done it with classical music yet, man, that was a long way ahead of what we are doing in jazz as far as experimental wo are concerned, for want of a better
term; the jazz avant garde is doing something that has already been done and to date there's been no great acceptance of the kind of thing that is being done in jazz by the
JG: Let's try to get an idea what percentage of people would say that they are interested in the avant garde or appreciate it. I think Leonard Feather did an article for Downbeat a few months ago in which he took a survey of what percentage of Downbeat readers were interested in the avant
garde. I think he said 40% were quite deeply interested.
CA: I don't think that they are supporting it, though. May be just being interested is not enough. It's sort of like the music of Carl Heinz Stockhausen is different. Certainly there's some interest in what Stockhausen is doing, especially among the musicians and people who understand music enough to be aware of various things that are happening, but it's like once a curiosity has been satisfied it becomes eclectic, there's no longer any emotional satisfaction, and that is the thing that bothers me. Now, I don't equate all because unfortunately the jazz writing community has lumped everything into one thing. I think there's a market for what Charles Lloyd does; I think there's a potential market for what Ornette Coleman does, and certainly there's a market up to a point for what John Coltrane was doing when he was around. But this vast new community of young people who know no other jazz, who know no other way to play, and apparently don't have that much impact - I am a little bit concerned about it because I cannot say they grew up the same way these other people did. I think that when a guy like Coltrane arrives at what he arrived at, then at least there's a basis for how he grew and there's more to it than just subjective interest.
JG: In other words, they are trying to start out on top and don't really have anything underneath them and what a lot of them are doing will prove to be nonsense, whereas probably most of what Coltrane has done was sincere and musically valuable.
CA: Well, I won't say that it's nonsense per se. What I will say is that it makes a lot more sense to be completely involved in the jazz art form institutionally. There's no future without the past and anybody who doesn't really understand where jazz has come from has no right to try to direct where it's going. It's that kind of thing, now, the point of it all is that where toward the end John Coltrane's attendance at clubs and so forth had fallen off quite a bit because even his hardcore fans may not be prepared to accept what he was doing in
toto. That is not necessarily any fault of Coltrane's, that's nobody's fault. The artist has to do what he thinks belongs there, but when you are in an experimental stage you are on the way to arriving at something, and this will happen in the case of anybody who is trying to develop a thing; but jazz seems to be in a constant state of development and I wonder about the abrupt great leap forward. I think that what the
"avant garde" - what these people have done is to temper and influence the other modern jazz musicians in such a way that it's becoming more and more interesting, like what Miles Davis is doing. While certain things we do are directly influenced by Ornette Coleman or John Coltrane or Cecil Taylor ... anybody ... but we do what we do in the context of what we know the music to be - our music to be - and the influence is out there, but I don't know whether we are ready for ...
JG: complete jump out front ...
CA: . „. yes, freedom without regard to discipline.
JG: Would you agree that what we call the modern jazz mainstream, people who are sort of progressing gradually, are really carrying the ball?
CA: Carrying the ball?
JG: Yes. At the center of where jazz is rather than the people who are what we call the avant
CA: Well, I don't know. The funny thing is that all roads lead back to Duke Ellington. So long as there's a Duke Ellington you don't have advancement in jazz, you don't have modern jazz, traditional feeling, you don't have time or no time, or polyrhythms and polytonality as well as simple tonalities. I think that so long as he's around we are going to have jazz as we knew it, but I'm a little bit afraid.
Our problem is just getting the people to listen. There are a great number of fine players, and there will always be fine players. What were the elements that attracted people to jazz in the first place? Let's stop and think about that. Jazz had a kind of mystique. It differed from popular music and dance music because there were surprises all the time ... there was always the spontaneity of improvisation and the excitement of people really involved in enjoying what they seemed to be doing. Among other things. Now aren't some of these same elements present in some of the popular music today? This is the thing that is of major concern to me. There are certain rock and roll, rhythm and blues groups who have exciting rhythms going on - complicated things they have a spontaneous kind of vocal improvisation even, and they have the same elements, solos that
we have today, improvisation based on something new, when they get a music that complements all the other elements they have going, then I am a little bit afraid, because we have become so intellectual in our approach to jazz that it's becoming academic, and we listen to people because we know they are good and to see what they are going to teach us or what they are going to say rather than for the sheer thrill and enjoyment of
JG : Now , what you said
about rock having these elements of improvisation and burgeoning with some
interesting rhythms-maybe we could see something for the future, a music that
doesn't really have to distinguished like jazz and rock. Do you think there's
some sort of blend coming ?
CA: I don't know whether there will be a blend as such or merger; but maybe it will be a good thing when music ceases to be departmentalized. That's something that Duke Ellington has said ... I keep reverting, he to me is the greatest ever and my favorite jazz philosopher, as such. He says that we need to discard that silly term "jazz" because the larger thing is the music. What does the music do? What does the music mean?
JG: Do you see a unified music in the future?
CA: No, there will never be a unified music as such and we Americans by nature seem to need to have handles for everything - everything must have a catalog number, and so long as this is necessary for us as Americans we will have a different kind of music. There's a difference between rock and roll and rhythm and blues and there's jazz rock and hard rock, there's folk rock, there's always something, so I don't think that there will ever be a unified music because there will never be a unified people. As long as it's creative, there will be different things going on, but I'm convinced there will be some of the same elements operative in all of the popular music.
JG: That's the way it should be - unity and diversity. How could there be unity if everybody were really the same? You would not have the feeling of unity, there would be no dynamism there.
CA: Consequently I hope that there never is a single music to serve everybody's needs. I like the concept of so many different people from diverse sources and styles finding some of the same music interesting. I may go to somebody's home and find a record by Ramsey Lewis and another by Ravi Shankar and maybe one by Simon and Garfunkle and one by Wilson Pickett. This same person may not like classical music or country and western or just plain pop. Then we go to somebody else's house and find a Miles Davis record , a Frank Sinatra record side by side and maybe one by Van
Clibourn; so long as these tastes cross each other, I think that's wonderful, but never a music that will take care of it all.
JG: Let's hope not. What about electronic music. You have probably and I have heard the few things that the Beatles have done in this type of thing
CA: I think it's a misnomer to call it electronic music really. All these amplified instruments and so forth, okay, but I don't see anything new about it. It's all been around, it's all been done, people are employing things they have heard from other places, other things. There's been a lot of talk about this Larry
Coryell, but I have never heard him and I am very anxious to hear what he does. But I don't know anything about electronic music per se to comment on it. I am still listening.
JG: I would like to know how you feel about the people who are making music, how they are going to grow, what their tastes are going to be. It seems that rock has a very firm place. What about jazz?
CA: Well, rock is the pop music of today essentially, and there's always been an ingroup for jazz, you know, rather than a great market place.
JG: Do you see in the next few years a broader acceptance of jazz?
CA: No, I don't really. That's what I was saying before. I don't see that. I do see more and more people making it who are, like, on the one hand a Ramsey Lewis ... there are certain jazz elements operative there, but it's a different thing, it's not per se, the same thing that Bill Evans does. I see a greater amount of acceptance for these things.
Now if Ramsey Lewis continues to play all kinds of music for his following, then it will make a big difference, as say Jimmy Smith has done. Jimmy Smith has a lot of pop hit records; he continues to play the stronger things than the more far out things and he also continues to ... like the album they made about Peter and the Wolf. I thought that was interesting for a pop record,
JG: What do you think about rock and its development? Do you think that rock has become a valid type of music?
CA: Well, that's being proved all the time. The successful rock musicians seem to be unwilling to take chances with their security except in the case of the Beatles. But you cannot say that for many groups, groups that if they get a successful thing, with the what I call doowaah ... you know ...
doo-waah, doowaah ... if they make a success with that they are a little bit afraid to say
oooaa, because they are known as the doowaahs. Well, certainly these groups, these players, writers and so forth, have recognized the possibilities of things and you find more and more people coming out of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, etc., becoming overall stars: the kind of thing Dionne Warwick does, or that Bert Bachrach has written for her, is a beautiful music and she is no longer just a rhythm and blues, rock and roll singer, she is a fine singer of great songs, and I think that's wonderful. Now if we find more and more of that happening there will also be a growth pattern.
JG: I feel a musician can reach people if he's willing to play various types of music, and there's something in all of them that's worthwhile.
CA: I don't think that people should be willing to play music that is popular as such. People should play what they want to play, and if their tastes run in several directions, then play that; I think it's important to be able to play whatever you play well and it will communicate. There's George Shearing who has been very successful for many years but who is from out of jazz and has a jazz-oriented pop group; the younger generation is not so aware of Shearing and his background and his contribution to developing a wider jazz listening audience as some of us older folks are, but George Shearing, a case in point, is a man who has always liked all kinds of things and he plays them all. He had a Shearing sound and a Shearing sound is easily identified, but to say that a guy should be willing to do what he does would negate the truth because I think that an artist should be faithful to himself and honest with himself.
I remember just a few years ago, everybody was talking about this piano player with a small band that played rhythm and blues that was so soul that Atlantic Records brought this young man up from the rhythm and blues scene to make a jazz album. His first jazz album had Milt Jackson on it. People liked that. Beautiful album, but the point I am trying to make is that a jazz musician was very anxious to play with this young man and I am referring to Ray Charles, but it's just been 8-10 years since this happened. Of course, you know a lazy guy says I'm going to make a record with Ray Charles, it doesn't have the same impact, but it did at that time because people thought that what he was playing was beautiful and it belonged in that swing together style. I think that's i the way it should be.
JG: It's at the heart of life, or at the heart of what life means to young people.
CA: Let's not say this: rock is the answer. I honestly believe that jazz has suffered for lack of exposure; there were many times, especially in the last 15 years, when I felt that a jazz music could have been much more popular than it ever was during the early days of the Jazz Messengers and the early days of Jimmy Smith, because it had a thing that people liked, the same elements - I talked about. There were people who said that isn't going to sell and blah blah blah and everything meant money. So, I think that rock has become the kids' kind of music because they hear it all the time. Now it's traditional with them. Let's face it, before Elvis Presley even, rock didn't have that kind of exposure that it has today. There were so many good music stations, etc. and maybe there would be one station that would play Bill Hayley's Rock Around the Clock.
JG: In the beginning it was really something we could all pretty well get mad at, but I see your point that it's not right for any one type of music to be the only thing that kids or all of us can hear. We have got to hear it all.
CA: That's the way I feel about it. We just simply don't have equal opportunity. One thing that bothers me is that I don't think jazz musicians should be the deprived class, simply because they care about something that we think is major musically. I see no reason why we should be hungry in order to survive ... in order for music to survive, I don't understand that. I say one thing, and I say this sincerely. If it ever gets to the point where it becomes a liability for a musician to create what he believes in, the whole thing will suffer. It's just like all the other little freedoms that we seem to give up, that every time we give up something then we all lose in the exchange, and the rock community, the classical community, the American community should see to it that this music as we know it, philosophically, should survive and it should be nurtured; we don't need to let it disappear.
JG: Let's talk about some ways of preserving this modern American music. Do you feel that the musicians can do anything?
CA: No. I really don't. I think once again that the artist like any other artist, should be permitted to express himself in the way that he feels should be. That is, I don't think that there should any rules laid down that say well, this is how you should smile ... and that you should play ... no, the point I'm trying to make is this: the people who seem to feel like they're doing someone a favor, maybe they do feel that way. You know, Picasso felt that way for quite a while and why not
JG: He's been lucky, maybe. It didn't help his salability or his popularity.
CA: Well, it's not altered him one way or the other from the outset. That's the point I'm trying to make, He's always been simply Pablo Picasso, and he's been himself, his way, he's been unreachable, he's been insulting, he's been everything and I am sure he's been lucky, but he was not always a best seller and he's always been the same way. The point is that he was never a phony about it, he did what he felt. I feel that all artists should do this. The point is not always people's troubles, who get concerned with them. I don't think it's anybody's business what he does in his personal life or how he presents his art. Either you like what he does from an artist's point of view or you don't. I don't think that we should chastise musicians as such who don't care necessarily to be, let's say, showmen in their presentation.
JG: Personalities vary, though; when you see a person getting outright ornery, would not you say that this can ...
CA: I don't think anybody really is. Even the ones who get publicity and so one, people have a way of needling you, they have a way of generalizing. You read that a person is such a way, and so someone says, I don't believe he will do that to me, so they chance it and what this man says or does other than musically is not that person's business, so okay, it becomes a cause
celebre. You know what I mean, to chastise a Charles Mingus because he doesn't think the same way or Thelonius Monk or Miles Davis doesn't like to talk. There are people who say, is he really like that? I'm going to see. They needle him. I think they have a perfect right to express themselves the way they choose; naturally he's ornery, okay. Nobody has the right to listen. Let me tell you something. Picasso or Lyndon Johnson, neither has the right to insult me. But then I don't have the right to invade his privacy, so I think that let's separate the two.
JG: Could musicians do more to reach the people than they are doing now? For example, I feel that you and the rest of the fellows in your group do much more than some other groups to reach the people.
CA: You know, I have a funny attitude about that. We have always played pretty much the same way. We have always played pretty much the same variety of music. Naturally, when we had a bigger band, we could not play as much as we are playing with a smaller band, because tenor saxophone players are very longwinded and where we could play 4 or 5 tunes during a set now, then we could only play 2 or 3. The point I'm trying to make is that we think that people discover us and there's no conscious effort to be different, and never has been; we have always presented ourselves in different way of ... I don't know ... and suddenly we find a lot of middle-aged people right along with the young people saying, yes I enjoyed it, this is good. It is gratifying to me to be accepted on a larger scale, to get more acceptance on a commercial basis is always good for the pocketbook, as well as the ego, but it still mystifies me sometimes. Why do we have 40-yr. -old white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant listeners to Sack o' Woe in 1967, and we had difficulty getting them in 1960 or '61. What is the difference for the same tune, or the same kind of music, the same kind of talk, the same kind of presentation, the same size band? What makes the difference? There's the mystery. It is very interesting.
JG: I think that the music is what the people are who make it and if the people are kind or outgoing, the music will eventually reach people because it will somehow have this warmth, this kindness in it.
CA: I wish I could agree with you on that. I think it's wonderful that you think that way, but there are too many cases in point to contradict you. Some of the guys who have written some of the most beautiful music ever are some of the biggest bastards, and this goes all the way back to Handel and Schubert. Some of the biggest fops ever were like Franz Lizst and Chopin and these cats whose music cannot be questioned in terms of its beauty. They were not necessarily beautiful people. The same applies to some of the pop music from the last 30 years or so, from Gershwin on through Richard Rodgers. Some of these guys are not likable people, but they make beautiful music. I think that it would be nice if I could take refuge in the fact that I feel kindly towards the world and the music communicates that way but I really cannot.
JG: Maybe it's sort of an independent thing from the creator, once a creator gives it a little birth, it's kind of on its own.
CA: Oh, yes, that's true. You have no control over it after that. After that old saying about beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or the ear of the beholder.
JG: You were saying that the group has always played the same type of variety of things and had a pretty consistent feeling running through it over the years; it's never made an overt attempt to grab people by the collar, but for example, in a piece like Mercy, Mercy, Joe Zawinul must have seen that this would be a tune that would have more appeal than some other of his compositions. Is that true?
CA: Only after it was created. It's hard to say about music and now you take my brother: Nat wrote a song about 7 or 8 years ago. It wasn't a big song for us. We did the first recording and the second recording. He recorded it himself on an album he did for Riverside, called Work Song. Then we recorded it in an album: the very next album I did called Them Dirty Blues and it was recorded by various other people; then Oscar Brown wrote a lyric to it and it was recorded by a lot of singers, and Herbie Alpert and the Tijuana Brass decided they wanted to do it, and it became a big, big tune. We still play the tune ... we have played it through the years because we like it. But what makes it?
JG: What a mystery! Well, I guess life is a mystery. Can't get more trite than that - it's a fact that you face every day.
CA: Every day of our lives.
JG: And you wouldn't want it any other way.
CA: That's true. If we knew what was going to happen - oh, boy, wouldn't be any fun.