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  1. AB: You read a lot in biographical accounts of people’s first gig or their first time out playing with better musicians and getting their ass kicked. Did you have experiences like that where on the gig you think, “whoa…there’s a lot more I need to learn”?

  2. AG: Definitely. Well, there are probably a couple of them. Playing with Betty Carter was something like that. I was timid, I didn’t have a lot of confidence, and I think I was intimidated by the situation. I got my ass kicked basically because I didn’t have the requisite confidence to perform in that setting in that moment. It was a wake-up call that my first responsibility to myself as a musician was to play with confidence, with some kind of conviction even it was false [laughs]. That was kind of an unexpected skill that I didn’t realize I would have to develop.

  3. As far as specific tunes, there was this time when I played a gig and I was seventeen or sixteen. Bob Sinicrope helped me hire Hal Crook, and Hal Crook played and it was great and I was very happy. My charts looked like crap, very unprofessional kid-type stuff, however. I expected that he would be able to sight-read all this horrible-looking music that I brought in my own terrible penmanship. I woke to the real world of real people. All the time, it happens on a smaller level: you play with people and they call a tune and you don't know it and you have to go home and learn it.

  4. AB: You know it’s funny, what you are talking about reminded me. I was watching this great documentary about Thelonius Monk called Straight No Chaser, have you seen it?

  5. AG: In Copley Square theater [in Boston], on the marquee it said, “The Loneliest Monk”—that was the name of the movie, The Loneliest Monk
  1. AB: [Laughs] There is a movie out now called the Bulletproof Monk. In Straight No Chaser there is this great scene and when I was teaching a jazz history class I showed it. Monk was on tour around Europe with this octet. Phil Woods was there [in the band], and he’s like, “Is this a C or a C#?” and [Monk] he’s like, “whatever….”

  2. AG: Monk said that?

  3. AB: Yeah. He’s a peculiar guy. You couldn’t quite tell if he was joking or if he was really serious. It was a very interesting…

  4. AG: I think he was probably joking because if you listen to his recordings he’s kind of a stickler for details in all his tunes.

  5. AB: We were talking earlier about subdivisions in the field and its construction in the New York Scene. I hate to bring it up—but race politics becomes inescapable in the jazz world because of the nature of the music and where it’s from.

  6. AG: I don’t think race politics becomes inescapable. I think racial diversity is inescapable.

  7. AB: There is a difference between our backgrounds and someone who is black, who might face systematic discrimination, a lower class position, or economic disadvantages. Those structural inequalities do create differences in the way we look at the world, in the way we operate through the world.

  8. I have a two-part question: have you experienced racial tension or hostility on the bandstand? I’m thinking mainly between black and white, but obviously the spectrum is wider than that. And second, taking in the larger issue about race and politics, do you have some responsibility as a jazz artist to larger civil rights or political activities in the African-American world. Is your music political? Should it be?

  9. AG: On the bandstand I have never experienced any racial hostility. I think that race was much more in vogue as a topic on everyone’s mind—in the press, in the musicians’ minds themselves—about ten, fifteen years ago, even stretching back into the late 80s, early 90s. I feel like since I moved back to New York in 1996–97, within the jazz community (definitely not to say within the world at large) it’s kind of a non-issue in the sense that I’ve personally experienced no racial tension and I have been aware of very little racial tension between other musicians. There is absolutely tons of racism out there in America. It just doesn’t exist within the jazz community in New York City, insofar as I can see it, either in its original white on black form or its reverse form, black on white.

  10. To be fair, New York City is one of the most liberal and educated cities in America, and it is also a city where everyone lives right on top of one another. New York is a city where the music scene is completely integrated—black and white people play together all the time. Also, I tend to play in a particularly integrated section of the integrated jazz scene, and am someone who has always played with black and white people together throughout my career.

  11. There is a racial demographic—I don’t want to say demographic divide—that does play a role in who becomes your friend, whether for social reasons, for geographic reasons, for education reasons, for plain old cultural reasons. On the other hand, in the music world as a whole, that demographic usually doesn’t stop musicians from playing with people of other races, and becoming friends with people of other races. In New York in particular, there is a priority placed on being the best musician you can be. Everyone pretty much just wants to play with the best musicians. Some of them happen to be black, some of them happen to be white. If you can play, for the most part, everyone is cool to you because they respect you first and foremost as a musician and not as a black person or a white person.

  12. AB: I think it sounds like a kind of model space…

  13. AG: I think in a lot of ways it really is. About fifteen years ago it wasn’t quite as much this way. I’m not sure about all the reasons for that but I think that there was some kind of race politics being played in the so-called halls of jazz power [laughs]. The media kind of bit on that. Lincoln Center and company were making a lot of valid points, reminding America that jazz was African-American music. Now that the point has been made convincingly and has entered the mainstream, which I think it hadn't completely say fifteen or twenty years ago, all the people who were formerly harping about race pretty much just let it go. So you don’t really hear anyone ever asking silly kinds stuff, like, can white people or can black people play, or do you like to play with black people—no one’s been asking that kind of bullshit for a long time. I don’t know of any black musicians who only play with black musicians, and I don’t know any white musicians who only play with white musicians, as a matter of principle. Sometimes it works out that way, but when it does it's for simple social reasons or as a matter of happenstance.

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Berish: Dissections and Intersections

Review Essays

Carson: El Niño

Courtier: Long Road to Freedom


Grigg and Murphy: Opera’s Second Death

Niebur: The Film Reader

Jorritsma: Amandla!

Conference Report

Garrett: Criss Cross