A Brush With Immortality: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and Jackie McLean


BENEATH THE SPIN  Posted by Eric L. Wattree                                via #blues2jazzguy

I went to Shelly’s Manhole with some older brothers to see Thelonious Monk one night, and I noticed that Monk kept looking over at me as he was playing. It made me nervous because I was under age and I thought he was gonna give me up and tell ’em to kick me out. They already knew me at the clubs around town. I knew damn near every waitress in this city. Sometimes they’d let me stay, and other times they’d kick me out – I never did figure out what made the difference. And they’d never serve me drinks, so I’d have to order something non-alcoholic and bring my own. But I wanted to be accepted as a sophisticated adult more than anything in life, so sometime I’d put the bass in my voice and try to casually order Scotch on the rocks. But the waitress would just look at me sideways like, “You’re lucky I’m letting you stay here, so don’t push it, buddy.” T Monk  at Piano plaid jacket .             One or two of the waitresses who’d been around for a while knew my mother when she was working as a greeter at Dynamite Jackson’s, and I think they put the word out on me. So they’d tolerate me, but they just wouldn’t let me be the man who I wanted to be so desperately, because I wasn’t. It’s sort of funny when I look back on it. Had I been sophisticated enough to know what adulthood actually entailed, I would have been more desperate to hold on to those precious years than was I to become an adult. . So I just kept coming back and braving the humiliation, because from the time I was 12 years old I loved everything, and everybody, associated with jazz. I got that gene from my father. As I’ve said many times before, my father thought the only reason the Sun came up was to keep Bird’s reeds warm. I had to fight the preacher at his funeral to have Jackie McLean playing “Love and Hate” in the background. I told the preacher if they don’t have jazz in Heaven, the Pearly Gates would constitute the entrance to Hell for my father. The irony was, when I was done reading the eulogy that I’d written for my father (Blues For Mr. C), with Jackie Playing softly in the background, that very same preacher came up to me and asked me for a copy.    Monk meditating in Cosick Hat . On that particular night, however, after his first set, Monk walked up to me and TOLD me, “Come with me.” He took me back to the musician’s lounge where Nelly was, and asked, “Who does he remind you of?” And she said, “TOOTIE!” – Monk’s son. . He saw me as a young wide-eyed joke, and I was. I was 16 and on a roll (I had just seen John Coltrane a couple of weeks earlier). Monk asked me, “What you know about jazz, boy?” And I started telling him about all the urban legends that I’d heard about him. As he was listening intently to one of my stories he asked me, “Damn! What did I do then!!!?” You have to know how Monk was to know why I look back on that as being so funny, because he was dead serious. He got into the story like I was telling him a story about someone else. I never did find out whether the story was true or not. But When I was done, he told his wife, Nelly, “Shit, he knows more about me than I do,” and they started laughing’ their asses off. . I spent that entire night with them, because I was so young that Nelly was worried that I was gonna be picked up by one of those,”Hollywood perverts.” Monk told Nelly, “Shit,who you should be worried about is (Blank)? ” – his drummer (I’m not gonna give his name because he’s famous and he’s never been outed as gay). But for the rest of the night I sat in the front row next to Nelly, and after the gig I went to their hotel room with them and we grubbed and talked. I told him how I planned on becoming a great saxophone player someday, and I asked him everything I could think of about Bird. I remember him telling me, “Naw, you don’t want to be Bird, unless you like bein’ broke. How much money you got?” I had about five dollars in my pocket. And he said, “Shit, you already richer than Bird was half the time,” and then started laughing’. Nelly said, “Don’t say that, T!” They dropped me off at my mother’s door just as the Sun was coming up. It was a night I will never forget. monk's dream album cover . After that episode, the OGs made me a celebrity in the hood. I’ve never had that much attention before, or since. I had attracted the interest of THELONIOUS MONK. EVERYBODY wanted to know EVERY detail of what went down, and every detail about Monk that they could get – everybody, including Jimmy, the brilliant dope fiend that my father had hired to teach me to play the saxophone. There are a lot of details that I’ve left out of this story, and I remember every detail like it happened last night, but I do intend to write about it, and every nuance of that great man in the most minute detail in the near future, because it’s of historic significance. People STILL don’t realize how great that man was. You can listen to “Ruby My Dear,” or “Round Midnight,” and they constitute a MASTER’S CLASS on what contemporary music is all about. I could appreciate that even back then. So I thank God that I had the sense to know that I was in the presence of immortality. . I also intend to write about an entire New Years weekend that I spent with Dexter Gordon during the 70s. He grew up two blocks from my mother and they both went to Jefferson High School here in Los Angeles. She graduated; he went on the road with Lionel Hampton at 17 years old. During that weekend Dex made a passing comment regarding how I idolized him that ended up becoming the guiding philosophy of my life – “Learn to become your own hero, because you’re the only one who won’t let you down.” He also told me, “Whenever you hear me play a lick, your very first thought should be about how you could go about playing it better.” He was right, and that was the key to his greatness. Lester Young was his main man, and you could hear Lester in him, but he wasn’t Lester – he was Dexter, and nobody did it better. But he was wrong about one thing. He never did let me down. He blew the lights out until his very last breath. But I’ve taken him at his word, nevertheless, and he became my last hero. That’s turned me into a severe cynic over the years, and that very cynicism has been of tremendous value to me as a writer. I don’t trust the word of nobody, so I start off every piece I write by probing for lies.

Eric Wattree
Award-winning writer, Eric L. Wattree
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WELCOME AWARD WINNING WRITER ERIC WATTREE TO HIPSTER SANCTUARY


posted by blues2jazzguy    #hipster

Eric Wattree

Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician, born in Los Angeles. He’s a columnist for The Los Angeles Sentinel, Black Star News, The Atlanta Post, and a member of the Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists (http://www.spj.org/). He’s also the author of “A Message From the Hood.”

Some of the greatest minds I’ve ever known held court while sitting on empty milk crates in the parking lots of ghetto liquor stores, while some of the weakest minds I’ve ever known roamed the halls of academia in pursuit of credentials over knowledge.

Eric L. Wattree
http://www.whohub.com/wattree

ECHOES OF AN ERA: THE FABULOUS QUINCY JONES


posted by  Eric L. Wattree via R.J. Carmack #blues2jazzguy

Quincy at PianoQuincy Jones is one of the last truly GREAT composers and arrangers to come out of jazz, or any other form of music, in quite some time. NOBODY is greater, and no one ever has been. He stands among Ellington, Basie, Mancini, and Gershwin in complete comfort, so we shouldn’t take him for granted, because Quincy is easily among the greatest men who have ever lived, and that’s not meant as hyperbole.

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Yes, we already recognize him as a celebrity, but he’s much more than just that. Due to our contemporary philosophy of “de-education” – or the dumbing-down of society – we fail to recognize Quincy’s true statue as an artist, or what he represents to the history of music as a whole. Quincy Jones is not just famous, he’s an icon of the arts of a historic stature, and we should all recognize and honor such greatness within our midst, because there is nothing of more value to humanity than those who have achieved Quincy’s level of excellence, greatness, and accomplishment.
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People such as Quincy enhance all of humanity. They serve as living testaments to what man is capable of at his best. Their contributions represent the ultimate political, spiritual, and moral statement of mankind as a whole. They also stand as a constant reminder of what man can, and should be, and of the kind of excellence that we should all strive for.

quincy in session
Q in session with the great William “Count ” Basie 1959

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Thus, this is my tribute to a GREAT man, and a great artist, who has managed to achieve the ultimate in our human endeavor – immortality.  (The lyrics were written to be sang by a woman).

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QUINTESSENCE     lyrics by  ERIC WATTREE        

I____ love the sound____ of maestro\Quincy Jones____.
His music____ is so____ divine______.
When I sing____his songs____ I know I can’t____go wrong,
because I’m filled____with the soul____of Quincy Jones______.
*
Q’s____serenades_____ are always so refined________
The mel-o-dies linger____ on_____.
They sing of love for you____from a guy_______ known
as “Q”_____,
A name____that will always_______ sing for
you______

And then when Phil____ begins to play,
Quin-tes-sence\in his\own____and special way____
he seems to know\ . . . . exactly what the Q had to say.
They sung about jazz and love\ and of \ling___er___ing
Sunsets__________,
and______ blessed the dawn________with this song__

They sung of love\ and when your heart is full,
trem-bl-ing lips\ beneath a mistletoe____
they made my heart____ stand still_______.
So as I sing____ this song____ I know I\Just\ can’t____ go wrong______,
because it flowed____ from the pen ____ of

Maestro, Quincy Jones______.

I____ love the sound____ of maestro\Quincy Jones____.
His music____ is so____ divine______.
When I sing____his songs____ I know I can’t____go wrong,
because I’m filled____with the soul____of Quincy Jones______.

And then when Phil began to play\ Q just let him have____ his own way_____,
and Phil said, \”Maestro\ . . . I just love the sound of this
mel-o-dy.”
Then picked up his horn\ and started to
soar________like an angel__________,

and joined____ the immortals____ in fame_____.

Genius like this\ you never see no more____, \kissed
by the Gods\ as they walk through the door;
\A genius where time____stands still___________.
So as I sing___ his song______I know I____

can’t________ go wrong_________,

because I am wrapped\ in the soul_____ of Maestro____ Quincy Jones______.

*
Beauty is Q’s genre, and
he uses our heartstrings as his ax.

The fabulous Quincy Jones and the great Clark Terry!

clark Terry  Quincy

INVITATION by Q and Orchestra with sax solo by Phil Woods

About the writer

Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician, born in Los Angeles. He’s a columnist for The Los Angeles Sentinel, Black Star News, The Atlanta Post, and a member of the Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists (http://www.spj.org/). He’s also the author of “A Message From the Hood.”

“Some of the greatest minds I’ve ever known held court while sitting on empty milk crates in the parking lots of ghetto liquor stores, while some of the weakest minds I’ve ever known roamed the halls of academia in pursuit of credentials over knowledge.”

Eric L. Wattree Eric Wattree
http://www.whohub.com/wattree