Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2 | Summer 1983 (Seattle) /// Issue 4 of 24 /// Master# 4 of 24

musicians of Waldron’s go about reaching and g an audience for this jazz, especially in provinThe delight and interest these musicians took in each other’s playing was evident to full houses each time they performed. “ I was in love up there last night,” Eddie Henderson told me after their first engagement. And yet at times, in spite of this inspiring creative interplay, a listener can get lost during extended solo passages in which familiar musical guideposts are abandoned for the soloist’s freejamming, because he has his music, he has his format. But he makes a space for you to be free in: we’re listening and playing off each other, and it’s the most spontaneous thing.. . . You have to have the right musicians, though, the chemistry has to be right.” Waldron assembled this particular group of musicians because of his need to change and grow: “ In order to do that, I have to play with various combinations of musicians, because they all move me in different ways and bring something to the music I hadn’t thought of before.” This was not a hastily tossed-together group, but a careful blend of creative individuals with whom Waldron has collaborated before. During a duet tour with David Friesen last fall, Waldron said that they simply “get together and converse—musically, that is—because we have the same vocabudom to construct his own statement. Yet Waldron’s compositions have characteristics that make them always recognizable as his own, no matter how far “ out” a soloist may take them; qualities such as the dissonant chords on which they are built, the unexpected choice and placement of notes, the drama created by Waldron’s darkly resonant rhythmic variations, and his sharply-struck single notes that evoke their own spaces, hanging in the air, palpable and thick. “Jazz is one area in which you must be yourself,” Waldron said. “So the audience must be prepared to hear an individual sound and not judge it in terms of other people. There is no comparison to be set up in jazz.” tional stati . builo style ome musicians,” Waldron said as we talked in his tiny motel room, “ have to have a lot of money behind them and feel very comfortable in a luxurious home in order to create well. But I don’t need that, see, I just need a small room," we laugh as he looks around, “ or any place where I can compose.” Waldron’s music is structured', there is a written progression of chords or modal scales that all players follow, and the rhythm is always there (“ Rhythm’s my thing,” he said). But within that skeletal framework, each musician is free to discover his own means of expression and can flesh out those bare bones with completely imaginative solo excursions. Recently, the Mal Waldron Quin- \ tet—Charlie Rouse (Tenor Sax), David k . Friesen (Bass), Eddie Henderson & (T rum pe t) and Edd ie Moore S (Percussion)—appeared at The Vil- *“ • lage Jazz in Lake Oswego and at Ernestine’s in Seattle as part of a L th ree -w ee k West Coas t tou r. Waldron, who had not returned to ■ k the U.S. for more than two weeks a year until 1981, has decided to establish himself once again in this country. How do improvisaground.” It wasn’t until after he had been out of music for all of 1963, however, with what he describes as a “ mental breakdown," that he was hired to work on a movie score in Paris.. . . Around 1971, Mal Waldron began listening to the younger, “ free” musicians like the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Herbie Hancock Sextet. At that point he had a solid reputation as a performer and composer in Europe, and in the USA his place in history was assured by his written music (the haunting ballad “ Soul Eyes,” for example, which he wrote for and was made famous by John Coltrane) and the recordings he made in the 50s with Charles Mingus, Gene Ammons, Eric Dolphy, and of course Billie Holiday and Coltrane. Butin 1971, he decided to break with the way he had been playing. "It’s necessary for me to grow," he told me, “ because if you don’t grow, then you die. You have to listen to people, open yourself out, and respond to them.. . . My music is much freer now, and when I go back to the old way of playing Lfeel like I’m in prison.” But Mal Waldron’s “ free music” is not the cacophony of Pharoah Sanders in the late 60s, nor the wild harmelodics of Ornette Coleman, nor the limitless intellectual v irtuos ity of Anthony Braxton. Serious and severe on the bandstand, Waldron, 57 years of age, is gentle, generous and ready to laugh at his own response when conversing off-stage. “ I’m not really aware of the promotion and distribution," he said about his records, “ I’m a musician, not a businessman.” When asked if he would prefer an affiliation with a major label that would provide wider distribution, he replied, “ I don’t seek those things out, they have to seek me ou t.. . . I’m busy building a better mousetrap in hopes the world will beat a path to my door. Ha ha ha ha. The definition of a jazz musician is one who plays himself.” “That’s what music is all about—expressing your identity," Charlie Rouse said. On the saxophone, he has that pure sound of a master, he is a man of stature, part of jazz music in New York since the late 30s, and deeply affected by his association with one of the uniquest identities in jazz, the Cat in the Hat, Thelonious Monk. Looking grandfatherly, with gray hair, glasses and a pipe, Charlie Rouse is another example of an established modernist musician who is committed to continued growth. In fact, his recent association with “ free music," he explained, while it took several years listening for him to feel secure, wasn’t really a big change: “ My thing is improvisation, I play from feeling. I heard this music and something hit me and I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to get in that context and see how I can express myself with it.’” While I was talking with Mal Waldron in the room above Rouse's, I heard him practicing the bass clarinet. He's hoping, he told me later, to add more instrumental flexibility—at the age of 59. “ I feel I’m called to play music,” David Friesen told me one afternoon. “ If I didn’t think the music was serving man’s needs, I would have no purpose.” The sunlight brightened the gray in his hair, loosely framing his face. He was dressed casually, and often appears in a dashiki for concerts, but his relaxed exterior can’t hide the keen vision he has not only of the jazz business— he has taken care of most of his own booking and promotion—but of the place for honest, artistic values in all human endeavor. “ My purpose is to serve something of artistic value that I want to share with people. That’s why I’ll play small Portland clubs like The Hobbit and PC&S . . . because I’m doing what I’m called to do, I’m supporting my family, and I’m serving the people with some music— we’re travelling minstrels, so to speak." But Friesen, who grew up in Seattle and started playing jazz in the Army in 1962, has never been tempted to turn his considerable flexibility to more commercial avenues. “ I’m very comfortable and happy with what I have. I just want to pay the bills and have a home to live in and feed and clothe the kids. I don't desire a lot of material things, I'm trying to get along with as little as possible.” Trumpeter Eddie Henderson’s analytical, challenging intelligence is evident in the way he constructs his solos, which range from a beautifully articulated, muted and bluesy ballad style to brash, bright runs and brassy shrieks on up-tempo modal scales attacked with a precise agression. He is energetic and more youthful than his 43 years, and can catch a gesture as cleverly in conversation as he does musically on the bandstand, entertaining his listener with vividly mimed anecdotes. Henderson has been in the vanguard of contemporary jazz for over ten years, but like some other improvisational players, he too has made disco and rock albums. “ Did you make those,” I asked him, “with the idea of reaching a wider audience?" “That was the producer’s intention, and I was aware of that. His intention was to make a record that would sell, which is his job. But when I looked up after the record was done, I asked the producer why he didn’t put his name on it, because that wasn’t me.. . . But it was too late then.” Henderson feels he has gained a wider cial centers like Portland and Seattle? “Whenever you play with Mal,” Charlie Rouse said, “ it won’t sound like a bunch of all-stars “Music as a mirror of truth” It’s Not About No Money Mal Waldron and Company By Lynn Darroch Clinton St. Quarterly 15