HM talks to Buddy DeFranco, Tony Scott

HM talks to Buddy DeFranco, Tony Scott

by Howard Mandel

copyright © 2003 Howard Mandel

I interviewed octagenarian clarinetists Buddy DeFranco and Tony Scott separately at their hotel on an afternoon in June, when they were performing nightly with special guest younger clarinetists at Iridium, in New York City. Down Beat could only accomodate a portion of the interviews, which are offered here in transcript form.

I spoke with Buddy in the hotel lobby, where people passed by without recognizing him.

Buddy DeFranco: I've known Tony since the late '40s. We did not play together, however, until about 1981, in Germany. We've been friends for years. I love him: he has a big heart, and he's fun. We always have a lot of laughs.

HM: I assume you both already had your own styles when you met.

BD: Yes, we did, and our styles were completely different, although we were both privy to the bebop era and knew the important people in bebop, the guys who created it -- Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford.

I took from everyone I heard. I always admired Art Tatum, and Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. But Johnny Mince, who was with Tommy Dorsey, was my first clarinet influence, and made me decide I was going to play jazz clarinet. I also went back and listened to the early guys: Johnny Dodds, Barney Bigard, Buster Bailey with John Kirby. They were great, but a little too polite. They didn't establish the pulse, as Benny and Artie did, and Bird, too.

I was like Dizzy Gillespie at the time, I guess. Dizzy played a lot like Roy Eldridge, but you could tell he was gravitating to a more modern sound. So was I; I wanted to go somewhere else. You can hear that in my very early recordings with Dorsey and Charlie Barnet. I was a little more modern, and established a style of a kind -- but it wasn't bebop. When I first heard Bird, I was with [pianist] Dodo Marmarosa and we turned to each other and both said, 'This is going to be it.' We were right. It was it!

HM: Was it the harmonic reach, the speed --

BD: You name it: the complex rhythms, and also the articulation of bop -- tonguing, breathing, formation of embouchure, also a mental concept, which is probably the most important. I had to increase and expand your concept to play that music on clarinet. It was very difficult, but I made a study of it. I had the good fortune to play with both Bird and Diz, and I watched Bird closely to see how I could do what he did. By observation I was able to make the transition from traditional swing to a kind of bebop.

HM: Is it true that the clarinet is not suited to bebop?

BD: It is true. Unlike almost any other instrument, the clarinet has five different registers, each pre-supposing a different fingering system. There's the bridge fingering you have to learn to get to the higher registers. The high notes have different fingerings. And tone quality: There are two low chameleau registers and the altimissimo register. You have to adjust in a split second when you're changing between them.

Then you've got the six holes you need to put your fingers flush on. Even the thumb tends a hole -- and a register key. If you miss being exactly on those holes you'll get a squeak, your note won't come out right or another note will come out, which you can't afford when you're playing something as complex as bebop. Playing bebop on clarinet is like walking a tightrope; you're constricted by the instrument but you still have to force it into that more open and free experience.

It's not an easy thing. You just learn to do it. It's very similar to sports, like golf, where there's a fine line between that first shot and the ones when you start learning how to making the ball go where you want it to go. Every art has that thing. You compound it with the peculiarities of the clarinet, and it gets pretty difficult. Some guys shy away from it. The saxophone is an octave instrument, the pads close the holes for you, and it's an easier experience. I played alto, but when I heard Bird I said to myself, 'Why should I? How could I ever even come close?' I figured my way of doing something unique was with the clarinet.

HM: Given the technical challenges, does the instrument come with a period of frustration?

BD: Many years of frustration. Up to this day. Because jazz especially is a thing where you never get where you want to be. It's out there, somewhere. Your mind is always ahead of what you really can do on the instrument, so it's a constant game, trying to make it better, more precise. Which is another problem: If you get more precise, you may get cold. So you say, 'No, I don't want to be mechanical.' You can't map out things in advance, that's not jazz.

You know, this is all tricky stuff. Once I was doing some school clinics, and one of the great symphonic clarinet players, Daniel Bonade of the Philadelphia Orchestra was doing another clinic in the same school. I used to pick the brains of as many clarinet players as I could, to see how they got their sound, what reeds they used, everything. So I went to hear his clinic, and at the end I sidled up, and said, 'When do you finally master the clarinet?' And he said, 'Master the clarinet? That's the funniest thing I've ever heard.'

HM: Did other clarinetists keep you on your toes?

BD: Of course. But we were all frustrated, with the changes affecting the big bands, as well as the music itself. And for a while the clarinet virtually disappeared. It became very unpopular. I think over time, each instrument has its day in the sun, then it dies and then comes back again. Like the soprano sax: for many years it was a joke, nowadays it's a bona fide jazz instrument. The harmonica was a joke -- but when you hear Toots Thielemans, it's no joke, he's playing great.

So the clarinet fell into disfavor. But I was too stubborn to give up. I kept at it and wanted to get that thing I had in mind. Fairly successful, but not totally.

A lot of the other guys who were in the running gravitated to saxophone, or went into studio playing. Well, even at best jazz is a lonely field. You're playing aginst the popular winds. Plus the fact that when bebop came in, young people couldn't dance to it, whereas the swing bands were dance bands primarily, though they were jazz-based, so about 80 per cent of the audience said goodbye. They looked for music they could be a part of and dance to.

In most cases the audience doesn't want to sit and listen to something they can't do. They want to be in it, they want to be able to do it. So they've kept dragging the level of music down. Every day I used to say to myself, 'At least pop music can't get worse.' But it did!

HM: Jazz fans seem to respect virtuosity, and have confidence the musicians will carry them somewhere they can't get otherwise.

BD: Like in the symphonic field, you sit and listen to somebody who does what you can't do, and you appreciate and enjoy it. But that was a lonely experience during the '50s, '60s and '70s. It was only in the mid '80s that American jazz began to make a little comeback. Now it's not totally back, but it's recognized as pretty important stuff.

In Europe, it was always taken as a serious form of music. Playing in Europe was a main source of my income for decades. And now, all over the world, every country has a bunch of extremely good young jazz players. I can identify those who've listened to me; I've spun off a lot of clones.

HM: Have you played the symphonic pieces written for clarinet?

BD: When I started doing music clinics in schools I would play Mozart and Brahms and other standard clarinet pieces, but I wasn't satisfied because I had to use a different mouthpiece and reed set-up, and then during an intermission get my truck driver's equipment on in order to play jazz. Jazz requires you know how to abuse the instrument, be a little rougher with it in order to get out that message. But I had legitimate training on clarinet.

HM: Was switching to jazz a liberation ?

BD: It was! I used to get drugged in the symphony: You're out for 185 measures, then you come in and play 16 bars. You only get to be heard once in a while. I never liked that.

HM: Did you ever think about how to modernize the swing band while keeping it fit for dancing.

BD: Sure, but that's even more difficult to come by, try to do something with a big band that hasn't been done before. Years ago I had a record date. Nelson Riddle and I had been friends for years, we roomed together in the Dorsey band, and he was one of my favorite writers. And he did a great thing, we did a cd -- well it was an album at the time -- called The Cross Countryone of their husbands. ters and Suite which Nelson wrote for me, clarinet all the way through the whole thing, very unusual thing, in fact it won Nelson the award, the first Grammy award, Nelson won with that composition. So I had a record date to do, a big band record date, and I said Nelson, 'I've got a record date, what I want to do is I want something different.' He said, 'For instance?' That's really what it amounts to. And here was one of the most creative guys.

HM: Some of those coming this week -- modernized in a different way -- what have they done that surprised you?

BD: I've heard them before, so it was no real surprise. I knew what they did. A lot of them throw kind of like in the context of Pee Wee Russell, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman. They throw that formal technique to the winds. They don't want to have anything to do with that. That's the way they want to express themselves.

I'm uncomfortable with that concept. I'm in line with say Oscar Peterson and Bird and Art Tatum, where you play formally, in a correct way on the instrument, in order to play your jazz. Whereas a lot of the new guys don't care about that formal technique. tTey just don't want to learn it. It is an encumberment, it's a real responsiblity, and I can understand their frustration, because it takes a lot of time and effort to keep that edge on the clarinet, as a formal instrument. It takes some doing. And they just don't want that constriction. Caution to the wind.

HM: Are they abusing that concept the way your abusing the instrument?

BD: They've gone the other way, as far as they can go.

HM: You haven't played with Marty Ehrlich yet. . .

BD: No, I haven't heard enough of Marty, I can't comment. Don Byron, he's a good clarinet player, but he likes to throw it off. He's had the training. In most cases, it's a concious decision they make. The other guys on other instruments have the same choice. They don't want it.

HM: Someone like Eddie Daniels is a formalist. . .

BD: Oh yeah, he's marvelous. He has a tremendous control of the instrument. Ken Peplowski is another one. We had Kenny Davern last night. . . Perry Robinson the first night, Ron Audrich, who's also a fine clarinet player. He's kind of in line with what I would do, or Eddie Daniels would do.

HM: Is what Tony does the other side of things?

BD: He is! That's Tony, positively! He throws caution to the wind. It's not the way I would play, but I understand what he's doing, and why he wants to do it. It frees him of that responsibility. Plus the fact that it's a form of expressing yourself. You can see it in painters, a lot of the modern painters; some of them, you look at their paintings and say, 'Look at that, it's outside, off the wall.' It's an expression of a kind, though. It's saying something.

HM: When you're doing the duets, together with Tony -- instead of side by side contrast, does the resulting music, the interweaving, create a third thing?

BD: Positively. Also, we both come close to each other when we play together. We don't fight. we come close. I may do a thing that would be outside in my way, and he would be a little more controlled and formal in his way. And that brings a different kind of a thing to it. Another form of jazz. HM Tony is so full of energy, you strike me as more reticent, or more cool -- but you're comfortable with his performance style?

BD: Oh sure. I know what he does. Tony is Tony. Yeah.

HM: Did he approach the bop challenge in a different way that you did?

BD: Tony had a different personality, as you say. He won't keep still. Ever. On anything. It shows in what he does, in what he plays. Even years ago he was just that way, restless. Travelled the world, did everything he possibly could around the far east, near east, you name it. He finally settled in Italy, he was living in Rome for many years, but he was always a restless type. That's showed up in his playing.

HM: Do you keep up with contemporary music?

BD: Pop I can't get, most of it is so infantile. The oxymoron to me is rap artist -- that's like porn-star. I don't get it. But there it is. It moves the world.

HM: Somebody like Norah Jones, who's very melodic . . .

BD: It's not something you haven't heard one way or another over the years. It's good, you know, but . . . For instance, if you want to hear everything harmonically that was done in jazz then you could listen to Ravel and Prokofief. If you wanted to hear everything that was done in terms of performing a pop song to the ultimate, that would be Art Tatum. So that's been done, a lot of it's been done. What I try to do is stay in line with that concept. Even among the arrangers in the modern school, teachers will tell them, 'You want to know something about arranging, go get a Ravel score.' It's all there.

HM: Nelson Riddle must have done things Ravel didn't do. . .

BD: Of course, his way, but you could hear Ravel in Nelson. You can hear Ravel in practically every arranger. But of course they add their thing to it. Just like Tony and I would do with the clarinet. We all do something that Benny and Artie did, somewhere. And, of course, Bird. But we throw in our own little seasoning.

HM: And when you hear Don Byron, you think he's doing something Benny and Artie did? Though he may not know it?

BD: Yeah, a little bit, of course. He may not know it. I hear a lot of it. Almost all the clarinet players. You do.

HM: Did you ever play bass clarinet?

BD: Bass clarinet? Yeah, I did a whole album with it. It was finally released on CD. It was a good album, with Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, a lot of good players, Victor Feldman, in the mid '60s. That's the only one I ever did all the way through with bass clarinet. It was a great experience, but I didn't want to live with it. I'm too lazy. I have enough trouble with the regular clarinet. And I realized another thing: When I played it in person, the audience didn't care if I played it or not. I'd play my brains out on bass clarinet, and they'd say, 'Oh, that's nice.' That's not what they came to see me for.

Today, I do the cruises, and the parties, the one in Clearwater, recently did the Arbors party. Terry Gibbs and I do all the jazz cruises. Terry is like Tony in many ways: gregarious, fun, a lot of laughs. It takes that element of seriousness out of the performance, to work with someone like that. Which is ok by me.

I spoke with Tony Scott in his hotel room, in which he sat with his wife, his two daughters and one of their husbands.

HM: When did you leave New York City?

TS: For good, in 1967, but I was traveling before that. I was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, and saw a Japanese guy there, and went up to him, and said, 'Excuse me, do you speak English? You do? Well I would like to go to Japan.' And he said, 'Maybe I can help to bring you. I love jazz.' His name was Mata Sagawa, he was a jazz writer. aAd I went to Japan, and rented his little Japanese-type house, and enjoyed the whole experience. It was absolutely another world. Through Sagawa I got on televison, and was really well paid. I discovered the American military and civilian communities, which used to pay me a whole lot of money. I made a lot of jam sessions, and played in American clubs in Tapei, and in Okinawa. The money was very interesting, especially because there was no money to be made in New York at the time. It got so I'd work a couple of months, then go off and visit Hong Kong, and relax.

HM: How did your Music for Zen Meditation come about?

TS: I loved to read about Zen monks; they're crazy, kooky cats. And after I arrived in Japan I got the idea I'd like to do a record for Zen meditation. No such record existed. There was religious music, and gagaku -- Japanese court music. If you think free jazz is way out gagaku would take you out to another planet.

I made a lot of jam sessions, played in American clubs, got along very well. Then there was Tapei, there was work there and in Okinawa, then you'd have to get out of Japan, there were a whole lot of clubs down there, it was all very interesting, and the money was interesting because there was no money to be made in New York in those times.

HM: So you got interested in the Zen stuff over there?

TS: Yeah. But And then I got this idea to make a recording -- Music for Zen Mediation and other Joys -- that meant if you wanted to get high, or anything. It turned out the record sold, over its first years out, 500,000 records, that meant to me about half a million dollars, so I was able to live overseas there, and then go to Europe and live there, because the royalties were coming in like crazy.

HM: This is one of the first "jazz" records, but it didn't sound like a jazz record. Did you see this as being in line of playing jazz?

TS: It's music, and I'm interested in every kind of music. I now have under my belt music I'd play for Whirling Dervishes from Kurdistan, the territory which became very famous for battling with Saddam Hussain. He gassed a whole slew of them. So I like all kinds of music. not just Zen. I love jazz -- to me jazz is the most mysterious music in the world. You might think Shubertian music is mysterious, but jazz is mysterious, too. It's like space music or something. I don't know how people understand it. They feel it. Sometimes they don't undestand it. People say, 'The Italian people don't understand it,' and I say, 'Yes, but man, you have to send a telegram, you, me, today, tomorrow, you can't make gurgling sounds -- you're not giving a clear, clean message.' I explain it to them. I became a teacher of jazz to people.

I was very honest, and I have a theory that Italians don't want to learn, they want to do it by themselves. I was there 10 years and nobody ever came and said, 'Tony, tell me I want to learn, how do you do it?' But we had jam sessions, and there wasn't much jazz in those early years, I'm talking the '60s, but people who later became very famous -- Johnny Botts, and some of the people who worked with me. And I recorded a lot, on Philology, on Saar. I made many recordings for them. Then I found musicians. Now I've found a piano player that makes everybody sound way back -- I don't understand how he could happen in Italy. But I've discovered many players, tenor players and so forth. There was one who died, Masamo Ubani, he loved Charlie Parker, actually played in that vein, and he got hung up, strung out, and then he died. But before that he was into free. And bird never got into free. He loved different free people, but he never got into free because he was so concentrated on playing the chords. Like John Coltrane was. John Coltrane was great playing chords and harmony, and he couldn't forget enough to go free. He tried, but he was never convincing. Phraoah Sanders could do it, Pharoah could.

HM: When did you start playing free?

TS: Before anybody else. Because I was studying with Stefan Wolpe. I recorded with him at my house. I'd take out the clarinet, and the baritone also, and say, 'Stefon, let's play.' I was studying writing music, but really I didn't like writing music. I was one of the first playing free. You can't deny Arhcie Shepp and other people, for what they contributed. But I love free music, because there are certain things you can say with free music you can't say with Baroque music, and so forth.

Like I did a thing, a dialogue with god, about the death of Charlie Parker. I said, 'God, how could you do it, were you sleeping? How could you take away this great genius?' -- on my clarinet. I don't know how I did it, it was just on my mind, and then I had a whole half hour playing with this Indian drummer, from India, way back, we recorded, just he and I, and at the end of the half hour I walked into the studio, and the owner of the place asked me, 'How old are you?' I said, what's the difference? He said, 'How old are you?' I said, 69. He said, 'Do you realize you just played a half hour without stopping?' And before that I played free. Bill Evans, though, he couldn't play free. He was a great musician, he could read anything, read Bartok on sight. Bach four part fugue on sight. But he couldn't play free. Dick Hyman couldn't free, and he's still not into free.

HM: Did you have anything thing to do with Tristano?

TS: No, to me that was another kind of music. Nothing to do with the kind of music I liked. I was into Charlie Parker. I was into Ben Webster. I was into black music, I wasn't into copying or learing from white musicians. To me, Ben Webster was the greatest musician who ever existed. Then Bird came along with something new, and then all of a sudden Bird was the greatest. But Ben was always on my mind, in my music.

I lived in a neighborhood that had six Sicilian families, and ten Afro-American families, but they didn't know a damn think about jazz. I didn't learn a damn thing from them, I never played anything for them. They wouldn't have understood it. They were just bourgeois people, worked as janitors cleaning up the high school, driving taxi cabs, whatever. My mother, my family, my brother loved jazz. He was the #1 jazz dancer in America in 1938, won the Harvest Moon ball. Well, he was number four but three couples were from the Savoy Ballroom, Shorty George and all those guys, and my brother was onstage with Artie Shaw playing, he came in fourth, in front of everybody . . . My brother's name was Nick Schacca. He never used Scott. He was a barber, a blueprinter, and he could dance. He looked like Errol Flynn. He really could dance.

He used to bring home the records: Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Duke Ellington . . . I was 13, 14 years old, and I learned, learned, learned. Ben Webster was my idol at 16. And I still use him, very much. I took tenor, but I'm a born clarinet player, really.

Now I'm playing a lot of tenor, but my tenor is into the 1930s. I love it. Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Lester Young --that's where I'm at on the tenor. I don't have a style on the tenor, I have a beautiful sound -- but on clarinet, I have a style. People always know it's Tony Scott, and that means something. It has to mean something, because there's no money in jazz, really, unless you really hit it big a la Dave Brubeck, or like I did on the Zen record.

I had to go with the Japanese music. They couldn't believe what I could do, the Japanese. They'd ask me, 'How can you play like a shakuhachi?' I said, 'I'm not playing like the shakuhachi, I'm playing jazz.' They'd say, 'What?' I said, 'Yes, when I play jazz I use the same kind of style.' And they were astounded. but it was all one experience.

I really started New Age music, you can't say no I didn't. A half-million dollars ain't bad. It let me live in Europe; otherwise they come and go. Keith Jarrett, he gets a hundred thousand dollars to play a concert, but he comes and he goes. Sonny Rollins came, played his fanny off, made a lot of money, but can't stay. There aren't enough big cities to pay these big stars.

I always go to see everybody who comes to Europe to play. And a lot of times the great musicians can't make it just in the States, so they have to go to Japan, Italy, Europe and Germany and so forth. When I was first over there in Europe, I did a lot of radio big bands, and small groups with Italians, Germans, whatever. I played some very beautiful things -- played a lot of baritone. made three records of "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn. and a piano player, Gustav Chik, who's Hungarian. He's a gypsy, a Jew, and I don't know what else. . .

HM: You found out you were Jewish?

TS: I thought I was Arabic, we looked a little bit schvartza. My daughter Nina says the name Schacca is Arabic, but I believe I'm from Spansh Jews evicted in 1492. On top of that, I found out I have the disease of my hands, all warped and I've had many operations on my hands, I'm playing with no teeth, because I'm 82, and the teeth, take 'em out and there's only one left, it doesn't help me, just gets in my way, but whoever's running the whole show here, I thank them that I can still play. I have to watch my health; I'm 82 yrs old, and all my friends died at age 82, if they got that far. You can look around and say, 'Who's older than 82?' Well, my mother: She's 95. She passed me the genes.

You heard me play? Who was it with? Perry Robinson, uh-huh, well, Perry's fun. I played with him many years ago, in Germany. With [trombonist] Albert Mangelsdorf. You know about Albert Mangelsdorf? He could go into a club with a bunch of drunken Germans at one in the morning and play, and they'd all be quiet. I couldn't do that. I'd go in with my group, and they'd be talking, talking. But he could do it, Albert. We did some very beautiful things together.

Don Byron is very serious about his playing. You have to keep your health, and keep clean, whatever else. I wish Perry would learn that. You know, I did a record for healing, healing music -- which I used. It healed me when I felt depressed. It's 76 minutes long, solo clarinet. And I said to myself, 'It sounds good but maybe I could use a little background,' so I put in some electronic music, did two versions of it . . . I've got a lot of music I haven't shown anybody.

HM: People in the States know you from your legend.

TS: Really?

HM: The last cd I got from you I think was from Soul Note, African Bird . . .

TS: Yeah, I love that.

HM: But aside from that, all I knew was Music for Zen Meditation and Music for Yoga, and some stuff from the '50s with Bill Evans. . .

TS: I wanted to record that because I wanted to save what was it like when we played in a jazz club. We were always in a studio playing. I went in with my big tape machine, which I recorded Billie Holiday on too, which is out now -- Billie Holiday at Home, on Verve -- and people are buying that record with Bill Evans, which I think many times because it's Bill Evans, and I'm there also, and they say, 'Oh, who's that cat?' I like that, it's just how we played in a jazz club -- A Day in New York -- that's how we played, a club in the Village. I stopped in front of a club, The Showplace, and this guy, my high school buddy, Ace, was standing there, and I said, 'What are you doing here?' He says, 'I run this place.' I said, 'What you got going on?' He says, 'Nothing.' I said, 'Let's put some jazz in.' He said, 'No, I can't afford it.' I said, 'Don't worry about afford it. Let's go.' So that's what we did. And then I brought my tape machine down and recorded everything.

HM: You had this idea to document yourself.

TS: Yeah, but myself included other people. I was playing with Stefan Wolpe, I studied Bach with him, and he became very famous later. People say, 'Oh, you have tapes with him? Find them.' I say, 'Yes, I can't find them.'

I mean, I've lived all over the world. Just yesterday a young kid, Dan Petrone, a guitar player, he gave me a box of arrangements by Eddie Sauter and Bill Finnegan which I recorded years ago with a big band, and then put in a box with these beautiful photos, things I'd made of Japan. I couldn't believe I could find these photos, I'd forgotten wherever the hell they were. How could you live all around the world and keep everything? It's saving them to leave them at somebody's house. And then you meet them years later; 'You left this,' 'Well, bring them in.' There's still some stuff around.

I always have to put out my things myself. Saar, I go to them and say, 'You don't have to pay anything, alrght? I've got this music, you can have it, I'm leasing it to you, and you just pay me a 10 percent royalty, for 3 years.' People say, 'I'm waiting for a record date.' Forget it. Go in the studio and make your music now.

There's one kid from New Orleans, Evan Christopher, he plays the old fashioned clarinet. George Wein just used him for week. Ahmet Ertegun loves him because he's into New Orleans. He said, 'I came to study with you.' I said, 'How come what you want to study with me?' He said, 'I want to learn bebop.' I said, 'Look, I'm a bebop man, and I'm not working. You're from New Orleans, you come in somebody says, "Where you from? New Orleans? Come join our band." But there are no bebop bands. In Europe, bebop is not that great. They love New Orleans -- not swing, not Benny Goodman.

HM: Did you listen to Johnny Dodds, or the New Orleans clarinetists?

TS: No. I was into Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw. the virtusosos. Because I wanted to be a virtuoso. It seems that way, right? And I became a virtuoso. And then, mostly I listened to tenor and I listened to black music. Basie's my god and my favorite piano player, although Art Tatum was my friend, and Erroll Garner. But Basie, to me, fulfills the sound that I love. And Duke Ellington. I worked with Duke for about three months, but I had to get out, they were playing games with me, the musicians, as a racial football. They didn't touch Louie Bellson, they didn't touch him because he was married to Pearl Bailey. He was taken as one of us!

HM: You've got that wild style thing. Free with bebop attitutde.

TS: Yeah, but you have to hear it. Bebop is also free, like free music. I don't understand still how people can understand bebop. Dixieland has that big beat, and they can dance to it, but jazz that's like bebop -- 'Hey man, you can't dance to that, what do you do?' You have to stop and listen. 'Yeah, but I don't want to stop and listen.' So bebop was never that big a thing. But everybody knew Charlie was so great. Now I find there's more interest in Monk. But we used to laugh at him. Plinka-planka-plinka-planka-plink. All this kind of songs that he played were incredible. Sid Catlett had a band -- he had Monk in the band, me, the trumpet player who now lives in Denmark, Idrees Sulieman, we were playing all Monk's tunes in 1947 on 52nd Street.

HM: I hope you have all that in your book.

TS: The book's all about that stuff. There will be music, and stories, and all kinds of things.

HM: What did Bill Evans think about Monk?

TS: He never spoke about Monk. He was into reading music at first sight. I saw him play a Bach fugue, four-voice fugue, all his fingers moving at the same time -- wow. Bill was incredible. He just got hung up on Hershey chocolate. I said, 'What's that? He said, 'That's hash.' 'Oh Bill, what are you doing?' 'I'm just experiemnting.' Well, he went from experimenting to getting hooked on cocaine. There was a story. I asked Paul Motian, 'Why did you let Bill go like that?' He said, 'Man, I couldn't stay around and watch my dear friend commit suicide.' Because Bill got into a taxi and vomited blood, and that was it. He ended up going to a hospital and dying. But he was a very great musician, and it was great knowing him. He was not easy to know. But he did not talk about Monk.

Bill loved bebop. Bird, yeah. And he played at the beginning of my big band, on The Complete Tony Scott RCA Victor, he played "I Remember April." Johnny Carisi wrote the arrangement -- he also studied with Stefan Wolpe -- then Bill came in and played his fanny off. People loved him. Then he ended up being very schmaltzy. but with me, he was swinging all the time. We played a lot of ballads, but not all the time. We played some up things. All kinds of stuff.

HM: You were able to avoid the drug stuff.

TS: And it was worth it. I'm a self-survivalist, and a Sicilian. I didn't smoke until I was 28 years old, and I didn't get around to quitting smoking until I was 48. The worst drug is cigarettes, because you can't get it off your back. Drugs, you can go to doctors who will help you, or groups, but with cigarettes there's nobody helping you, or they're nothelping you, everyone is handing you cigarettes, it's supposed to be the mark of friendship. But that's death, too. They get the hardening of the liver at around age 63 from drugs, alchohol, cigarettes -- and you've got to go then. Sixty-three is the limit they can go, Chet Baker and so forth, when they're on drugs and so forth. Then that's it.

HM: What are you doing mostly in Italy these days.

TS: I have six dogs. I feed them in the morning; I wake up and before I even have a cup of tea I make hot meal for them, with some meat and some rice. It's like a real family, they're beautiful. They're puppies, young and always playing and fighting each other -- but not really fighting, you know -- and I'm mad about them. Six dogs. We inherited them from the owner of the villa, we have a villa, a beautiful, modern villa, a lot of land, and inside big rooms that we never could afford in Rome. One big room like that is an apartment in Rome.

TS's wife: It's also a center for the music. For to come and study, to play, attended by Italian musicians or musicians from other countries, passing through.

TS: The Tony Scott Jazz Center. People are coming from Alaska to study with me. I teach them that you've got to learn how to get away from playing classical, though you have to study classical to learn clarinet, otherwise you end up like the New Orleans cats, and that's it, boy. I learned classical and had to forget classical, I had to get away from all that technique-- so today I'm able to play with no teeth, because I learned to play the clarinet relaxed, even if I play high up, or loud. I'm the loudest clarinet player in the world.

[Tony continued telling stories for another half an hour, but I didn't continue taping them. Sorry -- HM]

C o m m e n t s

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June 24, 04


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