Beginning in 1969, Eric Jackson hosted multiple jazz radio shows airing from various Boston based radio stations. He moved to WGBH in 1977 as host for Artists in the Night. In 1981, Eric created his own show, Eric in the Evening, which now airs on WGBH radio. The interview with Art Taylor marked the first time he had been in Boston since 1959. His 1959 appearance was as a member of Thelonious Monk's band that was appearing at Storyville. The significance of the date is that Taylor had recorded John Coltrane's classic Giant Steps album earlier that afternoon in New York. - Art Taylor shares his publication titled, Notes and Tones, a series of musician-to-musician interviews that has proved to be a major work providing revealing and important insights from the perspectives of master African American musicians. - Art Taylor shares his experiences in Europe from 1963 to 1980, including time with Kenny Clark, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon and other master African American musicians who also had moved to Europe. - Art Taylor shares his extensive performing and recording experiences over 300 recordings - with masters such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Jackie McLean, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Dexter Gordon. - Art Taylor shares the influences of Sid Catlett, Papa Joe Jones and Chick Webb. - Art Taylor responds to Eric's inquiry about any connections between jazz drumming and Africa. Summary and select metadata for this record was submitted by Leonard Brown.
ERIC JACKSON INTERVIEW WITH ARTHUR TAYLOR
And we just got a little taste of what was happening
at the Village Vanguard when Art Taylor's “Taylor's Wailers” showed up there
and played one night that old Swedish folk tune that is credited to that old
Swede, Stan Getz. It is an old Swedish folk tune though. This is from Art
Taylor, along with Abraham Burton on alto saxophone, Willie Williams on
tenor, Jacky Terrasson on piano and Tyler Mitchell is the bass player on
this one. "Dear Old Stockholm" is what we were listening to. And it is my
pleasure to say that I have here in the studios with me tonight, Art Taylor.
How are you doing tonight Art?
It's a pleasure to be here.
It's been a long time between drinks in
Well, I see you came fully prepared this
I'm fully prepared. They call me
Ok. Since you walked in, you held up two books as
soon as you got here.
Well, let's start talking about the two books
because they are foremost on your mind, obviously.
That's right. First of all, I published the first
one in Belgium in 1977. This edition was published by G.P. Putnam in `81,
and this has just been released, coinciding with the cd, the publicities in
both the book and the cd, and it's been going very well.
Yeah, and it is by Da Capo and certainly it is
entitled “Notes and Tones”.
And a note is a tone. The title comes from Sun Ra.
A note is a tone, a tone is a note, and if you mixed the letters up, it's
the same letters.
So I got the title from Sun Ra. It's a book that
musicians did themselves; I just did the hard work.
Now, I see the subtitle is “Musician to Musician
Interviews”. Who do you talk to in there?
Oh, we talked to Miles, of course, and Dizzy and
Elvin and Philly Joe and Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard - all the top guys
in the business.
When did these conversations take place?
These conversations took place mostly during the
period when I was living in Europe, which was from 1963 to about 1980. And I
did it because you have a lot of time in Europe. You don't have a lot of
friends and so forth, because you're in a foreign country or a foreign
continent, so to speak. So you have to find things to do to occupy yourself,
which has proved…it's been very well for me.
You know, I'm familiar with the books but I've
never actually seen the books. I'd seen the Da Capo catalog and I knew that
they were in the catalog.
Are they books that quote a ‘lay person’ would pick
up and read or are these designed for the music student?
The design was just the interview, but it has gone
off into other areas that I never expected, like in the social aspects and
the universities and social studies. Not only do the music departments have
them, but the social studies departments in several universities have this
From what approach, how are they approaching
Because we talk about everything; we talk about
music, love, sex, money, racism, girls, you know.
You covered a pretty broad range right
goodness. Now you said you were based in Europe for what period?
I was in Europe for seventeen years.
Ten in France and seven in Belgium.
The usual, and I got in trouble the last time I
asked this question. Why did you go to Europe?
Well, as I was telling Fenton on the way from the
airport today, I went to Europe on a three month contract to play with
Johnny Griffin and Kenny Drew in the French bases and Donald Byrd, and when
the three months was over, I stayed on three more months, and then they
left, and I led a band in the place, and I was having such a nice time and
you people were having so much turmoil here in the United States, I said,
"I'll look at this through the newspapers or television". I said, "I'll stay
over here and have a nice time," which was a good move for me.
Note: Taylor is referring to the Civil Rights Movement and the related
Now musically, did you play with other Americans
that came over or did you play with…
I was still with the top guys. I would play with
people like Dexter (Gordon) and Johnny Griffin and Kenny Drew and Dizzy
Reese. I still played with top guys. Benny Bailey…these were first class
What made you come home?
For family reasons. My mother was very ill and she
was in her 90's.
So I had to come back and take care of
Is that right, in her 90's?
Yeah, she lived to be 92. Tough lady. She knew all
the musicians. She knew Miles and Monk and all those guys. They adored
They used to placate her. They would tell her
that…like even Bud Powell, who didn't talk much, he would say, "Yes, I see
where your son gets his fine manners from," and she'd go and make him some
lemonade or a cake or something. (His mother would say) “He's really a nice
It's really nice to look back and even to speak to
you about that on the radio, because I'm open about this, nothing to hide or
anything. It's a fact.
You know in the publicity from the Regatta Bar, it
says you are on over two hundred albums.
I think it's three hundred. I think it's three
hundred. I look back and wonder how I did it sometimes.
Just run off a handful of names.
Oh gee. Coltrane, Bud Powell, Miles, Thelonious,
Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean, who I grew up with; we grew up as kids
together in…oh I could go on, then I find things I've forgotten about,
things with Paul Gonsalves. One of my first records was with ‘Hot Lips’
Yeah, I played with ‘Hot Lips’, and I played
How old were you when you did that?
I was kind of young, you know, twenty-one years
old. I used to be the youngest guy in the band and now I'm the
When do you think your first major professional gig
Well, my first major professional gig I got through
Connie Kay, the drummer with the Modern Jazz Quartet. He was playing in
Harlem at a place called ‘The Baby Grand’ with Cat Anderson.
Oh yeah. El Gato.
And he was such a fine drummer, and he had so much
work so he called me to go and do this job with Cat Anderson. I know I
wasn't adequate but they put up with it anyway.
No seriously, I wasn't adequate
because I didn't have the experience, for one.
You just mentioned two of Duke’s men. (Editor’s
Note: Duke refers to Duke Ellington) Just in a second, you mentioned Paul
…and you just mentioned Cat
Any other connection with Duke?
Yes. Well, I did a big research on Duke through
some of his sidemen with my interviews. I've done maybe 300 albums. I've
done 300 interviews too, and I interviewed several of the men in Duke's
band. I even went to St. Croix to interview…
Oh, you know Jimmy Hamilton. Yeah. He's a very
lovely gentleman. He has a lovely home there. I didn't want to leave, you
Oh it's so nice, up in the mountain, you know,
fresh air, nice food and everything. So, I spent some time with him there
and that was really very nice. He's such a fine gentleman, you know, and
treated me like royalty, you know. He didn't know me that well, but he knew
what I was doing, and what I was trying to do was research and get some
accurate information about this music and about the people who really put it
You know I did something once with Dizzy Gillespie
and I wonder if I can sort of recreate that with you. What I did was I
started naming a bunch of names and I asked Dizzy to give a
…to those names. Well, let me ask you, first of
all, let's go back even before we can get to a name. Maybe you won't be able
to speak on this. The drums in the earliest of Jazz bands are barely
recorded, and sometimes in the earliest recordings, they weren't recorded.
The percussionists were playing something else…
Art Blakey, excuse me for cutting, Art Blakey had
complained to me about that through the years, because he was like a father
to me, you know. I knew him from when I was a kid, and he'd complained about
that, the recording of the drum, so it's ironic that you speak about
Yeah. Well, let's look at some of the earlier
drummers. What do you say about Big Sid Catlett’s role?
Big Sid Catlett. The day I heard Big Sid Catlett,
that was the day I decided I wanted to play the drums.
That was the day I decided.
Yeah, I went to what is now Lincoln Center and they
used to have jam sessions there, and I went to this jam session and Big Sid
was there. Max Roach was there, Freddie Webster, Miles Davis, Fats Navarro,
Bud Powell, Curly Russell; it's like yesterday I can remember it. And it was
packed and the people were just having such a wonderful time, everybody felt
so good, you know, and I said, "Yeah I have to do that, I gotta at least
And I don't like to get up in the morning; I like
to rest in the morning.
Editor’s Note: At the time, many jazz musicians worked
all night until the early hours of the morning.
What about Papa Joe Jones?
Oh Papa Joe is something. I was talking with Max
Roach the other day about Papa Joe. He was a very brilliant man, very
intelligent, very outspoken and he was weird too. We had to laugh about it.
I was talking with Max about it. When I first met him, he always called the
younger musicians “young talon”.
If he didn't know your name, or if he even knew
your name, he calls you “young talon”. So, he said, "Hey, young talon" and
he would say, "I try to tell Gene" - he's talking about Gene Krupa – “I try
to tell Buddy Rich, I try to tell Roy Haynes, I try to tell Max, I try to
tell Philly Joe"…and I never found out what he was trying to tell
Oh, is that right?
To this day I never knew what he... I would say,
"What did you tell them?” and the subject would go somewhere else and I
never found out what he was talking about.
Oh, that's frustrating.
And he was vehement about it. He would say, "I try
to tell these guys". I said, “My goodness, what?” Of course, you want to
know what he told them.
You should call Max and say, "Man, what did Papa
Joe tell you?"
But he doesn't know either; nobody else
What about Klook - Kenny Clark?
Oh, Klook. Well, I studied with Klook for 3 years.
Klook lived in Paris. I lived in Paris for a while and Klook and Howard
McGhee were always after me to study, because they said they thought I was
talented and I could really go further than I was going, and if I really put
in a good year or so of studying, with the talent I had, I could really go
on and I could become very wealthy and I would be in demand and everything,
and…(sigh). I didn't want to do that, you know. I’m lazy, you know. I said I
don't want to do all that stuff. So he opened a school in Paris, and when he
opened the school, I had to go and study in the school or I had to fight
with him. I said I don't want to fight with Klook man. I love him so much.
So I went and studied with him for three years. People thought I was crazy
because I was studying with the kids who had picked up the drumstick for the
first day. Then after six months, they got me to demonstrate, because I
could do everything. I could phrase better, being a professional and
everything after I learned to read music. I had made two hundred albums
before I even learned how to read a note of music.
Yeah, so this music is a little
Now, you mentioned Paris and that brought to mind
somebody else. I was about to ask you about Ellington's drummer, Sonny
Greer, and that brought to mind Sam Woodyard.
Sam Woodyard. He's one of my favorites of all
times. I have an interview I did with Sam Woodyard and when I put that out,
I leave the country, I leave the planet.
Oh boy, they’re gonna have a hit out on
He's rough, he's so rough, he's really rough. He
gave a lot of nice information about Duke at the same time. He's a good
friend of mine also. I admire him as one of the great big band drummers, one
of the great drummers period.
Now none of those folks, I guess, would be
considered quote "Modern Drummers" - not til we get to the Max's
Yeah, I guess you start with Max and Art Blakey, I
think. But even before that, Big Sid was very modern. He was ahead of his
And Blakey talks about him in my book, as a matter
of fact. How he could play so soft with sticks and play so loud with
Yeah. In the book, Blakey explains how Big Sid
caught him drinking one night and took him and slapped him down. He said,
"Learn to play the drums before you start drinking" and doing things like
that, you know.
I know Miles Davis, for a time in the seventies or
eighties, didn't allow any of his musicians to partake before playing or
while they were on the gig.
Right. I agree with that. I don't play music with
anybody who uses drugs. I refuse. It doesn't work.
Spirits don't work. If everybody is using drugs
o.k., but if you have one guy that's using drugs, it's…
He's in a different place.
It's another frame of mind, or alcohol, or if he's
a sex maniac or whatever it is. We all have all kind of vices, but I don't
play with musicians who use drugs because I know what it is, I know what
So, obviously, in putting together a band, there
is the musical consideration but what you're pointing out are the extra
musical considerations that help to make the music, actually.
The main thing is the music. I mean I even
consider to the point, "Gee, I don't want anybody who is married" because
that’s a distraction. He has to think about his wife and paying the rent and
the baby and all that.
Oh my God. There are a bunch of women listeners
out there throwing things at the speakers right now.
Oh really!? But I love the ladies. I love the
I think you just got yourself in
I have a good relationship with the ladies now,
and if they don't like it, we can discuss it. As Erroll Garner says in my
book, "I'll bring them in anyway".
Art, why don't we do this? Why don't we listen to
some more of your music, as a matter of fact?
Got a choice for us?
I like, well on that album, the piece I like most
I think is the "Revisited", "Mr. AT Revisited".
OK, number nine. We're about to take a listen to
something else from Art Taylor's recording called Wailing at the Vanguard
and Art Taylor won't be wailing at the Vanguard this week. This week he'll
be wailing at the Regatta Bar.
Wailing at the Regatta Bar, exactly.
You open up tomorrow night and in for two
Yeah. Who’s the band with you?
Well, we have Abraham Burton. He's a protégé, a
student of Jackie McLean and a graduate of Hartford University’s Hartt
School of Music. He's a very young man and I think he's one of the most
talented musicians that I've come in contact with. As you know, I play with
everybody who can play, let's say from Bunk to Monk.
And he's very talented and a very fine young man,
and he's been with me longest at this time. At the piano we have Marc Cary,
who is on this record "Mr. A.T." and I trained Marc from when he was just a
guy running around New York and playing electric piano, and I trained him,
because we lived in the same neighborhood and he would come to see me
everyday and we would practice and he's developing into…he has the potential
to be a really fine musician. And at the bass, we have Billy Johnson. He had
been with Abbey Lincoln and he lives in the neighborhood too, so it's easy
for me to contact him. We can rehearse and do things together, and his
brother, you probably know his brother, Mark Johnson. He plays with Stanley
He plays with top people like that. And he was a
student of mine. He had studied with me, so it's a nice link of almost…it's
almost a family like thing. We have an understanding and it's
Yeah. That's Art Taylor and we're about to listen
to some more of Art Taylor's music from his compact disc entitled Wailin at
the Vanguard. Incidentally, you are listening to WGBH in Boston at 89.7 FM,
Classical, Jazz, Folk and news.
And we were just
listening to "Mr. A.T. Revisited" that is from Wailin’ at the Vanguard by
Arthur Taylor's Wailers. With Arthur Taylor on drums, Abraham Burton on alto
saxophone, Willie Williams on tenor, Jackie Terrasson on piano and Tyler
Mitchell on bass. And of course, that title is a pun on the name of an
earlier album that came out on the old Prestige label called Taylor's
Wailers. As a matter of fact, I was going to play “CPA” a little later on in
the evening from that one. We had a couple of listeners who called up. I
should mention to the audience we are talking with Art Taylor, who is
opening up tomorrow night and will be in Wednesday and Thursday…Thursday and
Friday, Thursday and Friday in the Charles Hotel. We had two listeners call
up and interestingly enough it was a mother and son combination. It was two
separate phone calls. One called up and said, "Ask him to comment on Billy
Higgins" and the mother called up and said, "Ask him to comment on Chick
Yeah. Well Ok. First, we'll go to Chick Webb. My
father had taken me to see him. As a matter of fact, I was telling you that
this afternoon. My father took me to see Billy Holiday and Buddy Rich and
Duke Ellington and all the top people. I think he just wanted to get out the
house. But I had a ball and when I saw Chick Webb, that was a marvelous… You
know who reminds me of…? Tony Williams reminds me of Chick Webb.
Really? Now, you mean physically, because they are
both physically small.
No, I'm talking about musically. I'm talking about
musically. The tremendous control and technique, Chick Webb had that also.
It was amazing, and what was amazing is when people ask me about Chick Webb.
Of course, I didn't know him. I'd seen him two or three times, and maybe I'd
heard the records but it was very imposing to see this man because he was
deformed, because he was a hunchback, and when this man would play those
drums it was unbelievable, unbelievable!
And he was very small too.
He was a small guy too, small guy too. He
influenced that whole group of Buddy Rich and Krupa, and all those people
from that era. I think he influenced them with his style of drumming, which
was beyond, you know, just beyond everything.
Had to keep everybody up and dancing at the
Yeah that's correct, and Ella started with him, as
a matter of fact.
Yeah, in fact I just played some Mario Bauza. it
was Mario who introduced Ella…
Yes, yes Mario introduced Ella to Chick
And then about Billy Higgins. He's one of my
favorites. A very tasty drummer and I love him as a drummer, but I love him
as much as a person because he has such a lovely spirit about him, which is
why he can play so nice. Anyway, he has a nice feeling about him as a human
being. And Billy is one of the most tasty drummers I've ever heard, and I've
always admired him and we're good friends. He's a funny guy too, you know,
when he calls me, he calls me over the phone, calls me with this British
accent, you know, I'm saying, ”Who is this…?”
Oh he has it down. He has it perfect. You think
you're talking to an Englishman. And the phrases and the things he'll say,
and I start getting angry now, it's getting funnier, then he'll tell me who
Oh, but he's one of the great drummers, one of the
people I've admired always.
Now, I wasn't planning on doing this but we
haven't talked about any drummers that don't have gray hair. Any drummers
out there without gray hair that you like?
Drummers is another thing, drummers are different.
I believe now I'm gonna step on some toes here, but I believe drummers
are…they have…well, we hang out together, we look out. If I get in trouble
today, I'm gonna call a drummer because I know what he's gonna do…
What do you mean? What do you mean?
I'm talking about if I have an altercation or I
have some kind of trouble, I call a drummer immediately because that's our
thing. We support, we support the saxophone, the bass, the piano and
everything and then we play a solo, and you can take the saddest drummer in
the world and when he's on top of his stuff, he breaks the house up, am I
right or wrong?
It's a fantastic thing to see. The visual aspect
is something else of it also.
Art, here's a question. I've been teaching a class
on the history of African-American music. What is the connection between
the…- in one sense this will be an obvious question. What is the connection
between the Jazz drum and Africa? is there one?
Well, I could go on about that, but in my book, in
my book you have both sides.
And your book is called what again?
Notes and Tones, Notes and Tones. And Randy Weston
is talking about Africa the music coming from Africa, the sound and
everything…the soul and everything is African and this and this and Africa
and so on. And then about ten minutes later, here comes Art Blakey, who says
it has nothing to do with Africa. This was stuff that was created in the
United States of America, and no United States, no Jazz. So, I had, I had,
what do you call it?… I make films. I make films and I make videos and I had
a showing of my films at the Schomburg and at one point I had both, two of
these things, and all the critics and the writers there and nobody knew.
Some people got very angry about the way Blakey spoke and then people got
angry about the way Randy Westin spoke
Yeah, we'll have a little war in this place
But as a drummer yourself, what do you feel about
I don't feel anything about that. I play drums
because I love to play drums. There's nothing more pleasurable for me in my
life. You don't have to get up in the morning, you know, and you travel
around the world. I'm here sitting with you being interviewed today - that's
an ideal situation. Sometimes you get paid well, and it's not bad, so for me
it was just a matter of being selfish and doing for my personal pleasure,
which I still do. I hope other people like it and I always do the best that
I can possibly do. But I haven't come to a conclusion on that. Africa, I
imagine we are African people, or whatever the case is, but I have to lean
toward Blakey and a lot of the way he speaks about that.
You mentioned the Schomburg Center, the Schomburg
Center part of the New York Public Library system.
The largest collection of African-American
memorabilia in the country.
How did you manage to get a showing of your video
Well, by being a drummer of note and playing with
all the people that I've played with, the top people in the improvisation
music, and I put a book out, that created interest right there. Immediately.
Because what I like about the book is it's a different kind of notoriety
than being a drummer who’s known. People look at you different - they have
I meet people that I would never meet playing
drums, through the book. That makes it very interesting, that's interesting
for me, socially and every other way.
Art Taylor - today's music scene, what do you say
about today's music scene… it's good, it's bad, it's healthy, it's not
healthy, what is it?
I'm not gonna get into the music scene because I'm
not trying to be in the music scene. I'm trying to play music that I know
will affect people, and so like we're gonna play tomorrow at the Regatta Bar
I know exactly what we're going to do. I know exactly what's gonna happen
every second, and I know that if something, if this doesn't go like this,
I'm going to change it immediately, immediately.
I learned from Charlie Parker. Playing with
Charlie Parker, he had told, he said, "The audience is never supposed to
know. They are always supposed to be, `How did they do that, how did that
happen'…be mystified. He said, "If they know what you're going to do, then
they're not gonna even come and see you, so you're supposed to do something
they don't know what you're doing". So I learned things like that. I use all
the things I learned from Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and Coltrane and
Rollins and people like that. I use everything. I use every little thing and
it has effect, because other guys don't know about it.
When the people see it, it's something new. It's
nothing new, you know, but it's…
There was no sense in associating with the masters
if you didn't learn from them.
It's different, it's not the regular 1-2-3-4,
2-2-2, tolo-bobo-brum-solo applause everybody goes.
People don't know whether they should applause or
not. I'll give an example. They have a thing in a couple of places in New
York where they say, "I'm getting ready to play and we have a quiet policy,
so when the music is playing be quiet". If you're playing and somebody's
talking, you're not playing nothing, you know. To me,. I know when the
people, when the music is right, there's nobody saying anything. The music
is that powerful. When it's right, nobody's going to… You haven't got time.
You're too busy listening. The waiter has to stop serving a drink. It is
difficult to play music in a situation where people are drinking alcohol and
they're meeting their buddy from school, the old football players, the old
girlfriends, so they're…
That mean's you better aspire to concerts
You got it. The concerts are different. People
come to listen though, but in the club, people come for different reasons.
They come to meet a friend, they come to have a drink or and hear the music,
of course, but it can be a side-light. Sometimes you have to gain their
attention, which is a challenge too at the same time. So the people get
angry with me. You don't tell the people to stop talking when I play. I know
how to stop them from talking.
Just grab their attention with the
That's correct. If the music is good enough,
nobody is gonna say anything.
Art, I wonder, see if we can pick out a final tune
because we are running out of time. I'm not sure if we are going to be able
to squeeze it in before I have to…
I talked you to death, huh?
Yeah. Do you have a final tune for us?
What do we have on there, "Mr. A.T. Revisited"?
Let me see…
This is Arthur Taylor. He is our guest tonight. He
is going to be at the Regatta Bar starting tomorrow night and he'll be in
Thursday and Friday night, the Regatta Bar of course, in the Charles
We'll be looking for you to come down there, we're
gonna do something special for you, and you said the ladies were going to be
a little uptight about what I said, so we can, we can check that out. OK,
what about "Stressed Out"?
That is Ok. I should also mention, I haven't
mentioned this yet, that this is Art Taylor's first visit to this area since
1959. You were busy, you must have had something to do in New York and then
you came here, what did you do in New York before you got here?
That's correct, I was doing a recording with John
Coltrane in the afternoon, “Giant Steps”.
Making a classic.
Then came up here.
Got on a plane and came to Boston, and Monk and
the rest of the band had left in the morning on the train and they brought
my drums and I got to Storyville and there were lines around the block, you
know, and I couldn't get in the place, so it was a memorable occasion. So I
thought about that naturally. Here I am now so many years later, and well,
we're going to do it again.
I'm going to have to get to wrap this up Art
Taylor, but I just wanted to mention also to happy sixty-fifth birthday to
That's correct 65, I'm a senior citizen. There's
nothing I can do wrong anymore. If you don't like it, act like you think
Ok. Art Taylor again, in at the Regatta Bar. The
band quickly, could you name the band for us?
Abraham Burton, Marc Cary and Billy
Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to sit
down and talk to you, Art Taylor.
It's been my pleasure. I'm glad to be in Boston
This is from Art Taylor's recording, Wailin’ at
TRANSCRIBED BY LEONARD BROWN