May 3, 2012

Mike and Tom Take a Lesson With Charles Lloyd

Here's another great story from Mike Morris, in his own words.
Approximately, I think it was around 1964, just before I went into the Army, Tom Harrell and I were living together, in the Los Gatos area. Tom and I went to see Cannonball Adderley’s sextet, the group he had at the time with Charles Lloyd. It was at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. We were very impressed by Charles Lloyd - he was doing all this new stuff, like Coltrane - he was coming out of Coltrane. He had his Conn tenor, it looked really cool - it was different, you know. He was using an old Otto Link mouthpiece. Probably the same setup he’s still using now, I think.

After the show was over, we approached Charles Lloyd, and told him that we were musicians, and we were interested in taking a lesson with him. He said “Oh yeah, sure,” and set up a time for us to come and see him. He was staying at the St. Francis. So we went to the hotel the next day. The musicians were all staying there, but Cannonball and his brother weren’t there, they were in another room.

So he takes us into one of the rooms, and says, “OK, it’s going to be 25 bucks each.” We thought well, that would be all right - this was in 1964, so it was a lot more money than it is now. But we thought, it was Charles Lloyd, it would be worth it.

Charles Lloyd said, “We’re going to do interpolation.” Tom and I looked at each other, wondering what was going on here. I mean, there were two of us, and we were not going to get separate lessons.
Musicians, girlfriends, and visitors were constantly coming and going, distracting him. 
“We’re going to learn interpolation. This is something that’s really good to know how to do.” He took out a piece of blank music paper and a marker pen. He said, “I’m just going to mark these things all over the place,” and started putting spots in random places all over the paper. Then he connected the spots with lines and stems, randomly making eighth notes and quarter notes, different rhythms. Then he added bar lines. Of course, it was completely nonsensical. He said, “This is great to practice, because it really opens your mind up to all kinds of stuff. I practice these things all the time.” He gave us the sheet to take home.

We had no idea how to use this. We had never even gotten our horns out for the lesson.

And then he said, “Here are some chords, that hardly anybody knows yet.” Then he gave us the changes to Coltrane’s “Countdown.” The record had just come out, and he had the changes. That was the best thing we got that day. Nobody else had those changes, and nobody else was playing them.

So that was it. Within an hour, we were out of there.

(Note: It seems to me that getting the changes to “Countdown” in 1964 probably had a significant effect on Mike's subsequent musical life. Mike kills on Coltrane changes. Tom Harrell, today, is one of the great jazz trumpeters of our time. If you are not familiar with his work, check out this Wikipedia entry, and then check out some of his albums.)

1 comment:

  1. Peter, thanks for telling this story again. Didn't remember that it involved Tom Harrell! I love it!

    Bill B.