I was the drummer for combo yesterday, but of course it does not hold the combo back as I love to play, and can control any situation from that vantage point. Having grown up studying with Elvin and playing a lot I can really give the combo the feel it needs, and spread the depth of the rhythmic structure of the music itself. Much of my concept on piano and vibes has arrived as a result of my rhythmic concept, which I got, from playing the drums.

We had Vinnie on bass, a newcomer who played very well, and our other normal diligent players. Dave, Rob, and Matt. We ran through Birdlike (Freddie Hubbard), Black Nile (Wayne Shorter), Beatrice (Sam Rivers), After You’ve Gone, and we attempted to play T Monk’s Pannonica. A difficult set of changes to master. After we played Black Nile the second tune we played, I stopped the band and began to talk about anticipation, and the technique of thinking ahead of the changes, and actually playing ahead in order to command the direction of the line. I demonstrated how being ahead of the changes is always best, and that falling behind is a terrible place to be. Trying to catch the train as it sails by. I demonstrated this a bit at the piano, and then instructed each player to take more choruses of soloing on Black Nile, but this time to play 1-2 quarter notes ahead of the changes. Well I never heard Matt Mayer sound so good. He was jumping ahead and resolving in a way that he never did before. This technique is a vital part of improvisation. Especially when dealing with lots of changes at fast tempos. Playing ahead of where the music actually is in real time is a very effective, and sensible way to be in control of the music and not to get caught by the changes. It has always worked for me, and it was a thrill to hear it change Matt and the others approach on negotiating the changes on the tunes. That anticipation drill helps you lead the direction of the music. After all the music will not stop, so it is easier to be ahead of the game, and use silence or resolution to allow the music to catch you, than for you to be behind the changes, trying to run after the music while negotiating the harmony. Sort of like being ahead of the ball game in the ninth inning, rather than playing catch up ball!!!

Deep stuff really if jazz improvisation is your life as it is mine!!!


I was recently appointed to the Juilliard Jazz Faculty under the direction the wonderful drummer and educator Carl Allen.It is my biggest educational appointment ever, and as an alumni I am excited, and thrilled!

I had a really nice time yesterday doing a master class for the drummers in the Juilliard School’s jazz program. First of all I was thrilled to get the call as I spent 5 long productive years in the building. Anyway what a beautiful set up they have now. When I went to Juilliard there was no jazz program and Wynton Marsalis, Dan Block, and Rob Waring, were the only jazz players in the school, but we studied classical music at school. Now there is a separate wing for the jazz department, and the director Carl Allen has assembled an incredible faculty and curriculum for the program. Carl a well-known and seasoned veteran drummer apparently is doing an incredible job running this program. In the 3-4 hours I spent there yesterday, I was greeted by many of my favorite musicians from the faculty. Had a little hang with Frank Kimbarro, Ron Carter, Eddie Henderson, Rodney Jones, Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington. These guys are all top of there field. At the master class I had 5 or 6 drummers and Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington attending the class. Tough company to impress. It all went well and was a really nice loose environment to teach in. Basically I was there to help the drummers open up more to the vibes and the harmonic language skills needed to play jazz. They are great young drummers already or they would not be at Juilliard, but widening the scope is a great thing for them. That is the goal of course.

I was so honored that Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington were there. ALl three are at the top of the drum world, and Kenny Washington and I have known each other 40 years. We met in high school at Music and Art High School in NYC when we were 13 or 14 years old. He was then and continues to be a true be bop master on the drums. A jazz master as are all the names listed above, but Kenny was playing with Betty Carter and Johnny Griffin when he was 17 or 18 years old, and he never attended college. The music was his college, and he is a true master. Just goes to show you if you want to learn something you can do it yourself. All the recordings are out there for you to draw from, transcribe, and simply memorize. Kenny desperately as a youngster wanted to sound like Philly Joe Jones. He memorized and mastered that style, and turned it into a huge career, and he developed his own sound. Just amazing!! Great to see Kenny. He had been teaching all day and waited a few hours just to see my master class. I was so happy. Then Kenny and I took a walk down to the 3rd floor to try and find our great friend and colleague from high school Danny Druckman, who is currently director of the percussion dept at Juilliard, as well as a percussionist with the New York Philharmonic. We did not find Danny, but I showed Kenny the infamous orchestra rehearsal room 309. I explained to him how this is where Danny Druckman and I spent countless hours rehearsing with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Sir George Solti, Sixten Ehrling, Zubin Mehta, Herbert Von Karajan, and so many more genius conductors who came through Juilliard week to week for concerts. The room has an incredible feeling. You walk in this room and you can feel the history. I sure did!!

Afterwards a little hang at a local restaurant with Rodney Jones who has been one of my best friends for around 40 years as well. He is absolutely the most incredible  person. Highly accomplished spiritually, as well as being one of the globes finest guitarists and teachers. All in all a great day, a thrill for me, and a great honor to be called upon to do the master class at Juilliard.

The other day I worked a gig with Marcus Rojas, one of New York’s finest low brass players (tuba, baritone horn). As we both went to High School Of Music and Art in New York City, I began to talk of all the legendary players who I was close with musically, and as friends at Music and Art. School was packed with many of the worlds finest musicians, like Kenny Washington, Omar Hakim, Marcus Miller, Ray Chew, Bob Franceschini, Angel Fernandez, Bobby Broom, Francisco Centano, Danny Druckman, Rand Steiger, Clifton Anderson, Chris Tillotson, Carlton Green and Malleon Walker. All who have gone on to successful careers as sidemen, orchestral players, leaders, composers etc.
This story is about two other amazing, sort of legendary brass players named Carlton Greene, and Malleon Walker both good friends of mine through high school. First I heard of Carlton was when I was 13 years old at the school. I heard he was some hot shot Tuba player. He was a short stocky, strongly built kid. Well at 14 years old still in Music and Art Carlton played the Vaughn Williams Tuba Concerto as  a winner of the Young Artist Concerto Competition with the New York Philharmonic. I heard the legendary tubist Roger Bobo said that Carlton was going to be the greatest tuba player to ever live someday. Well this was incredible that still in high school Carlton had already accomplished this. There was a big buzz at the school. Carlton went on to substitute with the New York Philharmonic and became a young great classical player around the city. When college entrances time came it was pretty exciting for everyone as many of the group of musicians at the top of the school went on to some incredible institutions like Juilliard, Curtis Institute, Manhattan School of Music, Berklee School, and playing jazz as a sideman with no formal school, but a school in itself.  Well Carlton was accepted at The Curtis Institute. A very elite place, and equally as difficult to get into as Juilliard. At Curtis you study with the Philadelphia Orchestra personnel. And of course I believe he subbed with the orchestra as well. Carl also played in Howard Johnson group for a good while. Eventually Carlton got one really big gig. He was heard by Ricardo Muti the conductor at the time of The LaScala Opera Company. He was given the position as tubist with the La Scalla Opera in Milan Italy. A huge gig. Remember there is but only one tuba in any orchestra. Even the percussion section has 4 chairs. So Carl went on to Milan to do the opera. Never heard too much about Carl for about 2 years. I met him on the street two years later. He was hanging out in front of the New York Philharmonic offices. He was dressed in an army jacket and carrying his horn. When I saw him I gave him a huge hug, as we had not seen each other in a long time. We were really close in high school and went opposite ways as I went to Juilliard he went to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. When hugging him I smelled a pretty nasty odor. I figured not too much about it, and invited Carlton over to my house the next day for a little lunch and a hang. When he arrived he smelled so bad that he stunk up the entire house. We talked and I asked him what happened to him. He went on to tell me about his time in Milan with the opera. He said he eventually was drinking 2 cases of champagne a week and doing other shit as well. In addition they threw him out of the orchestra for not bathing for a year. Well Carl and I talked for a while and then I needed to leave for work. I said to Carl let’s go downtown. I need to go to a recording session. At this moment Carl sat down in the corner of my apartment and pleaded with me to let him stay at my house. This went on for a while and I told him that was impossible as I had a live in girlfriend and roommate at the time. I argued with Carl until finally I was forced to call the police to remove him from my house. I never expected this to happen as we were friends at school for years, and he had been such a highly respected player. I was really upset in tears from the whole incident.  I went on to realize the Carl had gone all the way down. This may be a legend,  I heard the reason for him finally getting kicked out of La Scala was that he got busted for pissing on people off his balcony as they passed by…and that he was ridiculously bored because after getting to Italy a Mozart festival began that obviously doesn’t have tuba and he had a great gig but nothing to play,  and of course no one to talk to or hang with, and then there was the bathing and hygiene factor. Even in the late 80’s black people were relatively rare to see in Italy, especially in the smaller towns. Eventually he ended up on the streets of New York City. Well I can certainly understand his removal from the opera, but the real issue is why did he go down so fast. I don’t know if it is true, but I heard there was some racism within the orchestra. I could see him possibly being the only black man in the orchestra. In those days there were not many blacks in the orchestral scene. Jerome Ashby was another great Music and Art product that was one of the only blacks in the NY Philharmonic in those days. Jerome passed away several years ago. Wow, if so it sounds like Carl was mistreated inside the orchestra a bit, and maybe that drove him to the heavy drinking and other problems. I don’t really know the answer other than what Carl told me that day, but what a crime it is if he was mistreated for being black. You can’t blame the gig in Milan totally for anything, but life affects us all in different ways and some fall off the edge easier than others. Some depression sent Carton over the edge completely. He was definitely on his way to being one of the greatest on his instrument and had achieved at a young age what many try a lifetime to achieve and never get. Such a tragedy, and I still have no idea if Carlton is alive or not today. I have not heard that he died. But I haven’t heard of anyone seeing him.
One other great player of the low brass world was Malleon Walker, who joined Carl at Curtis and subbed with the Philadelphia orchestra as well. Malleon also played with Howard Johnson, and was a always one of the best bass trombone players around. Both Malleon and Carl were part of what we called kiddingly “The Acid Section” along with Chris Tillotson(son of the great french horn player Brooks Tillotson), Clifton Anderson, Danny Druckman, Rand Stieger, and myself in the Music and Art Orchestra. Malleon died a few years back from a heart attack.

Here is what Clifton Anderson had to say about Carlton Green  and Malleon Walker. ”

When I got to Music and Art, the first person that I met was a young Tuba player named Carlton Green. The way I met him was, I was walking down the hallway and I heard this tuba playing incredible stuff and I was thinking, “What is that this guy is playing?” So I went to the practice room—they used to have little windows so you could look in and see. His back was to me; I saw him playing his tuba. He was reading this music that looked like flies on paper. I knocked on the door and asked him what he was playing. He said they were violin concertos. I said, “You can play violin concertos on the tuba?” Turns out that this kid was a prodigy and was a soloist at the age of 14 with the New York Philharmonic. He was the best student in the school. We became friends.
From that point on, the school had an amazing brass section. There was a bass trombonist in there by the name of Malleon Walker who went on study at Juilliard and graduated from Curtis Institute. He was known around New York (he is no longer with us) as a premier bass trombonist for European classical music”.
Also there was a really talent great young trombonist named Henry Mitchell who eventually ended up living on the street with big problems. Why did these three guys, who had so much talent, and proven ability simply disappear from the scene? Obviously the abuse put on a person can just knock you out of reality, but why must there be such frustration in the world to create these types of tragedies? That was the gist of my conversation with Marcus Rojas. I am grateful for what I have. It prompted this blog