I don't hold it against Dizzy [Gillespie], you know, but if a guy wants to play a certain way, you work towards that. If he stops - he's full of crap, you know. I mean, I wouldn't do it, for no money, or for no place in the white man's world. Not just to make money, because then you don't have anything. You don't have as much money as whoever you're trying to ape; that's making money by being commercial. Then you don't have anything to give the world; so you're not important. You might as well be dead.
I used to enjoy all the white bands when I was a kid listening to the radio. But the record companies, they take music and label it - like, they say "rock". Because the white singers can't sound like James Brown, they call him "soul". They've been doing that for years. That's the prejudice crap.
A lot of people ask me where music is going today. I think it's going in short phrases. If you listen, anybody with an ear can hear that. Music is always changing. It changes because of the times and the technology that's available, the material that things are made of, like plastic cars instead of steel. So when you hear an accident today it sounds different, not all the metal colliding like it was in the forties and fifties. Musicians pick up sounds and incorporate that into their playing, so the music that they make will be different.
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...people will go for anything they don't understand if it's got enough hype. They want to be hip, want always to be in on the new thing so they don't look unhip. White people are especially like that, particularly when a black person is doing something they don't understand...That's what I thought was happening when Ornette hit town.
Birth of the Cool' became a collector's item, I think, out of a reaction to Bird and Dizzy's music. Bird and Diz played this hip, real fast thing, and if you weren't a fast listener, you couldn't catch the humor or the feeling in their music. Their musical sound wasn't sweet, and it didn't have harmonic lines that you could easily hum out on the street with your girlfriend trying to get over with a kiss.
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The music has gotten thick. Guys give me tunes and they're full of chords. I can't play them...I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords, and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation. There will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them.
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Monk was a gentle person, gentle and beautiful, but he was strong as an ox. And if I had ever said something about punching Monk out in front of his face - and I never did - then somebody should have just come and got me and taken me to the madhouse, because Monk could have just picked my little ass up and thrown me through a wall.
Audiences - they like colour, you know. I can go out there wearing a red suit, man, and they'll say I'm out of sight ... I think they should be educated; you should always drop something on an audience ... When you get in front of an audience, you should try to give 'em something. After all, they're there looking at you like this. You can't go out and give 'em nothing.
See, if you put a musician in a place where he has to do something different from what he does all the time, then he can do that - but he's got to think differently in order to do it. He's got to play above what he knows - far above it. I've always told the musicians in my band to play what they know and then play above that. Because then anything can happen, and that's where great art and music happens.
Sometimes [playing free] doesn't happen, because maybe a guy's wife'll come in, you know, and his ego will catch him. If everybody's completely just straight-without any old ladies over here, a fourth of whisky over there; if it's balanced right, it'll come off. It has to be. But when you get egos involved with playing free, you can't do it.
I would never try and play like Harry James, because I don't like his tone - for me. It's just white. You know what I mean? He has what we black trumpet players call a white sound. But it's for white music ... I can tell a white trumpet player, just listening to a record. There'll be something he'll do that'll let me know that he's white.
I mean, it makes me sick when I see a white man sitting there smiling at me being entertaining, man. When I know what he's gonna do after he gets through. You know, when you see that thing on their face - like: "Entertain me." You know what I mean? Even the black guy that's trying to be white - even he can have that crap on his face.