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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Karnataka College of Percussion at 50!

(T.A.S. Mani)

Next year the Karnataka College of Percussion is 50 years old. Founded by the great Mridangam player T.A.S.Mani in 1964, it was, and is, a unique institution in that it organized lessons in a school format in a music that was traditionally always taught on a one-to-one basis in a guru system. Mr. Mani's forward thinking, desire to spread the knowledge of his instrument, and Carnatic music in general, and his generosity in sharing his skill and genius, has meant that hundreds of people have had a chance to study and perform this amazing music and appreciate its subtleties and intricacies.

In undertaking this groundbreaking work in India Mr. Mani was ably assisted by his wife, the brilliant vocalist R.A. Ramamani, and the two of them together have been a major force in spreading this incredible music, not only in India, but also abroad, particularly in their collaborations with jazz musicians.

(R.A. Ramamani)

My own experience with these great musicians began through another musician who had himself studied with Mr. Mani and went on to become one of their closest collaborators, the great percussionist Ramesh Shotham. Ramesh and I first met during a trio project with the pianist Simon Nabatov and became fast friends. At that time I was beginning my immersion in the world of rhythm and had become fascinated with the rhythmic techniques of Carnatic music - Ramesh was a mine of information on this subject, having studied with, and later performed extensively with Mr. Mani and Ramamani.

At this point I was already aware of KCP and the Manis through their ECM recording Jyothi, with the legendary saxophonist Charlie Mariano. As well as making Carnartic music more accessible to a bigger audience, this recording introduced the wider jazz world to the composition of Ramamani - a unique body of work.

These compositions were crucial in increasing the possibilities for jazz musicians to work with Indian classical musicians and find a common ground in which both can contribute while maintaining their own identity.

Carnatic music uses structures that are unique to it, and the responses of the musicians while they improvise are governed by a set of rules (ragas, talas, jatis, tihais, korvais etc) which take a very long time to learn, and for the western musician, are difficult to relate to unless you've done a lot of study. The same could be said of Carnatic musicians - they often don't understand the structures of jazz performances, and the result of this mutual incomprehension is that many collaborations between jazz musicians and Indian classical musicians are often stiff and directionless.

Ramamani's compositions provided a bridge between these traditions - they use Indian ragas and talas for the melodic and rhythmic material, but simplify the song form structures, which provide space for the jazz guys to improvise in and to grasp the overall structure of the piece. Here is one of Ramamani's tunes, 'Varshini', (wrongly titled in the video as 'Mr Mani'), played in Germany in 1995

It was on this tour that I finally got to meet and play with the Manis, and what a thrill it was! The band included Ramesh on percussion. We did about 20 concerts and were joined on some by Charlie Mariano, who had a long relationship with KCP, and by the Dutch pianist Jasper Van't Hof. The material was mostly Ramamani's compositions, and a few traditional Indian pieces. Working with the Manis was wonderful - they were both really nice people, easy to travel with, very patient with the inevitable delays and hanging around that touring involves.

And then of course there was the playing…… both are supreme masters of their art, technically flawless and can play with the kind of intensity that only the finest musicians can access.   I remember several alaps (non-metered introductions) that Ramamani did that were stunning, and I also remember one particular night in Vienna when Mr. Mani's end of concert Mridangam solo went beyond even his extraordinary level, driven no doubt by Mani's knowledge that there was a tabla player in the front row of the audience who needed to be shown who was the boss!

We concluded the tour in Turkey where we were joined by the Irish guitarist Mike Nielsen and the legendary Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz and there we made a really nice album called 'Mishram' for a small Turkish label. I always regretted that this had such a limited release, because I think it really achieved a convincing blending of the Indian and jazz elements in the music, producing something quite unique. Here's one of Ramamani's compositions from that recording, dedicated to her husband, 'Mr. Mani'

After that tour I played with the Manis several more times, and it was always a pleasure, their adaptability to other musicians outside their own tradition is extraordinary and very unusual in Indian classical musicians. This was demonstrated again in the biggest thing we did together - a project called '5 Cities'. This was a unique event that brought together jazz musicians, Irish traditional musicians, and Indian classical musicians. For this project I wrote an extensive suite that featured everyone at various times, and since we toured it in five cities in India, it was given the '5 Cities' title.

It was a challenge to write a piece in which each tradition could be discerned and yet work as a whole, but having such great musicians in this project, from all of the various traditions, made it a lot easier. It was quite a big undertaking to make it work musically and logistically, but work it did and we toured India with it as well as playing it in Ireland. A fly-on-the-wall documentary was made of our Indian tour and the final concert in Dublin was filmed too. Here's the last movement of the suite, with a great demonstration at the end of the Mani's amazing rhythmic dexterity, along with Ramesh, and also how much fun this project was!

Playing with the Mani's and KCP has immeasurably enriched my musical life - they are great people, and great musicians and they have done so much both to promote the amazing music from their country, and to foster ways in which people from different cultures can callaborate. Fifty years of doing anything is amazing, but fifty years of musical invention, innovation and skill at the highest level is something we should all be thankful for. Here's to the lots more great music from the Manis - I hope I get a chance to play music with them again!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hancock's World

I’ve just finished Herbie Hancock’s autobiography ‘Possibilities’, (co-written with Lisa Dickey). It’s an interesting book, as you would expect with someone of Hancock’s pedigree and history, and reading it reminds you just how much music he has been involved with, some of it groundbreaking, and all of it graced by his amazing pianism and creativity.  Hancock is one of those guys who has been around, at the top of the jazz tree, for so long you can almost take him for granted. But reading this book sent me back to some of the music he’s done over the years, and it was an instructive lesson in just how great a jazz musician he is.

In his early days with Miles and others he demonstrated all the attributes that made him such a major figure so quickly. He somehow combined the harmonic sophistication of Bill Evans with a swinging right hand that rivaled Wynton Kelly’s, especially at medium tempos. He was also a virtuoso, on a par with anybody when it came to playing fast tempos effortlessly, and he could imbue anything with a bluesy sensibility . Very much the complete package, these attributes and his high profile gig with Miles ensured that he, (along with McCoy Tyner, the pianist in the other gold standard band of the 60s), became one of the most influential pianists in jazz. In the 70s he went on to form Headhunters, create one of the biggest selling jazz album of all time, and pushed into the electronic world with enthusiasm and imagination. He’s still out there, after a career of over fifty years, still playing great and still boundlessly enthusiastic about music and excited by whatever his latest project is.

As to the book itself, it’s very interesting in a lot of ways and a bit puzzling in others

It’s interesting to read about his childhood and time in college, the fact that he went there originally to study engineering, and ended up changing his Major to music. His background in engineering did have a lasting impact on him however, in that it drove his fascination with music technology, which is something he’s still obsessed about to this day, and there is much description in the book of his various encounters with new technology, and how he would push the inventors of these technologies to stretch the capabilities of what they could do.

He describes his racist experience with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a young man, and his discovery by Donald Byrd and subsequent move to New York in the early 60s at age twenty. His stories about Miles and how that band began are fascinating and there is much here for anyone interested in the gestation of this great ensemble, its psychology, development and ultimate dissolution. He then goes on to describe the innovative ‘Mwandishi’ band, and then Headhunters and Hancock’s emergence from the limited exposure of the jazz world into the bright lights of the pop world. I found the whole Headhunters and Mwandishi story to be fascinating and also the technological advances that lead to such hits as ‘Rockit’ etc. Herbie always had a feeling for a good groove that would appeal to many people, something proved by ‘Watermelon Man’, which was a huge hit from his first album while he was still an acoustic jazz musician.

(Headhunters live in Germany in 1974)

This is a very honest book in lots of ways and Hancock does not shy away from describing the lows of his life, (such as his addiction to crack cocaine in the 90s), and the flaws in his character as he sees them. He also is scrupulous about giving credit to people that helped him with various things, such as his story about how Joe Zawinul gave him the key advice on how to write for three horns that lead to the masterpiece album ‘Speak Like a Child’. In general he is self-deprecating, and someone who didn’t know his music but had just read this book, might be forgiven for not suspecting just what a great musician he is. In general he comes over as being a nice guy, affable, and good with people in an everyday setting.

So these are the aspects of the book that I found very interesting, but there are also some aspects of this book that I find strange.

The first one is that he gives almost no sense of what it must have been like to be a young pianist, on the scene, in New York in the 1960s. This was in many ways a golden era for jazz and in the early 60s you could see everyone from Louis Armstrong to Cecil Taylor in New York – the entire past, present and future of the music all in one place at the same time. Yet Hancock makes no real mention of the scene, of what that was like for a young pianist. There is no mention of Monk, of Rollins, or even of Coltrane. Trane was the other Big Beast in the world of jazz at that time and Hancock must have seen him play, and Trane was almost certainly at some of the Miles gigs that Hancock played at, yet there is no mention of him at all apart from Hancock stating that he played in some clubs with Miles that Trane and other famous musicians had played at. There is no mention of Rollins, whom Hancock recorded with at that time, or of Ornette, or even of the great albums of Wayne Shorter that Hancock played on at that time.

(With Miles Davis in 1967)

There is no colour in the 60s NY scene as told by Hancock, in the way that there is colour in the NY of the 40s and 50s as told in the Monk biography. Hancock concentrates on the Miles band and his own recordings, and then we’re into the 70s. I felt a bit short-changed – surely the scene there must have had an influence on him at that age, yet very little is mentioned. A pity.

The other strange thing about this book is Herbie’s obvious love of the showbiz life. He’s still star-struck and delighted to be included in big awards ceremonies and being admitted to VIP areas, and surrounded by beautiful women. One would imagine that after all these years he’d be used to being at the top table and would have at least some feeling of deserving to be there. But no, he’s still besotted by the glamour of high-end celebrity and there are moments in the book when his wide-eyed delight at being at this event, or being spoken to by that celebrity really feels strange when you consider how great he is in his own right, and how long he’s been mixing with these kinds of people.

An example of this comes late in the book, when Herbie is describing his surprise at winning his umpteenth Grammy, for ‘The Joni Letters’, for which his competitors were the Foo Fighters, Amy Winehouse, Vince Gill and Kanye West. Of this Herbie says ‘These artists made for some rarified company, so I was happy just to have been nominated’. So, the musician who made some of the greatest music of the 20th century with Miles Davis, broke the mold with jazz funk and music video, had scored movies for Antonioni and Tavernier, and was one of the world’s most influential jazz pianists, felt lucky to have been included in a list that included a mediocrity like Kanye West!? It’s baffling that he should a) be still so Star-struck after so many years at the top, and b) have such a low opinion of himself and his achievements that he should feel lucky to be included in such a list……….

This book is not anything like as good as the aforementioned Monk biography, or of Wayne Shorter’s biography ‘Footprints’, but it is an interesting read nevertheless. And as I mentioned at the beginning, it does send you back to the music, and when you see playing like in the clip below it makes you glad that Herbie is still with us.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Year in the Life - Realisation and Renewal

It's funny how life goes sometimes. When you're young and you throw yourself into something like music, everything can seem very simple. Every day you practice and work hard and try and get better, and you do all of this without thought. If all goes well you build your career and earn your living doing this wonderful thing. Then a strange thing can happen, you find yourself doing more and more work that is peripheral to the actual act of playing itself - especially these days with all the distractions of technology social media, and the necessity to be your own publicist/producer/agent/video editor/sound engineer etc. Gradually the amount of time you spend actually playing or composing diminishes, while the anciliary stuff increases. 

Well I've had one of those years - 2014 went by with far too much administration and not enough music. This blog, which is something I'm very interested in - writing about music - got almost no attention at all, and many other musical things were relegated to 'as soon as I can..' roles rather than being primary goals. Well, for my 2015 resolution I'm determined to change this and put music back front and centre again and make whatever changes I have to in order to do that.

So, I've made a start by updating and upgrading my website, which you can see here - there is lots of new stuff there, I think it's more streamlined and I'll be working on it to improve it and keep it updated, so please do check it out now and then if you feel like it.

As part of what I consider my re-engagement with the core of what I should be doing, I've decided to do some one-to-one private teaching again. I haven't done this for a long time and it's something I enjoy. Up to this point my work at the school I teach at has eaten up all my teaching time, however I'm changing a few things so that I can teach people privately again. I'll be doing it on Skype as well as in Dublin, so I can work with people internationally as well as at home. There are more details here if anyone reading this is interested. If you have direct questions about getting lessons, contact me at

Despite it being a challenging time, this past year also had many musical highlights; a reunion with the Guilfoyle/Nielsen trio, gigs with two great American musicians John O Gallagher and Jeff Williams, gigs with the legendary Bob Gullotti and Bruce Saunders, performing my Joycean-inspired suite ‘Counterparts’, at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, performing and recording with a multinational band of Lupa Santiago, Michael Buckley, Goncalo Marques and Anders Vestergard in Lisbon, and performing and teaching in South Africa.

South Africa

(Kesivan Naidoo)

This latter experience was very inspiring – for the first time I got to get a good sense of the breadth and depth of South African jazz. They really have their own thing down there, it’s not European or American, though it shows influences from both – it really has its own identity, and the vibe the music is played with is just fantastic. I had a great time playing with two wonderful musicians in particular, drummer Kesivan Naidoo and the pianist Kyle Shepherd, and I hope to do that again as soon as possible! Also while there I made the aquaintance of other great musicians such as Mike Del Ferro and Ganesh Geymeier. As I said, a very inspiring time.

New Recording
The year began with something very inspiring too – a recording of my own compositions made in Systems Two in New York with a great band consisting of Dave Binney on saxophones, Tom Rainey on drums and my son Chris on guitar. It turned out really well and I was very happy with it, but with the year that I’ve had, I’ve been slow to do anything with it. Well this is going to change, and I’m going to release this in the the first three months of the new year. Here’s a little teaser......

I’m determined to make this year more musicially productive than last, and the first half of 2015 promises to be very musically rewarding. Next week I go to New York to take part in the 7th International Rhythm Studies Association meeting. This brings together high level practitioners in the world of rhythm in improvised music together for three days of playing and hanging, and discussing the latest developments on the rhythmic scene. This is the first time in NY and it looks really exciting with Dave Liebman, Donny McCaslin, Johannes Weidenmuller, Jen Shyu and Miles Okazaki among the participants. Here’s a video from the Dublin meeting a few years ago, which gives an idea of what goes on at these gatherings.

 (Eric Ineke)

In late January I’ll be taking up residence for a month at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. I’ll be there to write some music and play some music. I’ll be playing ‘Counterparts’ again, travelling to Den Haag to play with two great masters Eric Ineke and John Ruocco and do some teaching at the Royal Conservatory there, and debuting new piano trio music with the very talented young Swiss pianist Marie Kruttli and my colleage in ‘Counterparts’, Christophe Lavergne. I’ll also be doing some teaching at the Paris Conservatoire while I’m there.

Full details of these and more dates are on my website here.

Later in the year I'll be returning to South Africa to perform again, and will also be taking part in a concert with two of the most outstanding contemporary improvising musicians on the scene today - Christy Doran and Gerry Hemingway - full dates will be on the website soon.

On the composition front I did manage to get some pieces written, including a piano piece dedicated to my mother, a trio piece for the Guilfoyle/Nielsen Trio and I'm very happy to say that in the next year I will be working on a piece for chamber orchestra, soprano saxophone and piano, written to celebrate the 70th birthdays of two of the greatest contemporary jazz musicians, Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach.

More on that as it develops, for now I want to wish all the readers of this blog a very happy and prosperous 2015, and I look forward to writing much more on this blog this year than I did last year, and I hope you'll find it interesting. Please feel free to comment!

I'll leave you with this piece from the Guilfoyle/Nielsen Trio's reunion concert. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Conversations with Mr KC - Keith Copeland Interviewed - Part 3

The third part of my extended interview with the legendary Keith Copeland. In this section he talks about playing with different great bassists, with Stan Getz and his turbulent time with Stevie Wonder. Great stories and insights from one of jazz's great drummers.

You can see Part 1 HERE, and Part 2 HERE

RG: You played with, of course, some incredible bass players in your career.  Maybe I'll just throw some names at you and then you can just say what the experience was like playing with them.  How it might be different, or what was special, or whatever.  So, Sam Jones?

KC: Sam Jones was probably the most energetic bass player I have ever played with.  His time was right in the middle, centered.  Sometimes it felt like it was on top, but it was right there.  And powerful energy, and great notes, and wonderful to play with.  Never had a moment to think about trying to hook up with him.  He was so strong you just put your hand on the cymbal and it went automatically where it was supposed to be with the time.  He was a great player.  Very special player to play with.  Very special feeling.  I had been listening to him for years, from his first records with Cannonball.  They did a record called Nancy and Cannonball that I loved very much, that he played on.

RG: You played in a trio with him, with Kenny Barron, right?

KC: Yeah, I made a trio record with him.  That was a very fast record.  I remember that date.  That was just before the Heath Brothers date.  We did this record at a studio, on 12th or 13th Street in the Village, not far from from where the New School is.  And it was real cold, like the weather you experienced when you went to New York, and Sam was trying to get to the date from Teaneck and he couldn't get in his car it was so cold.  He couldn't get the locks to open up.  So Sam was late getting to his own date.  So when Sam got there, instead of having six hours, we only had about four hours.  So there was only time for maybe two takes on each tune, and we did the whole record real fast.  And then, of course, me being the globetrotter I had to pack my shit up real fast, go outside, hail a cab, run out to La Guardia, jump on a plane, fly to Washington to meet the Heath Brothers to play in Blues Alley that same night.  I made it, but it was a scuffle.  The record came out pretty good.

RG: Yeah, it did.  I must try and get it on a more reliable format.  I have it on a cassette somewhere, I think.  Well, now that you've mentioned the Heath Brothers...Percy Heath?

KC: Percy Heath was a great bass player, man.  Perfect notes, very good time but a little bit more on the laid back side.  Percy and I couldn't get along so good.  Percy wanted to turn the Heath Brothers into another Modern Jazz Quartet.  You know, he had us wearing these...made us go out and buy suits and shit, and wear these uniforms.  He wanted everything very structured and what I was trying to play with Stanley Cowell and Tony Purrone and Jimmy, who wanted some energy sometime, I would push and go with them and try to get Percy to go with me.  And Percy wouldn't go with me.  Percy would just stay right where he wanted to be.  He'd just look at me and sort of growl at me.  But I wouldn't pay no attention to him because I said, 'Man, shit!  I am with these guys.  I want to support them'.  And I had been used to playing with Sam, so I would just ignore him and we had fallings out about that.  'You too busy, man, you got to relax'.  And he was always trying to give me some of his best marijuana to slow me down.  He always had some good grass.  Whenever we were on the road, Stanley and Tony would always ride with Jimmy and they'd put me with Percy, because they knew Percy would be smoking and that would keep me cool.  Slow me down for the long car rides across Oklahoma and Kansas and shit.

RG: That's a great story! Ray Drummond?

KC: Ray Drummond is another excellent bass player.  Same tradition as Sam Jones.  Same feeling.  Same good notes.  Great time.  Just a real great, warm feeling playing with him.  No problems with him at all.  Always had a great time with him, yeah.

RG: In a general way, since you've played with so many bass players, if I can ask you a question...  I talked to Eric Ineke – the great Dutch drummer – a guy who's played with so many people also.  I like to ask drummers this question because I think it's an interesting thing with the bass and drum dynamic.  There's a very special thing there.  Maybe I can ask you two questions.  What do you really like in a bass player?  And, what do you really not like?

KC: Well, what I like is when they play real nice melodic lines that I can follow, easily.  And I have an idea where they're going all the time when they're playing.  And I like it when their time is very focused and right in the middle of the beat.  And what I don't like is when a bass player is playing a tonne of shit real fast on the bass.  Flying all over the place but not giving me anything to hold on to so I can find where that sense of the time should be.  I don't like that.

RG: Too active...

KC: Yeah, right.  Too active.  That I don't like.

RG: Another thing I wanted to ask you about...a couple of people that we haven't mentioned.  One, of course, looms very large in your biography just because he's so famous, is Stevie Wonder.  How did that come about, playing with him?

(Stevie Wonder)

KC: Well, with Stevie...I was actually working with a group called The Nine Lords in Detroit.  I think at a place called Ben's High Chaparral.  Stevie had just put this new Wonderlove band together.  They were rehearsing in New York.  This was around the time he was doing Music Of My Mind.  He was recording all the stuff in the studio.  He was playing all the drum tracks on it.  He's a very good drummer.  Not technically, but feeling wise.  What he wanted to hear, he could play it.  So anyway, Gene Key was living in Detroit.  That used to be his Musical Director before Stevie decided to form this Wonderlove band where there would be no Musical Director.  Stevie would be the Musical Director.  Gene knew he was looking for a drummer.  So he had a drummer and they did one gig somewhere – I think it was in, if I'm not mistaken, I think it was in Fort Wayne, Indiana – and the drummer missed the plane to get to the gig.  So they had to call to Detroit to get somebody from Detroit to fly down to make the gig who didn't know the music.  I think they got one of The Four Tops drummers or somebody to come in.  So then Stevie said, 'I gotta get another drummer that I can depend on and can make planes.'  So Gene knew I was in town with this group and he came over and heard me play.  He said, 'Listen, I'm gonna fly you to New York with me tomorrow and we're gonna go meet Stevie and you're gonna play with Stevie tomorrow at a rehearsal.'  I said, 'OK'.  

So we got up early in the morning.  Flew to New York.  I met Stevie, we played, jammed for about two hours.  Then they took me to the airport, got me back.  I got back to Detroit in time to make the gig that night.  Didn't hear anything.  So I was working with The Nine Lords and Kim Weston, who was married to Mickey Stevenson, a big producer for Motown.  We went from Detroit back to Boston.  Played for a week in Boston at The Sugar Shack.  Then we went to Washington to play at a place called Pitts Motor Inn.  While I was in Pitts – we were there for ten days – I got a call.  Evidently, Stevie had tried a couple of other drummers after me and didn't like them and then I got a call.  The call said, 'When you finish Sunday night in DC come to New York and meet the band.  You're going to rehearse for two days.  Then you're going to go to Chicago and play at the Oriental Theatre with Stevie.'  I said, 'OK'.  So I went up there that day.  Broke my butt and got up to New York.  Rehearsed for two days with the band.  Stevie didn't come to the rehearsal!  He was out in California, messing around.  I don't know what he was doing but he was out there doing something.  

(Gladys Knight)

So we all met in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre.  Of course, we didn't have enough time to really do a decent rehearsal.  So Gene Key was there – he was still trying to hang on to be Musical Director.  He gave me this big book of music that he had written up for me to play the show.  And then the guys in the horn section – Dave Sanborn was in the band, Trevor Laurence, Steve Madaio - they had their ideas of what they wanted.  Then Stevie had his ideas of what he wanted.  So I had three different things coming at me about what everybody wanted.  We had a show and we were playing opposite Gladys Knight.  Her band was opening up for us.  They had horns.  She had a rhythm section.  And another group called The Constellations which was, I think, Dionne Warwick's backup singers.  They were good.  Anyway, Gladys kicked our ass, man!  She was so tight!  And Gladys' drummer, Al Thompson, used to be Stevie's drummer.  And he was great, man!  He had a great backbeat, great time and he knew her shit.  He was functioning as the Musical Director for the horn section and for Gladys and they killed!  So I was feeling kind of bad, man.  Because I felt like I couldn't play because I had so much on my mind – to concentrate with trying to satisfy all of these three different opinions.  

So the next day we finally had a really good rehearsal and we got it together.  And then we started playing, we started kicking butt.  And we finished out the week long stay and we did well.  So I stayed with Stevie for about seven months.  But the only thing I didn't like about Stevie...Stevie, every time there was a drum solo, Stevie wanted to take the drum solo!  So I had to learn how to play...and then when he finished playing all that shit on the piano he would make his way over to the drums which wasn't that far away and stand next to me.  And I had to figure out a way to get up, get him seated, get the sticks in his hand without losing too much time, so he could take a drum solo.  And this shit went on for four or five months and I got tired and I said, 'When am I going to get a drum solo?!'  And really what he wanted me to do was to try to play all of his licks.  And I didn't want to do that.  I said, 'I want to play my shit.  I'm not going to play your shit.  I don't want to sound like you.'  

(The Rolling Stones)

So we did this for a while and then we were on a tour with The Rolling Stones.  We had opened up for The Rolling Stones in Vancouver.  We were the opening act on that tour and I did three weeks with them.  And when we got to Dallas we played a gig...the only thing I didn't like about the tour was Stevie had signed the contract with the money on a weekly basis.  So he got a certain amount of money for each week.  But the Stones could add shows and fill up them big arenas.  We were playing twice if they wanted to and we didn't get no extra money for that.  I said, 'They're getting extra money for it.'

So, anyway, we got to Dallas and he did some shit when we were playing.  He started waving his hands up and down.  I didn't know what he was doing.  And he had set a tempo on something, I don't know what tune it was...Signed, Sealed, Delivered or whatever...but, evidently, after he had set the tempo he didn't like the tempo, he was trying to change the tempo.  He wanted to make it faster or something.  So I got pissed, man!  So I made it fast, REAL fast!  I was trying to teach him never to do that again.  I'm trying to teach the bandleader something.  So I made it real fast and we finished the tune, finished the set.  And then he called a meeting – he liked to call meetings.  Whenever there was something wrong he'd call a meeting of the whole band.  He called a meeting and the meeting was directed at me.  He said, 'That was almost a perfect show except there was something wrong in the rhythm section.  Something was wrong with the time.'  So I said, 'Listen, motherfucker!  The only fuckin' thing wrong with the time was you were fuckin' with the time.  Set it one time and then you made it like you wanted it to get faster.'  I said, 'I made it faster.  I made it real fast.  If you hadn't been fuckin' with it and left it where it was so we could finish that tune like it was.  You have to be responsible for the getting the tempo right when you call it.  If you call it wrong you have to live with it.'  So I was really out.  Everybody was looking at me like I had snapped because they had never heard me speak to him like that before.  Well, I had.

RG: So what was his reaction to that?

KC: He didn't say shit.  I just walked out of the meeting after that.  I said my shit and that's it.  So I went back to the hotel room and I packed my shit and I left.  I left him in Dallas.  I didn't ever play with him no more, I split.  I'm not going for this shit no more.  This shit's going to happen again.  So they called me.  They found out that I had split.  They sent Ralph Hammer, the guitar player, out to the airport to talk me into staying.  I said, 'No, man. I'm not taking no more of this abuse.  This is ridiculous.'  That on top of the drum shit, the solo shit.  'I don't need this.  We ain't making that much money.  I could make this much money staying at home.'  So I stayed at home and I did good.  I never looked back.  That's what happened with Stevie.  But I really loved working with him when things were going well.  He was a great musician.  He still is a great musician.  I loved playing his music, and I loved his tunes, and I loved that band.  But I didn't like the abuse.

RG: Stan Getz?  You played with him...

KC: Stan Getz was a trip.  Stan Getz was a real trip, man.  I worked with him with Jim McNeely, and sometimes George Mraz, sometimes...who else played bass?

RG: Marc Johnson, maybe?

KC: No, not Marc Johnson, sometimes Rufus.  Worked real good with Rufus.  Worked real good with Jim McNeely and Rufus.  And it worked real good with George Mraz.  Stan was like a split personality.  Sometimes he was the nicest, sweetest guy in the world.  And other times he was a real prick, man.  Sometimes he'd ask me to rub his back, to give him back massages, and I would, when he was being nice.  Then other times I wouldn't do shit for him, man.  He was really a trip.

The first time I went out with him on a long tour he booked me into Washington, to Blues Alley, for four nights and he paid me 150 a night which wasn't bad for Blues Alley.  And then we left there, we started doing these one nighters through the mid-west.  And all of these one nighters were in big places...all these places I had been before.  Chicago, University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana...all these places.  And all of these big joints he was still paying me 150 a night.  And I know he wasn't paying the other guys that.  But, because he had started me off at 150 in the club he figured I was stupid enough to think that that's what it was supposed to be.  So I kept doing it, I did that first tour, but I used to get mad at Stan.  And Stan's health wasn't that great, but he wanted to play with a lot of energy.  So whenever he was having a good night he wanted to play with a lot of energy.  I'd bombard him with all that Elvin shit that I knew.  I said, 'Oh, you feel like playing tonight?  Play on this, motherfucker!' Boom!  I was throwing everything I had at him.  That shit was kicking his ass sometimes.  But that's because he had been so weird to me sometimes.  

So I remember the last night I played with him after a tour.  We played in Dallas, at the Caravan of Dreams which was a big club, held about three, four hundred people.  He had been acting strange.  We played that first set...I put so much shit on him that first set he had to go lay down on the couch somewhere to rest, to get ready for the second set, because I really layed some shit on him.  I shouldn't have done that, that was terrible.  But I had the strength and the technique to do it so I did it, because he wanted some power.  

But he also said some shit to me, and I never forgave him for it, in Washington.  At the end of the Washington gig he said some shit to me about...'Yeah Keith, I almost had to let you go, man.  You almost weren't good enough to hang with me'.  I said, 'Oh yeah?  Ok.  I'll remember you said that, Stan'.  Because I had been there about a month before with George Russell playing at the Smithsonian, playing some really hard shit.  We had to play The African Game and some other shit for about an hour and a half straight.  And I killed!  And the guy that reviewed us at Blues Alley said 'Yeah, Stan sounded great and Stan had Keith Copeland, George Russell's drummer, with him and he sounded great'.  So the reviewer had heard it and thought I sounded wonderful.  But Stan was telling me some shit.  I think that's why he only paid me 150 a night, because I wasn't coming up to par for him.  I said, 'Well, we'll see if I come up to par for you the next time, motherfucker!  I'll let you know I can come up to par!  You need more!  If you want more, here's some more!'  I gave him plenty to work with!

RG: That's a great story.  You're not in a very exclusive club of people he was weird to, that's for sure.

KC: Stan was rough, man.

RG: Just a couple more questions...I know you made at least one recording with him, maybe two.  I don't know if you guys played live or not.  Paul Bley?

KC: (laughs) Paul Bley!  We did a date and there was some problem with the technical stuff on the date.  He wanted me to play some brushes and the brushes I was using were wire brushes with metal tips coming out of the end.  And every time I was playing with these brushes there would be some metallic clicks that would come through the line.  So we'd get something going good and we'd have to stop because of these clicks.  So finally they found some brushes in the studio that were plastic brushes and I started using those, no problem.  But we had wasted about two hours trying to figure out what these clicks were.  But Paul played some of the strangest shit I ever heard!  Me and Paul and Bob Cranshaw.  Bob Cranshaw, who was another wonderful bass player.  He usually plays electric but he brought his upright to the date.  If it hadn't been for Bob Cranshaw I could have never gotten through this date.  Because he was the rock, he knew what to do.  And Paul was playing some strange shit, even going out of the form of the tune sometimes.  Turning the time around, and I had to fix it and catch it.  But the record came out pretty good actually.

RG: Yeah, I remember.  It was called ‘Bebop, or something?

KC: Bebop!  There's nothing but bebop tunes on it.

RG: I was thinking about that just before we talked.  You must be the only person on any instrument who has played with both Stevie Wonder and Paul Bley.

KC: (laughs)

RG: Definitely!  I don't think there's anybody else who has that range of experience!  The final thing I wanted to ask you about, Keith, because you've lived in Europe since ''re twenty years, I guess, in Europe now.  And, of course, you originally grew up, came up, in the scene in the States.  What would you say was your experience of the difference between being a professional jazz musician living in Europe and being a professional jazz musician living in the States?

KC: Well, when I first got over here I was very busy and I was running around like I used to run around in the States.  But after you stay over here about four or five years they get used to you over here.  It's not a novelty.  If you come over here from the States on tour, you're a novelty.  So you get  treated a little bit better sometimes.  But if you stay over here too long you become sort of local.  And that's what happened, I became local over here.  That was the only difference.  So I don't play as much because when I was a novelty I got the really good money, and I got the chance to play with the really nice people, at the right places.  But now, I don't play so much because I can't get the right money all the time.  And I don't feel like going out and busting my butt if the money ain't right, you know.  The States was ok except those last few years I was in New York I was traveling so much I got to see New York from the airplane more than I did from being on the ground because I always saw it landing or taking off.  That's what I was always doing, going places from New York.  And I said, 'I love New York, but I never get to see it except from the air.'  And then I was teaching a lot in New York.  You know, I was teaching at the New School, I was teaching at Long Island University, I was teaching at Rutgers for seven years.  I was teaching at so many different places.  Teaching upstate, there was a little school up there.  I was teaching there a little bit.  Anyway, it was a little bit too much and, over here, it was a lot sometimes but then it slowed down.  Especially about three or four years before I had my stroke, but then after my stroke it slowed down a lot.  But that was the main difference between New York and here.

RG: Well listen, Keith, thank you so much...

KC: Yeah, Ronan!

To finish - here's a track from one of the trio albums that I had the privilege of playing with Keith on, with Tommy Halferty on guitar - it's a swinging workout of 'All of Me', typical of the way this trio played.