Rifftides reader John Bolger writes with a suggestion:
Somebody has posted the legendary interview between Paul Desmond and Bird on YouTube. I had a seen transcript of this before but never heard the interview. Rare and wonderful! Thought you might like to know – might be worth piece in Rifftides.
It might, indeed. In the spring of 1954, Desmond and Charlie Parker were guests on John McLellan’s radio program on WHDH, Boston. In two previous shows, McLellan hadn’t been able to get much out of Parker. This time, Desmond gently hijacked the interview and Bird opened up to him. In a letter to his friend Jimmy Lyons, quoted in Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, Desmond wrote, “I don’t know whether it was professional courtesy or the half-pint of bourbon, but old Charlie talked up a storm.”
For more on the friendship between Parker and Desmond, and Desmond’s determination not to be a junior Birdman, see Take Five the book.
Fernando Ortiz de Urbina says
Some years ago I translated this interview into Spanish. It can be read here: http://www.tomajazz.com/perfiles/desmond_paul.htm
Svetlana Ilicheva says
Can’t thank you enough for posting the Bird -Desmond video! I sent the information to my friends – the Desmond fans which made them as happy as I had been on seeing and then listening to the video.
Dave Bernard says
Historically, the Parker-Desmond interview is facinating, but it will disappoint anyone who’s expecting great music discourse. I suppose, short of going over the inner voicings on an arrangement, most of music interviews fall quickly into cliche, or mutual admiration society as it does with P & D. One notable thing in the tete a tete is the total immersion in intellect and charm, and avoidance of jive that characterized the period.
Incidentally, Mr McLellan is the only person I know who had a taste of Broadcasting and didn’t want to take advantage of the odd opportunity to get behind a mic even in retirement. Several years ago, I wanted to hire him to do a review of George Wein’s book, and he had no interest. He worked for years at MIT, and is, first and foremost a scientist.
Dave Bernard says
My comments on the discourse in the Parker-Desmond broadcast reflect a long-time observation over the reality that most music interviews are fluff. We get a lot of requests from Berklee Public Relations office to talk with their musicians, but there’s honestly no new territory to mine. It’s amazing that so many musicians continue to be influenced by Dylan and the Beatles, but that’s established, and we don’t need to hear that anymore in response to the Who-are-your-influences question.
The option that’s generally dismissed is to delve straightaway into a technical discussion on the creation of music. Unlike visual art, you can get pretty specific about the mechanics of writing. Sure, it will lose many listeners/readers, but far superior, you enter the realm of truly useful information. Coincidentally, John McLellan [in his real name, John Fitch] did many technical interviews for National Educational Television in its pre-PBS years, and they didn’t shy from egg-headed fare. Even today, shows like Nova prove that media can swim and lure the public to the deep end of the pool.
By the way, time has treated Mr. Fitch well. He looks and sounds great. It’s MITs’ 150th anniversary, and they’ve posted a few of Mr. Fitch’s Science Reporter shows on the ‘Net.”
Dave Bernard, Arts & Public Policy
Radio Station W R C A, Cambridge (US)