Pianist, composer and member of The Bad Plus, Ethan Iverson is also a prodigious and canny blogger. On his Do The Math blog, he often features extended interviews with prominent musicians. I have never been a fan of transcribed interviews. Too often, they are a boring substitute for writing. Ethan manages to make them interesting, by choosing interesting people to talk with and by raising important questions. His newest entry in the sweepstakes is a conversation with Bill Kirchner, the saxophonist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, author, editor, broadcaster and occasional Rifftides commenter. In the course of the interview, Ethan draws Bill out on his experiences in each of his areas of expertise and on his opinions. Kirchner delivers anecdotes about other musicians he has encountered, among them Benny Carter.
The first time I met Benny, he did a concert at the Smithsonian in 1978 with Joe Kennedy, Jr., the violin player – who became a very good friend of mine, wonderful player, wonderful human being – and Ray Bryant and Larry Ridley and a drummer who will be unnamed, who was a great drummer but you’ll understand why I’m not naming him. So they were just playing standards, calling tunes, no rehearsal. Benny calls “Perdido,” and they play solos and the drummer takes a drum solo and just keeps going and going, and just going on past his bedtime. So Benny, as I was to discover later on, was Mr. Savoir Faire – an incredibly dignified man and smart as a whip. Also, you didn’t f___ with him. Nobody messed with Benny Carter. So this drummer just kept playing his solo and Benny just let him play and play and play and didn’t bring the tune back in, and eventually the drummer just stopped playing, just kind of petered out, and Benny goes to the microphone and with a totally straight face says: “Well, you know, when you’re playing with so-and-so, there’s just no way to follow him.”
You didn’t mess with Benny.
To read all of the Kirchner-Iverson conversation, go here.
To see what Kirchner is up to, visit his website.