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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bill Harper Remembers Part 2.

I actually got to play with Bruce Adams at a Festival in Nantes 2008. Lockjaw Davis was probably the first major saxophonist for me at the Corner House. Sid's sextet was playing & I could see Lockjaw standing at the bar with his glass of milk & brandy, listening to the band. When we came off I went over to him & politely asked what he wished to play for his opener to which he replied "I'll think of something when we get up there" to which I raised the possibility that I might not know it,& he replied "So you don't know it--- what the hell-- there's 1000's of tunes, we'll play something else-- now don't you give me a hard time & put me off my drink-- I heard you play, we'll be OK. The gig was fine which had a nice moment when he called Bye Bye Blackbird to which I asked "usual key of F? No! Eb he said. Derek Dixon said "Eh!" not hearing clearly & Lockjaw said "you got a problem in Eb?" "No said Dicker, which of course he hadn't. OK  said Lockjaw, but if I hear any wrong notes I'll have you back in the office in the morning!"
I always enjoyed working with Buddy Tate who was a real gentleman & Spike Robinson, in spite of failing health always had different & interesting material but gave you a free hand to interpret his tunes which were never mundane or hackneyed. But is there a better reed man than Alan Barnes anywhere on the planet? I'd never heard him play tenor before but he does so on Spike Heatley's "One for Clifford"(2004) & is absolutely astounding. Anne & I have worked with him on numerous occasions & find him to be the most accommodating of musicians who loves a challenge. He would play on Anne's arrangements with no rehearsal, note perfect, great solos on material he couldn't possibly have even heard before. A world class musician!!! That's not to take away anything away from my all time fave tenor Scott Hamilton, plus Harry Allen & the superb Ken Peplowski on clarinet all of whom were a delight to work with on many occasions.
I have fond memories of the mini tour I did with Ken & Mark Nightingale which was fabulous but boy did they keep you on your toes. Mark kept arriving at each gig with new arrangements & compositions that he had done over night & with no opportunity to rehearse you had to be on your mettle. Ken pulled out an Al Cohn original based on the changes of Limehouse Blues & gave a lead sheet to Mark & asked "will this be OK"? Mark gave it a quick glance & said "Yes it's fine". I glanced over Mark's shoulder at his chart & couldn't believe my eyes-- it wasn't a trombone part at all & had to be transposed on site-- but also the notation was incredibly difficult to read, particularly at the breakneck speed required. I was given a private recording of the gig & the two front line were in perfect unison. Mark never missed a note on a tune he had never seen or heard before & when I asked him how difficult it had been to play, he said, "well, it wasn't very  trombone friendly"--the biggest understatement I've ever heard in my life. Also Ken did a feature on All This & Heaven Too which was absolutely gorgeous !! It confirmed for me that his tone & technique were pure perfection!(end part 2)
Bill Harper.
(Photo shows Bill Harper accompanying Red Rodney.)

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

Any info on Derek Dixon were was he from

Anne DeVere said...

Derek Dixon lived in South Shields - Westoe Road.

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