12 August 2012

The wisdom of experience

Another afternoon off work, another workshop. This was Bennie Maupin, multi-instrumentalist with McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Roy Haynes and others.

I can’t attend his Saturday gig, so a workshop was a decent alternative. And of course it fascinating for the musicians. Hearing anecdotes of Miles as leader on Bitches Brew, of Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Hearing of his eminently practical approach to life and survival as a musician, even of some of his setbacks. He strongly supports reed players learning other instruments, sax and clarinet and flute, if only for survival, and taking all sorts of gigs. He recounted gigs where he was forbidden from improvising, then explained that he went to the Lower East Side to let off steam with the likes of Joe Henderson. He spoke of learning of the value of timbre from Yusef Lateef. He spoke with some eminently quotable lines. You have to keep a bass clarinet under control “like a wild horse”. He promoted self-discipline and organisation and focus in practice, but also balance in life. I was surprised to hear that “some days I don’t practice”. He quoted Miles as being a supportive leader, “Yeah, I hear ya”, and said he learnt from Miles “how to be in the moment”. I liked the line “Always be the one to say yes” in the context of the sole initial volunteer to play. Then he went on to hail the use of space in performance. He called up several student bands and played with them and asked for a group picture to remember the event. He mourned the damage to the ANU School of Music. Bennie is not young (71) but there’s no way you’d say he’s old. A nice bloke and a lovely player, from what little I heard.

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