By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
[Charles Mingus] was a strange cat, man. He came outside the theater when we were taking intermission, and he jumped on the man's brand-new car - jumped on the hood of the stagehand's car. Put a big dent in it. Then jumped on the other side. He'd just do anything. Brother Woodman was in the band. You know, Brother is just like a bull. So, [Mingus] said something to Brother Woodman, and man, when I looked around, Brother Woodman had that cat up over his head like that. He had Mingus over his head. Buddy Collette was there. He was in the band playing first alto. See, Woodman's been whopping Mingus ever since they were kids in the back yards. He always wanted to jump on Brother Woodman, and Brother Woodman would be laughing and be beating him to death.
People think that [Mingus] hated white persons. They called him the angry man. But if you'd go to his pad, that's all he had surrounding him, white people. The blacks were the ones that couldn't understand him. He never had too many black friends, just his musicians that were with him: Eric Dolphy and Ted Curson and his drummer, Dannie Richmond. But lots of the other outside black musicians, they didn't really know him, his heart, how beautiful a person he was. So he didn't hate white people, he hated prejudice. And that's when he'd get angry.
Mingus was always a disaster to have around. I loved him, but he was worse than a child. He didn't know how to clean up behind himself. He could cook, but there would be eggs on the floor and ceiling. Couldn't find his shoes when he had to go to work, didn't have a white shirt, couldn't write a check. All he could really do was play the bass and write music.
And his music was always interesting. It wasn't always the same. Tomorrow night he would start somewhere different and try something completely different. Even as a kid. That was his personality. He didn't come from any mold. . . .
[Eric Dolphy] loved all those strange notes to the point of being out there even when the tune didn't call for it. But he'd also had a background in classical music. He loved to practice it. He'd spend more time practicing classical than jazz, so he had the fingers and he had the difficult things always behind him.
He was a joy to teach. You didn't have to teach him that much. He just loved it. Whatever you gave him, he'd approach it like you had given him a toy or a bowl of ice cream. It was fun, and the fun was always there. He was just a joy. There's not too many that you meet that have the magic within their makeup. He would smile when he played or practiced, just enjoying it.
Dexter [Gordon] loved this thing so much that it was his life. If you love anything, you just live it, sleep it and eat it. And it seems to me that I've heard Marshal [Royal] say that Dexter told him once, as a very young man - Marshal said that Dexter's ambition was to become a junkie. He was so committed to music - well, jazz music - and he felt that the epitome of being what he wanted was to be a junkie musician. In other words, I guess he felt that the dope was going to help him be a more completely formed musician. And Dexter apparently experimented a little too much with narcotics.
No matter how strong you are as a human being, if you tamper with the poisons too long it will get the best of you. I had enough silly, pioneering, adventuresome spirit about myself that I managed to make sure that I didn't miss anything. So I have experimented with just about everything. There were a certain couple of things I drew the line on because I didn't think I needed to make those experiments. But I've experimented widely enough to feel that, yeah, fine. Like some people say, "Don't knock it if you haven't tried it." Well, I've tried almost everything, so I am in a position to knock it.
Just before [Charlie Parker] returned to New York, this artist gave him a going-away party [at] a ranch up in Pasadena, up in the hills. Let's see, who was there? Frank Morgan, Larance Marable, a piano player named Amos Trice. A couple of more people. Anyway, we were burning, man. You know Bird. We were playing. So Bird had a tie, had a suit. He was all dressed up. Then he took off his coat first, then he took off his tie, then he took off his shirt. He did a striptease, down to his birthday suit. You hear me? His birthday suit, man. He said, "Okay, everybody get like me or split." Now, more people got like him than split. And I was hiding behind my bass. And we were burning, man, burning!