Interview with John Altman: Part 3

Part three of a six part interview with John Altman over videos contained in the Altman-Koss Video Jazz Archive. In this segment, we’re watching a video of Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw performing in France in 1998.


14:40: Altman’s looking for a video. I glance over his shoulder at the list.

Camellia Boutros: Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw.

John Altman: This is history. But that year, this was live on TV. Now they’re all gone.

15:17: CB: Who gave you this one, do you remember?

JA: No idea.
We’re watching Freddie and Woody on stage, along with the rest of the Freddie Hubbard Quintet.

16:10: JA: Herbie said to me years ago, “Freddie Hubbard is the greatest musician I ever met. The greatest musical brain I’ve ever met. It’s too bad they put it in the wrong body. [laughs]

CB: [laughs] Maybe he’d rather it was in the body of a piano player?

JA: … I don’t think they got on, I know they didn’t get along.

CB: Freddie and Herbie?

JA: Yeah.

16:50: JA: He was a genius.

Freddie’s solo intensifies, outlining more intricate harmonies and getting more maniacal.  Listening, we’re absorbed.

18:20: JA: You know, it’s because Woody Shaw’s next, that’s why. He was always best when he was competitive with someone else.

19:55: CB: So was Woody Shaw touring with them, or did he just join them for this?

JA: Just joined them for this.

20:21: CB: You said Freddie got to go back and see some of these videos too?

JA: Yes, Fred saw this one.

CB: … What did he –

JA: He loved it! But all the guys said they’d never heard him play like this.

CB: Really?

JA: Yes. He was like inspired.

26:10: Woody’s playing now, and he’s absolutely ripping up his solo.

CB: Wow.

JA: Exciting, isn’t it?

CB: Yeah, I bet Freddie would want another go after that.

JA: They’re all inspired.

CB: Did they ever get this put out on record?

JA: No.

CB: Then it’s gold.

JA: Yeah.

27:20: JA: This is a festival in France. 1998. And I’ve got the whole tour, which is mainly Freddie and Joe, really. This is the only gig Woody Shaw plays on. There are so many riches, in there… Complete Tony Williams tours…

CB: I think it’s so special to have an entire  night-by-night tour of these guys –

JA: Yes!

CB: – playing together. You can see the changes, over this short period of time.

JA: Totally. You see how they respond to each other, how they interact… and you see them as well… and that’s powerful. Which records just can’t give you.

CB: Yeah, there’s something so physical and so visual about jazz… you know, so much of – I mean, other music genres, there’s, of course, communication, too, but in jazz, it’s so much –

JA: It’s so much more, yeah, and you don’t get it off record because – that’s the nature of record, and unfortunately, the history of the music… I mean, it’s three-fold: it’s live in clubs, records, and live film. And people really just have records because clubs… it’s gone. Evaporated. Televised concerts, it’s what’s the music’s about. Not records! But the whole, sort of, jazz criticism ethos over the years have been about what records have been. So it’s almost… it’s not a fair representation of jazz.

CB: What do you feel those records miss in addition to, you know, communication and stage presence and all that stuff?

JA: I think often it’s the tired, sterile environment itself, right? And it’s all we have. But you listen to a record of a certain person and think, “Well, that’s not a millionth of what they were.”

CB: It’s just missing that extra energy, or something.

JA: Yeah…

Listening to the video.

30:28: CB: Wow.

JA: Have to say, I’m like, “alright, watch this,” to Mulgrew Miller, Ralph Moore, and to whomever, it’s like – well, that’s not bad, is it? When it’s the people who are considered peers of the people who are performing… you know, well, “oh, they think it’s good” [laughs].

CB: That’s so cool, that you got to show them those.

JA: Yeah. As I said, most of these things were unseen by the people who played it. Because they’d go on live, and the end.

The Hubbard/Shaw recording wraps up, with Hubbard holding out a strong double-high C.

CB: Woah.

JA: Terrifying.

CB: Yeah, I’ll say!


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