I first heard Charlie Parker in 1949 he came to my city Louisville Kentucky I was 13 years old when that famous Massey Hall quintet performed as part the Norman Granz tour. I was so impressed I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Little did I know that I was being courted by the music and that band.
That I would grow up to become a jazz musician and I would play with three of the members in that band (Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie and be mentored by the fourth – MAX ROACH) was nowhere close to my thinking. From 1949 on I continued to listen to the jazz collection my older brothers had amassed. And the flame/desire continued to grow and I too began buying jazz recording. After returning from military service in 1959 I began seriously studying the drums and soon working in bands in the area from Louisville to Indianapolis. In 1960, Max Roach came to my town once again this time with his band (Booker Little, Clifford Jordan, Julian Preister Art Davis)
At the end of his first night of performance I introduced myself he was very gracious and accepted my invitation to dinner at my home where he became acquainted with my family. Before leaving he invited me to his rehearsal which I gladly accepted. When I arrived at the rehearsal space he ask me to sit in I did, at the end of my sit in he and the band gave a big smile which I accepted as approval I recall Booker Little’s smile and comment “A little Max Roach.” Before leaving Louisville, Max privately shared with me some of his technical approaches to the instrument, as well as understanding his concept. A year later in 1960 he encouraged me to come to New York where my career got a jump-start. After my early experiences between Max’s recommendations and others I began working consistently. Word of mouth spread quickly and I was working on a better level of gigs than before (Charlie Mingus, Stan Getz, Kenny Burrell, Oliver Nelson, and John Handy) to name a few.
In 1962 I joined The Alvin Ailey American Dance Company for a three-month tour of Asia. It was this tour, particularly Burma and Korea that had profoundly impacted my view of music. The concepts, the sound and timbre of the instruments also the rhythmic tonal and melodic phrasing which was so different from anything I knowingly experienced in jazz up to this time. Although Jazz in its purist form remained the center of my expressive core now I discovered new elements to expand my overall concept.