From the archive
Can you name all the WKCR jazz festivals?
Let’s see if I can name them all — I betcha I can. The first one was Albert Ayler in the fall of 1970. I remember it being because of the discovery of his death. However, [drummer] Sunny Murray came to this station about eight years ago, and complemented me for doing it before he died. I don’t know if that’s true, but if Sunny Murray wants to say so, he’s got it. The next one was John Coltrane, September ’71. February ’72 was Mingus; he was the first to participate. Then spring-summer of ’72 was Archie Shepp. He was often at the station around this time. Following that would be Charlie Parker, August-September of ’73. December ’73 was Fletcher Henderson. April of ’74 was Duke Ellington. Duke was up here in May of ’73 — he asked to use the phone and split before he would do an interview. August of ’74 was Clifford Brown. February of ’75 was Ornette Coleman [he participated]; March of ’75 was Bessie Smith, and October of ’75 was Coleman Hawkins.
March of ’76 was Thelonious Monk. There was a guy on the air doing that standard gibberish about Monk: “and Monk, playing the wrong notes on the piano, is able to create this kind of music….”. Anyway, Monk called the Columbia switchboard, and the Columbia switchboard got in touch with me and said that Thelonious Monk had called to say that we should tell the guy on the air, “The piano aint got no wrong notes.”
April of ’76 was Lester Young. August of ’76 was King Oliver. March-April of ’77 was Eric Dolphy. January of ’78 was Roy Eldridge [he participated]. March of ’78 was Sonny Rollins [he participated]. May of ’78 was the AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians] festival. Most of the AACM had interviews. Leroy Jenkins, I remember, was a great interview — he was a very cheerful person. I’ll never forget, at the end of it, his saying, “Thank God for the AACM. If it wasn’t for the AACM, I would have ended up just another bebop musician.”
August of ’78 was the first Lost Masters festival, in which we did Bubber Miley, Jimmy Harrison, Frank Teschemacher, Dick Wilson, Herschel Evans, Herbie Nichols, Fats Navarro, and Jimmy Blanton. December of ’78 was Chick Webb. March of ’79 was Cecil Taylor [he participated].
July of ’79 was Miles Davis. He called in a lot — I fielded many of those phone calls, of which the only one I really deem worthy of surviving in history is his onomatopoetic listings of the correct names and titles of his albums that had only come out in Japan up to that point. I took them down, and then, at the end of what was over two hours of information, he said “You got it?”. I said, “Yes, Mr. Davis” — I Mr. Davis-ed him the whole week, to be truthful. And he said, “Good. Now forget it. Forget it. And play Sketches of Spain right now!” So I walked into master control, and just to make it more dramatic, I picked up the needle with the pot up, and plunked it down hot. We played all of Sketches of Spain and then went back to the chronology.