CHAT WITH NOAH HOWARD
JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.
HOWARD: The magic of the saxophone is because it's like the human voice
and I was attracted to that. Of course, every kid that grew up in New
Orleans, where I came from, was fascinated by trumpet, but also we were
also fascinated by saxophone because of Sidney Bechet. It is another way
of speaking. We're talking about rhythms from Africa and the vocal things,
the things that have come from Africa, through the Caribbean, into the
southern part of the United States, plantations, up through the different
eras of the music to today. It is about tradition. We're the only people
in this country that brought the African music to the country and took
it to another level. All of the world benefits from it and it can be in
whatever formula - rap, pop, punk, funk, whatever they want to do. It
all comes from our basic thing.
Like any good son of New Orleans, you started out playing trumpet. What
prompted the switch to the alto saxophone?
HOWARD: Because it was more fluent for how my mind worked. In other words,
making passages and different patterns. I go all the way back to Pony
Poindexter, Johnny Hodges, the Ellington bands, Charlie Parker, and the
modern times to Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.
How significant of an impression did Albert Ayler make on your approach
to the music?
HOWARD: Well, we were very, very, very tight, close friends. A little
bit of me rubbed off on him and a lot of him rubbed off on me. As a young
man at that time, there were so many incredible musicians and everybody
was creative on the Lower East Side. There was Cecil Taylor and there
was Sun Ra and all of the people in Sun Ra's Arkestra. There was talent
at that time. I was in that period and I was creating my own language
and my own space and my own way of composing during that period. ESP was
pivotal from that standpoint because they put all the music out.
What happened to Ric Colbeck, the trumpeter in your quartet?
HOWARD: Oh, he's dead. He passed away twenty years ago. He played with
The Beatles in Liverpool.
Ayler has released a document from the late Nineties, Live at the Unity
Temple featuring the late Wilber Morris.
HOWARD: Yes, right, the conception of it began in my studio in Brussels
because Bobby Few, my longtime colleague and genius piano player, the
trains are very fast from Brussels to Paris now. It takes an hour and
twenty minutes, so he comes over very often and works with me in the studio
along with Calyer because Calyer lives in my city also. We began to work
on these pieces and I had composed all of these things. We came to America
because we had this tour in America and Wilber joined the band. He was
a perfect fit for our compositions and the way we played. As far as I'm
concerned, the pieces were some extraordinary pieces and of course, we
played in Unity Temple, which is an incredible acoustic place, sound wise.
It was very successful and a beautiful thing for everybody involved.
Why did you move to Europe?
HOWARD: At that time, I was getting work. Musicians are gypsies of the
world, Fred. We had contracts to go to Paris for the jazz festival in
'69 and so we took the chance. We went and we recorded and we were over
there for some time playing all over, Holland and Germany.
Was the European audience more receptive to the music?
HOWARD: No, that's a fallacy. When we left, the Lower East Side was jumping.
It was a very knowledgeable crowd on the Lower East Side at that time.
The French were following all this stuff and knew about what was going
on over here. Europe is constantly evolving and changing, very much like
the American scene. In Europe, there are just so many other clubs and
it is easier to move around in Europe. In fact, I just set up a 700 seat
auditorium, where I will once a month, beginning in March, have events
and a lot of innovative artists come in and play. It is called the IAMAC
And Eremite issued a two-fer - Patterns and Message to South Africa.
HOWARD: I recorded Patterns in Holland. It was a special thing for me
to do this piece, this composition that I wrote for Dutch radio at that
time. Message to South Africa came out of a different kind of way. Chris
(McGregor) was in Paris and I was very upset with the whole thing about
Steve Bilko being killed and the feeling around Message to South Africa
is when Steve Bilko was killed. At that time, I was under contract to
a French record company and it was too political for them. They didn't
want to put it out and so it never came out.
And the latest for your label is Cruisin w/Moxie featuring Eve Packer
and Bobby Few.
HOWARD: Whenever you deal with a vocalist, whether they're a singer or
poet, and you are a composer and horn player, you have to go inside of
what they're trying to deliver and to do a compliment and I enjoy that
in the sense of going through my creative process and improvising something
behind somebody else and giving it another resonance.
And the future?
HOWARD: I am getting ready to make several recordings. My new recording
is called Another World, with Bobby Few, Alan Silva, and Muhammad Ali.
That is what time it is.
Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is Wang Chunging tonight. Comments?