May 23, 2024

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Dusko Goykovich: Jazz all over the world, the people are reacting to it as something normal: Video

14.10. – Happy Birthday !!! What I like about playing in London is that people have the right attitude to listening to jazz. In some countries, you go up there, and they look at you from the beginning to the end and you feel as if you have to break up the wall.

But when you play in a club, especially, it should be a loose feeling and everybody has a good time; that’s the way it’s supposed to be—the musicians and the audience having some fun.

I enjoyed taking part in the Woody Herman Tribute concert with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and with Don Menza, Buddy De France, Ronnie Ross, Bobby Lamb and Kenny Baker.

The young boys in the band there tried their best, and it seems like they’ve been together for a while. Bill Ashton said he’d got a lot of the original arrangements from Woody; so that was nice.

Dusko with Clark Terry

When the rehearsal started, and he opened up with the theme song, “Blue Flame”, Buddy De Franco came down with the clarinet, and it really reminded me of my old days with Woody, when we played it every night—it gave me a strange feeling to hear that. Also, ten days before we came here I sent Bill several arrangements I wrote for Woody, to add to the programme.

It took my mind back to years ago, when we played Cambridge and the Royal Albert Hall with Woody’s band, on our way from the States to Africa. I think that was a State Department tour.We stayed in Africa three-and-a-half months, and went all over the place. That was a strange trip. Yes, in my career I must have been to over half of the world.

Dusko with Stan Getz

Growing up in Yugoslavia, I was in a high school where they used to have student bands, and played on weekends. Kids played different instruments; so I started with the guitar first, and did a little bit with that. Then I heard Roy Eldridge, and said; “I have to play this instrument”; so I got a trumpet. Later on I added flugelhorn; which one I play depends on the tune I play and the sound I want. Usually for ballads, wherever I need the soft sound, I use the flugelhorn.

Radio Belgrade had a good big band in those days, the ‘fifties. I came out of gymnasium, as they call the high school, and I was playing for about a year-and-a-half, Suddenly one of the trumpet players had to leave, and they asked me to come in and play the fourth trumpet. I was very happy to get in a big band and have a chance to learn—it was a big school for me, actually.

They used to have two radio stations, Belgrade 1 and 2; both of them had big bands, playing jazz all the time—real straight-ahead big band jazz. We used to get arrangements from the American library, and arrangers would copy the records; so we had those charts to play—Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billy May of those days. I stayed about five years, before I left.

There was a definite jazz thing going on in Yugoslavia at that time. I don’t know why—it’s incredible, but for several years, while I was there, it really was happening a lot. Then slowly, I guess, the radio bands settled down to a routine of playing the programmes that a radio producer thinks it should be playing for the people, you know. Although the band they have right now is really trying to play jazz. And the title is the Jazz Orchestra of Radio Belgrade—they don’t call it by other names they have for commercial bands or dance bands. They always kept that Jazz title.

I live in Munich now, and it’s a one-hour flight to Belgrade. Once in awhile, when I have a few days off, I go down there to visit friends or family and I go to the Radio and I visit my friends from the band, to see what they’re doing and what they’re playing. So every few months I do that; I check it out, and sometimes I give them some arrangements. When they have concerts, festivals or television/radio productions featuring a soloist, I usually bring my own music, and they rehearse it, record it for the radio and then we play the concert on the weekend and it’s filmed for TV. Not too much, but off and on they have these.

Of course, I travel in different countries, and now, after all these years of jazz all over the world, the people are reacting to it as something normal it belongs to the music scene, you know. Even in small places in Belgium and Holland, there’s a pub on the corner, and they have jazz sessions in the afternoon and evening; then once a week they get bigger names, like Jean “Toots”, coming from Brussels. Years ago, when rock and pop and all that were taking over, they used to say: “Jazz is dead—no more jazz”, but it was not true. It survived.

When I originally left Yugoslavia, my destination was Germany. Nowadays, everybody can get in and out with no problem, but in ‘55 you had to have somebody who would invite you, or send you a contract. The piano player Jutta Hipp brought a group up there and stayed a few days; one of the members of the band, a trumpet player, said: “Why don’t you come to Frankfurt? I’m opening a jazz club.” So he wrote me letters, I went, and I didn’t go back for eleven years. I thought I would never go back. In the meantime, everything changed, as far as passports, visas and all that was concerned. The first time I went back was with Woody Herman in ‘66,after that State Department tour.

I was surprised how much it had changed. I think we flew from Cairo to Paris, and from there to Belgrade; after that we were to play Budapest, Bucharest, London and back to New York. I was a little nervous on the flight, coming close to Belgrade; I said to Bill Chase and Nat Pierce: “If you see two guys in blue uniforms, with a star here, come and pick me up, just take another trumpet player. I’ll end up in Siberia or somewhere!” But it was not like that at all.

We landed, and a whole lot of people were there to meet us; the whole big band from Radio Belgrade had come down to the airport. They had flowers, journalists, photographers and all that.

Woody was just in front of me, going down the stairs; they were taking photos, Woody is waving and smiling. Then a lady photographer said: “Mr Herman, would you please move to one side.. .”

Woody said: “Oh, you want this side?” She said: “No, no, we have enough of you—we would like to get a picture of Mr Goykovic.”

Woody turned round, pretending to be angry: “Him? I thought I was the star of this band.”

After that I was living in New York, still playing with Woody’s band. One day Sal Nistico and I decided that after the next tour we wanted to stay in Europe, and have a quintet. So we went to Cologne, Germany. From then on, I went to the States a few times a year, but I was not living there any more. I came back to Europe every time.

That international Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland band was really a great thing—a dream band. Each player separately was a really top musician; as an orchestra, it was marvellous. We played very often together, did a lot of records, tours, concerts; we played in Ronnie Scott’s for weeks. It was a really exciting band, and musically very good. It’s too bad it disbanded. No, I didn’t write for the band. Francy wrote all the arrangements and a lot of the compositions, so it was his musical stamp. And we were happy to play that music, because it was interesting— really well written.

Usually, in one arrangement he would put not too many soloists— three at the most giving you a chance to play. The next tune, somebody else would stretch out. It was under good control, and never boring.

Another great band I played with was Maynard Ferguson. I was in Berklee School; I had a scholarship there in ’61. I went to study arranging, composing and all that. This involved eight semesters, over an eighteen-month period, and I didn’t want to leave before I finished it. But I had several calls to join different bands.

Stan Kenton’s man called from California three times; Count Basie was looking for a trumpet player. I had the chance to join the bands that I really admired; I’d wanted to play in those bands all my life. I said: “No, I’m not leaving. I have to finish this first, what I came for. After that, the first one who calls me, I’ll go.”

So I finished, and on the Monday I was through with my studies, I said: “What am I going to do now? Go to New York? It’s very difficult for a European to be in the middle of that scene. Maybe I’ll go back to Europe, then.”

The next day Maynard Ferguson called and told me that Rolf Ericson, the Swedish trumpet player, was leaving and going to Duke’s band to replace Clark Terry. “He recommended you; so we called Berklee, and they said you’d finished. Would you like to join the band?” I said: “Yes!” and I was there the same afternoon.

I stayed with Maynard a year and a half—he came to England after disbanding his American band and started one here, as you’ll remember.

That was a great experience He’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve met in my life; he was great to work with and play with, and personally he was always positive—always having fun and laughing, being nice and courteous to everybody. A very nice guy.

It was a hard time to travel five hundred miles from one gig to another, and play maybe only two or three times a week but we loved the band and we loved Maynard, and really the band was popping. Right from the first note, BANG! the jazz power was there. And I learned a lot in his band, then in Woody’s band with all those good musicians, I had a chance to really develop, to see what it’s all about.

Maynard is a fantastic trumpet player. Maybe some people think there are some better jazz players than him; he never claimed to be a genius as a jazz trumpet soloist but he was a genius playing that kind of trumpet.

He really scared me first time when I came in, and heard the way he played—it blows your mind. Then, when I joined Woody’s band—the section playing in American bands—I guess you have it in England. Also the precise work, and very exciting—the sound and everything—from the first to the fifth trumpet everybody’s really playing. I really enjoy that, you know. It was a great learning process for me.

Then in between I played with different small groups: Clark Terry used to have a band, and Duke Jordan. Sometimes I played with Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Band at Birdland, which was still open. Really, I guess I was lucky in that I was in the right place at the right time, to have a chance to hear all these people and play with most of them. It just happened that way.

As for lead playing with Woody’s band, we all did it. We took turns; from five trumpets, you never knew who was playing the lead actually. It could be that in one part I’m playing, then Bill Chase is taking over, then Bobby Shew comes on the end and plays two octaves higher! So it was really teamwork that is what is important in a big band.

Is upper register playing abused? Sometimes it is. My opinion is that high register is not something that should be done just for the sake of playing high notes. If there is a reason for it, if the arrangement is written that way, and you need that note, then you play it. But not just for the purpose of screeching up there in every tune. It can sound very good, very exciting when you use that register, but, as an arranger or as a musician, I believe there must be a musical reason for that.

Showing off and playing tricks is one thing; playing music is another.

It took me a long time. Actually, I was not a high blower, as they call it, for years; I was playing just middle register my thing was small combo, improvising and playing jazz, and 1 didn’t have high register. As the years went by, I was extending a little bit, more and more and more. When you play with these guys in the States, and they all play up and down, somehow it opens up your ears and your mind; so you start hearing these notes, and eventually it comes out.

You have to be in the company and environment that gives you that push; they give you the confidence, and tell you: “You can do it if you want to try. If I can do it, you can do it also.” It gives you a little moral support, to open up the possibilities that you maybe didn’t think of before it’s exciting.

Of course, you have to practise, and you prepare yourself. During practising, that’s where you have to strain yourself. It’s like a sportsman who is training. You have to go to the limits of your abilities—not ruin your chops, or break your lips, but to try to get that. But then, when you’re really performing on a stage, it shouldn’t be so difficult then—because of your preparation.

A marathon runner, a boxer or a football player have to be in condition in order to perform. That takes hard work. It’s really hard, but the thing is: you don’t consider it as work. For me, it’s a pleasure when I achieve that; when I play one half-note higher than three months ago, then I’m happy. It makes me realise that I did something I’m going ahead. And it gives me the inclination to go ahead and develop more.

It goes on all the time and it’s not only the technical playing. Of course, as a jazz trumpet player you have to think about ten different things at the same time about harmony and improvisation and timing and feeling, besides technique. And that’s jazz.

Do I prefer small groups? Well, I’ll tell you, Les I consider myself always as a jazz player that comes from the small group. A quartet or quintet is for me the basic thing; I like to play with another horn—tenor sax, trumpet and rhythm section and I’ve had those groups all my life. Now, to get away from that, not to be just one-sided, I like to play with other people, with other bands. I like to play with a big band; I don’t like to nail myself down on one thing.

So I’m very happy when somebody calls me and says: “Would you play with us, with our band and our music?” I love to do that. It’s a challenge, it opens your ear; you are not stale, you don’t stay on one path—you have new experiences, meet new people, hear some other musicians, and play something that you normally wouldn’t do in your own group.

Last summer the guy from Norway called me: Per Husby, the piano player. He had a record date. I didn’t know him before, but he said he wanted me to come up to Oslo and record with him. I said: “What kind of music do you play? What is it that I’m supposed to do?” He said: “Oh, it’s actually a little strange and avant garde something between Mingus and Duke and…” he threw everything in, to explain it.

“Who’s playing?” He said John Surman, Guy Barker, Ray Warleigh, Ron Mathewson would be there, plus some Norwegian musicians, including the drummer Jon Christiansen, who played with Garbarek—all kinds of so-called avant garde musicians.

So I don’t like labels, you know you can call it whatever you want; it depends if it’s good music, if it means something. I said: “Why me? Why do you call me? I mean, there are probably some other people who can fit better, who are stamped to be from that camp.” He said: “No, no, no, I heard you playing and I heard your records, and actually, what I had in mind: I want that sound and the way you play.” I said: “That’s beautiful—okay.”

So I went there; I was a little nervous before I heard the music, and before we started rehearsing and playing. But then it was so interesting, so challenging that I enjoyed it. We did the record, went to play in a festival, and spent a week together it was real fun. It was something completely different than what I usually do with my quintet. You enter into it and it really opens you up—you have to try something that you didn’t try yesterday. Which is fine. The judgment is: if it’s jazz, if it swings in its own way; it doesn’t have to be a regular rhythm all the time, as long as it has something, if it’s groove is there that’s already enough for me. You can create something.

He had a regular piano and keyboard; then a French horn, a few saxophones, two trumpets, trombone, tuba and things like that. If you remember the bands with Gil Evans years ago, when they started experimenting with this different instrumentation it was something like this. It was not big band, it was not small group—something between. But actually there was no section-work. It was written so that this horn is playing with that, and then this with that; it was not like strictly regular big band—it was really thought-through music. He used the instrument for a certain purpose.

My feelings about using electronics in music are mixed. I used to have an attachment for my trumpet, but I couldn’t use it. I didn’t like the sound of it. I don’t like electric bass, for example, when I play in a jazz group I prefer upright bass. As far as keyboards or synthesisers, that’s fine everything’s okay; it depends which kind of sound you want. I prefer a natural sound of instruments than going and using electric everything, from A to Z. My experience is that you cannot get the dynamics with these kind of instruments; once you have fixed a bass or a piano on a certain level, then it says like it from beginning to end most of the time.

When the bass plays a solo, he cannot go softer and then louder; it usually stays in one line, and has no possibility of moving any place and it’s usually too loud. Actually, I prefer to have all natural instruments. I have nothing against anything new, if it’s electric, electronic, digital or whatever, as long as the music doesn’t suffer, and it’s not just for the sake of technical tricks. If you want to play jazz, then it has to have feeling and all kinds of things besides loudness.

On musical craftsmanship and the recording trap

There are certainly greater possibilities when you go in the recording studio today. It’s changed a lot over the years, due to the improved recording techniques, although that can never substitute for your creativity, your sound—the way you play. These are just things that help you to put what you want on the tape—if possible. I’m not talking about synchronising, dubbing, echoes and all these electronic tricks.

For example, in London in the summer of ‘87, we recorded three LPs in two days—myself, Nathan Davis and Kenny Drew on piano, Jimmy Woode on bass and Al Levitt on drums; we were brought over by Mole Jazz. We rehearsed for one day; then Nathan did the quintet recording in the daytime, and in the evening we played a completely different programme at the 100 Club, which was recorded also. The next day I went in the studio and taped a quartet set with the same rhythm section. It was interesting.

In the last couple of years I’ve done seven or eight albums, and only two of them are out yet. With a good group and a good set–up, I like to record. I feel that now, after all these years of learning, practising, collecting experience and all that, I’ve come up to the point where I can concentrate in a few hours on that certain thing, and get the essence. In this one afternoon or several hours when you record, you have to be very concentrated and actually get what you’re wanting to get. It’s not like: you made eleven tracks, but you threw away ten and you try again tomorrow. It’s usually first track, second track, and you keep it—fresh.

Before I go to record, I usually think about it—what I’m going to play. approximately how it’s going to sound, and all that. Then it’s a matter of what musicians are with you—everybody has his own personality, his own way of playing. You have to adjust the arrangement and the music so that each player fits in and gives his best. Starting with me—first I have to think about my problems! But I do feel, the older I get, the more concentration I can get out of myself during the recording. It takes some time to get there.

You know, all the years that I’ve played trumpet, my idea has been to compose and play using the material, for example, of Balkan or Yugoslavian folk music, and bring it, through my personality and my way of playing, into jazz. Which means I don’t only use a given song that exists; I can write a new song based on that feeling, that metre, that harmonic movement, but adding modern harmonies, of course. and maybe putting another bridge in, to develop its jazz potential—and then record that. And it’s always new—that’s something that I have inside, and like to do. That gives me a feeling of doing something that nobody else does.

A lot of my compositions are in this folk–music–based direction; so, if I have a chance to record, I usually try to put in at least one or two tracks of this kind of music. Mole have said they would like me to do a whole album in this special vein—which would be beautiful. It takes courage for a record company to tell you: “Okay—go ahead and do your own thing.” They usually say: “Can we sell that? Better play standards—something that everybody knows. We don’t want to take risks.” SoI appreciate a company that will let you do what you do best.

What I hear from American musicians is that most record companies in the States don’t really care much about jazz—they want to make money. For a freelance jazz musician, it must be very hard; most of them have to go to work in the studios and play everything except what they would like to play, in order to make a living. That’s why some of them come over here, and then stay in Europe; because they find they have better conditions, and they can maybe do ninety per cent of what they want to do.

I may be wrong, but I think that in the States only the big jazz names, that have existed already for twenty, thirty, forty years, have a chance to record, with good contracts and all that—Getz, Peterson and so on. It’s playing safe—if you have that name on the cover, you’re sure of sales. But what about the new generation? What about people who are not that known, but have outstanding talent? They have no chance to record. The record company says: “You’re very good; we like you—but nobody knows your name. We cannot make a record with you, because we won’t sell it.” And you cannot have a name unless you have records and the people hear you. So it’s a vicious circle. That’s always been the problem.

Goykovic with Dizzy Gillespie

Breaking through, therefore, is difficult. Sometimes they give you conditions that are . . I wouldn’t say demeaning, but maybe not that which you would like to do at that moment. I remember Freddie Hubbard was telling me about a contract he signed with one company. We used to see each other often, and talk for hours. They tell you what to do, what to play, where to play, and in general you have to do what the producer thinks you should do. And after five years—they’ve probably sold those records, and when you come out of that contract, although you’re actually a jazz musician, the whole world knows you as a rock player. You’ve got that stamp on you, after all that ‘packaging’. They’ve squeezed you out for five years like a lemon; now they’re through with you ..Next…

So I’m quite happy to be in Europe. I have an apartment in Munich—my wife and I have lived there four years now—which is centrally located in Europe; you can fly and get south, east, north fast—it’s approximately the same distance. The town in itself is nice, comfortable; there are a lot of musicians there. I go out for a few days, and come back home. And since I’ve been there in the same place for a long time, they all know my phone number and address, and when they call me they already know what they are getting—what I can do and cannot do. That works out tine for me, because I don’t like to run around every day. I’m not one of those that likes to be on a tour every day for years—we all did that before. We all paid the dues on that bus.

The thing is: in Europe, most of the time, you don’t have to be very commercial. You don’t really have to do things that you don’t believe in— and you can still survive. I’ve been enjoying the way my life has turned out, for the last several years. When I go out, I play good music with good musicians. and I feel I’m in a jazz environment. Fortunately. Years ago, we had to do a lot of studio work; yet still I tried to keep my personality, and my way of playing. thinking and interpretation—not to be pulled, through the money and the material things, in a direction that you really don’t want to go.

You have to look out for your musical life, because it can happen easily. I saw some excellent jazz musicians. . . once they start playing those things, and start making money, they can never get out of it. After a few years. there’s no way back. And I never wanted to go that far. I would rather refuse.

Now, George Benson—I like him; he’s a good musician. From what I’ve heard, I think he still plays good music. Now that some of his things sell good, it’s beautiful—for him, it’s nice. I just hope that he won’t end up just being another commercial guitar player. So far, he’s managed to get his own thing through; you can always recognise him. Which is difficult.

As for the main instrument I play—there’s a little story as to how I came by it. I’d just joined Maynard Ferguson’s band, and we were in Chicago—I think it was ‘63, something like that—and I went to the Schilke factory there; old man Schilke was still alive at the time. I went in, and I said: ‘I’m with Maynard’s band. I want to buy a Schilke trumpet.” Everybody was raving about it: so I had to have it.

There was a big row of trumpets; I stayed there for several hours, and tried everything. Then I saw one by itself somewhere, picked it up and it was great. I said: “I want this horn.” He said: “Unfortunately, you cannot have that one, because we made it for Bobby Hackett—it was specially ordered by him.

But you can have any of these others.” But I insisted on having this one, because it had the best sound, it fitted me, and I loved it. So for another hour I had to argue and talk and offer more money… “I must have this horn.” Finally, the old man said: “Okay—you take this one. and we’ll make another one for Bobby Hackett. He will just have to wait another few weeks. He’s not here now—so next month when he comes by, we’ll have another horn for him.”

And I never gave that horn away: I’ve been playing it recently. I play other trumpets: Bach, Martin, all kinds of horns, but this one I kept always. You know, sometimes you play one trumpet for months or a year, and then one day you change to another one. I usually have three or four. You switch for a while, and then you go back; it’s not always the same. I don’t know exactly what it depends on, but it gives you the feeling that this is the one you want; maybe the embouchure changes.

A very important thing for me is first to have a good sound on the horn—before technique, before everything else. That depends not only on the mouthpiece, but on the horn also—the bore, whatever. Then you can do certain things—bend notes. play soft and loud. play up and down the register, play very deep. very high. It depends, you know. When I feel comfortable I stay with that horn for as long as I feel that way. Some problem may arise; so I switch. and it opens up again—you have some other aspects for the embouchure and all that. I guess every trumpet player does that.

Now, the flugelhorn. . . I used to have a French Cuesnon instrument; then I had a Getzen. Then one day I saw a friend of mine in Brussels, and he had a handmade flugelhorn that sounded very good. He ordered one for me, and I’ve had it for several years now. It’s made by an old Belgian company that nobody knows, but I just like it. Although I’m looking for a new one; it’s about time—after a few years, I want to get another sound.

They have good instruments now—there’s a lot of new products, and most of them good. It’s not like in the old days when it was hard to find a good instrument. Now it’s hard to make a choice.

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