View Full Version : Blindfold tests

Nate Dorward
August-29th-2003, 12:20 AM
What do people think of these things? I remember when I started listening to jazz enjoying the prefatory extracts from Downbeat blindfold tests in Leonard Feather's encyclopedias of jazz in the 1960s & 1970s--notably the memorable one with Thelonious Monk, printed in full, in which Monk made a point of getting up to go to the bathroom when an Oscar Peterson recording was played for him. Nowadays the Downbeat ones are pointless & not very entertaining--rather than challenging the musician they play stuff he's sure to recognize, always on his/her own instrument, & rarely stage confrontations or puzzles by playing stuff outside his ken or range of sympathies. I suppose it's a silly genre in some ways, but has some resonance for me as an inveterate player of the guess-that-player game when I flip on the radio (this has now been foiled by Toronto's JAZZ-FM, which is not big on announcers & the listing of track information, now that Ted O'Reilly got squeezed out).

August-29th-2003, 01:52 AM
I like the concept, but the reviewers are often not very candid: at worst, the say the music is OK. The star rating system is kinda pointless, too because the ratings are usually pretty high.

One of my favorite blindfolds came from our very own Bob Brookmeyer. There was no doubt about his candor on that one! And it's not like I get off on a musician slamming another one, but when I know a musician is willing to talk candidly, I put more stock in his positive comments.

August-29th-2003, 04:47 AM
I wonder how these things are put together: does the journalist bring his own CDs?

August-29th-2003, 06:13 AM
Like Reid, I very much like the idea of blindfold tests. I think it's a great way to test people's assumptions and/or prejudices. I'm not sure about publishing the results, however, unless there's some way of making sure that doesn't eliminate the subject's candor. I don't know how you'd do that.

August-29th-2003, 09:39 AM
Any more highlights from the Monk test? I'd never heard that he had one. The last one I read from a few years ago involved Conrad Herwig slamming Weirbos as "not playing right." No thanks.

Brian Olewnick
August-29th-2003, 09:50 AM
I enjoy the general idea also. My main objections to the one in the WIRE are that a) they tend to choose selections that the musician has obvious associations with; I'd prefer to see their reactions to music that might be less familiar and b) if the musician is unsure, they tell him/her the identity of the piece almost immediately instead of letting them go on descriptively without knowing exactly what they're referring to (at least, that's the way it ends up in print; who knows what editing may have transpired).

Larry Nagel
August-29th-2003, 09:58 AM
I love them. The more honest and critical, the better.

Keeping it confrontational,

jazzy mary
August-29th-2003, 10:52 AM
I like them too. The one Freddie did a year or so ago was great! It was done at the IJE conference, I think. I guess it was a gas being there too and *seeing* Freddie's reaction to some of the music.

Another great one is Billie Holiday's which is reprinted in Robert Gottlieb's book "Reading Jazz". Lady Day took no prisoners. That's a great book, btw.

August-29th-2003, 02:12 PM
Thelonious Monk
The Blindfold Test

"It is the aim of the Blindfold Test to elicit the honest subjective reaction of the listener. Secondarily the musician blindfolded usually attempts to identify the artists on each record, though it is always made clear before the interview that the evaluations are far more important than the guesswork."

Leonard Feather.


Not until the Blindfold Test had been appearing for almost 20 years did Thelonious Monk participate as a subject. The reason was clear: Monk is not the most voluble of personalities, and it seemed improbable that an interview could be obtained.
One day in 1966 Monk broke his long silence. Accompanied by his wife Nellie, he sat, stood or paced his way through eight records. When moments of silence engulfed him, Nellie succeeded in prodding him.
After the first minute of the first record, it became obvious that the only way to complete an interview and retain Monk's interest would be by concentrating mainly on other artists' versions of his own compositions. Accordingly, Records 2 - 6 were all Monk tunes. At this point, he seemed interested enough to listen to a couple of non-Monk works. He was given no information about any of the records played.
Monk's reaction to Record No. 7 may have a more than coincidental relationship to the opinions expressed openly by Oscar Peterson concerning Monk's own value as a pianist.

1. Andrew Hill. Flight 19 from 'Point of Departure' on Blue Note.
(After two minutes, Monk rises from his seat, starts wandering around the room and looking out of the window. When it becomes clear he is not listening, the record is taken off.)
TM: The view here is great, and you have a crazy stereo system.
LF: Is that all you have to say about that record?
TM: About any record.
LF: I'll find a few things you'll want to say something about.


2. Art Pepper. Rhythm-a-ning from 'Gettin' Together' on Contemporary.
(With Conte Candoli, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb.)
TM: He added another note to the song. A note that's not supposed to be there. (Sings.) See what I mean?
LF: Did I hear you say the tempo was wrong?
TM: No, all tempos is right.
LF: How about the solos? Which of them did you like?
TM: It sounded like some slow solos speeded up, to me.
LF: How about the rhythm section?
TM: Well, I mean, the piece swings by itself. To keep up with the song, you have to swing.
LF: How many stars would you rate it?
TM: (Indicating Mrs Monk.) Ask her.
LF: It's your opinion I'm asking.
TM: You asked me for my opinion, I gave you my opinion.
LF: Okay, let's forget ratings.


3. Dizzy Gillespie. Medley: I Can't Get Started / Round Midnight from 'Something Old - Something New.'
(With James Moody on alto.)
TM: Dizzy, He had a crazy sound, but he got into that upper register, and the upper register took the tone away from him. That was the Freddy Webster sound too, you know, that sound of Dizzy's.
(Later) That's my song! Well, if that's not Diz, it's someone who plays just like him. Miles did at one time too.
LF: You like the way they put the two tunes together?
TM: I didn't notice that. Play it again. (Later) Yes, that's the Freddy Webster sound. Maybe you don't remember Freddy Webster; you weren't on the scene at the time.
LF: I remember Freddy Webster. And the records he made with Sarah.
TM: Remember I Could Make You Love Me? The introduction? Play that for me.
LF:I don't think I can find it. You think Freddy influenced Diz?
TM: Every sound influenced Diz. He had that kind of mind, you know? And he influenced everything too.
LF: You liked the alto player on here too?
TM: Everybody sounded good on there; I mean, the harmony and everything was crazy . . . play it again!


4. Bob Florence. Straight, No Chaser from 'Here and Now' on Liberty.
(John Audino, lead trumpet; Herbie Harper, trombone & Bob Florence, arranger.)
LF: You liked the arrangement?
TM: Did you make the arrangement? It was crazy.
LF: No.
TM: It was a bunch of musicians who were together, playing an arrangement. It sounded so good, it made me like the song better? Solos . . . the trombone player sounded good . . . that was a good lead trumpet player too . . . I've never heard that before. I don't know how to rate it, but I'd say it was top-notch.


5. Phineas Newborn. Well, You Needn't from the 'Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn' on Contemporary.
TM: He hit the inside wrong - didn't have the right changes. It's supposed to be major ninths, and he's playing ninths (walks to the piano, demonstrates). It starts with a D-flat Major 9 . . . See what I mean? What throws me off, too, is the cat sounds like Bud Powell. Makes it hard for me to say anything about it. It's not Bud; it's somebody sounding like him.
LF: Outside of that, did you like the general feeling?
TM: I enjoy all piano players. All pianists have got five stars for me . . . but I was thinking about the wrong changes, so I didn't pay too much attention to the rest of it. Maybe you better play it again.
(Later) It's crazy to sound like Bud Powell, but seems like the piano player should be able to think of something else too. Why get stuck with that Bud Powell sound?


6. Bud Powell. Ruby, My Dear from 'Giants of Jazz' on Columbia.
TM: That's Bud Powell! . . . All I can say is, he has a remarkable memory. I don't know what to say about him - he is a remarkable person, musically.
LF: You think Bud is in his best form there?
TM: (Laughs) No comment about him, or the piano . . . He's just tired, stopped playing, doesn't want to play no more. I don't know what's going through his mind. But you know how he's influenced all of the piano players.
LF: Of course. I was just questioning whether this is his best work.
Mrs.Monk: (To Monk) You don't think so.
TM: Of course not.


7. Oscar Peterson. Easy Listenin' Blues from 'With Respect to Nat'
(With Herb Ellis and Ray Brown.)
TM: Which is the way to the toilet? (Waits to end of record, leaves room, returns . . laughs.) Well, you see where I went. (To Mrs.Monk) Could you detect the piano player?
LF: How about the guitar player?
TM: Charlie Christian spoiled me for everyone else.


8. Denny Zeitlin. Carole's Garden from 'Carnival' on Columbia.
(With Jerry Granelli, drums)
LF: You liked that one?
TM: I like all music.
LF: Except the kind that makes you go to the toilet.
TM: No, but you need that kind too . . It reminded me of Bobby Timmons, and that's got to be good. Rhythm section has the right groove too. Drummer made me think of Art Blakey. Hey, play that again.
(Later) Yeah! He sounds like a piano player! (Hums theme) You can keep changing keys all the time doing that. Sounds like something that was studied and figured out. And he can play it; you know what's happening with this one. Yeah, he was on a Bobby Timmons kick. He knows what's happening.

. . . thanks to Leonard Feather and Down Beat magazine.

August-29th-2003, 02:19 PM
3rd Blindfold Test Miles Davis
by Leonard Feather
Down Beat Volume 58 No. 12, December 1991, p.69
first published by Down Beat, June 1964


'You have to think when you play; you have to help each other - you just can't play for yourself. You've got to play with whomever you're playing. If I'm playing with Basie, I'm going to try to help what he's doing - that particular feeling.'


Miles Davis is unusually selective in his listening habits. This attitude should not be interpreted as reflecting any general misanthropy. He was in a perfectly good mood on the day of the interview reproduced below; it just happened that the records selected did not, for the most part, make much of an impression.

Clark Terry, for example, is an old friend and idol of Davis' from St. Louis, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra has always been on Davis' preferred list.

Davis does not have an automatic tendency to want to put everything down, as an inspection of his earlier Blindfold Tests will confirm (DB, Sept. 21, 1955 and Aug. 7, 1958).

The Cecil Taylor item was played as an afterthought, because we were discussing artists who have impressed critics, and I said I'd like to play an example. Aside from this, Davis was given no information about the records played.


The Records
1. Les McCann-Jazz Crusaders
All Blues
(Pacific Jazz)
Wayne Henderson, trombone; Wilton Felder, tenor saxophone; Joe Sample, piano; McCann, electric piano; Miles Davis, composer.

What's that supposed to be? That ain't nothin'. They don't know what to do with it - you either play it bluesy or you play on the scale. You don't just play flat notes. I didn't write it to play flat notes on - you know, like minor thirds. Either you play a whole chord against it, or else . . . but don't try to play it like you'd play, ah, Walkin' the Dog. You know what I mean?

That trombone player - trombone ain't supposed to sound like that. This is 1964, not 1924. Maybe if the piano player had played it by himself, something would have happened.

Rate it? How can I rate that?

2. Clark Terry
Cielito Lindo
(from 3 in Jazz, RCA Victor)
Terry, trumpet; Hank Jones, piano; Kenny Burrell, guitar.

Clark Terry, right? You know, I've always liked Clark. But this is a sad record. Why do they make records like that? With the guitar in the way, and that sad fucking piano player. He didn't do nothing for the rhythm section - didn't you hear it get jumbled up? All they needed was a bass and Terry.

That's what's fucking up music, you know. Record companies. They make too many sad records, man.

3. Rod Levitt
Ah! Spain
(from Dynamic Sound Patterns, Riverside)
Levitt, trombone, composer; John Beal, bass.

There was a nice idea, but they didn't do nothing with it. The bass player was a motherfucker, though.

What are they trying to do, copy Gil? It doesn't have the Spanish feeling - doesn't move. They move up in triads, but there's all those chords missing - and I never heard any Spanish thing where they had a figure that went

That's some old shit, man. Sounds like Steve Allen's TV band. Give it some stars just for the bass player.

4. Duke Ellington
(from Money Jungle, United Artists).
Ellington, piano; Charlie Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums.

What am I supposed to say to that? That's ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It's a mismatch. They don't complement each other. Max and Mingus can play together, by themselves. Mingus is a hell of a bass player, and Max is a hell of a drummer. But Duke can't play with them, and they can't play with Duke.

Now, how are you going to give a thing like that some stars? Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company.

5. Sonny Rollins
You Are My Lucky Star
(from 3 in Jazz, RCA Victor).
Don Cherry, trumpet; Rollins, tenor saxophone; Henry Grimes, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

Now, why did they have to end it like that? Don Cherry I like, and Sonny I like, and the tune idea is nice. The rhythm is nice. I didn't care too much for the bass player's solo. Five stars is real good? It's just good, no more. Give it three.

6. Stan Getz - Joao Gilberto
from Getz-Gilberto, Verve
Getz, tenor saxophone; Gilberto, vocal.

Gilberto and Stan Getz made an album together? Stan plays good on that. I like Gilberto; I'm not particularly crazy about just anybody's bossa nova. I like the samba. And I like Stan, because he has so much patience, the way he plays those melodies - other people can't get nothing out of a song, but he can. Which takes a lot of imagination, that he has, that so many other people don't have.

As for Gilberto, he could read a newspaper and sound good! I'll give that one five stars.

7. Eric Dolphy
Mary Ann
(from Far Cry, New Jazz).
Booker Little, trumpet; Dolphy, composer, alto saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano.

That's got to be Eric Dolphy - nobody else could sound that bad! The next time I see him I'm going to step on his foot. You print that. I think he's ridiculous. He's a sad motherfucker.

L.F.: Down Beat won't print those words. [But I do!]

M.D.: Just put he's a sad shhhhhhhhh, that's all! The composition is sad. The piano player fucks it up, getting in the way so that you can't hear how things are supposed to be accented.

It's a sad record, and it's the record company's fault again. I didn't like the trumpet player's tone, and he don't do nothing. The running is all right if you're going to play that way, like Freddie Hubbard or Lee Morgan; but you've got to inject something, and you've got to have the rhythm section along; you just can't keep on playing all eighth notes.

The piano player's sad. You have to think when you play; you have to help each other - you just can't play for yourself. You've got to play with whomever you're playing. If I'm playing with Basie, I'm going to try to help what he's doing - that particular feeling.

8. Cecil Taylor
(from Live at the Café Montmartre, Fantasy).
Jimmy Lyons, alto saxophone; Taylor, piano.

Take it off! That's some sad shit, man. In the first place, I hear some Charlie Parker cliches. . . . They don't even fit. Is that what the critics are digging? Them critics better stop having coffee. If there ain't nothing to listen to, they might as well admit it. Just to take something like that and say it's great, because there ain't nothing to listen to, that's like going out and getting a prostitute.

L.F.: This man said he was influenced by Duke Ellington.

M.D.: I don't give a shit! It must be Cecil Taylor. Right? I don't care who he's inspired by. That shit ain't nothing. In the first place he don't have the - you know, the way you touch a piano. He doesn't have the touch that would make the sound of whatever he thinks of come off.

I can tell he's influenced by Duke, but to put the loud pedal on the piano and make a run is very old-fashioned to me. And when the alto player sits up there and plays without no tone. . . . That's the reason I don't buy any records.


You can find this blindfold test reprinted in Bill Kirchner's Miles Davis Reader, a collection of articles about Miles Davis and his music by various authors, which is still available (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, 1997)

Maintained by Thomas Hoenisch TOP last update: September 9, 2001

August-29th-2003, 02:22 PM
4th Blindfold Test Miles Davis - Part 1 of 2
June 13, 1968, by Leonard Feather for Down Beat


Four years ago, the last time Miles Davis was blindfold-tested, I remarked that he was "unusually selective in his listening habits." The only record that drew a favorable reaction was one by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, which brought a five-star rave. Everything else was put down in varying degrees: Les McCann, Rod Levitt, Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor; even his early favorite Clark Terry and his idol Duke Ellington.

Looking back at earlier interviews with Miles, I am reminded that he was not always such a tough sale. In his first test (September 21, 1955), he gave four stars to Clifford Brown, four to a Metronome All-Stars track, and five to a record featuring Louis Armstrong, Bobby Hackett, and Jack Teagarden. Ellington elicited a twenty-five-star rating - or at least, the wish that there were such a rating. (He now abstains from using the rating system.)

Recently, visiting Miles in his Hollywood hotel suite, I found strewn around the room records or tape cartridges by James Brown, Dionne Warwick, Tony Bennett, the Byrds, Aretha Franklin, and the Fifth Dimension. Not a single jazz instrumental. More about this in the next installment. Meanwhile, here is the first half of a two-part test.


The Records
1. Freddie Hubbard
On the Que-Tee
(Backlash, Atlantic)
Hubbard, trumpet, composer.

I don't dig that kind of shit, man, just a straight thirty-two bars, I mean whatever it is. The time they were playing was too right, you know. It's formal, man, and scales and all that. . . . No kind of sound, straight sound - no imagination. They shouldn't even put that out.

Freddie's a great trumpet player, but if he had some kind of other direction to go . . . if you place a guy in a spot where he has to do something else, other than what he can do, so he can do that. He's got to have something that challenges his imagination, far above what he thinks he's going to play, and what it might lead into, then above that, so he won't be fighting when things change.

That's what I tell all my musicians; I tell them be ready to play what you know and play above what you know. Anything might happen above what you've been used to playing - you're ready to get into that, and above that, and take that out.

But this sounds like just a lead sheet.

Feather: Do you think he's capable of more than that?

Davis: Yes, if he's directed, because he must have other imagination, other than this. I wouldn't even put that shit on a record.

2. Thad Jones and Mel Lewis
(Live at the Village Vanguard, Solid State)
Jones, flugelhorn; Garnett Brown, trombone, composer; Joe Farrell, tenor saxophone; Roland Hanna, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Lewis, drums.

It's got to be Thad's big band. . . . I don't understand why guys have to push themselves and say "wow! wee!" and all that during an arrangement to make somebody think it's more than what it is, when it ain't nothing. I like the way Thad writes, but I also like the way he plays when he writes. I like when he plays his tunes, without all that stuff - no solos, you know. It's nothing to play off of.

Feather: There was a long tenor solo on that.

Davis: Yes, but it was nothing; they didn't need that, and the trombone player should be shot.

Feather: Well, who do you think wrote that?

Davis: I don't really know, but I don't like those kind of arrangements. You don't write arrangements like that for white guys . . . [humming]. That ain't nothing.

In the first place, a band with that instrumentation fucks up an arrangement - the saxophones particularly. They could play other instruments, but you only get one sound like that. On that arrangement, the only one that rates is the piano player. He's something else. And Richard Davis. The drummer just plays straight, no shading. I couldn't stand a band like that for myself. It makes me feel like I'm broke and wearing a slip that doesn't belong to me, and my hair's combed the wrong way; it makes me feel funny, even as a listener.

Those guys don't have a musical mind - just playing what's written. They don't know what the notes mean.

Feather: Have you heard that band much in person?

Davis: Yes, I've heard them, but I don't like them. I like Thad's arrangements, but I don't like the guys pushing the arrangements, and shouting, because there's nothing happening. It would be better if they recorded the shouts at the end - or at least shout in tune!

3. Archie Shepp
The Funeral
(Archie Shepp in Europe, Delmark, recorded 1963)
Don Cherry, cornet; John Tchicai, alto saxophone; Shepp, tenor saxophone.

You're putting me on with that! . . . I know who it is - Ornette, fucking up the trumpet and the alto. I don't understand that jive at all. The guy has nice rhythm on saxophone.

People are so gullible - they go for that - they go for something they don't know about.

Feather: Why do you think they go for it?

Davis: Because they feel it's not hip not to go for it. But if something sounds terrible, man, a person should have enough respect for his own mind to say it doesn't sound good. It doesn't to me, and I'm not going to listen to it. No matter how long you listen to it, it doesn't sound any good.

Anyone can tell that guy's not a trumpet player - it's just notes that come out, and every note he plays, he looks serious about it, and people will go for it - especially white people. They go for anything. They want to be hipper than any other race, and they go for anything ridiculous like that.

Feather: Actually, you got that one wrong - it wasn't Ornette. It was an Archie Shepp date with John Tchicai on alto and Don Cherry on trumpet.

Davis: Well, whoever it is, it sounds the same - Ornette sounds the same way. That's where Archie and them got that shit from; there sure ain't nothing there.

4. Fifth Dimension
Prologue, the Magic Garden
(The Magic Garden, Soul City).
Jim Webb, composer, arranger.

That record is planned, you know. It's like when I do things, it's planned and you lead into other things. It makes sense. It has different sounds in the voicing, and they're using the stereo - they can sure use stereo today, coming out from different sides and different people making statements and things like that. That's the way you should record!

Yeah, that's a nice record; it sounds nice. I liked the composition and the arrangement. It's Jim Webb and the Fifth Dimension. It could be a little smoother - they push it too hard for the singers. You don't have to push that hard. When you push, you get a raggedy edge, and an edge gives another vibration.

I liked the instrumental introduction too. We did things like that on Porgy and Bess - just played parts of things.

I told Diahann Carroll about an idea I had for her to record, based on things like that. There are certain tunes - parts of tunes - that you like, and you have to go through all that other shit to get to that part - but she can just sing that part. She could sing it in any kind of musical form - eighteenth century, today's beat, and she can say the statement over and make the background change the mood and change the time. They could also use her as an instrument; instead of the strings under her, she could be in the strings, and have her coming out from each side of the stereo. She told me to set it up for her, and I was trying to do it for her.

Jimmy Webb would be great for her. I think Wayne could do it for her, too; but I told her to get a guy like Mel to put the story together.

Feather: Which Mel?

Davis: Mel Tormé. And you could have the music in between, to change the mood to whatever mood she wanted to sing in. She was interested and insisted that I produce it, but I don't want to get involved in that end of it.

4th Blindfold Test Miles Davis - Part 2 of 2
June 27, 1968, by Leonard Feather for Down Beat


As I pointed out in the first part of this test [June 13, 1968], Miles Davis's hotel room was cluttered with pop vocal records. Why? There are several explanations, but the simplest and most logical, it seems to me, is that when you have reached the aesthetic mountaintop, there is no place to look but down.

Instead of judging other artists in terms of their own ideas and ideals, Miles looks for every other trumpet player, every other combo leader, to achieve what he has achieved.

Clearly this must lead to disappointment, for not every pianist today can be a Herbie Hancock, not every drummer a Tony Williams, or every saxophonist-composer a Wayne Shorter. Finding nothing that measures up to the standards he has set and met, Miles turns to other idioms. He relies on pop music for entertainment and classical music for serious listening.

There is nothing unprecedented about this. Walking into Charlie Parker's apartment, you were more likely to find him listening to Bartók than to some contemporary saxophonist. Similarly, there was nothing Art Tatum could learn from other pianists.

The taped interview was slightly censored; otherwise it represents Davis's precise comments on the records, about which he was given no information.


The Records
1. The Electric Flag
Over-Lovin' You
(A Long Time Comin', Columbia)
Barry Goldberg, Mike Bloomfield, composers.

Who was that? Leave that record here, it's a nice record. I like guys that get into what they're supposed to be singing, and the guys that play behind it really get into what they're doing - when the mood changes they go right in it. It makes the record smooth; makes it mean something.

It's a pleasure to get a record like that, because you know they're serious no matter what they do. . . . I liked the rhythm on that. I mean, if you're going to do something like that, man, you've got to do it. You know what I mean? If you're going to play like that - good - but don't jive around.

I like to cop myself - I don't like to miss. I like to get into the meat of things, and sometimes it don't happen and sometimes it does; when it does, it feels great, and it makes up for the times when it doesn't. But if you know it's going to happen one night, it keeps you going.

2. Sun Ra
(Sun Song, Delmark, recorded in 1956)
Dave Young, trumpet; Sun Ra, composer.

That's gotta come from Europe. We wouldn't play no shit like that. It's so sad. It sounds funny to me. Sounds like a 1935 arrangement by Raymond Scott. They must be joking - the Florida A. & M. band sounds better than that. They should record them, rather than that shit. They've got more spirit than that. That ain't nothing.

Why put that on record? What does that do? You mean there's somebody around here that feels like that? Even the white people don't feel that sad.

Feather: Do you think that's a white group?

Davis: The trumpet player didn't sound white. . . . I don't know, man. You know, there's a little thing that trumpet players play to make a jazz sound, that if you don't have your own sound, you can hear an adopted jazz sound, which is a drag, especially in the mute. I mean you can tell when a guy's got his own thing.

People should have good friends to tell them. "Man, that ain't it, so don't play trumpet." you know what I mean? Or, "Don't play drums, 'cause you don't have anything." I'd rather have that said to me than to go on playing trumpet when it doesn't sound like I want it to sound. I know he doesn't want it to sound like that, so he should work at it, or play another instrument - a lower instrument.

When an arrangement's tight like that, you have to play every chord, because the background parts when they record, like they play them single, instead of making it smooth - and it's hard to play like that. You have to play each chord, then play the other chords or you never connect anything, and in between it's just blank.

3. Don Ellis
(Electric Bath, Columbia)
Ellis, trumpet; Hank Levy, composer.

Who's that supposed to be? It's too straight, man. You know, You'd be surprised, this trumpet player probably can play, he sounds all right, but with a strong rhythm like that - if you have a straight rhythm like that, the band has to play against the rhythm, because the rhythm is never gonna change, and that's very hard to do. The best way to do that is for the rhythm to play real soft.

You don't need a trumpet in something like that. It was just one of those major, minor, major. . . .

It's a kind of mood tune. I would play it slower and have the band way down, so they could have got some kind of feeling into it. You could tell they don't feel like playing this. Somebody was impressed with 5/4 time, but what difference does that make? What's so great about a whole number in 5/4? In our group we change the beat around and do all kind of things with time, but not just to say, "Look at me, I'm playing 5/4!" There's nothing there, but I guess the critics will have something to write about.

Feather: It was Don Ellis. Have you ever heard him?

Davis: Yeah, I heard him. He's no soloist. I mean, he's a nice guy and all that, but to me he's just another white trumpet player. He can't play in a chord, can't play with any feeling; that's the reason I guess they use all that time shit.

Anybody can make a record and try to do something new to sell; but to me a record is more than something new, and I don't care how much it sells. You have to capture some feeling - you can't just play like a fucking machine. You can't even turn on with any kind of dope and get any feeling to play if you don't have it in your heart. No matter what you do, it won't make you play any better. You are what you are, no matter what you do. I can be loud and no good, soft and no good, in 7/8 and no good. You can be black and no good, white and no good. . . . A guy like Bobby Hackett plays what he plays with feeling, and you can put him into any kind of thing and he'll do it.

4. Al Hirt
Goin' to Chicago Blues
(Live at Carnegie Hall, RCA).
Hirt, trumpet.

It's Al Hirt. I think he's a very good trumpet player. For anyone that feels that way, I guess he hits them. He's a good trumpet player, but that's some corny-ass shit he plays here.

They want him to be fat and white and funny and talented, but he ain't. They want something that looks good on television; fat, with a beard, and jovial and jolly. He's like a white Uncle Tom. And he's a nice guy; it's a drag. You know, white folks made Negroes tom a long time ago by giving them money. To do this in front of some white people, to play you to have that kind of personality, like him, it's tomming. I can't see why a guy like Al Hirt . . . I guess if he was thin he wouldn't do it.

Harry James is a good trumpet player, and he never did tom or no shit like that. Harry had some feeling.

For a guy to shake his unattractive body and think somebody thinks it's funny - it ain't funny, it's disgusting. He can't entertain me like that; he can entertain some corny ofays, but all the colored folks I know would say, "Oh, fuck! I don't want to hear that!"


You can find this blindfold test reprinted in Bill Kirchner's Miles Davis Reader, a collection of articles about Miles Davis and his music by various authors, which is still available (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, 1997)

Maintained by Thomas Hoenisch TOP last update: November 10, 2001

August-29th-2003, 02:35 PM
Originally posted by Nate Dorward
Nowadays the Downbeat ones are pointless & not very entertaining--rather than challenging the musician they play stuff he's sure to recognize, always on his/her own instrument, & rarely stage confrontations or puzzles by playing stuff outside his ken or range of sympathies.

Nate - found this on Gerry Hemingway's site. I don't know what the rest of Maynard's blindfold test was, but Smoker's definitely out of MF's bailiwick.

- - - -

Maynard Ferguson, Blindfold Test (Downbeat June 1995)

Paul Smoker- "Caravan" from Alone, SoundAspects, 1988) Smoker-trumpet; Phil Haynes-drums; Ron Rahavit, bass.

That was an amazing display of technique, first of all. There's alot of confidence in his playing. This reminds me of things going on in Europe where a lot of classical musicians were into the freedom forms of jazz as it was called. Classical pianists got into it because found it hard to play "One O'Clockjump," but they could really buzz and smoke on technically demanding things. Free thought allowed them to create their own changes pretty much when they wanted to, though this is based on the beginning and end of "Caravan," To rate this technically everybody the drummer included, has a lot of chops, and I feel, sometimes you have to rate things higher because of what the artist was saying and wanting to do, I give it 4 stars, I had terrific admiration for what was played rather than, any great love for it, These guys obviously love the direction they're taking, and I respect that. I enjoyed listening to it. I'll tell you what, he was really pumping those valves and, has an extremely good double tongue technique

August-29th-2003, 02:39 PM
Originally posted by lazarus
Feather: It was Don Ellis. Have you ever heard him?

Davis: Yeah, I heard him. He's no soloist. I mean, he's a nice guy and all that, but to me he's just another white trumpet player. He can't play in a chord, can't play with any feeling; that's the reason I guess they use all that time shit.

I guess Miles couldn't crap and moan too much about Ellis' use of echoplex techniques, as it most likely predates Miles' use...

August-29th-2003, 02:49 PM
I like the blindfold tests. They have one at the Monterey Jazz Festival for the last five or so years.
Bobby Hutcherson, Dave Douglas, Gunther Schuller, The Heath Brothers.
Bobby was fantastic, insightful, hilarious, and right on the money.
The Heath Brothers were BRUTALLY honest about the music and were great, funny too.

They NAILED Dave Douglas big time.
They didn't like much of what they heard and were not afraid to say so.

August-29th-2003, 03:00 PM
Thanks so much Lazarus!

August-29th-2003, 03:08 PM
Originally posted by Brian Olewnick
My main objections to the one in the WIRE are that a) they tend to choose selections that the musician has obvious associations with; I'd prefer to see their reactions to music that might be less familiar

Yeah Brian! I agree about that. I´m often very disappointed and surprised how predictable the music-choices are.

Originally posted by Michael Schaumann
Thanks so much Lazarus!

You´re welcome!

August-29th-2003, 05:40 PM
Yes, thanks Laz.

See, I like reading blindfold tests like Miles because 1.) you know when he says something good, chances are he really means it because he has no qualms about saying something is bad; 2.) he gets pretty specific about why he likes something or doesn't. Unfortunately, those kind of blindfold participants are really rare.

August-29th-2003, 06:45 PM
I don't know. In 1964 he liked Don Cherry, in 1968 he didn't even know his name.

Nate Dorward
August-29th-2003, 06:52 PM
Haven't looked at the "Invisible Jukebox" feature in the The Wire for a bit--I remember the Konitz one (circa two years ago?) as standing out for Konitz's general negativity throughout; Watson's effort to do one with Derek Bailey was entertaining because of Bailey's extreme unhelpfulness. -- Yes the tracks played are often too predictable & they divulge the identity of the artist too quickly (unless that's the result of editing-down; most are certainly edited down, & occasionally they post up a longer version of the transcript at the website I recall); but there are some fun moments. My favourite was when--who was it?--was confronted with a recording which he took as an example of experimental electronic music. It was actually a field recording of whales or seals (I forget which).

Captain Hate
August-29th-2003, 07:05 PM
My favorites were the Lester Bowie ones (I think there were two) which could have served, imo, as a primer into jazz for people that are willing to listen. Hey laz, do you have those??

My problem with most of them is that they seem to be lobs in terms of only concentrating on the instrument that the blindfoldee plays and often not particularly interesting music. They're best when the blindfoldee is really pumped about what he/she hears and is able to give some insight into it; either the technique used or the musicians playing it.

Nathaniel Catchpole
August-29th-2003, 07:19 PM
Read the Wire's July blindfold today. Couldn't agree more about the frankly stupid choices of music - it's like some kid who only has three records and has to do a blindfold test for one of the guys on a record he has. "I wonder if he can spot his own playing". Fine if you're six, not for what's supposed to be a serious magazine. Even as jumping off points, I'd much rather see something challenging than "here's something your best mate recorded ten years ago"

In general, it's interesting to read, and thanks for posting the Miles blindfolds.

Brian Olewnick
August-29th-2003, 09:01 PM
So the new WIRE comes in today with David Byrne in the blindfold seat. They play him The Komar & Melamid 'The Most Unwanted Song' (a reasonable choice, something I happened to hear a few months ago--pretty funny), a 70s female soul singer named Veda Brown (again reasonable), Television's "Marquee Moon" (Tough one!!!, yeah), Jon Hassell (yeah, really tough to pick him out, especially when you've worked with him), Fela Kuti (Oh c'mon!), Emilio Barreto (reasonable, a Cuban singer), Arto Lindsay (almost as hard to pick out of a line-up as Hassell!) and Bernard Hermann (from the Taxi Driver score--hard to believe Byrned couldn't ID this). All of them designed to have something to do with Byrne's own music. Pretty lame.

August-30th-2003, 03:15 AM
Monk is not the most voluble of personalities

On AAJ there is an interview with TS Monk in which he says that Monk was a non-stop talker and journalists should have been saying "Monk does not talk. To me."

September-1st-2003, 12:51 PM
I've always loved reading them. I dig the brutally candid as well as the guys who just love everything (if it sounds sincere) . When I was a kid and only slightly aware of jazz I'd go to the library and get a pile of old DownBeats and just read all of the blindfold tests. When I didn't have the net at work for awhile, I would do searches at home for "blindfold test" or "blindfold test" and "transcripts" and find dozens, which I would download onto floppies to read at work, when i needed a break.

September-1st-2003, 06:14 PM
Originally posted by lazarus
3rd Blindfold Test Miles Davis
by Leonard Feather
Down Beat Volume 58 No. 12, December 1991, p.69
first published by Down Beat, June 1964


4. Duke Ellington
(from Money Jungle, United Artists).
Ellington, piano; Charlie Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums.

Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company.


8. Cecil Taylor
(from Live at the Café Montmartre, Fantasy).
Jimmy Lyons, alto saxophone; Taylor, piano.

Is that what the critics are digging? Them critics better stop having coffee.

Haha. Ha.

September-1st-2003, 08:49 PM
Downbeat, November 1994
Page 78
Blindfold Test

By Dan Ouelette

When Elvis Costello launched his punk-charged brand of new wave in 1977
with the album My Aim Is True, it marked the beginning of an adventurous
career as one of the best songwriters in the pop world. Born in 1955 in
Liverpool as Declan MacManus, he was influenced by his parents' love of
music -- his father a singer in a big band and his mother a clerk in record
stores, including one owned by Beatles manager Brian Epstein.

While angry, guilt-ridden rock songs filled his early albums, Costello's
eclectic musical interests inspired him to explore soul, r&b, country,
classical, even opera. He has collaborated with a broad range of artists,
including Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, and the Brodsky Quartet, and
contributed to Hal Willner's remarkable Charlie Mingus tribute, Weird

Yet his most potent work has been in the company of the Attractions, the
superb band that backed him on all but one of his first dozen albums.
Costello's most current release, Brutal Youth (Warner Bros), finds him
reunited with the group for the first time in seven years. Meanwhile,
Costello is overseeing Rykodisc's ambitious reissuing of his entire
Columbia catalog.

This was Costello's first Blindfold Test.

1. Johnny Cash - "The Beast in Me" (from American Recordings, American
Recordings, 1994) Cash, acoustic guitar, vocals.

[Two chords into the song] It's Johnny Cash. I know this song well because
Nick Lowe wrote it. Nick, who was married for several years to John's
stepdaughter Carlene, tells a funny story about writing it. They lived in
England and Johnny was spending some time with them. Nick stayed up all
night once to write a song for him and by 3 or 4 in the morning he was
convinced he could hear Johnny singing it. The next morning, somewhat
chastened, he played it for him in a small, wimpy voice. And that was
that. John put it away for years until it surfaced on this new album,
which is terrific, wonderful. The sound is great. Johnny's got such a
recognizable style. I'll give this 53 stars. One for every state, one for
the moon, and two for the outer galaxies.

2. Latin Playboys - "Same Brown Earth" (from Latin Playboys, Slash, 1993)
David Hidalgo, vocals, guitar; Louie Perez, drums; Mitchell Froom,
keyboards; Tchad Blake, bass.

I play this record all the time. I love it. I'll give this one 10 stars.
David HIdalgo has such a great imagination. He could very well be a Duke
Ellington someday. These songs are about real things, like people eating
too much food and getting a bellyache. I also like the messing around with
distorted sounds on this album. It's like getting somebody's home demo
before the producer gets a hold of it and ruins it. This album proves
there's hope for the corporate music industry, which was willing to
bankroll this. Michael Bolton should be locked in a room and forced to
listen to this record for 10 years. No, I take that back. He should just
be locked in a room and kept away from any other soul records he might cover.

3. NRBQ - "I Want to Show You" (from Kick Me Hard -- The Deluxe Edition,
Rounder, 1989/rec. 1975) Terry Adams, keyboards, vocals; Al Anderson,
guitar, vocals; Joey Spampinato, bass, vocals; Tom Ardolino, drums; Donn
Adams, trombone; Keith Spring, tenor saxophone.

It's NRBQ, isn't it? Oh, this is great! Terry Adams is a wonderful
musician. Inside that track, there's so much going on. The vocal
harmonies sounded like The Band. The saxophone could have been from the
Neville Brothers or Ornette Coleman. Plus Al is working on a Bob Wills
guitar sound. It's terrific to get all that in one piece without shoving
any of it in your face. NRBQ is probably the greatest group in America.
They defy all attempts to categorize them. They don't obey any of the
rules. They're in that same alternative universe as the Grateful Dead.
Did I give them any stars yet? They deserve 5,006.

4. John Coltrane - "Giant Steps" (from The John Coltrane Anthology,
Atlantic Jazz/Rhino, 1993/rec. 1959) Coltrane, tenor sax; Tommy Flanagan,
piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Taylor, drums.

This sounds like it was made yesterday. It has an incredibly clean sound.
It's not a new record, is it? If it is, then the sax player is doing
something similar to what was recorded in the late 50s, early 60s.

DO: I'll give you a clue. It's remastered.

It's been incredibly remastered. That's not fair, especially after playing
the Latin Playboys record, which was made to deliberately sound murky. So,
I'd say it's Coltrane. It was disconcerting at first because it sounded
too clean. I thought maybe this was a trick question, where there was
something weird going on like when a Charlie Parker solo was taken off a
record and a new backup band was used. Stars? Can I give 49 for this one?
Coltrane was one of the few people who could play as many notes as this
without becoming boring. When guitar players do this, I just want to shoot

5. Charles Brown - "B&O Blues" (from The Swingtime Records Story,
Capricorn 1994/rec. 1948) Brown, piano, vocals; other band members unlisted.

This is Charles Brown. It's an old one. His voice has gotten deeper as
he's gotten older. It's wonderful. He's a terrific piano player, and he's
got great style. His music is real, and it's got humor. I love his voice.
He's been an inspiration to me. I've gone to a number of his live shows,
and I love him. For this piece, I'll give 75 stars.

6. Charles Mingus - "Don't Be Afraid, The Clown's Afraid, Too" (from Let
My Children Hear Music, Columbia/Legacy, 1992/rec. 1972) Mingus and ensemble.

Nine million stars for this one. It's Mingus. I love the tuba, and I love
the burlesque element in his music. His work is the greatest. It's a
bottomless well of music. I can't think of a composer since the 40s who is
as imaginative as Charles Mingus. There's such a freedom in his music that
allows for spontaneity. It's mind-boggling. Jazz is such a limiting name
for what he did. It's truly American classical music. It's a great shame
he wasn't as recognized as he should have been.

Nate Dorward
September-1st-2003, 10:09 PM
I don't know what makes me roll my eyes more, that DB played Coltrane's recording of "Giant Steps" for Costello, or that he didn't recognize it, even as he got everything else. Sheesh!

September-2nd-2003, 05:11 AM
Originally posted by Nate Dorward
I don't know what makes me roll my eyes more, that DB played Coltrane's recording of "Giant Steps" for Costello, or that he didn't recognize it, even as he got everything else. Sheesh! He did recognise it.

Gary Sisco
September-2nd-2003, 08:54 AM
I agree with Miles about "Money Jungle." That wasn't a successful meeting.

Brian Olewnick
September-2nd-2003, 09:52 AM
Originally posted by Gary Sisco
I agree with Miles about "Money Jungle." That wasn't a successful meeting.

A rare lapse in Sisconian taste. "Fleurette Africaine" , baby!!

Nate Dorward
September-2nd-2003, 10:31 AM
Originally posted by mke
He did recognise it. No he didn't: why else would he be unsure if it was a new record? He eventually figured out it was Coltrane, but, er, no prizes for that.

September-2nd-2003, 10:51 AM
I, too, like "Money Jungle."

September-2nd-2003, 11:17 AM
Originally posted by Nate Dorward
No he didn't: why else would he be unsure if it was a new record? He eventually figured out it was Coltrane, but, er, no prizes for that. My impression was that he was thinking "Coltrane", but the sound quality threw him off enough to make him hesitate.

Money Jungle: I like it. "Fleurette Africaine" indeed!

September-4th-2003, 07:53 AM
Blindfold Test: Ornette Coleman
An Exclusive Online Extra

by Leonard Feather — 01/07/1960

In the early days, jazz talent took its natural course. Anybody with something new and important to say would find his way to the surface of public acceptance, simply on the strength of the stir he had created among fellow musicians.
Today, the situation is very different. The initiative in molding new stars has been seized by other experts, including some who were among the slowest to accord reluctant recognition to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Ornette Coleman, an alto saxophonist, who, until a few months ago, was virtually unknown, must suffer the judgements applied by the contemporary method.

Coleman has been the subject of the kind of extravagant praise normally reserved for a musician backed by years of big-time experience. Though it is much too soon to determine how important his contribution will really be, the indications are that he has indeed found a style both of writing and playing that is valid, fresh and exciting.

Coleman’s first Blindfold Test revealed him as no less unusual in his verbal than in his musical expression. The records selected included one by Jesse Powell from Ornette’s hometown (Fort Worth, Texas). He was given no information about the records played.

The Records

1. Various saxophonists. "Broadway" (Warner Brothers). Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, tenor saxophones; Herb Geller, Gene Quill, Phil Woods, alto saxophones.

Well, it sounded like a combination of an old-style band playing modern phrases together. A combination of old and new. The saxophones sound like the tenor-sax style of Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and the altos sound like the style of Charlie Mariano and Charlie Kennedy.

The arrangement as a whole is very musical, and the modulations within each complete cadence of phrases came out very good. It was a good musical band, and I would give it, for the musical aspects of it, four stars. For the writing also.

2. Miles Davis. "All Blues" (Columbia). Bill Evans, piano; Davis, trumpet; John Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophone.

I believe that was Bill Evans on piano, and as for the tune itself, it sounded that…Bill Evans played it definite, very beautiful from beginning to end, and it sounded as if Miles Davis was closer to the actual sound of what the tune was expressing than the other two artists, but they did play very beautiful on it.

I think the tune as a whole was a very beautiful tune with the modulation in half-step as so many bars that they play of just constantly improvising around a certain direction of a progression, which I believe Bill Evans was the most dominant figure on that particular side, but Coltrane and Cannonball sound very wonderful, playing with them, as far as being professional and beautiful musicians, but Miles seems to have had the closest execution and emotion to blend with the way Bill was playing his chords for the instruments to play by. I would rate it five stars for Bill Evans and soloists I would rate four stars.

3. Bud Shank/Bob Cooper. "Love Nest" (World Pacific). Shank, alto saxophone; Cooper, tenor saxophone.

Bud Shank and Bob Cooper. One thing I would like to say about Bud Shank—I heard him play one night at a club, and as far as modern jazz is concerned, there is a certain modern way of playing that has the two-beat form of Dixieland as its roots, and it seemed to me that Bob Cooper and Bud Shank have definite grounds of swingin’ in a two-beat style but playing modern, and I heard Bud Shank playing very good like that, and I enjoyed it—there’s something about two-beat jazz that has a swing of its own and mostly the West coast musicians swing from a jazz point in two-beat style. Not that it’s Dixieland, but there is a form of swinging in two-beat, which just seems to generate a happy feeling immediately without working up to a point of pattin’ your feet.

I like the tune as far as the swing of it—carrying the two-beat feeling, and the blending of the horns sounds good—in fact, it’s a happy-sounding record, in that style. I would give Bud Shank four stars, because I like the way he swings in two-beat—but for the record as a whole I would say three.

4. Mercer Ellington. "Maroon" (Coral). Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone.

The style of alto sounds like the style of Benny Carter or Johnny Hodges, in that vein, and it was played beautiful, and the band sounded very even behind the alto—I don’t know who the band was. I don’t know what to say about a thing like this because when I usually listen to a soloist play with a big band, they’re usually improvising, but this soloist sounds like, if he was improvising, it was very well perfected because it didn’t sound like it was very spontaneous, and the band sounded like it was a very wonderful organization together, playing behind a soloist.

The only thing I was moved with was the point of blending—I liked the musical blend of the whole thing, but phrase of it stands out in my mind. I would rate it four stars as far as their blending musically together.

5. Yusef Lateef. "Sounds Of Nature" (Savoy). Instrumentation includes earth board, fluegelhorn, Indian reed whistle, flute and ocarina.

I would have liked to have heard an improviser of jazz going on at the same time that tune was being played. It’s a very good tune for the effects of improvising.

For the tune as a whole, I like it for the freedom of direction, but I mostly like things that have causes more than effects, and this seemed to be a tune that is mostly effects. I don’t get the cause clearly, but I think that if there had been a jazz improviser going on with these effects, the cause would have been expressed much more clearly.

I heard the effects of spontaneous execution—I heard those effects—and I heard the effects of different accents crossing each other—which must mean a very intelligent man thinking out things to do like that.

It sounded like I heard a guitar, else a bass played very highly, and a trumpet, and either a trombone or a tenor saxophone and a flute, and drums—it sounded like a small combo that has immediately utilized their techniques of playing phrases in the free form of notation. I don’t know if that was notated exactly the way I heard it, but the notation sounds very free.

It’s a very good record as far as effects with music, and it sounded like Charlie Mingus. I would say four stars.

6. Charlie Mingus. "Bird Calls" (Columbia).

Well, that sounded in the same vein of the previous record, in the Charlie Mingus style of writing and playing, but I have one comment to say about the tune and the jazz improvising. If a person’s going to play an improvised solo without striving to have a beat, then it shouldn’t have anything to do with the previous tune that’s written; and if he’s going to play with an improvised solo with a beat, with the tune that’s written, then I believe that’s what he should do. But I don’t believe it should be a cross between free improvising and a beat at the same time, because they just don’t go together.

What I mean by a beat of music is when he’s keeping up with the actual speed of the tune itself—the way the melody is phrased. They’re not phrasing it together…I mean, if you’re going to play together as a free form and still try to make like there’s a beat in it. Maybe it can be done but I don’t think it can be done spontaneously and creatively, as the other way…If it is to be done, then one should realize which one he’s gonna do to make it better; not that that is bad, but I believe if you’d gonna do a thing, even if you do it worse today, you should try and be better tomorrow.

The record as a whole, for the musicianship, seems to be as much as they could do at that moment…so for that moment alone, and musically, I would rate it three stars for the concept rather that for the tune or the playing.

7. Jesse Powell. "Jesse’s Theme" (Jubilee). Jesse Powell, tenor saxophone; Eddie Williams, trumpet.

That was the Jazz at the Philharmonic style, and it sounds like it could be good blues and rhythm date. I don’t know who the soloists are, but they sound they could be like the Flip Phillips-Illinois Jacquet style of playing tenor sax…The trumpet player I have no idea who it was. It sounds in the Howard McGhee-Roy Eldridge style.

I would rate it four stars for jazz and three for performance. You get the impression that they’re trying to say something, but they’re not saying anything of interest to me. Three stars for the jazz.

8. Quincy Jones. A Change Of Pace (Mercury). Harry Edison, trumpet; Phil Woods, alto saxophone.

That sounded like a good dance band…I don’t know which one, but a very popular dance band. It sounded like a combination of three bands—Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson and Les Brown.

I don’t have any idea who the soloists were, but it was a good dance band…Nothing out of the ordinary. I’ll give it a three. It was very well played and had a good dance beat to it.

9. George Russell. "Livingstone, I Presume" (RCA Victor). Art Farmer, trumpet; Hal McKusick, alto saxophone.

That sounded like Hal McKusick and Art Farmer, and then it sounds like Lee Konitz and someone and then Gigi Gryce and Donald Byrd—it sounds like everybody…But the trumpet player sounds like Arthur Farmer to me because of the complete way Arthur has of phrasing. I thought it was Donald Byrd at first, but as I listened more…it might have been two trumpets—one sounded like Art Farmer to me, and the saxophone sounded at first like Lee Konitz and then like Gigi Gryce.

As for the tune itself, it was fairly good, but when I hear a tune played, I like to hear the differences between the tune and the improvising…I don’t know if free execution limits a person from improvising, as if he was limited to a certain manner of execution. Like I believe that the execution of improvising should blend with emotion—the emotion and the execution should blend together and then you would get more or less free improvising…But in certain cases where the technical part of a tune hinders the musician from free improvising, it seems I don’t get the message that they actually hear something to play in that style of tune.

But I imagine it can be done, and Arthur Farmer, in that short a time, seems more experienced in playing , free-improvising, with that sort of writing, free execution of writing, where the thing they’re playing , the way they’re playing, it doesn’t sound like it’s notated that way, and Arthur’s the only one I know who seems to be able to improvise in the form of playing. Four stars.

September-4th-2003, 08:04 AM
Blindfold Test: Charlie Mingus
An Exclusive Online Extra

by Leonard Feather — 04/28/1960

Almost five years have elapsed since Charlie Mingus’ previous Blindfold Test. In the interim he has grown tremendously in musical stature. Five years ago he was beset by many frustrations in the attempt to find an outlet for his music.
Today, while by no means rich or world famous, Mingus is a man highly respected by an increasing coterie. His music has settled into a groove that is at once funk-rooted, far-reaching and emotionally stimulating.

Mingus, as a person, has changed, too. Though there remains in him a latent streak of defiant anger, much of which is reflected in his music, he takes no active delight in putting anyone or anything down.

Because it would be unfair to Mingus and the reader to whittle down his comments, they have been split into two installments. The second segment, which will appear in the next issue, includes a long afterthought about Ornette Coleman. Mingus was given no information about the records played.

The Records

1. Manny Albam. "Blues For Amy" (from Something New, Something Blue; Columbia). Teo Macero, composer.

Take it off…Look, I don’t want to drag you or anybody. I don’t think maybe you should give me a Blindfold Test, because I’ve changed. I didn’t let it get started—maybe that’s not fair of me? But it disturbs my ulcer. I’d rather talk about something important—all the stuff that’s happening down south.

2. Clifford Brown. "Stockholm Sweetnin’" (from Clifford Brown Memorial; Prestige). Arne Domnerus, alto; Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, trumpet; Lars Gullin, baritone; Bengt Hallberg, piano; Gunnar Johnson, bass; Jack Noren, drums; Quincy Jones, composer. Recorded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1953.

I heard a trumpet player up in the front that sounded like Art Farmer. The second solo? I don’t think I liked it as much as the first. Not that it matters…My opinion doesn’t matter much. What’s Lee Konitz doing on a record with these guys?…The rhythm section has no guts at all.

The baritone player sure has a lot of warmth; could it have been Gerry Mulligan? It’s not an inspiring performance on the whole. I didn’t hear the second trumpet player playing any parts in the ensemble; it’s like they wrote it for one trumpet, then this guy walked in the studio and they said, "Why don’t you blow one, man?"

The tune is Quincy Jones’ tune—he knows what will go, knows what he’d like to do, and he always writes what he knows will sell. And what guys can play. I know he does this—we discussed it together seven or eight years ago, before he became successful. And he was wondering why I always wrote so hard and never got it played, and I was wondering why he wrote so simple and got it played.

Well, I just like Art Farmer so very much—that little airy sound he gets in the front of the notes—I like him even if he is old fashioned and doesn’t know it. He became old-fashioned about two years ago. But he’s going to come up with something—you watch what he’ll be doing a year from now.

I’ll give it five for Art, if you don’t mind—and Gerry Mulligan if that’s who it is.

3. George Shearing. "Chelsea Bridge" (from Satin Brass; Capitol). Jimmy Jones, arranger.

People used to think Louis Armstrong was putting everybody on when he said he liked Guy Lombardo. But I think he really sincerely like Guy. Because I’m beginning to feel that way. Some cats simply should play like Lombardo and not try anything else. Because that’s not them if they don’t; that’s not their soul. And I think that applies to this.

If that’s Gil Evans, I’m sorry—that applies to this. I’ve heard some things he did with Miles that were better. Usually I like Gil—I don’t know what happened on this thing. Maybe he has too much work to do and has to turn it out very fast. Or maybe that’s the worst track on the record, because I know you do that, sometimes.

The tune is something that’s been done a million times—even before Duke. I think I heard Paul Whiteman use those intervals…Well, give the record five stars because Gil Evans is famous.

4. Johnny Hodges. "Big Shoe" (from Side By Side; Verve). Hodges, alto; Ben Webster, tenor; Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Billy Strayhorn, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Recorded in 1958.

You can take it off—I know what this is. Somebody’s trying to get an alumni band together with Hodges and Webster, and they weren’t thinking about music, except Ben maybe. I don’t know what Hodges was doing…is that something new? And I assume it’s Lawrence Brown.

But I don’t think this means anything because I don’t think that was Duke. With Duke, they might have played better—sometimes that’s what it takes…

I tell you, I’m not much on comment today. I’d rather just rate them, and on this, for Ben Webster I’d have to give it five stars again, because I like Ben. But I think somebody was trying to figure out a way to make some money with some records, and they put one of things together.

I’ll tell you why I know Duke isn’t here. You listen to that record of Duke’s that came out a while ago with Dizzy on it, and hear the way Duke comps in there. There’s a lot of young cats around that could learn from the way Duke comps. This cat on the Hodges record played every chorus on the blues and played it different; he didn’t create nothing; that’s why I knew the piano player wasn’t Duke, that it was just anybody trying to cop out.

Charlie Mingus—#2
May 12, 1960

"You haven’t been told before that you’re phonies. You’re here because jazz has publicity, jazz is popular…You like to associate yourself with this sort of thing. But it doesn’t make you a connoisseur of the art because you follow it around…A blind man can go to an exhibition of Picasso and Kline, and not even see their works, and comment behind dark glasses, ‘Wow! They’re the swingingest paintings ever, crazy!’ Well, so can you. You’ve got your dark glasses and clogged up ears."

This is one of the milder portions of an off-the-cuff speech made one night from the bandstand at the Five Spot by Charlie Mingus, preserved on tape and reproduced in an enlightening piece by Dian Dorr-Dorynek in The Jazz World, recently published by Ballantine Books. The speech bares Mingus’ long-pent-up frustrations and brings to the reader the sort of moment of truth many jazzmen wish they had the courage to express.

Mingus’ basic intensity and integrity can be found, too, in his Blindfold Test reactions. Following is the second segment of a two-part test, the previous one having appeared in the last issue. These comments, too, were tape-recorded , and Mingus received no advance information on the records played.

The Records

1. Lambert-Hendricks-Ross. "Moanin’" (from The Hottest New Group In Jazz; Columbia).

I just don’t know what to tell you about that…I heard Sarah Vaughan last night, and she was singing a song, and the trumpet player was playing two bars, and she’d echo behind it—but she wasn’t singing what he was playing. And this—well, I think he’d be a good poet. A much better poet. He’s trying to tell a story—he always has. And I’m glad he can.

The group? I think they’ll make a lot of money. They’ll always make money—more than I’ll ever make. (L.F.: Don’t you think the group’s different?) Different from what? King Pleasure? I heard some little bitty young kids singing like that in Chicago. When Bird first came up, they used to stand up by the jukebox and make up words to the songs. It'’ not that original, man. Ten years ago people were doing that. I remember some words the kids wrote for a song of Hamp’s: Bebop’s taking over, oo-wee; better bop while you’re able, see; open your ears, bop’s been here for years"—something like that; and that was 11 or 12 years ago.

2. Sonny Stitt with Oscar Peterson Trio. "Au Privave" (Verve).

Well, you heard that thing he did on the second chorus, the bad note—he probably did that a whole lot of times on the record, and they spliced it out. There must have been a lot of splicing, or else they had an engineer who liked to twist the buttons, because the sound kept changing, it was as if a different soloist was coming up to the microphone.

Is that stereo? Yes…That’s too bad. And the piano player—he sounded like this was his first record date and his last one, so he wants to get everything in and plays all the notes he can in that solo, in the style of Horace Silver; and it could be Horace, I don’t know. Maybe he was very anxious that day. How could I know if I don’t listen to those cats anymore?

I put some old Bird record on the other day, and I realized that nobody’s playing like him yet. I wish you’d tell me who this is just for my own kicks.

Rating? Well, let’s put it like this. If I were in a record store and I’d listened to all the seven records you’ve played me so far (including those in the first part of the test), I wouldn’t buy any of them. And I’ve got some money.

3. Mahalia Jackson. "I Going To Live The Life I Sing About In My Song" (from The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer; Columbia).

I’m presently in the process of buying some records. I don’t have that one, but I believe I know who it is. And I would buy that one. She’s on my list. And I think that this is what everybody need a whole lot of—not only in their playing, but in their way of living.

As far as rating this—maybe you should use a different kind of stars for rating this from the stars you use ranting jazz records. A moving star. Make it five moving stars.

4. Dizzy Reece. "The Rake" (from Star Bright; Blue Note). Reece, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor; Wynton Kelly, piano; Art Taylor, drums; Paul Chambers, bass. Recorded by Rudy van Gelder in 1959.

The drummer sounded like Art Blakey, and I like Art so much—but, man, I don’t think you machine makes it because everything sounds blurry—the tenor player, Hank Mobley, sounds as if he’s trying to play like Sonny Rollins. I never before heard Hank trying to sound like that. Or else it’s the way they’re recording. Rudy van Gelder makes those kind of records. He tries to change people’s tones. I’ve seen him do it; I’ve seen him do it; I’ve seen him take Thad Jones and the way he sets him up at the mike, he can change the whole sound. That’s why I never go to him; he ruined my bass sound.

I’ve got a feeling that if that is Art, it sounded like the trumpet could have been Clifford Brown. But I don’t know when they could have made a record like that. I’m not talking about the solo, I’m talking about the ensemble feeling that suggests Clifford Brown.

The bass player sure was in tune—I knew that right from the start. He was in tune with himself. And I’ve never know Art with a piano player like that—it’s kind of confusing.

The over-all emotional feeling that I get when I enjoy music, I couldn’t her it—yet I know it must be there if it was Art playing. I won’t say it didn’t swing because I never knew a time when Art didn’t swing; it’s just not coming off on this record to me.

Play that trumpet solo again…I would say it’s Clifford Brown. A lot of people who don’t know Fats Navarro would have to like Clifford. I hear the kind of crying feeling, the soul that you got from Fats. Now I wouldn’t buy it because it was Clifford; the fact that somebody’s dead doesn’t change anything for me. I’m going to die, too.


You didn’t play anything by Ornette Coleman. I’ll comment on him anyway. Now, I don’t care if he doesn’t like me, but anyway, one night Symphony Sid was playing a whole lot of stuff, and then he put on an Ornette Coleman record.

Now, he is really an old-fashioned alto player. He’s not as modern as Bird. He plays in C and F and G and B Flat only; he does not play in all the keys. Basically, you can hit a pedal point C all the time, and it’ll have some relationship to what he’s playing.

Now aside from the fact that I doubt he can even play a C scale in whole notes—tied whole notes, a couple of bars apiece—in tune, the fact remains that his notes and lines are so fresh. So when Symphony Sid played his record, it made everything else he was playing, even my own record that he played, sound terrible.

I’m not saying everybody’s going to have to play like Coleman. But they’re going to have to stop copying Bird. Nobody can play Bird right yet but him. Now what would Fats Navarro and J.J. have played like if they’d never heard Bird? Or even Dizzy? Would he still play like Roy Eldridge? Anyway, when they put Coleman’s record on, the only record they could have put on behind it would have been Bird.

It doesn’t matter about the key he’s playing in—he’s got a percussional sound, like a cat on a whole lot of bongos. He’s brought a thing in—it’s not new. I won’t say who started it, but whoever started it, people overlooked it. It’s like not having anything to do with what’s around you, and being right in your own world. You can’t put you finger on what he’s doing.

It’s like organized disorganization, or playing wrong right. And it gets to you emotionally, like a drummer. That’s what Coleman means to me.

Gary Sisco
September-4th-2003, 08:52 AM
Re "Money Jungle": Lapse, indeed, Brian! I think it was an interesting meeting but not successful, for the reasons Miles gave. Always have. I own it and listen to it now and then, but I think Miles was right that Mingus and Roach play very well, of course, but they don't know how to play with Duke, nor Duke with them. Interesting idea, and the record has its moments, but I don't play with it without heavy use of the program button.

September-4th-2003, 10:43 AM
I certainly understand your reservations, Gary. FWIW, I think it's exactly that clash of styles thing that attracts me to "Money Jungle." Plus there aren't that many recordings with Duke in that kind of setting. There's something strange and cool about it.

September-4th-2003, 10:52 AM
Thanks Mwanji. . .I could read these all day long.

Brian Olewnick
September-4th-2003, 10:55 AM
Hey, even Sisco has the right to be totally wrong once in a while. ;-)

Gary Sisco
September-4th-2003, 10:57 AM
Somewhat wrong, perhaps. Totally wrong, never!

September-5th-2003, 12:46 PM
Great stuff to read!Thanks for posting 'em.

Radio listening offers blindfold teast of sorts.I love them;like recently heard "What Is This Thing Called Love"--alto player?Sounds to me like Getz on alto sax...not Konitz..hmmm..nice...now piano solo...thoughtful harmonically --Tristiano-like.....hmmmm.--I like it!!

Who is it?Someone I would have said--"Oh I don't like him"--it was Brubeck 65'!!Stupid me!

Same thing a few days ago...heard 5 tunes from a cd.Thought it was Dave Douglas for sure---it was Steve Bernstein!