Saturday, March 19, 2011


I dreamt about you last night. This morning after I ate breakfast and read my emails, I played “A Monk and A Mingus Among Us,” my favorite Donald Walden album. It’s playing as I write this. In the dream, we discussed music in your living room. The scene was similar to the very first time I interviewed you in 1996, a few months after Arts Midwest named you a jazz master. You took the honor in stride. You claimed other musicians such as your teacher Barry Harris deserved the recognition more. You were being too modest.

We talked about Harris being a taskmaster. You also revealed once you quit playing and sold your sax. Work for jazz musicians was scarce. You took a job delivering milk. I always considered you a hipster. I found it unbelievable you used to be a milk man. Thankfully, the job was short lived and you resumed playing.

In the dream, we sat on a black leather sectional sofa. You were dressed impeccably in a gray silk shirt, and black wool slacks. Your tenor sax rested on your lap and a flute on the glass coffee table next a bottle of red wine. Our conversation was lighthearted. I asked about some technical stuff such as changes, chord progressions, and if the cadenzas some saxophonists play at the end of some tunes was improvised.
Saxophonist Donald Walden 
You even played the changes to John Coltrane’s “Naima”. Then you did a few slick things with the melody. I asked you to play a few choruses of the ballad “Rudy My Dear” the same way you did on “A Monk and A Mingus Among Us”. Years ago, in real life, I requested you play the ballad on several occasions. You always said no but explained once, during a set at Bert’s Market Place, the bassist was unfamiliar with the tune. Anyway, in the dream, you were ready to play the ballad, but I woke up. Initially, I was upset.

Strangely, the dream made me feel good as if we had fixed our friendship. You stopped talking to me for a few years because of the story I wrote about drummer Roy Brooks, your friend. The Metrotimes published the article. I quoted you and later you swore up and down you spoke off the record. I hated that you passed away before I made things right. However, in the dream we were friends again.

I have thought about you often and I wondered how your pals Teddy Harris, George Goldsmith and Harold McKinney are doing up there in heaven. I bet God is always late performing miracles because he’s up late listening to you all jam.Tell the fellows everything is going well on the Detroit jazz scene. The current crop of jazz musicians are kicking butt. Musicians such as Robert Hurst, Geri Allen and Rodney Whitaker have continued the legacy of mentorship you all started.

I heard two lads perform with Hurst last Friday at the Virgil Carr Center. Pianist Ian Finklestein studies with Geri Allen at the University of Michigan and saxophonist Marcus Miller is in the jazz program at Michigan State University.

Finklestein reminded me of a young Herbie Hancock. Finklestein has a strong right hand and an imaginative left. Imagine what a great improviser he will be once Allen has finished schooling him.

 Miller is a little dude with  giant chops. He is the splitting image of Johnny Griffin. I believe Miller is under the watch of saxophonist Diego Rivera. The saxophonist is in the luxury class of contemporary tenor saxophonists. Finklestein and Miller will be jazz stars.

I am still on the Detroit scene writing about the local cats. These days, I rarely get the chance to write about nationally known jazz musicians. Last year, I did interviewed drummer Roy Haynes and pianist Barry Harry. That was exciting. So far, I interviewed Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Richard Davis, Sonny Rollins, TS Monk, Gary Burton, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett and Regina Carter. Not to shabby for a cat with only a high diploma.

Financially, things are tough, but I am hopeful that will change this year. Donald, I just wanted to share my little dream with you. “A Monk and A Mingus Among Us” is still playing in the background and “Ruby My Dear” has just started. I want to hear it again, so I will talk to you again soon, hopefully.
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