[He] uses the first and second left-hand fingers most of the time in single-note work; in chord work he can make use of the third and fourth fingers to a limited extent on the first two strings. He plays his famous octave passages on any two strings, with a “damped” string in between, i.e., on first and third; second and fourth; third and fifth; etc., avoiding that frenzied rushing up and down the fingerboard which would otherwise be necessary. His famous chromatic runs, if played in the first position, are fingered; if played up the fingerboard, they are glissed with one finger. He plays unusual chord shapes because of his handicap…Reinhardt‘s right hand is phenomenal. He does not rest any part of it on the guitar; it pivots from the elbow a little but principally swings from the wrist. He employs down strokes most of the time except for extremely rapid passages and notes played tremolo.
Everybody in this country is very neurotic now. They’re afraid to experience an intense emotion, the kind of intense emotion, for instance, that’s brought on by good jazz. There’s more vitality in jazz than in any other art form today. Vitality arises from an emotion that is free. But the people, being neurotic, are afraid of being affected by a free emotion and that’s why they put down jazz.
Since the last war we’ve been overwhelmed by a feeling of insecurity. To try to offset that insecurity, people are reaching back toward happier times. And we’re in an era of nostalgia which is being inflicted on the younger people who have nothing to be nostalgic about.
Nostalgia brings on anticipation because you know what’s going to happen next. When people start to anticipate, they become intense, waiting for what they know is going to happen. And this tension feeds their neuroses.
That’s why there’s such a small audience for what I’m doing. What I play is so unorthodox that when you first hear it, you don’t try to anticipate. You just sit there. You have to be very relaxed to start with before you put on one of my records. Consequently, people don’t want to hear my sides as often as, say, Garner‘s, because as a rule they won’t be in a mood that’s receptive to what I play.
To begin with we are the music we play. And our commitment is to peace, to understanding of life. And we keep trying to purify our music, to purify ourselves so that we can move ourselves and those who hear us to higher levels of peace and understanding. You have to purify and crystallize your sound in order to hypnotize. I’m convinced, you see, that through music, life can be given more meaning. And every kind of music has an influence either direct or indirect on the world around it so that after a while the sounds of different types of music go around and bring about psychological changes. And we’re trying to bring about peace. In his way, for example, that’s what Coltrane, too, is trying to do.
To accomplish this, I must have spiritual men playing with me. Since we are the music we play, our way of life has to be clean or else the music can’t be kept pure.
I follow the improvisation the soloist has taken and when he’s through I pick up the last phrase he’s played and use this as the beginning to my improvisation on the melodic pattern of the composition. It can be very simple or very complicated and you can get unlimited rhythmic and polyrhythmic patterns and phrases. Actually a lot of solos I have taken have drum and rhythmic phrases just as a saxophonist or trumpeter will play phrases with his instrument – drums have to breathe too.
I played with Fletcher Henderson for a short time when Coleman Hawkins left. I had a lot of trouble there. The whole band was buzzing on me because I had taken Hawk’s place. I didn’t have the same kind of sound he had. I was rooming at the Henderson’s house, and Leora Henderson would wake me early in the morning and play Hawkins’ records for me so I could play like he did. I wanted to play my own way but I just listened. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Finally I left and went to Kansas City. I had in my mind what I wanted to play, and I was going to play that way. That’s the only time that ever happened – someone telling me to play differently from the way I wanted to.
Herschel Evans was a Hawk man. That was the difference between the way we played. He played well, but his man was Hawk like my man at the beginning was Trumbauer. As for Coleman Hawkins, I used to ride in Hawk’s car. He plays fine. He was the first to really start playing tenor. I thought Chu Berry played nice, too. He was on a Coleman Hawkins style. I think he got the job with Henderson after I left. Ben Webster had a taste of it, too. I think Ben plays fine too.