I’ve been getting great feedback about the book’s interview with pianist Harold Mabern. So I thought I’d begin publishing excerpts form the interview on the site.
Harold and I were discussing Wes’ process for showing the band new tunes and arrangements:
Tim Fitzgerald: No lead sheets, obviously.
Harold Mabern: There weren’t any sheets. He couldn’t write any sheets. The sheet was what he played.
TF: Did Wes ever talk about not being able to read music?
HM: No, never came up. He just played his guitar and practiced all day. Or most of the day.
TF: He did practice a lot?
HM: Oh yeah, He practiced a lot. Yeah, man. He’d be in his room… He used to practice a lot.
TF: Do you know what he worked on?
HM: Just some things. Sometimes it would be a tune, then other times it would be some of the things with the octaves and stuff like that. Different things on different days. Whatever he felt he needed, he wanted to work on.
TF: Have you heard that quote where Wes says something like, “I never practice my guitar. From time to time I just open the case and throw in a piece of raw meat?”
HM: Well, I think I heard that quote too, yeah. But no, he practiced. He had a sense of humor too, you know? But he was always practicing. I know for a fact he was always practicing. I’d go out and come by his room and hear him, and I wouldn’t disturb him. He put a lot of time on the instrument.