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Rashied Ali Quartet - 1972

In 1972, I hosted and co-produced a weekly half-hour television show called The Jazz Set. It started as a local production of New Jersey Public Television, but was soon picked up by PBS and aired over close to 300 stations, coast to coast. It is difficult for me to believe that these shows are almost forty years old, especially when I think about what the music sounded like and how people dressed that many years earlier, when I was one. Apropos looks, you will understand why I cringe at the sight of myself with long hair, smoking cigarettes as if my life depended on it. Well, I came to my senses a couple of years later and realized that my longevity did, in fact, depend on not smoking, so I quit.
I interview Rashied in the next post from this show.
Rashied Ali

Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to have copies of these shows made for myself, and I understand that the station wiped most of them to reuse the tapes. I did record a few off the air on my Sony U-matic machine, but this precedes cable, so the quality is rabbit ears poor. Still, there is something there worth taking in—if you don’t mind the saturation. The show featuring the Bill Evans trio somehow made it onto a Japanese LaserDisc and from there to YouTube, and parts of the Mingus show were used in the documentary, Triumph of the Underdog—they included the interview (I did a brief one on every show) but only used a part of one number. That documentary was produced (in the financial sense) and published by my late friend, Karl Emil Knudsen, but the guy who physically produced it ripped him off. The Jazz Set tapes used in that documentary came from original tapes, 13 of which are reportedly housed at the Library of Congress.  I wish I could get copies for myself. 

Carlos Ward
The set was built to look like a club, complete with bar, bartender, and a vintage jukebox that we filled with great stuff—it was probably the hippest box in New Jersey. Each week, we invited people to become “patrons,” but there were a couple of occasions when we had to scrounge around and recruit some of the station’s office staff. To some people, this all looked so real that we received letters and cards from around the country asked for the club’s address—viewers who were planning a visit to New York wanted to come to the club. After all, it featured some of the best players in any land!
Dave Burrell

Sirone and Carlos
I should mention Peter Anderson, whose concept the series was. He was co-producer, director, and a great guy to work with—he even got the sound right. Laura Nyro once told me that she did not like to do television, because the technical focus always favored the visual and thus musical performers were often seen but barely heard. Peter made sure that The Jazz Set had the priorities right. He treated each show like a recording session—guest artists were asked to run through a number, listen to a test audio recording, and approve of the balance. I’m afraid that my airchecks don’t reflect that approach, but the original tapes did.

Here is the opening selection from a show where the week’s guest was drummer Rashied Ali, whom we lost so unexpectedly last year. He was a sweet person, fine drummer, and close associate of John Coltrane, who had many nice things to say about him. This Ali quartet comprised pianist/composer Dave Burrell, bassist Norris “Sirone” Jones, and, on alto and flute, Panamanian-born Carlos Ward. I couldn’t think of the title of this number, but it is a Coltrane compositionI will soon be posting other selections from this show, as well as the interview segment.

The regular YouTube link may not work (my fault), but this one ought to get you there: link to the video.

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful! Thank you for posting this amazing document. The piece is "Leo," btw.