Pure Jazz Magazine covers the music called Jazz from a very unique perspective not seen in most publications.
a New York magazine- if you were to describe Tulsa and any facts about how the music started here, how would you do that? Chuck: Tulsa was a bouquet of great jazz musicians. In the early days, we talk about New Orleans being the birthplace of Jazz, and for the most part it is recognized as such, with Louie Armstrong leading the way. However, Oklahoma musicians played an important role in its heyday too, because we had a number of beautiful musical flowers - a bouquet, if you will, of outstanding talent that came from the state of Oklahoma – I mean these guys were blooming all over the place here. Aduni: Wow. Chuck: So you can catch that image. Aduni: Yeah. Chuck: And they were just popping up and blooming – like “Oh wow, Earl Bostic,” “Oh wow- Howard McGee.” “Oh wow – oh wow – oh wow.” So we had Jimmy Rushing, you know “Mister 5x5” – five feet tall, and five feet wide from OKCity. Aduni: (Laughing) Chuck Cissel Chuck: Considered one of the great, if not the greatest blues singer ever, with the Count Basie Orchestra. And then you had Count Basie who was right down here (pointing to the south wall in the room we were located, but further down on Greenwood) at the Smalls Hotel back in the day… Page 24 - Pure Jazz Magazine he heard the Blue Devils band play, so the Blue Devils band was here in the Oklahoma territory, and there were territory bands back then. Aduni: Okay. Chuck: So out of that you had, you know Prez, Lester Prez Young, who of course named Billie Holiday – “Lady Day”, and she called him, “The Prez.” He played with Count Basie. So we have a lot of artist… But the list really does go on, and I mean when Count Basie heard the Blue Devils, and Bennie Moten, what was his name – those guys – it was all here (again pointing further down Greenwood), but that whole impetus moved into the Kansas City area. Which created the whole Kansas City jazz scene – and there was work there – there was work in Kansas City, there wasn’t enough work here. Of course you know we have the Ernie Fields of the world. We have Ernie Fields, Sr., and we have Ernie Fields, Jr, both have been inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame. That’s the only combination I can remember that were both inducted a father and son duo. But I just look at it as a bouquet of flowers, you know roses and carnations, just popping up… And great – great talent all the way around, I mean saxophonist, and let me see – Oh – Cecil McBee – bass player, right here from Booker T. Washington High School, Oscar Estell, Hal Singer, Earl Bostwick, even blues singer, Ray D. Rowe…Who was a part of our little era. Floyd Wiley, have you ever heard of Floyd Wiley? Aduni: Yes. Chuck: The great - great organist, and pianist – gospel. Floyd Wiley, and then Pat Moore in that same mode… was a jazz performer as well… and so when you think about Oklahoma back in the day, those guys were instrumental in promotion and the elevation of Jazz in this country. And then you know people like Howard McGee (jazz bebop jazz trumpeter), and Oscar Pettiford…the great jazz bassist, who was also the first cello – jazz cellist …the first - was here from Oklahoma and they were right there with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and the creation of the “cool jazz/bebop” – that whole phenomenon that happened there. They were right there with those guys from Oklahoma. They went to New York city, as a matter of fact, Oscar Pettiford was mentored by Quincy Jones, and when they all got on a bus headed to New York City, Quincy Jones was up under Oscar Pettiford, and I can remember Quincy telling the story in his book that they went to some club and they said, “You kids are too young”, and he said, “I’m with Oscar” and so they said, ‘Oh – come on in.” And he said he had the pleasure of meeting Billie Holiday for the first time, because of Oscar Pettiford. And he was his mentor – the guy who pushed him into the trumpet playing, and encouraged “Q” to arrange and compose and as a bandleader later on – that’s Oscar Pettiford with Quincy Jones. He was like a surrogate father, and so you know a lot of the talent came out of Oklahoma really affected the American music scene period. And even before that the music that was out of the slave period was gospel and spiritual music which led into the blues music, most of jazz has a blues base foundation to it, you know – A lot of artists from Oklahoma played in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Count Basie – the Oklahoma guys. Aduni: So – what got you into entertainment? Chuck: Well you know I grew up in a home where – I don’t remember the television until I was – in junior high school, maybe a little earlier, because I do remember watching cartoons in black and white, but we played lots of music. Aduni: So you were about twelve, thirteen? Chuck: Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, but we played music, so I heard Louie Armstrong, I heard Nat King Cole, I heard Billie Holiday, I heard Sarah Vaughn, I heard Ella Fitzgerald, so we –Sammy Davis Jr., even Harry Belafonte – Red Fox and his crazy jokes – I heard all of that. They were called “race records” back then, and my Dad – you know the way those guys drank back then… Aduni: (Laughing) Chuck: They always had music…And it was the music of the day, and it was jazz. That was long before, you know it evolved into R&B. But it was jazz, and so I was deeply affected by that, but even now I feel like I’m “old school”. When I took over the Jazz Hall of Fame and began singing the music of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, and all of those great artist of the day, it was true to my spirit, it was true to who I am because that’s my foundation. Aduni: Yeah, I was going to ask you do you feel as if the current jazz culture has
changed and what you feel about that? Chuck: Well you know everything evolves, we as people evolve, the culture evolves, I can remember when we went through the Black Power movement, and then that kind of vanished. I can remember when Jazz was big, when big bands were big and that faded away to small ensembles, more Club dates rather than big Halls where people would come out (pops his fingers) and just dance and jitterbug. All of that stuff has its moments and then it fades. And today’s music, I think of a lot of the young people would pay closer attention and ive a great amount of respect to those who have come before them. I’m a firm believer that you must know where you have come from, in order to know where you are going. Aduni: Know where you are going - right. Chuck: These kids don’t know - I talk to kids all the time used to do it quite a bit, in high school, Jr. High School and elementary schools, and you ask them, do you know who Duke Ellington is and they look at me like… Aduni: Right. Chuck: Once there once the whole Stevie Wonder thing to go over and everybody was going to have their own band - and do all of that - you don’t have any bands, you don’t have any young piano players, you don’t have young saxophonists, you don’t have young vibraphonists, you don’t have harp players – there are so many things that kids just - they are all about trying to figure out how to make a turntable scratch, and do hip hop… In our day, we were creative, we were told to create, we had teachers who – and that’s another great thing is during that period, we had great educators who pushed and motivated us toward excellence. Aduni: Right. Chuck: Educator, Zelia N. Breaux from Oklahoma City, influenced Jimmy Rushing, and Charlie Christian, another great pioneer Chuck: Yes, all of those people. Aduni: (Laughing) Chuck: Pushed and pulled, “Come on – come on now” (in the voice of our teachers) “Let’s get on it.” Aduni: And rise to excellence. (Laughs) Chuck: Yeah it was always about excellence. I don’t know if we get that today, and then of course we grew up in a segregated time. They looked out for us. Aduni: Right. Chuck: And then there were people who went to church with you, who also taught you. And so it was an extended family from your mom and dad, to your teachers, to your church. And then if you performed in church and sang in the choir, you were getting it there as well. You were inspired, Aduni: You’re kidding me, not even Duke Ellington? Chuck: But I said, “Those people that you love so much, they owe their careers to these people who have come before them. See Lena Horne paved the way for a Diana Ross, she paved the way for Beyoncé. And Nat King Cole paved the way for anybody who wanted to sing, including Donny Hathaway. Aduni: Right – right. Chuck: He opened those doors, and made it an expansive thing for record companies to look at and say – yes we can make money with these artists, and so now-a-days I am heart-broken because we don’t have the greats around – thank God for Wynton Marsalis, but he can only do so much. So here in the Midwest, and even out on the West coast it’s kind of bland now. You don’t have the artist name recognition anymore; big cats that everybody used to go hear, and play - they are gone, or at this point they can’t play. There’s not been enough young people to catch the fire, and keep it going. Even at Booker T they have a Jazz Ensemble, but you don’t have young bands, young kids in their own band. When I was coming through, everybody had a singing group, or there was somebody in a band – of the guitar - jazz guitar, and then of course guitarist, Barney Kessel followed him from Muskogee, but I mean these guys had people who – like us – Mrs. Inez Black, Mr. Clyde Yeldell, even before… Aduni: Elmer Davis. Chuck Cissel you were singing different kinds of music too. It’s just – it’s so different. I went to Carver Middle School, and spoke at their Black History Month Program, and I was just blown away. I said, “Where are the little boys?” “There are no young men in this chorus class, no young boys?” “Oh no, Mr. Pure Jazz Magazine - Page 25
“That’s how music behaves. Ther
Thelonious Monk would be turning 10
So, where was he and why “postmod
Pure Jazz Magazine - Page 83
Jasmine Morris displays her Young L