Archive for williams

Meeting the Other Richard Williams, Dr. Richard Allen Williams!

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by pogo56

Back on a September night in Boston at Wally’s Café, I was playing with the band and in walks in a familiar-looking older gentleman wearing some dark shades and a Miles Davis tee shirt. He also had what looked like a trumpet case in his hand, ready to play! As it turns out I had met him in October of 2010 in Wilmington, Delaware at a Clifford Brown Tribute concert that we were both billed on. So I got off of the bandstand and reintroduced myself and invited him to the bandstand. His name was Dr. Richard Williams. We played a few tunes then we went on break.

During the break, Richard began telling me about his life in music. He was a classmate of Clifford Brown in Delaware. Clifford was a few grades ahead of him and during Clifford’s graduation he played an excerpt from the Carnival of Venice. Hearing this inspired Richard to become a better trumpeter and do the same thing at his graduation.

Richard later went on to study at Harvard University’s Medical School. Richard told me that for one of his projects at Harvard he decided to interview Clifford Brown. He went meet Clifford for the interview on an evening in late June of 1956. He said that the interview was a couple of hours and Clifford had to cut it short because it was getting late and he had a long drive ahead of him. That was the last time Richard saw Brownie alive because he, along with Beverly and Richie Powell passed away in a car accident.

Richard decided to join the music fraternity when he started at Harvard and one of his initiations was to go to see Miles at his performance in Boston and convince him to come to Harvard with his band for a concert.

Richard was familiar with Miles music and the players that were in his band at the time. At the concert in Boston Richard noticed that Miles had a new saxophonist in his band. Richard was taken aback by the style of this saxophone player and decided to go and introduce himself to Miles and ask him about his new saxophonist. So he approached Miles and asked him about this saxophonist (who turned out to be Trane, btw) and Miles replied, saying something to the degree of, “Why don’t you go and sit down and listen, you’ll probably learn something.” So Richard did for the rest of the concert and decided to go up to Miles at the end of the concert and talk to him about why he was really there. Miles actually agreed to bring the band to Harvard and that’s where Miles and Richard’s friendship began.

Sometime after finishing his studies at Harvard, Richard started a practice and had Miles as one of his primary clients. He said that he actually lived with Miles for a number of years. He relayed many stories about Miles that I never knew. He said that Miles had a thing for hair. If you knew Miles well, he would sometime run his fingers through your hair and ask if he could do your hair. He was also a visual artist as many of you may well know. Richard has many works by Miles including some illustrated ties that Miles made.

It’s always great to meet people like Dr. Williams, people who’ve actually lived the history of this music. It’s a constant reminder to me of how NEW this music is in relation to the age of other art forms.

Dr. Williams also has a record that’s available through cd baby! You can check it out by clicking on the picture below.

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Lenny the 25th

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2009 by pogo56

I’d like to introduce you to a very good friend and mentor of mine. I consider him to be one of the last living masters of this music that we call jazz. He plays drums and I place him in the same category of a Tony Williams or Roy Haynes (he actually knows both of them and would go over to Tony’s house and play drum duets with him when he was younger). Chick Corea considers him to be one of the world’s greatest drummers. I saw that quote in a magazine a few years ago. He taught at Berklee College of Music and he continues to educate and inspire many musicians worldwide via his vast collection of instructional/inspirational drumming videos.

His name is Lenny “The 25th” Nelson. He’s one of the nicest, humble, down-to-earth individuals that you probably have never met. I’ve known him for about eleven or twelve years. He frequents Wally’s Café on the weekends and every time he visits, we talk and I always asked him to play. He kindly refused up until about 3 or 4 months ago. We played Just One of Those Things and it was FAST!! Lenny’s a master at the uptempos. Here’s a video of one of his earlier videos, he has over 1,000 of these in his library:

Why is Lenny known as Lenny “The 25th”? I’ll tell but it’s a long story! I’ll give it to you.

Let’s go back to the opening of Spike Lee’s The 25th Hour in the theatres. So my wife (then girlfriend) Colleen are standing in line waiting to buy tickets. I look over my back and see Lenny with his wife and I asked him what they were going to see. He said they were going to see The 25th Hour. He was excited because he calls himself the 25th. I was a bit confused so I asked him why. He then gives me his business card. It has his name “Lenny the 25th”Nelson on it and nothing else. I chuckled a bit because I think that’s the first and only time I’d received a card with no number on it!

Now fast forward several years to this past Friday night. Lenny came down to Wally’s and I hung out with him on our set break. We started a conversation that somehow got to the subject of his childhood. He then tells me that he is the 25th BORN OF 26!!! The 26th child passed away at 1 year so Lenny got all of the attention. When he was born it was headline news here in Boston. President Roosevelt contacted Lenny’s parents because he wanted to send a TV crew to their home and document their home life. This would have essentially been the first reality tv show (forget John and Kate plus 8, lol). But Lenny’s mother declined. He then described living in a household of this size. Imagine sitting at a dinner table 20 yards wide every meal!!

Lenny was a celebrity here in Boston. He was recognized everywhere he went and a social magnet to all creeds and colors. Needless to say that after all of those years of living in the public eye, Lenny now enjoys a little solitude, but when he gets on the set, he brings everyone together.

Here’s a big CHEERS to Lenny “The 25th” Nelson!!

Jason Palmer