Interview with Daniel Carter
By Nils Jacobson from All About Jazz
Tell me about anarchy.
It's funny, the word anarchy and anarchism, or anarchist... You know, there's a slightly different connotation, at least to my ear, between anarchy and anarchism...
To the people who would feel that anarchy would be disorder and things sort of going wrong, so to speak--wild rioting, overthrow of the government, or what have you--if you said anarchism, they might not feel quite as much that that's what it was. Although, who knows, maybe a lot of the people who respond to anarchy that way wouldn't use the word anarchism so much. It's a funny thing about that word.
I guess I was attracted to it in high school. In high school I had a Russian history teacher. You know, at this moment, I can't say for sure he mentioned the word anarchist, but it seems that somewhere in high school, and it was related to people who didn't think they needed a government, didn't think they needed someone to tell them what was the right thing, the "must" to do.
So there was a thing about overthrowing the government, which would be sort of treasonous. You'd be a traitor to your country if you tried to overthrow your country. But then there's this idea that the idea of democracy and anarchism (in its ideal sense) are not so far away from each other.
The idea of people freely associating, and deciding for themselves individually and collectively, what it is they want to do, rather directly... Might even be more of a democracy than a democracy, certainly as we know it. So I think there's a semantic problem in some people's ears, and I don't blame them. But for some reason I latched onto the anarchist idea, maybe because there is the misunderstanding, and it it could be interesting. Maybe even by the time I was born it had a little more bite to it, a little more of an edge to it, than the mere word democracy. But I think the real idea behind democracy, maybe even ideas that the founding fathers were not even prepared to try to realize because of their situation, is not so different from anarchism.
What's the problem with the democracy we have today?
I think there's too much... Probably Republicans would agree with me here, at least doctrinaire Republicans, because I don't believe they're really telling the truth a lot of times when they're saying "less government," because in certain ways there has probably been more government. More government has come about as a result of their policies.
And the Democrats' policies may be slightly different, but it seems like the government is largely an agent of the corporations, and a huge global financial industry. The democracy/anarchism that I would prefer would be a much more decentralized form. More rights. Give it back to the states. Of course, Democrats, if there are any left, or liberals, or progressives, or left-leaning people, humanists, or whatever, that give it back to the states was probably more synonymous with states' rights, relating to segregationist stuff, historically.
But what I mean by giving it back to the states, or less government, would be more decentralization. More grass roots. More the idea of the internet, non-hierarchical: no node on the internet being more important structurally than another.
Like with unions, I'm not studied on it, but what I've heard with unions... Some of the more progressive ideas in unions are not to be beholden so much to the central office, the central leadership. but to be more horizontal for each local branch to be in touch with each other local branch. And just trade ideas on that level playing field, across the board from each other. And of course they got a long way to go in the US.
Sounds like libertarianism...
Maybe, but it seems somehow... you've heard of Max Stirner? He's one of the prime movers, idea-wise. I got a lot of books on my shelf that I have to read more than three pages in. But I got the feeling that in this country, a lot of libertarianisms were sort of Republican in relation to money.
Motivated by business in most cases.
And I don't know how much those businesses would want to make sure that their investments, their products, and whatever else they do with their money, really promotes liberty in their own precincts. And say among people as fortunate as they, business and money wise, and property-wise.
I know that there's this guy, his last name is Gates. Not Bill, not Henry Louis. [Jeff Gates.] I wish I had my notebook, because I was going around telling people about this guy. I have to look in my notebook where I list the names of books. He was talking on the radio, and he was talking about capitalism, and he was saying that one of the problems with capitalism in this country, and probably in the world, is that there's not enough of them. In this country, there are probably only a handful of people who are benefiting from the profit, whereas the vast majority of us are wage-earners, if we're that. So all those wage-earners should be turned on to capitalism, and ask themselves, "Am I a capitalist?" Even though my vote may go in that direction, politically. "Am I one myself?" So I'm voting for this minority.
So I don't know how many libertarians might be like this Gates guy, and maybe to that extent it might be interesting to see... Maybe the universe is curved. Maybe space is curved to the point where the socialists ideally are coming from, and the capitalists, ideally in this sense, might hook up in a harmonious way. This Gates was saying there needs to be more ownership on the part of everyone. Whereas I guess the others are saying ownership should go to the state, and an anarchist might say there doesn't need to be a state. Maybe there's some point where all of this meets in a positively ironic, or paradoxical way.
Maybe some quantum physicist could help us out.
Who would get your vote for president?
Now there is a secret. Any of the choices they give, I would vote for none of the above. And that's where I think the voting system should be changed, so people can write in who they want. And I think that would be closer to democracy.
In terms of people who are out there, I feel very ignorant as far as who the various socialists are, who might have run for president... I know the Green Party, with Nader, of the visible ones... he would have been a better choice. And maybe if there could have been a coalition between the likes of Nader and... I don't know what happened with Jerry Brown, inviting marines out there to Oakland, and being tough on crime. I don't exactly know what that's all about. Before he went back into politics, he seemed like a good one for starters. But I think all of these people, to the extent that they are leaders, need to be shaken down in a rigorous anarchistic fashion. So they would know they are always truly (not just lip service)... It's the people they have to be constantly in touch with for their direction. And there have to constantly be referenda. All the things that people would say would make government too inefficient, too chaotic, too anarchistic, maybe, are the way to go.
I got this book...you know Gregory Bateson? He was Margaret Mead's husband, I believe. He had this book called Steps to an Ecology of Mind... there's another book called Ecology of the Mind, and I think it had a subtitle, something like 'by God,' and it was supposedly written by God. And God spoke through this guy's computer. Somehow this guy's computer was picking up on some stuff. And he had to search and see if this came from some weird file, or someone had gotten into his computer. I guess this was before the internet was as widespread as it is now. And sure enough the guy had to admit there was some entity, even if it wasn't God, but there was some entity that was speaking through his computer. And this entity said, "Take notes, save everything I'm giving you." And it really boiled down to the fact that God was trying to let us know that democracy really is the way, but not a democracy full of lawyer politicians. The milkman or farmer or truck driver could be better trusted. Anybody you know with a good heart in your neighborhood, or in your block, or in your building, who is trustworthy, would be a better choice than what we've got.
So what we need is more true decentralized grassroots democracy. And there doesn't even really need to be a president to be a democracy. That seems to be sort of this top-down idea. I'm sure it would be quite a chaos. The Europeans--even with our white male-founded democracy, with only white male property owners voting--the Europeans thought this would be chaos, this would be too unwieldy, even at that. So maybe what a lot of people now would say what I'm talking about now would be too unwieldy. But who knows.
Because in a way we're getting less people voting. How many people voted in the last presidential election? A large percentage did not vote, and apparently it keeps going in that direction... I would prefer to think that these people are voting too. They're voting by not voting. And you have to look to see what they are doing in their lives. And I would dare say that most American people, whether they officially are Republican or Democrat, or Independent --whatever, some other party--they are voting for material security. Even though they are probably working more hours, they're probably trying to steal some hours away for themselves and their family and their friends. More and more of them want to get cell phones and pagers and be on the internet. And if they have to work more hours, they want to have a guaranteed at least two-week vacation, where they can just get away from it all. And probably a lot of them would vote for not having to go to work for near as many hours to get the amount of money they've got. If we could find out from most people, they'd probably transform the government. You wouldn't have to look to any wild crazy anarchist who would want to totally innovate the government. Just the majority of the people...
How does this idea relate to the music?
It's been constant pet peeves for decades. How quickly someone wants to be the leader, or feels that they should be the leader! How quickly! And I guess some of my pet peeves are how little mosquitoes, and maybe sometimes the mosquitoes are big mosquitoes, come on the scene. And I don't think it's any kind of mean-spirited way, just sort of the way people have been trained and brought up...probably the people who they liked and loved in music were leaders. And I don't know how it got to be that by degrees in New York City since 1970, I would run the other way, rather than to be a leader or a sideman. Sometimes I get caught, I got caught recently, flatfooted, and I've participated in some things as a sideman. And I've been accidentally caught flatfooted being a so-called leader.
I just think that if the music is essentially people improvising--people playing spontaneously--then how could it be under somebody's name? And I can answer that question. There's that thing also left over that if somebody got the gig, then it should be under their name. I sympathize with how hard it is to get gigs, and I'm certainly guilty of being one who doesn't get gigs, so who knows? Maybe if I spent as much time as these people getting gigs, maybe I would be corrupted: "Hey man, this group is me! The name of this group is Daniel Carter!"
Most of the groups I'm in are collectives. Sometimes they've started out otherwise, and I've fought for them to be under a collective name, because that name... just as in the case of Jews and Muslims naming their children... some name that would be inspirational or aspirational for the whole group. So that when everybody is really throwing down, and there's all that blood on the tracks, they don't have it at all in their mind that this is not equally them as an individual as anyone else in the group. It seems to me that spiritually and energetically, it should work better for the group to do it that way.
But then you pay the price by not getting exposure, right?
It seems to me that if you can really stick to the group there, that there are other things that seem to happen. You might be part of numbers of groups, and the word gets around among musicians, and you start to get play different ways in concerts, and on potential recordings, and actual recordings happen. So I don't know... Of course, some people, the way they do in their career, so to speak, is that they are creatures of one or two groups, rather than 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10. I'm sort of a creature of 5,6,7,8,9, or 10 groups, so I can understand that maybe they feel that is spreading themselves out to thin.
It's a good question. Because you might ask yourself the question, "What is exposure for?"
I've seen situations where people were with quite prominent leaders, and they had difficulty getting anywhere. Because they were sidemen. So this idea of leader-sidemen seems to perpetuate leader-sidemen. It's almost like the system of hierarchical power in government seems to perpetuate the idea that the little man says, "When I get into the position, I'll become the boss, and have a lot of people working for me." Anyhow, on the subject of anarchism, have you heard of A Mica Bunker [now called the Bunker Series]? In New York City, operates out of the Knitting Factory, but it's been an organization for... I don't know man, it could be decades. So each group of people come in when they come in, and they may just not know the history of it. Like I don't know the history, but it goes back to actual anarchists. And I guess anarchists go back to the '20s, '30s, or before?
In Europe it was before the turn of the century. And some more than fifteen years ago, when A Mica Bunker was operating on East Ninth Street, one of the actual elder anarchists spoke to us, and he used the example of engineering. He said the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Engineers, electrical, mechanical, nuclear, civil, and now I guess you have computer engineers and spacecraft engineers--he said the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Engineers. They don't know it yet, but because of this talent, the inventivity that they have, the kind of ideas, their ability to manifest gizmos and devices from mathematics and pure science--to be able to apply this into inventions--that they don't really need a boss. They don't need a CEO. They don't need management. For us to think what kind of world it could be if you had decentralization, if all these engineers were turned loose to be able to talk and commune amongst themselves. To trade ideas freely. Speaking of secrets, they'd have to keep a lot of ideas secret because they now work for one corporation against another. He said, "One day they will realize that they don't need a boss." In good old anarchist spirit.
I didn't mention the writing that I've been engaged in, inspired by Melville, Joyce, many of the post-structuralists, probably. Derrida, Cixous, Foucault. Again, a lot of these people I read two or three pages from their books on my shelves. Just those words... Mallarme, Artaud. And Virginia Woolf. I think the feminists in general--because the feminists have taken a lot of inspiration from the post-structuralists (some of them anyway) and sort of run with that fire themselves... and had already run with that essential fire long before there ever were what we call the deconstructionists.
Something that would deconstruct these structures and these different words, and these power doctrines. I would say that in a sort of non-hierarchical kind of flash-by-flash way, words come to me and I put them down, sort of almost by themselves, and sometimes just letters. And see what the next word might be. And if there is no next word, leave a lot of space. The next word may not go with the previous word, so leave a lot of space and maybe at some other point a word comes in and builds it up like that.
Now there's a publication called Wandering Archives. These are some young guys. Have you ever heard of David Nuss? Have you heard of the No-Neck Blues Band? David Nuss and Jason Meagher are in the No-Neck Blues Band. Well Jason and one of his partners--a guy that is in that same community, Adam Mortimer--have collected some writings, and some artwork, and photography, etc., together in a lit-mag, or zine, called Wandering Archives. it's called Wandering Archive One 1998. 638 West 131st Street. N.Y., N.Y. 10027.
(You know David, by the way? He put out two vinyl recordings of the trio, Tenor Rising. Sabir Mateen plays tenor saxophone on both of those records, and on one of them adds electric organ. David Nuss and I play drums on both records. David is intensely instrumental in this and other important groundbreaking work.)
This publication has one of my pieces in it. I just was walking around with twenty pages of double-spaced stuff, and some of these No-Neck [Blues Band] people took an interest in it. It really made me feel good, because for the last 30-35 years I had been writing stuff, and I just never had the motivation to go into the thing of sending stuff in to be published. I had much more interest in writing and writing and writing, no editing.
Is this improvised writing?
It's related thereto, though somehow when you go into the realm of words you're going to get a lot of refraction. There is a certain dictation in a way that seems to come from the nature of words and letters. There's a whole tradition of that. And I listened to Omar Hakim talking on the radio. He said something pretty interesting about style. And I'm sure he means style and content, not just style. That related to Mallarmé and some of the post-structuralist stuff. The idea of inter-textuality, the idea that texts come from other texts. That Mallarmé was saying poems are not so much ideas as they are words, and Omar Hakim says that you develop your style from other styles. From checking out styles. So in the writing, like I said, my heroes and the way they touched me, writing-wise. But then you reach a certain point--with my heroes in music, and this is a similarity with the music--there seems to be a certain transformational point that you go over, a line that you go over where your methodology is very different from your heroes. The thing of TEST or Other Dimensions in Music, you just open up your instruments and you just start playing. Well, most of my heroes didn't do it exactly like that, as far as i know--though I'm sure that somehow, in essence, they might have done much the same thing if not more so because these folks remain my heroes.
Who are your heroes
Miles Davis, Charles Ives, Beethoven, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Dewey Johnson, James Brown, a raft of folks from the Hip Hop and Hard Core Punk cultures, Wayne Shorter, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Eliot Carter, Boulez, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Anton von Webern, Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, Alban Berg, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Mozart, Chopin, Mingus, Monk, Mahler, Wagner, Aretha, Morton Feldman, John Cage, Billie Holiday, Stockhausen, and a whole lots of others that I know and even more that I don't know, not to mention the people that I'm so blessed to work with... And then the countless many who just don't seem to have that name recognition. Because there's that danger with heroes that sort of runs counter to the anarchistic idea... Because I just think it all comes from the people. I think all these great names wouldn't be anywhere if it wasn't for some folks.
I agree with Kwami Ture, Stokely Carmichael. Like Kwami Ture, I don't believe in the great man theory, even though I'm talking about these great guys. Because with every great man (and they don't even hardly allow great women too much), they don't seem to have gotten anywhere without thousands and thousands of the so-called "little people."
What about Cecil [Taylor]?
Even though I worked with Cecil and Sam Rivers and Sun Ra.... See, that's the problem when you start listing people. One time they asked me for a resume, one of the things I hate most to have to do. One time I just sort of listed everybody I had played with in New York--just their names. And I know I left some people out there too. Just the usual luminary suspects, though of course I'm very, very blessed to have played with Cecil Taylor, Sam Rivers, and Sun Ra. But I'm also just as blessed to have played with the hundreds of others that I have played with through the decades. The People is mainly what's happening and the way the Spirit works through them.
As for Cecil, I wouldn't say because I played with him, because I played with him briefly. I played eight Sunday gigs with a larger band... it wasn't like playing in a smaller group. But even if I had played in a smaller group with him for 8 or 9 or 10 years, like William Parker or Rashid Bakr, I still would list him as one of the heroes. Because of him having stuck to his guns, and he's still doing it! Like the others, especially Coltrane.
I think there's something about when you're coming up, when you're 13 or 14 years old. Sort of that bar mitzvah age, starting to go through that rite of passage, declaring yourself. It's like these people--of course I didn't know all of those people at that young age--but all of the people sort of came in the wake of the people that I did know at that age, like Coltrane and Miles and Monk and Mingus and Brubeck, and Paul Desmond. Some people might be surprised. His name is hardly ever mentioned in the same breath as so-called avant garde or free jazz, except probably for Anthony Braxton. He loves Desmond, and what's not to love, right?
You know, I think there still is something, because we're only at the foot of the mountain of entertaining anything like a really true democracy, or a horizontal kind of thing. I certainly came up in the age where there were these leaders looming so great. And I have to say, "Wow! Yeah man, let me listen to Brubeck, Miles or Coltrane. Rather than let me listen to all these (equal) guys." So that's kind of a contradiction.
A lot of these guys are famous because they made a lot of records. That's the great paradox--you have to sacrifice the ideals you have in order to get the functional output.
Right. Most of the things of mine that have been able to be recorded of late have fortunately been musical collectives.
Tell me how it is playing on the subway or the street. Are people offended?
I've played in the street in New York since probably around '78 or so, and the most negative that I would say, relating to large percentages of people, would be that they were on their way from point A to point B, and they're not paying so much attention, it seems. But I might be wrong. And the last thing a musician would want to do is slight their audience.
I'd like to tell the truth about it. If they actually were clearly offended by it, I would like to have courage enough to say that it looks to me that this is the case: the expression on their face and the way they walk by, shows that they are offended... but it's really sort of ambiguous. It hasn't been clear all this time. Many of the people walk by and don't even hardly seem like they notice. But then there are a lot of people who do take notice, who are interested in it at least as some kind of a phenomenon. Like that they might not always associate with what they think of as music. Some people will actually come up--one of the beautiful things--and actually ask you honestly, without it being a put-down, and say, "What is this?" And some times I might be paranoid and look at is as a put down. Sometimes I sorta snap back and say, "What would you call it? What kind of music does it seem to be to you?"
And some times there might be a conversation and I'll tell them who and what influenced it. And some people come up and say, "Where can I hear more of this stuff?" And some people come up and say that they or someone that they know is getting married! Now that has not happened. But I'd really like to see what kind of wedding would invite this music. I wouldn't be surprised--you know how sometimes people get an idea, and they either forget about it, or they fold back into the hustle and bustle of their lives. This one woman was at an archaeologist convention or party or something, and she wanted TEST to play for it. She brought one of her colleagues down, and they talked about it, and they got conservative ("I don't know if this would be the appropriate place for it."). But she was really inspired by the group.
I'd say that in general, not just about people in the subway, but people in general... People may not be so familiar with the music. And if they have a moment to listen to it, there seems to be an increasingly positive response on the part of the people to this music. There's a whole range of different kind of musics for people to like, and different tastes. But that's one thing that helps the blues that a lot of the musicians that have been playing this music since the '60s might feel in New York. More recently--in the last ten years but accelerating in the last three or four or five years--there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the music. A lot of young people who seem to be busting outta rock and punk rock, and noise music, and different spontaneous musics... they seem to have a regard for what has evolved from the free jazz thing.
That's one of my campaigns, to try to see if more bridges can be built between those realms. Say if more free jazz people could return that respect. Just like in the early hardcore punk days, a lot of those hardcore punks were very good communicators among themselves, and therefore they have good audiences. And a lot of times they didn't benefit. It seemed like the clubs would benefit. But I think now, with the Vision Fest and all that kind of thing, if there could be that outreach to the younger waves of musicians. Even if it's not jazz per se: spontaneous playing, not against written or composed, but whatever this energy is, it seems to be related. Thurston Moore and Yoko Ono did some stuff down at the Knitting Factory. I heard that Roy Campbell and Thurston Moore participated in that. It seems to me that there could be a lot of good stuff with Thurston, Yoko, and waves of young people across the country. Have you noticed that yourself?
Talking about decentralization, that's one thing I noticed doing the tours with the Saturnalia string group down south, and the TEST tour organized by Michael Ehlers. Jonathan LaMaster did the Saturnalia Southern tour including Boston and NYC, and of course Matthew Heyner played bass on the tour. We saw largely young people organizing these places where we could play. In a lot of places, people who had day gigs, and that's a whole nother thing. We didn't talk about the media so much, but the media of the U.S. is not reflecting this kind of thing. If you extend that to not just music, but other aspects of life, I wouldn't doubt that there is a whole other U.S. out here that even the people who are out here in the forefront of these different activities just don't know about. Because we and our counterparts across the country are not being accepted by the media.
Are you familiar with Monk Magazine? These guys, the Monk brothers, took to the highway with their laptops. And they were writing, and they were sending to their friends and family for money, $20 here and $20 there to survive. And eventually they were able to cook up some interest on the part of some people who would publish this stuff and get it out further. You know, if you put a search out there, Monk Magazine. It's interesting along the lines of self-empowerment, mutual empowerment, along the lines of what you're really interested in. Sort of like Joseph Campbell's 'follow your bliss' kind of idea. Buckminster Fuller's 'synergy' and all that kind of stuff. Not just synergy for corporations, heh heh.
Tell me how you do the street/subway thing.
I played for the better part of a decade by myself, and probably even longer. Because I think TEST didn't get started in the street until the early '90s. So I played in the street. When I went out to play, it was in the three hour realm. I think three hours is a natural sort of time. When I first started, I'd go out all day, many days a week, but thankfully my wife had mercy on me. She said, "This is too much!" So by the time TEST came along...
In New York it seemed like there were more musicians who literally played in the street. Up along Fifth Avenue and in different choice places. And the choice places would be, depending on the loudness of your instrument, where you wouldn't disturb shopkeepers. Maybe some places were better where you wouldn't get chased away by cops, or disturb apartment-dwellers, and you'd learn what worked best. At a certain point when I was working on Madison Avenue and 42nd Street, a woman came up... she left this Music Under New York card in my box for an audition. Now, I thought to myself, "Why should I have to audition to play in the subway?"
The answer to the question would be that you wouldn't be hassled to stop playing. And also, if you're a street musician, you've have somewhere to play that's warmer in the winter. So I went in for that. I just played free, since I don't know any other repertoire. They let me in that. And I heard that became more exclusive, more crazy. People trying to get into that program. They'd give you a pass that would have written on it (you'd get it maybe every two weeks) where you'd play and for which hours.
Now, Tom Bruno is still active in the program. That's the way we play with TEST in Astor Place or Long Island Railroad or Times Square. It's because he gets one of these little passes. I'm still a member of it, but I've been mostly operating under Tom's membership. He's the one who's now communicating with Gina Higgenbotham from Music Under New York. That's the way that's going.
Did they ever shut you down for being too loud or whatever?
Once in a while the cops or somebody from the subway would complain. And that was one of the rules that we had to play by. Gina told us that if any shopkeepers, or subway officials, or cops, tell us to stop, not to argue. But generally there's communication between her and those other people to make it as hassle-free as possible.
You know, I tell you, the whole thing about playing in the street or the subway--you put your banner out and stuff like that... my critique would be "Why, in New York City, one of the world capitals of the music, and a veritable nation in itself (New York City has as large a population as some of the smaller nations of Europe)... why on earth can't we get some consciousness in a city like New York, some responsibility on the part of city government, to look out for its musicians, its artists, its writers, its dancers, its painters?!?" Having a Music Under New York program hardly satisfies what is needed. At the same time, many musicians might even almost perish if they didn't have the Music Under New York outlet. I still think, "Shame! Shame! Shame! on the town with Wall Street and Madison Avenue in it, and all the great real estate, and that stuff!"
Can you make money off of this?
I think that some of us are so poor that every two or three dollars that we get counts. I think, like Sabir said in Jazz Times, more importantly it's feeding the soul, rather than the pocketbook or anything like that. But at the same time every little dollar counts. Sabir and Matthew are out there with Tom a lot more than I am. When we started, Tom and me were out there duo a lot. When we had a good day out there, it would be in the realm of between $15 and $20, and that would be good for playing for 3 hours. Now it's more like $6 to $10 or $12 when I go out there with TEST. I'm talking about for each musician
But I don't think a lot of street musicians would call that good money. They can do much much much better than that. I don't know if it's rougher these years, but I recall people talking about making $35-40, maybe a hundred or sometimes even more than hundred dollars. I can't be certain..
But I guess we have to admit it's the music that we're playing. Another claim I'd like to put out there is that in New York City, with all the street musicians and subway musicians that there are, TEST is the only group that I know of that year in and year out has played this music in New York. New York, one of the capitals of this kind of music. I think, without hype, that that sort of distinguishes TEST within the category of free jazz, avant-garde. Where are the other avant-garde free jazz bands? They're all making more money elsewhere? I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to deal with the street, but TEST, in a big way, and Tom Bruno certainly has championed the vibration of the streets and of the subway.
What's the best time to play?
Tom and Sabir probably know the answer to that question more at this point. When I hook up with them it's at Astor Place, it's from the hours of 4 (officially 4, but we get rolling about 4:30) till 7. And the Long Island Railroad from 12 to 3.
The 4-7 would be a commuter hours, but 12-3 is the lunch hour? I know that there's other hours that Music Under New York will put you out that will be between the obvious peak hours. But I've been trying to wean myself away from playing the subway, and the only reason I play now out there is because of TEST. I was much more full time years ago. It was something that, after a while, I had as a goal in my mind that I would love to be free of it. If TEST could get free of it, I would like that. But at the same time, TEST is so much a creature of the subways and the streets. That music got developed on the streets and in the subways, much more than on the stage and in the studio. And one of our challenges now is, even though we're recorded now, to try to bring more of the spirit that we've been able to bring in playing in the streets and the subway.
Like that Eremite record with Bruno and Mateen.
Yes. I think, however, that I would put the word out to our supporters to come out here to NYC with a DAT machine into the subways or into the streets and record TEST in order to get that part of the music that we haven't yet been able to deliver over into "conventional" indoor performances/recordings.
We were just playing yesterday. A lot of times I don't necessarily get knocked out. Sometimes it's hard work to just keep on moving forward, but I've been genuinely been knocked out by the compositional aspects of what TEST is doing out there.
Carter: Underground Anarchist
By Nils Jacobson from All About Jazz
Daniel Carter is not exactly a household name. The Saxophonist/trumpeter has been making improvised music for decades, but he still remains largely unknown. Obscurity did not arise because he intentionally kept a low profile. Quite the contrary: hes worked with some of the most influential figures on the avant garde music scene, such as Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra.
In order to better understand the Carter phenomenon, one must appreciate his commitment to functional anarchism. Anarchism, according to Carter, represents the idea of people freely associating, and deciding for themselves individually and collectively what they want to do-- minus governmental interference or hierarchical social structures. His ideals may seem unrealistic in this era of big government and conservative social thinking, but Carter has made them the core of his career.
To actualize his vision, Carter seeks out collective groups where each member equally shares the responsibility of leadership. I feel most fortunate that most every group that I play in is a musical collective, he says. One of his most exciting recent projects is a free jazz quartet called TEST, which released its first record in 1999 after performing for seven years on the streets and in the subways of New York City. In the TEST collective, every player shares the burden of composition; the resulting music overflows with spontaneity and heartfelt personal expression.
To the extent that he has made anarchism his guiding philosophy, Carter has eschewed situations of hierarchical structure. By degrees in NYC since 1970, I would run the other way, rather than be a leader or a sideman, he explains. I believe that the Spirit is the leader. Unfortunately, jazz promoters and publicists usually look for groups led by individuals, in order to make it easier for them to get the word out to the listening public. By working in collectives, a musician pays the price of indifference from the people who control record contracts and performance scheduling. The net result: major challenges to his career.
But being excluded from the mainstream hasnt kept Daniel Carter from playing on the street in NYC since 1978. Carter played solo saxophone in various areas of downtown New York on a weekly basis for over ten years. While its not a lucrative business, street performance pays in the way that counts the most. Carter explains: I think some of us are so poor that every two or three dollars that we get counts. But, like Sabir [Mateen] said [in Jazz Times], its more about feeding the soul than the pocketbook.