The Soul of Trombone — Grachan Moncur III

Grachan Moncur III

Grachan Moncur III
BY Grachan Moncur III
(Mosaic Records, 2004)

GRACHAN MONCUR III was born on June 3, 1937 at Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, and was raised in Newark, New Jersey. He is a jazz trombonist and composer. He is best known for two albums he recorded for Blue Note Records in the early 1960s, Evolution and Some Other Stuff. These albums established Moncur’s reputation as a composer as well as an instrumentalist, and mark Blue Note’s first forays into what was coming to be called “avant-garde” jazz. His music spans the Black Arts Movement with which he was associated in the 1960s, through the 1970s when the economic bottom fell out of the jazz economy, and has recorded in the past several years, most recently 2007’s Inner Cry Blues.

This interview seeks to give a more nuanced understanding of Newark’s jazz culture, which was often synonymous with Newark’s African American community, and in hope of fostering a stronger appreciation and understanding of Grachan Moncur’s work and art.

October 19, 2011
Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey

Where are we and who am I talking to?

We’re here at Rutgers University in Newark and you’re talking to Grachan Moncur III.

How did you get your first name, or how did your father get his first name? It’s an unusual name. Do you know?

Uh, there’s quite a history with that name and my family, but I’ll just go for the time being, we’ll start from the Bahamas. My father’s father was Bahamian. He was the first Grachan and then my father was the second, but he was mostly known as “Brother.” People hardly knew his name was “Grachan” until I started recording because all the musicians of his era knew him as “Brother,” Brother Moncur. They didn’t know he was Grachan until the third came out. That’s pretty much where it began.[1]

And where did your mother’s people come from?

All of my people from my father’s side were from Florida and the Bahamas. The people from my mother’s side were from Newark, her mother and her mother’s mother. So my father came from Miami up here and met my mother.

When were they born and when did they die?

Let’s start from when they met and got married. They met in Newark. They got married. At the time when I was born, my father was working at the Savoy Ballroom and my mother happened to go up and visit him. So she came to New York from Newark to visit him one weekend and I guess those happy feet at the Savoy kind of urged me to want to come out, you know? I decided to come a couple of months early, so I was born a preemie in New York only because it was up to my mother. I was born in New York at Sydenham Hospital, which I’ve very proud to say. I told my mother that was the best things she ever did for me, that I could I say I was born in New York. I was very grateful about that. Although I was raised in Newark, I was born in Sydenham Hospital on Manhattan Avenue and 122nd Street.[2]

I live on Manhattan Avenue, further down, near 119th Street.

So, anyway, that’s how I came. At an early age my mother… want to know a little history about my mother, something like that?

Sure… whatever you want to talk about.

It’s kind of interesting because my mother inherited a beauty salon at a very early age. I think she started working when she was about eleven years old in this beauty salon. And I think at the time it was called “Theatrical Beauty Salon” and she inherited that beauty parlor with that name and until she died she kept that name.

Some Other Stuff

Some Other Stuff
BY Grachan Moncur III
(Blue Note Records, 2009)


BY Grachan Moncur III
(Blue Note Records, 1963/2008)


aco dei de madrugada
BY Grachan Moncur III
(BYG Records, 1969)

Where was that?

The “Theatrical Beauty Salon” was on 18th Avenue, near Spruce Street. So what happened was she started working for this older lady, I think her name was Mrs. Wardell. I guess she was very happy about how enthusiastic my mother was and my mother showed a little bit of talent. So, to make a long story short… she started doing hair. By the time she was thirteen, the owner started preparing her to take over the shop, because she was going to retire. Before my mother was fifteen she inherited the shop, so she inherited the shop before she had a working permit; you had to have a working permit. She had the job, so as soon as she became fifteen she got the working permit and a license. So it was legitimate. She started the “Theatrical Beauty Salon.” Before my mother took over, I think a lot of theatrical people frequented that shop. My mother inherited a lot of those kinds of customers. My mother, later, when she was sixteen or seventeen, met my father. All of her life she was really close to Sarah Vaughan. Sarah and her went to high school or grammar school, or both. Sarah was like my aunt. My mother was with Sarah from the day she got the gig at the Apollo until the day she died in California, she was at her bedside. They were like sisters.[3]

I grew up in a very musical atmosphere…. At a very early age I was exposed to a variety of entertainers…. I was exposed to a world that was so rare… I didn’t know… all I knew was I had a very beautiful childhood.

Sarah and my mother, being that they were very close, and my father a musician, I guess they were all close in business and stuff. I grew up in a very musical atmosphere. When I was two or three years old, my father was recording with people like Billie Holiday, and working with big bands, even some of the white bands like Paul Whiteman. The Savoy Sultans had disbanded and he started freelancing with different groups. At a very early age I was exposed to a variety of entertainers. All my life. I would say… by the time my mother had the beauty parlor on 18th Avenue, we had a two-story house. I’m not sure if my mother was the owner, but she owned part of the house. What I do remember was that after we moved down there, the next most significant place that I remember growing up was on High Street; she bought a house on High Street, and this was at a time when the whites were moving out. We were about the third black family to have a house on High Street. We were opposite the Krueger’s Mansion.[4] Some of the Krueger family was still there. I remember 602 High Street was a very popular house; because the beauty parlor was in the basement. Dinah Washington… Dinah didn’t come much to the beauty parlor, but my mother worked for her as a cosmetologist. She was more than a hairdresser; she developed styles for entertainers, like hair color way back before that was fashionable. She went to Paris and learned haircutting and hair color. She was very advanced and a lot of people catered to her because she was very updated and very modern. So I was exposed to a world that was so rare… I didn’t know… all I knew was I had a very beautiful childhood. I had my chores… we had a fifteen-room house; I was an only child for seventeen years, so I had a lot of responsibility to keep the house clean. But I had an allowance, so I was pretty cool.

When I was nine years old, my father came in with a trombone.

So, you didn’t pick the trombone?

Well, when I was six he had bought me a cello. I didn’t show too much interest in the cello.

That’s interesting because I think David Baker, who played trombone and switched over to cello, said the positions are somehow relatable, and that middle sound.

Yes, the trombone and cello are very similar. But I never really… my concept of string playing never really developed. My wife is a better string player than I am. She can play the violin; she had played the violin in school, and guitar, and bass even. My father was going to give her all the basses when he passed because he wasn’t going to leave them to me. She was good with strings. 602 [High Street] was a very nice experience for me. The people who came through there were really stars… I was a kid. They looked at me as Brother and Ella’s son. Dizzy Gillespie would come through, Rudy [Williams] would come through, Redd Foxx… Redd Foxx would sleep on our couch; that was before he was making any really big money. My mother let him crash at the pad so he wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel. The only hotel he could stay in at that particular time was the Coleman Hotel.[5] It was owned by the Coleman Brothers, a gospel group. They had their own hotel; a black family had their own hotel, their own record company, their own radio station. They were very interesting. Any entertainers who came to town would stay at the Coleman Hotel. A lot of my friends in middle school knew I was into music; especially when I got the trombone they knew I was kind of serious. They said: “Oh, you’ll automatically make it.” They knew my mother and father knew everybody. But that was not the case. That had nothing to do with it. None of the stars that ever came to my house had anything to do with my development. I developed totally on my own through my own resources from beginning to end. You would have thought a lot of people would think… you take somebody like Natalie Cole, because Nat was her father, that she would make it, but I’m sure Natalie had to show her own wares to get where she went. You can’t ride somebody’s shoulders; you’ve got to have your own talent.

Do you think your mother’s modern sensibility affected how you understood what music could be?

I think her enthusiasm for me to pursue my dream helped me believe in myself. She was great. She was a no-nonsense kind of person. I don’t think she would lead me on if she didn’t think that I had talent. She was enthusiastic; she let me try to develop. And so was my father. He definitely tried to put me on the right track. He was about no tricks and no easy way in. He was a no-shortcuts guy. You know what I’m talking about? Although one of his buddies got me my first gig, it had nothing to do with his influence. His buddy liked my enthusiasm and knew I wanted to play. His buddy was Leon Eason, a big trumpet player from Newark. As a matter of fact, we used to call him “Little Pops” because he played like Louis Armstrong. He was so much like Louis. Really. My father got to know him when he was at his peak, because unfortunately, he was an alcoholic. And he had lots of good books, but he had problems with life. He could never reach the stardom part. But he still maintained his musicianship till the end. He was a great inspiration to me. I knew how great he was, and he knew I was into a more modern type of venue. He saw my seriousness. A lot of times he put me on a gig and he’d be at the bar drinking; not that he couldn’t play, but I’ll never forget him — he gave me more money than I ever got in my life. The first gig I was eighteen or something. I think he gave me $35… most guys were getting like $7 and $10. [laughs]

what happened with the beauty shop and the community on High Street?

My mother and father decided; my father developed a group in Newark, it became a house band at Club 83, it was called Club Len & Len. It was organized by some professional Negro baseball players.

From the Eagles?

I don’t remember exactly. Len Hooper. They were all professional ballplayers. I think it was a Negro team. They got this club together. My father held a gig there for about eight or nine years. For some reason my father wanted to go back to Florida. For one thing, the house was getting to be unmanageable — the taxes and stuff like that. My father and mother felt like it might be a little easier in Florida. So they sold the house. This was around 1955 or 1956.[6]

So they left Newark prior to the uprising or riots…

Yes, they weren’t here. In 1967 they were in Florida.

But you were here?

I was here. I was here; as a matter of fact, the night of the riot, I was on my way to Canada. And… Baraka and some of his people came by my pad. See, a lot happened during that time. John Coltrane died. You know? I remember when I was in Canada, the first or second night that I opened there in Toronto, we got the word that Trane had died and I had just left Newark. But Baraka came over to my house during the riot… I don’t know if I should say all that went down, but anyway. He came by; a stop before they were doing their thing. I was on my way to Canada, but I stopped to entertain them for a while and I went downtown. On my way downtown to Penn Station or wherever I was going to get the bus and I was dodging and it was weird… very weird. I had my horn and was trying to get out of town. The first night of the riots.[7]

We had the whole spirit of what was going on in the world… Civil Rights, the Sixties… the revolution… that whole energy. The whole thing. We were uncontainable.

But, another fast forward, and this is weird… I don’t know how… in 1967 I met my wife before she became my wife. I went to Europe with Archie Shepp. This was the first, either the JVC or the Newport Jazz Festival had gone to Europe. For the first time it was taking it from Newport to an international tour. And Miles Davis was the head of the show. Everybody was on the show. Sarah Vaughan. The Thelonious Monk Big Band. It was a hell of a show.[8]

And we were the cats: we had Archie, Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Garrison, and Beaver Harris. That was the group. We went over there and tore up Europe. We had the whole spirit of what was going on in the world… Civil Rights, the Sixties… the revolution… that whole energy. The whole thing. We were uncontainable. Nobody could do nothin’ with us… Miles, no one. Miles was very angry at us; they changed our spot to last because we would get a standing ovation that would last close to a half an hour. And that would cut into the time for them to come on, you dig? So they changed our spot to last. After the tour was over we stayed four months after; one club called Le Chat Qui Pêche in Paris. Madame Ricard was the owner, a very old lady, and she owned a club called Le Chat Qui Pêche, which means the little pussy cat.[9] It was the most prominent jazz club in Paris. We stayed there six weeks.

You said that the band had the spirit of the Sixties, in a sense, the power and enthusiasm. Do you think your music has something to say about the social disturbances of the Sixties?

I’ll put it like this: it wasn’t my music… I was playing with Archie Shepp.

I know he’s a political cat.

See I was a part of that. I want to make this clear: I am a jazz artist. I don’t want to pretend to be something that I’m not. I have been involved with groups that were considered revolutionary groups. That’s because…uh, I had a hard time. It seemed the younger generation embraced me; I was the first trombonist to be identified with the avant-garde. Even though I played with mainstream cats, hardboppers, I had created a form of music to put the trombone in that music. You know. I’m not saying I was the first one to do it, but I was the first one to have major exposure. Therefore, in Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia it was written that I was the first trombone player of the Sixties to be identified with the avant-garde jazz. It didn’t list anyone’s name but mine. The reason is because my exposure, that it was on Blue Note, which was the main jazz company in the world at the time. That gave credibility to the avant-garde and opened the door for several of the avant-garde pioneers such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor and Eric Dolphy to record on that label; they knew my music and the groups that I recorded as guinea pigs to find out that that kind of music worked. They was ready to tear at me. After they saw what I did on Some Other Stuff they was ready to kill me! Because Alfred was out of town when I recorded that and Frank Wolff was the A&R person. Alfred wanted to kill me. [Imitates Lion in a German accent] “Are you crazy… you recorded that?” [laughs]

Oh, man. They found out that all of my music was already published in my company, they really didn’t like that![10] They dropped me like a hot potato.

They didn’t ask you to record again?

That’s right. They dropped me like a hot potato…. I recorded with other people a couple of times; but before that they wanted to sign me exclusively. I was rewarded when they did that. I didn’t do that to be funny. I put my music there about a year before I even started recording with them. That was done behind a young lady that was my friend at the time and she was working for Marv Davidson’s lawyer, Harold Levett, and Bruce Wright who was a lawyer at the time before he became judge. Remember they called him “Turn ’em loose Bruce”?[11] You don’t remember that. And my company was set up at the same time as John Coltrane’s company, Jocal, Cannonball’s, and everybody’s, so I just thought it was the natural thing to do. Now, all those cats were considered to be really well-established musicians; “You’re just coming on the scene and you’re telling me….”

I know you were planning a record with Monk and Art Blakey and maybe Woody Shaw. That was a travesty that Blue Note didn’t go for that. It would have been a classic.

Oh, man! Honest to God. We had a three-way conference call, because I told Monk and Blakey, “I have this music and I want you guys on this date” and they had heard Evolution and Monk went for it because Monk loved “Monk in Wonderland” that I wrote for him. He told Nellie that, he told Nica. That was his favorite tune that anyone wrote for him, that he really liked. I think those cats would have brought something, they would have carried my music.

It would have been amazing.

I mean, I was so surprised that they were so receptive to want to do it and to prove it they said: “We’re going to call Alfred now.” Alfred said, [imitating German accent] “No, man. No, Grachan. You’re doing something different. What they’re doing is not the same thing!”

Man, what a shame. Do you have that music? The music you would have done?

I have not recorded it. I only recorded one piece of it. That’s a piece that I did recently that I recorded in California with a group called Inner Cry Blues.

I have that CD at home.

Right, OK, “Hilda” was one of the pieces[12] that I wanted to use.

You sang on that, too…

Inner Cry Blues

Inner Cry Blues
BY Grachan Moncur III
(Lunar Module Records, 2007)

Not on “Hilda,” but on two tracks, “Sonny’s Back” and “A for Pops.” But we didn’t have a budget or time for me to do it over; I think I could have been better. Another thing about that date. I didn’t know what to bring because the only thing I heard of these guys was what they sent me and they sent me a whole CD of originals.[13] You can’t tell how people play on all original tunes. You’ve got to hear a guy play on either a standard or a ballad to really know how he plays. I didn’t know what to play, so I just brought a whole book of stuff and we didn’t have so much time to rehearse. I heard right away that they had a group sound of their own, so I thought more like a composer than I did as an instrumentalist and as a musician. I just utilized their sound, and it was kind of difficult for me to put my thing in there because their whole thing was coming from a totally different thing, rhythmically and sound-wise. It was two sets, so I had to play my trombone on an eggshell, but they followed me well on the freer pieces. It’s just that our conceptions were so different on the inside pieces, like “A for Pops,” which are very demanding chords and “Sonny’s Back,” which is straight ahead blues. It might sound like it, but it’s not straight ahead like the New York type that I could get some use from. You see what I’m saying? But I thought their musicianship was great, especially because they let me lead the band and they did the best they could and they really came off good. I don’t think East Coast musicians would have did any better on the freer pieces, “Hilda,” “Inner Cry Blues,” the freer pieces… they knew how to play collectively and follow. I really… that’s something that East Coast cats don’t have like the West Coast cats.

Now, you said something about Miles’s reaction to this band you had in Europe, but I know that Williams, Hancock, and Wayne were in this group before they were with Miles.

That’s right!

So, he was listening to this, or was aware of them or what?

I heard Dingo and think he definitely heard Evolution, because Dingo… [hums the tune]… Da-Da-Da Dee-Daa. Da-Da-Da Daa-Dee. Anyway, I heard “The Coaster” in his Dingo record. Dingo wasn’t the most popular record. Ever heard Dingo by Miles? And he’s got something, Sean, very much like… And I heard…. The thing is, uh, I know for a fact that those cats [Williams, Hancock, and Shorter] did their best work with me. Anything they did after is after the fact. They have done nothing… I haven’t heard anything more creative from Dingo… there’re different chord changes, but there’s not one thing… they did their most creative stuff on that [Some Other Stuff].[14] You know? And Miles and them, it must have impressed Miles because Miles got the whole band and stayed with ‘em till the end, you know? But, uh, as a matter of fact, somewhere on the Plugged Nickel date, they actually played “The Twins.”[15] I mean, Wayne started it and then they all got into “The Twins.”

I have to listen for that; I didn’t make that connection.

And I told Cuscuna that and he sent me the Plugged Nickel things and I didn’t hear it.

That was a lot of music. I don’t know. I’m sure you’re right.

I didn’t hear it in what he sent me, but I know I heard it. But I heard it over the radio and they were playing tapes… it could have been the raw tapes. You know what I mean? But I did hear them indicate “The Twins.” But that stuff, uh, I’m in a totally different place now. I hear that instruction now. Like the “Hilda” that you have, when I first played “Hilda” with Marion Brown, I didn’t play it the way…

I love his music too.

Tony played “Hilda” with me to. Man! We used to play “Hilda” and “Blues for Donald Duck” and man, we got some shit out of that was like psychedelic shit! That shit was like [gestures wildly with his hands]. That has never been recorded! I mean, it was recorded on one of those old time things, but never professionally recorded. Let me tell you something, if I ever get a chance, man. People have not heard, they have not heard my music. Because back there I had an opportunity… these were fantastic musicians [referring to the musicians on Evolution and Some Other Stuff] where they copped very quickly… we did everything Bip! Bam! Boom! Bip! Bap! But can you imagine since then where I’ve had time to think and analyze that shit and come up with different shit since then? Man, if I get anywhere near some musicians to do like updated versions of stuff! I believe it’s going to happen, like this trip I’ve got coming up. Hopefully the next couple of gigs I have might blossom into something. Yeah, you know.

What do you think about recognition? I want to know why… I think your music should be better known to jazz people, or people in general. Why do you think your music is not better known?

My uncle [Al Cooper] told me years ago before he passed away. He said, “Grachan, it’s a damn shame when you made those records initially. Those records are classic records. You were so young; you didn’t have any guidance and you were thrown out there and you automatically became competition to your peers.” And so you were out there by yourself and with no guidance and all your peers, most of them got guidance from various sources, like Miles with Herbie Hancock; they got a whole lot of sheltering. Miles protected them in a lot of ways and kept them on the right tracks, and the experience of working with him for so long automatically… put one and one together yourself.

But you know…. It beats the hell out of me. The only thing I can think of, man, this music is maybe not for… maybe it belongs to God… maybe it’s something different. I don’t know. Because I feel great. I’ve realized… I’ve been through so much stuff, man. Ups and downs. I’ve had the most glorious stuff, life in the world, the most beautiful everything, and some of the most ugly shit. And, I’m at a point now where it’s hard to describe. I mean, even though… I’d love to see dealing with Herbie and Wayne and them cats, and I’d like to get that kind of recognition. Then again, I like being able to do what I want to do. You know…

No pressure…

Yeah. I’ve seen what’s happening with them. I’ve seen them recently in the White House, playing [makes a gesture and face to show astonishment]. The last time I saw them on the television at the White House and Wayne was pushing Roy Hargrove up to play, to do all the playing. Like he was ashamed to be there. Like he didn’t want to play. Herbie, they didn’t play nothing but “Watermelon Man” and Herbie put everything in “Watermelon Man” that he knew. I mean, he played so much on “Watermelon Man” like he was playing for his life. And that’s what he had to do. Something didn’t make me envy that.

I see what you’re saying; when you’re in front of President Obama and everything…

That’s the biggest thing you can do, and this is what’s up? Come on, man.

Is there any interest in them to do something again with you?

I have no idea. Let me tell you something, man. The world is so weird. Like I want to tell you something. When I heard Bobby McFerrin the other night… WBGO played him for about an hour. This new thing he has with voices… it’s very pleasant.[16] I love Bobby McFerrin. But ever since he made “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” it’s like he got lost. In other words, they don’t know what to do with him. I mean, he’s probably making much more money than me; he’s more prestigious. I see him on Channel 13, and so on and so on. But…. I don’t get it. He’s probably got a good manager that keeps him in things and the money comes in and the gigs that he gets are top notch. That’s the story of my life. Everything I do is great! I just don’t do a lot. You know, I’ve got a great family, I’ve got a great wife, I’ve got a house… I’ve got everything. I eat. You know what I mean? I’m not sick.

The thing about it… I would like to do much better just for my horn’s sake, and I love my horn so much. And I’m hearing things that’re so beautiful and I don’t have the enthusiasm to go out like I used to and be at everybody’s space and do everything. I don’t feel like that. That’s missing out of me. But, I’m not angry with anybody. I’m not jealous of anything. I just miss what’s in my horn not being able to… not getting more enthusiasm to want to do more. I don’t have a soul mate. My last musical soul mate was John Patton.[17] I don’t get that every day… I miss that. Tony [Williams] was a soul mate of mine, before he went with Miles. Me and Bobby [Hutcherson] were soul mates. Beaver Harris became a soul mate.

What about Jackie McLean?

Jackie was a big, beautiful golden feather in my hat. We did everything in a very short period of time. He was one big, gigantic golden feather that came along. And he made people respect me. He made me his music director and anywhere we played or Blue Note, he made them really respect me. He said: “This is my music director.” He didn’t worry about nothin’; he just let me run the music. And everywhere that we played he made people give me respect. No other musician has ever done that. Been big enough to love me like that, to put themselves second. He knew how big he was. That was just his love. That was really pure love. But see, that only happened a short period of time, and he had to get back to his business because that was my thing.[18] He was smart enough to know okay, I can’t do Grachan’s thing for the rest of my life. I have to get back to do my thing. But he left me with something. It’s just unfortunate I didn’t have the substantial guidance with people with power to guide me right, you dig? I’ve got my wife. My wife and I are partners now, but she’s not a jazz artist. She’s an artist, she’s a musician, she’s a poet.

Was she a teacher in Newark?

Yeah, she’s retired. She been retired for about three years now. From Louise A. Spencer; she taught the Gifted and Talented students for about twelve years.

How long have you been married?

Forty-something years. Her and her mother, before her mother passed, what I have… me and wife got it together. Like I showed you the record. She put the graphic stuff. She’s the business director and I’m the artistic director for our businesses.

How many children do you have?

Six. And they’re all very successful. They’re very supportive. My mother said my six children are my first six million dollars. And it’s becoming pretty true. In a sense. They all worked very hard; they knew they had to work hard. We gave them a good foundation; they all went to all private schools — middle school and high school — and after that they were on their own; they all got scholarships and finished college. You know? So, you know, and they’re all very close. They’re all doing their thing, but they check-in at home.

I feel like I’m very successful in a very strange way. I can do what I want to do. I just don’t have as much activity as I would like to have to keep me feeling the way I really want to feel, but hey, I’m nearly a hundred, man [laughs]. I’m seventy-four. I’m feeling great. I realize that, uh, I could have done a lot more for myself. That’s what I realize. And I think my attitude gets in the way sometimes because I did so much so fast. You know, I don’t really have the energy or the enthusiasm to do it that way again and I don’t think I should have to.

You were in your twenties when you did Evolution?

I was twenty-six. So, you know, those two and everything else, the BYG, everything that I’ve done has really carried me all this time. I mean to the point where… that’s the other thing I can’t understand. When I see my musical statements, I can’t understand why people don’t want to hear me.

I don’t understand it, either. That’s part of why I want to write this book.

It just seems very strange.

Well, let me ask you this… do you think any of this has to do with the fact that you’ve been in Newark? Because Newark has been in a state of decline.

It probably has a lot to do with it. And I’m looking forward to getting out of Newark very soon. I’ve been here too long to not have visited my family in Florida, for example. I have plans in December to go away for a while and visit my brothers down in Florida and kind of speculate and see what’s going on there, in South Beach. If I find something substantial. I mean, I can do anything. My wife wouldn’t care if I went to Timbuktoo if I could get some work and be happy. She’d be happy. So, I have her support with that. I need a good agent. I need somebody that… like you! Yeah!

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  1. Grachan “Brother” Moncur was born on September 2, 1915; he was the half-brother of Al Cooper. He was a founding member of the Savoy Sultans, which formed in 1937, a swing band (called “jump” by the musicians). They were popular with dancers at the Savoy Ballroom from 1937 until 1946. Grachan is pronounced “GRAY-shun.”
  1. Sydenham Hospital was located in Harlem on Manhattan Avenue between 123rd and 124th Streets. Sydenham first opened its doors in 1892 in a brownstone as an African American hospital and moved to Manhattan Avenue in 1924. It was shut down in 1980 despite bitter community sit-ins and protests.
  1. Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark on March 27, 1924.
  1. The Krueger-Scott mansion is on the corner of Court and High Street (now Martin Luther King Boulevard).
  1. The Coleman Hotel was just west of Newark’s Lincoln Park.
  1. An item in the September 22, 1955 issue of Jet magazine says: “Wealthy Newark beauty shop owner Ella Moncur is selling her business and will move to Florida to open a chain of motels.”
  1. Coltrane died on July 17, 1967. The riots in Newark took place from July 12 to 17.
  1. George Wein developed this concert series, called the “Newport Jazz Festival in Europe”; it was sponsored by Pan Am Airlines and the U.S. Travel Service, a government agency. Eight acts performed in cities like Antwerp, Belfast, London, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, and Barcelona. Not every group performed in all seventeen cities. Other bands included the Gary Burton Quartet (with Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow, and Bob Moses), and Wein’s own Newport All-Stars with Buddy Tate.
  1. Around 1955 Le Chat Qui Pêche (The Cat That Fishes) opened at 9, rue de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter.
  1. All of Moncur’s music is published under Gramon Publishing Co.
  1. Wright was called as such because in the 1970s he set low bail for many poor and minority suspects.
  1. “Hilda” is Moncur’s memorial to his first daughter, who died at a young age. “Hilda” is a 7/4-3/4 time signature that shifts within the melodic structure, but remains 7/4 in the improvisations.
  1. Moncur’s sidemen on Inner Cry Blues were Ben Adams on vibraphone, Sameer Gupta on drums, Erik Jekabson on trumpet, Mitch Marcus on tenor saxophone, and Lukas Vesely on bass.
  1. Some Other Stuff was recorded on July 6, 1964.
  1. The Plugged Nickel was recorded at the end of December 1965.
  1. VOCAbuLarieS (EmArcy) came out in 2010.
  1. Patton died in March 2002 and lived nearby Newark, in Montclair, New Jersey.
  1. Here, Moncur refers to a series of albums that McLean and him did together for Blue Note: One Step Beyond and Destination…Out under McLean’s name and Evolution under Moncur’s.

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