I can’t remember the name of the festival, I think it was the Banlieues Bleues Festival, but I can’t be sure. He was there with his energy-charged quartet with Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, and Guillermo E. Brown, who had just replaced Susie Ibarra on drums. We both had new CDs out on Columbia/Sony at the time, so a couple of the record label people from their France division took me to the concert. I was on tour with the Jacky Terrason group, and we just happened to have that particular night off. The timing couldn't have been better.
nd in some cases, possibly prefer it. You might say it was my first live experience with Euro-free jazz.
When David’s quartet finally played, it probably sounded the tamest of all the bands I heard that night, which is saying a lot considering the raw, unapologetic recklessness with which his quartet would often swarm the bandstand. Being that they had all of the conventions of a typical jazz group---a melody instrument supported by a rhythm section, they were playing over grooves, forms, and chord changes, in the loosest sense of the word—they were by far the most conventional group on the bill. And I guess it’s all relative. If that very quartet played at the Village Vanguard, Smalls, or The Jazz Standard, it would have sounded far from "tame."
"John Coltrane. 1967. I was there. Don’t tell me. I was there. 1967.” It was like someone remembering meeting a messiah. Someone who after meeting once, totally changed your life. It reminded me of when I was growing up in Virginia, and I used to witness people in the church find Jesus during the Sunday morning service.
His imposing height, his wardrobe of African garb and basketball sneakers, the cryptic-like metaphors he used when talking about music, his slow and confident walk with a slight limp, the way he would canvass the room with his eyes, as though he was trying to size up everything and everyone in his periphery, it all symbolized a man who was as individualistic off the bandstand as he was on. Matthew Shipp summed it up best when he said that David was "the last of the Mohicans." And I’m sure wherever his spirit is now, he’s impacting everyone and everything along the way, the way he influenced all who stood in his dressing room that night, the way Coltrane obviously changed him during that vital concert in 1967. R.I.P.