James Black: How I Got Into Playing Jazz

SKF NOTE: My James Black interview appeared in the December 1982 Modern Drummer. The first person to get me excited about James Black’s drumming was Jaimoe. We were listening to records and Jaimoe asked me if I’d ever heard James Black. I said, “No.” He pulled out an old Riverside record of the Adderley Brothers (possibly The Adderley Brothers in New Orleans), placed it on the turntable, put the needle on the record and said, “Listen to this!”

Jaimoe also raved about James Black’s drumming on Yusef Lateef’s Live at Pep’s album.

Later, Jim Keltner called me from New Orleans where he was touring with Bob Dylan. Jim said James Black was one of the first persons he called when he was there. James attended the Dylan concert, then he and Jim stayed up until the wee hours talking drums.

James tended to give brief first answers to my interview questions. I would wait for James to finish his thought. Then I would take him back and ask for a more detailed answer. If our interview was a court hearing, and I was an attorney, you might say I would wait for James Black’s answer, and then rephrase my question.

In this excerpt James talks about his transition from playing R&B gigs to learning to play jazz under the guidance of New Orleans musicians Roy Montrell (guitar) and Nat Perrilliat (saxophone).

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