"THE COMPLETE BOOK ON CREATIVE IMPROVISATION"
I never thought I could write a music book! At least that's what I believed around 1983. But a man I knew who worked at a music publishing company in New York City suggested that if I wrote a book, it might help me get work doing clinics at music colleges around the country, which was something I wanted to do. So after writing and compiling various musical concepts for one or more jazz improvisation books, I met with a few music publishers in town. But, either the royalty rate they were offering was too low, or they gave no 'advance'. One publisher said I had too much material – a few books worth - and that companies, in order to be cost effective, typically print about 60-page books. He said that even Quincy Jones, as famous as he was, couldn’t get a book published if it had too many pages! I guess I proved him wrong, because I ended up getting my first book published with over 250 pages! A friend of mine knew Tony Esposito, the musical director at Warner Brothers Music in New York City. I contacted Tony. We met and hit it off from the start. After looking over my draft, he told me that I would make a good teacher - that I explained things very clearly using good examples. His comment was surprising to me then because nobody had ever said that to me before plus I hadn't given much thought about being a teacher. But within a year, I started teaching at Berklee College of Music.
Soon after our first meeting, Tony set up another meeting with Frank, the head of the company, and another man, who sat behind me remaining quiet. It was a very short meeting. Not being sure whether Frank was a musician or understood certain musical terms, I asked him, "Do you know music"? That question could have been insulting to the wrong person, ‘blowing’ the whole deal right then and there. But Frank just sort of smiled and answered “Yes”. With him standing next to me, I showed him just one page from my batch of loose pages that comprised my book. It was a page that I felt illustrated one of the more creative concepts in my book. After I briefly explained the concept and sang a few written musical phrases/ideas shown on the page, he turned to the man seated behind me and said, “Find out what he wants” - meaning, how much up-front money! Then he said goodbye and left us. I briefly talked some 'business' with the two other men, which surprised me, not having been much of a business-type person in my life. They wanted to publish my book! I found out later that my book was a 'first-of-its-kind' for Warner Brothers Music. It wasn’t just their usual introduction (text) on the first page, followed by music for the rest of the book. There was a large amount of text and musical examples mixed throughout the book.
A tremendous effort from both me and the company went into putting my book together. I must have had 20-30 meetings - many of them lasting for hours - with Tony and his very able assistant, Jeff Sultanoff. Both of these individuals were very nice/respectful to me. The original draft that I presented was about 150 pages (of mostly jazz lines based on a single chord type) but I was allowed to add another 100 pages (incorporating the jazz lines with chord progressions and a number of creative “techniques”) to make my book a much more in-depth study and more practical. When I met with my very expensive lawyer, he very briefly flipped through my draft on his desk. He said, “This is a very good book!” I’m wondering to myself, how he can tell if it’s a good book or a bad book that quickly. Plus he’s a lawyer, not a musician! But I felt he could sense the amount of work and care that I had put into it. Looking at my draft sitting on his desk, which was a high stack of over-sized green manuscript paper with lots of White Out on every page, I felt like it had a life or 'worth' of it’s own, even in it’s raw, uncompleted stage. I had worked on my book for one full year, literally getting about four hours sleep each night. It was a new, exciting venture for me, and I think in the end, I learned a great deal from the whole experience. At the very least, it gave me the confidence that I could write a book! Working with various people at Warner Brothers, it took us over a year to finish the book. After we had gone through a few proof-readings, I got a letter from Frank telling me that this project had gone on much too long and that the book was going to come out soon without another proof-reading from me. I accepted this (I really had no choice anyway) because the company had put in a lot of time for my project. But I just knew there would be lots of mistakes in the book. And there surely were!
Getting this book published helped give me confidence that I could and had something tangible to teach college students. I had, in the past, vaguely considered teaching at Berklee College of Music, since I had given private sax and piano lessons here and there. I had also seen a few magazine ads for teachers needed at the college, but didn’t follow through. Around that time, an Argentine jazz bassist called me to play tenor on his jazz album with Eddie Gomez, Jeremy Steig and Lew Soloff. Soon after that, he called me to do a jazz gig with him. He mentioned that he had tried to get a teaching job at Berklee, but without luck. He suggested that I try to get a job there. I guess I was slowly being pushed into this 'teaching' direction... Around this time, I was speaking about Berklee with the head of a record label I was signed with. He recommended I call Jimmy Mosher, another jazz alto player on his label, who was teaching at Berklee. Jimmy and I had met some years before near Boston and liked each other. When I called him, inquiring about the college, he was encouraging but he cautioned me to stay ‘open’ to any subjects that the chairmen from the different departments could use me for, and not to be stubborn about wanting to teach only things from my book. I remained ‘open’ and met with two of the three chairmen. One of them I knew - we attended Berklee the same year. When I came back to the Bronx, I called the other chairman, who said he could use me in his department too. So I got the job and started teaching full-time at Berklee in 1984.