Woody Shaw: “I’ve written a couple of tunes for Art Blakey including ‘To Kill A Brick’ which appears on Woody III. I wanted a tune which was simple, to the point, and conveyed the feeling of a straight ahead bebop blues. I also wanted to feature alto saxophonists, Rene McLean and James Spaulding in a jam session in the tradition of Charlie Parker. Some of the elements I put in the tune can also be applied to the kind of person Art Blakey is. I called the tune, “To Kill A Brick” because wherever I traveled with Art, people revered him. Art was like a god, and he used to say, ‘They’d kill a brick over me.”’ I guess, he was saying instead of killing a person for love, kill a brick instead. I know it’s absurd. but so is the saying, “to kill a mockingbird.”
Woody Shaw Quintet – “To Kill A Brick” – Monterey Jazz Festival, 1979 with Carter Jefferson, Ronnie Mathews, Stafford James, and Victor Lewis.
“If there’s one piece of advice I’d like to pass on to young musicians, it’s to respect the older jazz statesmen. Listen to what they have to say, even if you think their ideas are old fashioned or outdated. You know, Art Blakey would say to one of us when we’d go off at the mouth at him, ‘When you get to be my age, then you can tell me what to do but until then, you should stop talking and start listening. That’s the only way you’re going to learn more than you know.”’ I’ll tell you, if it hadn’t been for older musicians — listening and talking with them…well, maybe I’d be playing bar mitzvahs and weddings. So no matter how talented you are, there are no branches without trees.”
“Art Blakey instilled in all The jazz Messengers, an understanding of what a leader is. He’s more than just the guy who calls the tunes. He had to deal with different egos and make sure everyone’s happy and somehow involved with the creative process. He has to plan and structure performances and records, and there’s so much more. Not everybody can be a leader. It takes a lot of guts, depth of personality and character. I became a leader because I had to. I felt at a certain point, I had derived my own philosophy and theories about music, and it was time to set out on my own course. I still enjoyed playing with different people but not as their sideman anymore.”
“I got my college degree from Art Blakey’s University of jazz and life. One of the things he taught me was while no one could guarantee me success, I was doomed for failure if I compromised and played what an audience wanted to hear. Oh, I might be a hit for a minute but it wouldn’t last. Art Blakey has never commercialized his music even through some very lean years.”
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – “A Chant for Bu” – 1979 with Woody Shaw, Carter Jefferson, Cedar Walton, and Mickey Bass.