Tuesday, October 4, 2011


One night, at the end of a a gig in a dive in Boston - a small, narrow, cheerless room - Pee Wee Russell was confronted by a student at the nearby New England Conservatory of Music who unrolled a series of music manuscript pages.

They were densely covered with what looked like notes of extraordinary complex avant-garde classical composition. "I brought this for you," the young man said to Pee Wee, who stared at him if he were a Martian. "It's one of your solos from last night. I transcribed it."

Shaking his head, Pee Wee looked at the manuscript. "This can't be me. I can't play this."

The student assured Pee Wee that the transcribed solo - with its fiendishly difficult and startling turns of invention - was indeed Pee Wee's.

"Well," the shy clarinetist said, "even if it is, I wouldn't play it again the same way - even if I could, which I can't." 
-- Nat Hentoff,  Speaking Freely

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