Old Masters, Old Friends
Jazz Greats Paul Horn And Roger Kellaway Finally Get Together On Stage.
By Dave Irwin
FEBRUARY 23, 1999: IT WILL BE an historic event when flautist Paul Horn and pianist Roger Kellaway play in Tucson on Friday, February 19. Despite a friendship going back decades and many private jam sessions, the two jazz warhorses have never performed in public together.
"We'll probably wish that we had two nights," laughs Kellaway. "We're going to play standards and do solos and some improvisation. We look at life the same way. We have a lot in common. It'll be a very rich experience."
Paul Horn is an underappreciated giant in the jazz world. He lives part of the year in Tucson. In 1968, his landmark album Inside the Taj Mahal heralded a more mellow, laid-back form of improvisation, a turning away from the dissonance and frantic chaos of the Coltrane era. Combined with its location recording, which added the echoey acoustics of India's most famous building in addition to its spiritual and cultural vibe, Inside the Taj Mahal is considered the seminal precursor to the entire New Age/contemporary instrumental genre.
"There's a lot of melody there because that's my training and I think melodically," Horn says of the album. "It's who I am, my background, coming through my music at that time."
With more than 40 albums to his credit, Horn, now a vibrant oldster who looks and acts much younger than a man nearing 70, says, "New Age didn't exist when I did that album. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just playing music that I feel to play. If you want to call it New Age, I don't care. I don't have to prove anything anymore."
In 1966, Horn had traveled to India, ahead of the Beatles, to learn transcendental meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Although his form of practice has changed, he still meditates every day. He has always considered his life a spiritual journey which he expresses through sound.
Kellaway also is largely underappreciated. Now nearing 60 himself, he's appeared on more than 200 albums and written 23 film scores. Ironically, he's most famous for "Remembering You," the closing piano instrumental on the TV show All In The Family. He's played with everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to Don Ellis, Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington, Joni Mitchell and Bobby Darin.
The year was 1967, the cultural earthquake of the Summer of Love, and an era of experimentation and inner exploration. A famous and very hip musician shared a new high he'd found--meditation techniques he'd learned--with a younger musician. That cemented the relationship between Horn and Kellaway, who also has continued to meditate daily throughout the years.
Because of the demands on their time and different tour schedules, the two have not seen each other since 1981. They've stayed in touch via phone and listening to each other's albums. They'll spend several days together before the concert--talking, playing and being old friends.
"That's something I've wanted to do for a long time," Kellaway said. "Just hang out with him and discuss existence and meditation. We've never really gotten a chance to catch up."
Horn is surprised to learn it's been so long since he's seen his friend. "We talk on the phone, so I forget we're not seeing each other in person."
Both musicians were classically trained before expanding their skills into jazz. Horn, with a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music, played with Chico Hamilton in the late '50s before launching his solo career. He moved to Hollywood, hanging out with Miles Davis and Tony Bennett, much in demand for studio work and winning Playboy and Downbeat polls. Over the years, he's fused jazz and world music by featuring famous locations, including the Great Pyramid in Egypt. A recent album now awaiting release, recorded in a Tibetan monastery, closes what he feels is a trilogy with his earlier Taj Mahal and Pyramid works.
Kellaway moves between the jazz and classical worlds as a composer, performer and conductor. His hero is Igor Stravinsky and in 1970 he got to work with Stravinsky's long-time collaborator, George Balanchine, to create a ballet. He's also worked with minimalist composer Steve Reich, recording "Four Organs."
"People keep trying to figure out why I play the way I play from the history of jazz piano," he explains. "You can not do that. There are many aspects of the history of jazz piano that affect how I play, but there's also 35 or 40 years of classical piano that influence how I play spatially, and how I make my clusters. One idea superimposes another. So you expand yourself out of the category of jazz pianist into being an improviser who uses jazz, which is the thing that unites Paul and me. We're both classically trained and we're both jazz people. But we've expanded the idea of improvisation to take in other areas. That's one of the reasons we're excited about playing together. Because we're older and (because of) the training we have, there's more depth (to) that improvisation."
Kellaway also notes the influence of meditation on his work. "If my music has become more melodic, it's really only deepened its sense of melodic content. Because I continue to meditate, my evolving being affects my music and its depth."
"He's a well-kept secret," Horn adds. "We both bring solo skills and the ability to fit into any situation. We both have our own inner time. We have a love and respect for each other on a lot of levels. The only thing that's held me together all these years is jazz, because I never know what's going to happen. There's a different energy and it's never boring. It'll be a long concert--It's going to be some nice music."
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