Terry Day


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Terry Day           

I was born in 1940 & was the youngest of four brothers. My earliest & first musical influence was  BEBOP.   My eldest brother Tony, who was a jazz / bebop aficionado/cognoscenti, & was fourteen years older than me, introduced BEBOP to my other brothers & myself during & immediately after the war. I had no musical choice; not only were my older brothers jazz/bebop buffs they were also musicians, as was my father who played the drums and rehearsed his dance band called the 'The Gainsborough Rhythm Boys' in the house every Sunday morning just after the war and throughout the 1940s. My eldest brother Tony must have been the first 'Air Trombone-ist' in the world, because as a young child I can remember him pretending to hold a trombone to his lips and play along to the  78 rev  records on the wind-up  turntable . His influence on me was such that by the time I was five or six years old I had my own BEBOP record collection , & when asked by other jazz musicians who also frequented the house, who my favourite musician was, I'd reply 'Dodo Marmarosa' playing a tune called 'SNAKEPIT'. By the time I was nine years old I'd started wearing a thin belt round my neck to simulate the lariat of an alto sax player, playing 'air alto sax',  going to jazz concerts with my brothers, & meeting leading jazz musicians of the day. I particularly remember meeting the blind pianist Eddie Thomson at Ilford town hall when I was nine. He came down the isle to play the piano but his guide dog stopped and sniffed me or licked me, anyway he stopped and Eddie spoke to me. He was really surprised that a young boy of nine was sitting in the audience and asked if I played an instrument. I said no but that I really wanted to play the alto sax, which I didn't get round to playing until I was in my twenties. Eddie Thomson was rated as jazzier than George Shearing who at this time had not gone to America but was still playing in England.

My brother Pat, who was nine years older than me, was a child prodigy on the drums & began playing in my father's band when he was ten years old. By the time he was a young teenager he was already working with the leading jazz musicians of the day, & continued to do so throughout the 1940s & 1950s, & worked with GERALDO for a time in the mid 1950s. Graham Bond rated my brother highly, to the extent that he would stop a set to get my brother Pat to sit in on the drums. When I was a teenager Graham would even hustle me to hustle my brother to sit in on a gig when I went to jazz clubs with my brother. I have memories of my teenage brother Pat setting his drum kit up in the back garden & playing away. I spent many hours of my childhood & teenage life sitting, listening, watching my brother play the drums at all sorts of gigs & with all sorts of musicians.  There was one quality that set him apart from the rest, and that was his 'TOUCH' on the ride cymbal, the sizzle / swish cymbal. His 'TOUCH' was magic for me. Only one other drummer in the whole of my experience came close to my brother's touch and that was EDWARD BLACKWELL. All the musicians he played with spoke of his touch & feel for the music.

In 1954 when I was fourteen I started painting pictures, & decided I wanted to be an artist when I left school. At fifteen my parents and Brother Pat said that if I wanted to be an artist I'd have to earn some 'Pin Money' to pay for my studies at art school. So they decided to teach me the drums. Up to that time I'd never really wanted to play the drums. Like I said, the alto sax was the instrument I really loved & wanted to play. However, it was when I was learning to play the drums that I discovered my own inner creativity, or rather it was due to my brother Pat's insight and musical perception that he was able to draw out & encourage my musical creativity.  I was alright learning to play the rhythms & keeping time. But when I went to do a four bar break my head would go out the window, my hearing would go all over the place, and my emotions would rise and heighten. What would happen is that the timing would go all over the place but I'd start playing all sorts of crazy patterns, rhythms, textures, concepts, accents, dynamics, ideas etc.
In effect I was IMPROVISING without my even knowing it. But more importantly, I was discovering my own inner creativity. My brother heard me doing this and encouraged me to carry on exploring this side of my creativity. In fact he organised us doing public duos at gigs where we'd play some set rhythms and patterns together then he would solo while I kept the time and rhythm then I'd solo / improvise while he kept the time & beat. It was not until I met & formed the trio with Russell Hardy & Terry Holman in the early 1960s that I could further develop my percussive discoveries & improvisational ideas in a group context.

From the moment I began playing improvised music with Russell Hardy & Terry Holman I have been influenced by every musician & group I have played with to this day. I say this because the nature of improvised music demands that you find the right musical language to play with each other in whatever combination one finds oneself in, be it duo, trio, small group, large group etc. I remember when I first played with the Continuous Music Ensemble, which was the first large group I played with, I had to keep adding new drums, cymbals, woodblocks,  non-percussive things, bowing things etc.,   -   I had to add things to the kit so that I had a far greater musical language that could express and match the new sounds, textures, phrases , & articulation of the other instruments in the group  -   as such, the size of the kit grew & grew to the extent that it would take three quarters of an hour to set up.


From early childhood to young teenager all the BEBOP musicians influenced me in taste, clothing & language - how I love the word BEBOP. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie et al.  I still have my brother Tony's original 78s in their original cardboard covers. I love Parkers 'LOVERMAN' -   is it Howard McGee who holds him up in the studio while Magee is in the middle of his own solo?  Whatever my brothers were musically into during this period I would naturally be exposed to. I absorbed all the changes and innovations in jazz from the dawn of BEBOP onwards.

1954 to early 1960s {my early teenage period & early twenties}

Thelonious Monk: I consider Thelonious to be the JAZZ COMPOSER. 'Round About Midnight' is my all time Favourite tune - it can be played at my funeral. I like his piano solo versions of 'Round Midnight'. I like all Monk's music, especially his solo albums & large band at Carnegie Hall playing the tune called 'Thelonious'. Monks music creeps into my own compositions by the backdoor.

John Coltrane:   the man is a giant / an Angel sent to earth I hear. I like all his work 'Ascension', 'OLE',  'Africa Brass', 'Live at the Five Spot' etc. I saw Coltrane when he brought his quintet with Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison.  Half of the audience walked out. The quintet was fantastic.  Eric Dolphy was superb a dream & he also played flute & bass clarinet on that gig. I'd never heard the bass clarinet before that gig - it was a revelation. What an influence the quintet were. McCoy Tyner's piano also had a strong affect on me. I liked the TONALITY he got out the piano.

ERIC DOLPHY:  my favourite alto sax player ever.  Favourite records of his ----  'Out to Lunch', 'Outward Bound' -   245. It was Eric's tone & lilting phrasing that strongly influenced my own alto playing. There was also a fragility & vulnerability that he seemed to bring to his playing that I liked. He seemed to make the alto sax 'ALIVE', fragile, like a 'crying out', a wail - expressive like the human voice.

Miles Davies:  Listened to his music as a child. 'Juru', 'Godchild'.... friends used to say to me in the 80s 'you have got to listen to' BIRTH OF THE COOL'. After a while I said to one persistent friend, 'what tracks are on this 'Birth of the Cool'. He says  'JURU', 'GODCHILD'. I said 'Blimey, I was listening to those tunes when I was a child and I've got my brothers 78s in their cardboard covers in my house to this day even'.
My brothers used to listen to the American Forces Network {AFN} on the home WIRELESS. I also got into the habit of listening to AFN in my mid-teens, which kept me abreast of what was happening in the world of mainstream jazz. I remember listening to 'MILESTONES' on AFN late in the night when it was first played on the WIRELESS. I went out & bought it the same week. I think that was in 1957.

However, I can't say that Miles was a strong influence on my formative concepts of making music. I do though love 'PORGY & BESS' arranged by Gil Evans, who I guess is amongst my favourite arrangers. As a child I liked Stan Kenton's arrangements.

Charlie Mingus:   All of Charlie Mingus's albums had a strong influence on my musical ideas, concepts and methods of playing. Mingus spoke about the notion of no longer having to be the slave to strict time - that the time could be sped up, slowed down. That there was no longer a necessity to have to state the time with every given beat - that time could be inferred.  I listened to him & Danny Richmond playing about with time, speeding up & slowing down, & I liked what I heard. But what I didn't hear was that he hadn't thrown time out the window yet. But his music precipitated me into playing a 'PULSE, a 'TEXTURE', a kind of pure 'ENERGY PULSE'., and of course playing around with different time signatures, speeding up & slowing down. I also liked the way Mingus would verbally talk musicians thru the music. He'd stop the music, start it, slow it down, alter the original tune, call out the composition, and change things in a performance.
Brilliant. Frank Zappa did similar things and was equally influenced by Mingus.
 'FABLES OF FAUBUS'  - a brilliant album with Eric Dolphy lamenting through his horn on 'Stormy Weather', & Mingus vocalising about Governor Faubus of Alabama.
 'This Mule ain't from Moscow' i.e. 'the lyric freedom' recited by Mingus with a big band. YES Mingus had a big effect on my lyric writing, vocal delivery & expression.

Terry Holman {double bass} had also absorbed the ideas of Mingus so that by the time we began to play together in the 'Russell Hardy trio' we immediately began to exchange & experiment with musical ideas of improvisation but called our music 'EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC'. We had also been listening to Ornette Colman, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor & were ready to seek the new.

Ornette Colman:   'Change of the Century' certainly was 'change of the century'. It was like nothing that had gone before. A piano less quartet - this certainly was the new. Suddenly here was a musical freedom - a freedom of musical structure. Simply by removing the piano jazz had gone into unknown territories. Although I could explore & experiment in the Russell Hardy Trio[ bass, piano, drums], it wasn't until I began playing with horn players in the Continuous Music Ensemble in 1965  that I could fully extend the parameters of improvisation by throwing out all the rules of western harmony. Within the 'Russell Hardy Trio 'Terry Holman & I musically directed Russell to enter the musical world of Cecil Taylor, we encouraged him to improvise in a kind of Cecil way.

Cecil Taylor:  Cecil had a strong influence on my 'High energy action' piano playing. As he did a great many others at the time.  Thelonious Monk influenced my composing of tunes & songs. I just love slow tunes & I think Monk is the all time slow tune composer.

Albert Ayler:  his sound was ELECTRIC, RAW -   what a great big sound MASSIVE. 'MOTHERS', 'GHOSTS', my hair stands on end.Such an influence on my alto playing - trying to get a big, fulsome sound like that What an emotional player!  WOW.  And yet the tunes are so simple and I like that, and yet the whole feel of his music reminds me of New Orleans marching bands. His music harked back to the past but was so in the future.

And then there was SUNNY  MURRAY playing with Albert Ayler. And here at last I heard a drummer not playing time but a pulse, a texture; well that is what it sounded like to my ears. Once I heard Sonny Murray I knew I was not alone  -  that I could indulge in my own ideas of  PULSE, TEXTURE, HIGH ENERGY SWISH  CYMBAL SWISHING.
And that I could indulge in my own touch just like I'd heard my brother doing.

Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Edward Blackwell, Milford Graves equally had an influence on my ideas & concepts of drumming. Equally when I heard other drummers in improvised music I was in part influenced by them. Equally, I know that in turn I influenced other percussionists & drummers in improvisation.  What I do like about improvised music is that although  there are various genres & avenues in improvised music, each with their own particular  language,  techniques, & manner of exploration  & experimentation, that  some of the language & techniques are  commonly shared amongst the different genres .
Which means it's nice to be influenced & nick a few ideas from each other.