Transcripts

D.C.'s 'Marathon Man' Of Jazz Celebrates A Lifetime Of Making Music

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And today we're doing something that happens every few months or so around these parts. We're bringing you one of our wild card shows, that means we're doing away with our usual theme for the hour and bringing you a mélange, a medley, a veritable cornucopia of stories on all kinds of stuff. We'll hit the beach and visit a food bank that's in full swing amidst the chi-chi boutiques and pricey restaurants of the coast.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:34
We'll head out with an artist who's trying to break the ice with strangers by painting portraits of them, and we'll take a culinary voyage to West Africa as we continue our Eating in the Embassy series. But to kick off today's wild card show...

MR. ANDREW WHITE

00:00:50
Look at this.

SHEIR

00:00:50
We'll bring you some wild music...

WHITE

00:00:53
And here's a list...

SHEIR

00:00:53
Created by a guy...

WHITE

00:00:54
Well, the names that they call me...

SHEIR

00:00:56
Who's been called some pretty wild names...

WHITE

00:00:59
Let's see now, Saxophoniac, Baronet Saxopohonist, Mister Vocalese Buzz, Droobie Drooroo Rambo Sax, Saxophonic Eboniac, Slide Saxophonist, Zorro Sax and Chicken Alto. All among many others.

SHEIR

00:01:16
I'll just call you Andrew.

WHITE

00:01:17
You just call me -- yeah.

SHEIR

00:01:19
But you can also 70-year-old Andrew White an author, transcriber, improviser, composer, producer and ever-enterprising entrepreneur.

WHITE

00:01:29
Hi. My name is Andrew Nathaniel White the third. And I'm the president and founder of Andrew's Musical Enterprises Incorporated, Washington, D.C.

SHEIR

00:01:35
White's self-run, self-produced publishing company boasts more than 2,800 items in its catalogue -- from recordings to transcriptions to essays to novels. You can even buy White's 840-page autobiography, "Everybody Loves The Sugar."

WHITE

00:01:51
It is the largest autobiography in the history of music and we sell it here from Andrew's Music direct. And this is public station, right? You can't -- you don't call prices and stuff, right? Yeah, okay. Well, at least I'm saying it, you know. They can contact me.

SHEIR

00:02:07
Like I said, ever-enterprising entrepreneur.

WHITE

00:02:09
Andrew's music celebrates its 41st birthday on September 23. That's the day legendary saxophonist John Coltrane would have celebrated his 86th. And given yet another name White's been called Keeper of the 'Trane, the matching birthdays aren't exactly a coincidence.

SHEIR

00:02:28
You've transcribed, what was it, all of Coltrane's solos? Most of Coltrane's solos?

WHITE

00:02:32
Well, that's what -- we publish 701 Coltrane solos. Here's one here.

SHEIR

00:02:36
Stretching all the way across the wall. Wow.

WHITE

00:02:38
Um-hum.

SHEIR

00:02:38
Before we go any further, a quick word about where we are right now. We're next door to White's Brookland residence in a cozy house he calls his Music Museum. I am, like, amazed by what I'm seeing on these walls. There are, like, hundreds of framed reviews, articles, photographs...

WHITE

00:02:54
Ah, you can look -- go ahead and look around. I don't know. I can explain anything to you, you might want...

SHEIR

00:02:59
Show me some of your favorites maybe.

WHITE

00:03:01
All of them's my favorites. All of them. Because it's all me.

SHEIR

00:03:05
White obviously takes pride in his career, which started in 1960 when he began studying music theory at Howard University by day, and playing sax with the JFK Quintet on U Street by night.

WHITE

00:03:17
We were at the Bohemian Caverns for, well, two and a half years. And we were famous for being groundbreakers. You know, we were doing a lot of original material. And then we had a stark contrast in our band between the trumpet player, who was a good soul trumpet player, and whatever you want to call me. I consider myself a swaggering iconoclast.

SHEIR

00:03:39
Yet another name we can call Andrew White. See if you can hear why in this selection from the JFK Quintet's album, "New Jazz Frontiers from Washington."

SHEIR

00:04:05
Since his days with the JFK Quintet, White and his alto saxophone have swaggered all over the world. But sax isn't the only instrument White has mastered. He's played bass with The Fifth Dimension, The Weather Report and Stevie Wonder. He even studied oboe in Paris and toured as principal oboist with the American Ballet Theatre of New York.

WHITE

00:04:24
I was with Stevie Wonder and the American Ballet Theatre for three years, concurrently. And I did have close calls where I was doing back-to-back work, and people would look around and didn't believe that they saw the same guy doing the same -- they thought I had a twin.

SHEIR

00:04:38
Which actually reminds me of yet some more names the indefatigable Andrew White has earned.

WHITE

00:04:42
Marathon Man and Hercules and everything.

SHEIR

00:04:45
He got these monikers in 1975, after a rather Herculean event. Can I ask -- I'm seeing these signs for your Marathon '75.

WHITE

00:04:53
Yeah.

SHEIR

00:04:53
What was that?

WHITE

00:04:55
That was a 12-hour concert that I played right here at the Top o'Foolery down on Pennsylvania Avenue, from 6:00 p.m. November 16 to Monday morning 6:00 a.m.

SHEIR

00:05:07
It's true. White and two quartets took over the old House of Jazz for the night with one intermission. And today, Andrew's Music offers the live recording...

WHITE

00:05:15
Here's the Marathons and the five-series, right. Whoo.

SHEIR

00:05:19
As a nine-record set.

WHITE

00:05:21
Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three, Volume Four, Volume Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine.

SHEIR

00:05:31
Can we play one? Like, right now?

WHITE

00:05:32
Sure, sure. You ready for them?

SHEIR

00:05:35
I'm ready.

WHITE

00:05:37
All right. Here we go.

SHEIR

00:05:38
The quartets performed in shifts. But White, our Hercules Marathon Man...

WHITE

00:05:43
Yeah. It was hot.

SHEIR

00:05:46
He played the entire 12 hours. So talk about swaggering iconoclasm. The guy's recorded a nine-disc set of a 12-hour concert. He's done double duties with a pop-funk superstar and a classical ballet company. He started his own publishing company. He's been known to hawk his own merchandise at gigs. He's never even hired an agent or a manager.

WHITE

00:06:10
As an artist, I got something I'm doing and so on and so forth. I can't stop that simply because I have a contract with you that says that I owe you this and blah-blah this.

SHEIR

00:06:21
Here's the thing, though. If you ask Andrew White if he'd recommend that other musicians follow his lead -- so would you encourage more people to do what you did and just go your own way?

WHITE

00:06:29
I have never done that. No. You know, from an artistic perspective, it might sound noble. But when you index all of that with the practicality and the economics of it and all that, no.

SHEIR

00:06:40
But if you ask White what he does recommend? So what do you recommend? His answer is simple.

WHITE

00:06:46
I don't. Because I know it's different for everybody artistically or professionally. So you gonna sink or swim. You need to find that out for yourself.

SHEIR

00:06:57
And Andrew White has had his share of sinking and swimming since those early gigs on U Street. And though these days he performs and composes far more rarely, he says he manages to stay afloat all the while remaining true to the music that has made him D.C.'s very own swaggering iconoclastic, saxophoniac Marathon Man.

SHEIR

00:07:20
Another name Andrew White calls himself is Technological Dinosaur, especially when it comes to the internet. But for information on how to reach out to Andrew's music by phone or U.S. mail, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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