Maria Muldaur, who had scored a huge hit in the early 1970s with Midnight At The Oasis, had been well established in the New York Folk Scene since the early 1960s. Certainly no stranger to branching out and taking musical chances, Muldaur met and worked with Jazz/Modern Music legend Benny Carter – w
Upload Date: Apr 18, 2021
Maria Muldaur, who had scored a huge hit in the early 1970s with Midnight At The Oasis, had been well established in the New York Folk Scene since the early 1960s. Certainly no stranger to branching out and taking musical chances, Muldaur met and worked with Jazz/Modern Music legend Benny Carter – whose own career was about branching out and taking chances.
The result for Muldaur was a collaboration and a career stop-off in Big-Band Jazz singing. For Carter it was renewal in his belief that Music was heading into interesting places in the 1970s and Jazz was definitely one of those places.
This interview, conducted in 1975, features the legendary Journalist/writer Nat Hentoff, and a three-way conversation with Benny Carter and Maria Muldaur. Muldaur, it’s discovered, was a Jazz fan since her high-school days – and was something of a sponge for Music; soaking up Jazz on the Weekends and Country/Rural/Blues/Folk during the week. Both of them agreed that being pigeon-holed in musical styles wasn’t a healthy thing – and Carter pointed out that a large number of Jazz musicians would feel right at home playing in a Symphony orchestra – and he sites a story about how piano/organ legend Fats Waller was a huge Classical Organ Music fan – and would play it often, but that he couldn’t derive a living from it.
The thing that’s interesting about this interview is that there’s the common ground of open-mindedness which serves as a guide to those musicians starting out, even today. Ironically, Muldaur went from working with Benny Carter to working with The Grateful Dead and literally bouncing around musical styles and genres ever since. The operative word here is Healthy. It’s healthy for a musician to jump into as much as possible – not only do you grow as a musician, but you become more aware of what’s going on around you – it’s a life-enhancer. Carter stresses the aspect of staying free and open to ideas; it’s the only way new ideas come in.
You may be familiar with Maria Muldaur and Benny Carter – or one and not the other. But the similarity in ideals and the crucial nature of keeping an open mind in all things musical turns out to be sage and timely advice.
And in 1975, things were still rolling; the decade as only half over. Here is that interview between Benny Carter, Maria Muldaur and Nat Hentoff from the In Conversation series of August 26, 1975.
after Maria muldaur Benny carter concert and you said the fact that Maria is becoming so popular indicates to me that the kids are beginning to listen to music again. Real music because this girl is a real musician. This is now about a year or so later, I guess. What's your sense of the development not only of Maria but what's happening on the music scene as a whole? There's been a lot of talk of jazz renaissance and that sort of thing. Yeah, well jazz renaissance sort of speaks out of this. What do you, what's the word I want to say cinema? Is there such a word? It makes the nominee with nostalgia or something? You know, which seems to be sort of riding around these days. But I don't know, I think it's trying to happen again and of course I certainly hope it does. Certainly a lot of good music around and as I spoke of Maria before, she has, well I hate to say these very, very complimentary things sitting here in her presence, but it's such a gas working with her and you know, she has such a great regard and respect for what went before she appeared on the scene and what went before she was barred as a matter of fact. And I certainly do appreciate this. Yeah, that's something I thought absorbing and listening to you before before even talk to you about it, Maria, the sense that was quite clear that your roots were not only quite deep historically, but they covered more of a compass than almost any singer. I know, I mean, you know, the whole folk scene, you know, blues, you know, jazz, you know, country did that eclecticism and I don't use that as a put down in your case. Did that come in part from how you grew up on mulberry Street in new york, etcetera? Well, it must have, yeah, I grew up in the village and uh, I went by jazz joints on my way to school on my way to junior high school every day. I saw Billie Holiday appearing here tonight, a cafe society. I was just a couple of years too young to really catch it, But it was all available right on my doorstep. I mean, I used to lie about my age and sneak into here, thelonious Monk and Horace Silver when I was like 16 and 17. And then a few blocks from where they were playing at night, there would be all kinds of country musicians playing during the day in Washington Square Park and friends of mine were discovering old Library of Congress records of old blues singers and I just soaked it up like a sponge. Do you find that at all difficult to keep balancing all all these various musical preoccupations? Or does that not even come into your mind? Is it is it mostly what interests you as it comes along? I mean, do you do you look at your repertory for a night or for an album and say, well how we're going to balance this? The only difficulty is in finding musicians who can play in all those styles. I mean, when I play with Benny and a big band, that's a special treat, You know, it's it's for special occasions and then we'll there perfect. You know, they're really the top of the line in in terms of jazz, but it's taken me a long time to put together a band, little six piece combo that even comes close to being. There are a lot of competent musicians that carry around bags of musical styles, but to find musicians who can actually express something unique in different styles is really hard. I mean, there's dozens of studio musicians in in L. A. You can say, oh gospel and then they, you know, right away, they're all over the keyboard and the gospel bag. But they ain't really saying anything. So uh that's the hardest thing is to find musicians who were expressive and different indians. How hard is it as a corollary question. Benny to find jazz musicians who are really flexible uh guys who can play other than their own particular styles, who can fit into a diversity of context. Well, today it's it's difficult and then then it's not really too difficult, on the other hand, because musicians who are highly professional and who are not that you call the modi fades, you know, even if they're the older guys, they realized that to survive in the business, you know, making records and playing for film scores and playing