August 01, 2005

STORYTIME: AL KOOPER

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Reading music often is fundamental for session musicians, but not for Al Kooper, who came close to throwing in the towel before a mid-1960s session began when faced with having to follow charts.

Al Kooper: "After [playing on Bob Dylan's] 'Like a Rolling Stone,' I was a big session guy because of 'Like a Rolling Stone,' so everybody was calling me to play organ. I got this call for this group called the Simon Sisters, which was early Carly Simon and her sister Lucy.

"I went down there and I walked in, and there was half of Count Basie's band sitting there. And I went, 'Uh-oh. What am I going to do here? This is so weird.' I recognized them because I was a jazz fan.

"I walked over to the organ, and there was all this tough-to-read music there. And I went, 'Uh-oh.' So I took the arrangements and I walked over to the arranger, and I said, 'Hi, Iím Al Kooper . . . I can't read these charts.' He said, 'You know what to do? Take them and put them on the organ bench and sit on them. Play whatever you think you should play. That's why they hired you anyway.' And I said, 'Thank you.'

"So that was a pretty close call. I was basically saying to him, 'If there's time, get somebody else.' And I played the gig perfectly fine."

Black Coffee, Al Kooper's latest album, was released last month on Favored Nations Entertainment. His official Web site is www.alkooper.com.

-- By Chris M. Junior

Posted by medleyville at August 1, 2005 10:50 PM
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