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Interview with Quentin Jackson
Interviewer:
Milt Hinton
Washington, D. C.
April 1976

MR. HINTON:
This is Sunday, April 10, 1976.
I'm sitting here with a dear friend of mine, Quentin Jackson. We've known one another for many, many years. And, Quentin, I just want to say that amongst all musicians you are considered, without any question of a doubt, one of the greatest instrumentalists in the terms of our craft as sidemen that ever existed in the history of orchestra and jazz playing. I don't think there's anybody that has come through or played in as many great bands, any instrumentalist or jazz musician, as you have starting back where you started and to the most modern orchestras of today. So, Quen, I've now said my little piece and from now on it's all your conversation. I'd just like to ask you, you know, where you were born and when.

MR. JACKSON:
I was born in Springfield, Ohio, January 13, 1909.

MR. HINTON:
And your mother's name?

MR. JACKSON:
Was Imogene Jackson. My father's name was Dudley Jackson.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh. Where did you --What town? Springfield, huh?

MR. JACKSON:
Springfield, Ohio.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh. How many was in the family?

MR. JACKSON:
Just myself and two sisters.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh, and were you older or they? ln what order?

MR. JACKSON:
I'm in between. I'm in the middle.

MR. HINTON:
What were your sisters' names?

MR. JACKSON:
Dorothea was my older sister's name and Marguerite was my younger sister's name.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
We're very far apart.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
Marguerite was --my older sister, rather, was born in 1903. I was born in09 and Marguerite was born in 17.

MR. HINTON:
Oh, this is interesting.

MR. JACKSON:
Uh-huh. You know, --

MR. HINTON:
Excuse me. And what about the schools? I notice in all of the boo]<s that tell about you you began playing piano and .How did that happen?

MR. JACKSON:
Well, you know, my mother played --

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
--just for her own amusement.

MR. HINTON:
She did.

MR. JACKSON:
And she used to get the Etude every month and she played 'little light classics. And so I used to crawl upon the stool behind her and play what I heard her play.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
Well, and, oh, I imagine, oh, the first time I played before an audience I Was four years old. I have piece at home from the newspaper about me. They thought that I was a prodigy and that, gee whiz, one day Mrs. Jackson went into the living room and she heard someone playing the piano and she was astonished to see the little fellow at the instrument. And they had consulted several teachers and they aid I was too young at the time. And yet and still I played before the church audience in the church. One Sunday I played an old hymn called Power in the Blood, There's Wonder Working Power in the Blood of the Lamb.

MR. HINTON:
Yeah, I remember that one.

MR. JACKSON:
That was the first thing I played. I was four years old. So then they went --they had me go to a teacher. His name was professor Brane.

MR. HINTON:
Professor Brane

MR. JACKSON:
And I took some lessons from him. He was all right but I didn't like him. I didn't like his approach, because kid, you know, a kid, if you don't approach a kid right, you'll get nothing from him. So my mother changed teachers because --There was a teacher coming to teach my older sister piano -- her name --- was Miss Marguerite Williams from Yellow Springs, Ohio, from Antioch College --and she would come up and give my sister lessons, so she would give me lessons, too. But I did not like piano lessons. I did not like playing five finger exercises. I wanted to play more than that. That meant nothing to me. So the teacher one day had made the mistake of playing my lesson, so I didn't practice that week. But when she came back I played the lesson note for note just like she played it. So she told my mother that I hadn't been practicing, she said, because "Quentin played the right notes but he wasn't using the right fingering. So I know he didn't practice." So after a while it went on like that, went on like that, and finally I started disliking piano as far as taking lessons was concerned, you know.

MR. HINTON:
Yeah.

MR. JACKSON:
So I would go ahead and play what I wanted to play anyway and I got so I could read. Gee whiz, you learn to read in grade school. At home you learn to read music. You know, we used to have a singing period.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
All the old songs like Love's Old Sweet Song and Annie Laurie and all those things you sang in school.

MR. HINTON:
Sure, Just a Song at Twilight.

MR. JACKSON:
And you learned to read. Yeah, uh-huh.

MR. HINTON:
Sure.

MR. JACKSON:
So then I didn't like that. So they started to having music in the schools, public schools, so I figured, I said, "Now I've got to have something to play." So I saw this violin in the arcade at home. $16. And I was at a job lighting gas lamps, so I bought --

MR. HINTON:
How old were you then about?

MR. JACKSON:
12, about 11 or 12.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
And I --My mother, I used to give her my check every payday. But I saw this violin and she was standing upon a corner waiting for me to give her the check, but I had slipped around the arcade music store at home in Springfield and I got this violin. And it was a funny looking case. It looked like you put a dead person in.

MR. HINTON:
A coffin.

MR. JACKSON:
Yeah, like a coffin.

MR. HINTON:
Yeah, that was the ...

MR. JACKSON:
A wooden case. So I had the violin in there and I came around and my mother looked and saw this violin case, so she tried to get mad because I didn't have the check, but she had to smile. So I took the violin home and I told professor Humberger, he was supervisor of music at home in the schools, and I told him I wanted to play the violin. So he sent me to a teacher, Mark Snyder. He used to play {second violin in the Cincinnati Symphony. And I took lessons from him and I got so I could playa lot of things on the violin. It got so I could play solos in front of the orchestra. I could play Souvenir, da da-da-de de-de, things like that.

MR. HINTON:
Sure.

MR. JACKSON:
The only thing whipped me was Caprice ________ when I tried to tackle that.

MR. HINTON:
That's Kreisler's. Yeah, he's --

MR. JACKSON:
That's right.

MR. HINTON:
He's a tough man.

MR. JACKSON:
Oh, was he. He was beautiful. You know, I got to hear him in person.

MR. HINTON:
Yeah, Fritz Kreisler.

MR. JACKSON:
Yeah. My mother used to take me to hear all the artists when they would come home. I heard Paderewski in person.

MR. HINTON:
What kind of auditorium did you have to hear?

MR. JACKSON:
Just Memorial Hall.

MR. HINTON:
Memorial hall.

MR. JACKSON:
Yeah, we called it Memorial Hall where they had all the concerts. I heard Fritz Kreisler in person. I heard Caruso when I was six years old.

MR. HINTON:
Wow.

MR. JACKSON:
I heard Schuman-Heink. I heard Galli-Curci , Alma Gluck. My mother used to take me to hear all these people, you see.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
Because I loved music.

MR. HINTON:
Where was your mother from, Quen?

MR. JACKSON:
She was born in London, Ohio. Oh, maybe the town is about maybe 14 or 15 miles from Springfield going towards Columbus, that way. Just a very little town.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
And her father was a horse trader in that town. My dad came from Danville, Kentucky.

MR. HINTON:
What was the first, your first interest in getting to hear an orchestra where you figured you wanted to play in an orchestra? How did you get to there?

MR. JACKSON:
Well, McKinney had a band called Synco Septet. They only had seven pieces. And they used to rehearse out to Milt Senior's house, you know.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
And I used to go out there and listen. And Claude Jones was playing with the band at the time and he finally married my sister.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
And Claude usually --he played such great trombone. To me I thought he was the greatest trombone player that ever lived.

MR.HINTON :
I almost still do.

MR. JACKSON:
Well, me, too. So he used to come home all the time, you know, come through Springfield, and he said, "Gee whiz, Quent," he said, you've got such a good musical background, why don't you take the trombone? Because there's very few good colored trombone I players. This would be a good instrument for you." So I thought over this thing and thought over this thing and finally the guys at home, my buddies, they got a band together and they had nine pieces. They needed a trombone to make ten pieces. So at that time I was working for an undertaker. His name was Elmer Burns. I used to drive the ambulance and I used to play the organ for the funerals and things, you know, then jump out and drive the funeral car. And Elmer Burns had a brass trombone, he played in the Elks band. So I told Elmer, I said, "Elmer," I said, "why don't you tell me about this trombone? I'd like to know how it works and how do you play it. I'd like to know about this." So he took me and showed me the positions on it, showed me how to put my lip on it and how to attack the notes, you know, how you get from one note to the other. But he made the mistake of telling me it read the same as a bass clef of the piano.

MR. HINTON:
Oh, I see.

MR. JACKSON:
So the trombone parts in those days were simple. You know, it's more like little fill-ins.

MR. HINTON:
Yeah.

MR. JACKSON:
So I took all the trombone parts home that the guys had to the orchestrations and I would go in each position till I would find the note because I'd look there and I knew how the note was supposed to sound, and I'd go to each position till I found that note. Then I'd remember where I got it.

MR. HINTON:
Uh-huh.

MR. JACKSON:
From then on I started playing with the band, started to practicing with the band.

MR. HINTON:
What band was that?

MR. JACKSON:
A little band at home called the Buckeye Melodians.

etc ...

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