Garth W Caylor Jr’s Nineteen + anthologises his 50 year old interviews with Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Steve Lacy, Paul and Carla Bley and more
50 years after he wrote it, Garth W Caylor Jr has finally published his book of jazz interviews. Called Nineteen +, it documents his meetings with Herbie Hancock, Milford Graves, Bill Evans, Steve Lacy, Paul and Carla Bley, Jimmy Giuffre and Ornette Coleman, among others, in New York City between 1964–65. “The conversations are about jazz music at its centre in New York City, at a time of social unrest and accelerating change,” says Caylor Jr, via email.
Why did he choose to talk to these musicians? “Each one had produced – to my thinking – moving and memorable music,” he replies, “and I could find them, meet with them and learn, first-hand, about the theory of their music and the life context of it.”
Caylor Jr says he let the interviews take shape by following cues in the musicians’ interests and thoughts. As such, he talks to Carla Bley about the body's capacity for absorbing plastics; to Giuffre about security versus substance; and to Ornette about the architect Edward Durrell Stone. This approach, he adds, was influenced by his friend and author John Arthur, who had developed a conversational technique of interviewing realist painters.
He finished the book in 1965 but couldn’t find anyone to publish it, despite a letter of glowing recommendation from Ralph J Gleason, rock and jazz critic and cofounder of Rolling Stone. “All I can say is that I urge you with every ounce of conviction I have to publish it,” Gleason wrote to Little Brown Company, adding that he had “read it twice and both times found it fascinating, but more than fascinating, I have found it illuminating”.
Finding no takers, Caylor Jr eventually filed the book away. “I was disappointed and embarrassed to have bothered so many people, now my friends, for their ideas and hospitality, which were hidden away in a file folder,” he writes.
Two events prompted him to self publish it. Firstly, Jason Weiss asked Caylor Jr if he could use some of it in a book he was writing about saxophonist Steve Lacy. Some time later, Caylor Jr read a Garrison Keillor article about changes in publishing and "decided to get the thing done by my own resources”, he says. He has now produced a paperback edition of Nineteen +, via Amazon's self publishing platform. You can read excerpts and find more information here.