Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Johnny Griffin Eddie Lockjaw Davis performing with fellow tenor Johnny Griffin was captured during a late 1970's concert.
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, tenor sax
Johnny Griffin, tenor sax
Harry Pickens, piano
Curtis Lundy, bass
Kenny Washington, drums
What are the odds that two such great musicians should come out of the same high school?
Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Johnny Griffin both attended DuSable High School in Chicago and studied under "Captain" Walter Dyett.
Well it turns out the odds are quite good.
Who else went to DuSable and had Captain Dyett as a teacher?
Here's the short list:
Nat King Cole
And I'm probably almost certainly leaving a few names off.
There's an old saying "Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a conspiracy."
Clearly Walter Dyett clearly was engaged in a 'conspiracy' to turn raw young people into master musicians...and he succeeded to a degree that would be beyond belief if the simple documentation of this extraordinary fact did not exist.
He's the guy who took charge of these "kids" when they were 14 years old and even before they came out the other end of his system, many of them were already working professionals.
As important, these man and women became artists, not placeholders in someone else's machine and made names for themselves in one of the most competitive, demanding fields on the planet.
Did music ever have a more extraordinary teacher?
Has ANY field ever had a more extraordinary teacher?
I had occasion to talk with drummer/percussionist/composer Jerome Cooper about his time with Dyett.
Apparently, Dyett did not embrace the "touchy-feeling/build a child's self esteem" school of education. He was tough. "If you were weak, you wouldn't make it," Cooper told me.
I believe it was Dorothy Donegan who said about Dyett "His ear as so good, he could hear an ant pee on cotton."
If you were out of time, off pitched or otherwise let than perfect, he knew - and a missile be headed your way. (I had a basketball coach like this and 40 years later, I can still hit 10 out of 10 free throw.)
High standards from a man who knew his craft...
Would that every child could have an experience like this at least once in their classroom internment.
God bless Walter Dyett and every teacher who puts forging skill and character above making friends.
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