I met Joe when I was 11 years old. My brother Tony had just come out of the Marine Corp and went to take music lessons at Rizzo School of Music located in Chicago. One of his theory teachers was Joe Daley. Since I had an interest in playing the clarinet my brother mentioned to me that his theory teacher also teaches clarinet and saxophone. My actual first meeting with Joe was extremely nerve racking. Joe had a way of looking through you with his piercing eyes. I didn't know how to cope with this musical giant till much later. If there were any questions as to a certain interpretation of a musical idea Joe would demonstrate it completely on his clarinet, sometimes, taking the whole lesson to prove his viewpoint. Of course, when ever I would deliberately not practice Joe would be on my case with very hurtful remarks such as: 1) "why don't you give your clarinet to someone who wants to play it" 2) "you'll never play that horn-you're wasting your money and my time" 3) "why don't you give it up and just come here every week and we'll talk" 4) "why not become a baseball player since you are obviously not going to become a musician".
These sarcastic remarks would send me home crying. I was determined to prove to Mr. Daley that he was wrong in his judgement and I would play the pants off the exercise the next lesson. This, then, was pretty much the way lessons went till I got to high school.
I continued studying with Joe till my Junior year in high school. I had always had an interest in Jazz and found out that Joe's real interest was there also. I decided to switch to tenor saxophone because it was pitched in Bb like clarinet and besides Joe also played tenor. In short, I went through Joe's entire course of study. His last lesson with me was nothing more than telling me that he had given me everything he knew and that in order to improve upon that I would have to go out and blow as much as I could.
I had just started smoking and invariably Joe would ask me for a square. Square was Joe's hip word for cigarette-since cigarettes were round-square was the opposite word.
He would sometimes be eating his lunch while giving a lesson. In between bites Joe would correct any wrong note or phrase. You'd be playing and hear a snorting or gargling sound coming from behind you not knowing what is going to be coming out next.
I remember inviting Joe to one of my informal jazz gigs knowing full well that he would probably not come-but he did. I saw him come in just when I was about to play a solo-I became paralyzed knowing that he is going to ripe my solo to ribbons but instead said "sounds good". That was the first time he ever acknowledged any positive reaction. It was many years later that my brother told me that Joe's impression of me when I first started was "Tony, your little brother has a very bright future".
Joe was constantly recommending me for jobs, sometimes I would take his place. His confidence in me started me in the music business. His lectures influenced me to go to college seeking a Music Composition degree. I also received my Masters of Composition degree because of my growing interest in composing and arranging.
Joe liked the way I played so much that he offered me a job with him to play with the Chicago Symphony in 1968. The piece was called "Journey Into Jazz" by Gunther Schuller. It is about a young trumpet player that gets older and older and better and better finally making the grade. Joe's group consisted of Bobby Lewis-trumpet, Dan Shapera-bass, Hal Russell-drums, Joe-tenor sax, and me-alto sax. A funny thing happened while we were at Orchestra Hall. In the basement of the hall are lockers with tuning strobes. Both Joe and I were extremely careful to tune as perfectly as we could to A-440 before we went upstairs to the rehearsal. We tuned very carefully so that the orchestra players could not say that we were out-of-tune jazz players. To our shock when we were tuning to the oboe upstairs the variety of pitches that came out of the orchestra completely destroyed my impression of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They were so noticeably out-of-tune that Joe looked at me in shock. We finished the successful rehearsal and the actual children's concert two days later.
I rarely saw Joe in the next few years. We would happen to meet on a gig or some ones house party. Then in 1972 came the Mill Run Theatre in Niles. We were used to playing a different act every week. For example: Liberace, Danny Thomas, Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne, Jack Benny, Tom Jones, etc. The top acts in the world came through the Mill Run Theatre. Joe at the time was rehearsing a new group called The Joe Daley Quorum. Again the members were: Bobby Lewis-trumpet, Bobby Roberts-electric bass, Hal Russell-drums, Me-alto sax and Piccolo. During this period when we were working an act at the Mill Run. Joe, Bobby Lewis, and I were in the musicians dressing room relaxing. We had plenty time between the shows . All the other musicians were out having lunch or drinking or whatever.
Joe suggested "let's play". We both said "OK". Joe started playing a rhythmic idea in which Bobby took it up and developed it. I then took hold of the idea and started taking it away from where Joe had started it. Bobby, now, was following me instead of Joe. Joe stopped abruptly and looked at me with those piercing eyes with disgust in his voice and said, "hey man, your not doing the thing that me and Bobby are doing". I defiantly looked back at Joe and said, "maybe your not doing the thing that Bobby and I are doing". My answer completely broke up Joe. He said, "wow-ee, you have arrived". This was the first time Joe realized that I had my own voice musically. After that incident at the Mill Run Joe and I became more than teacher-student, we were friends in the quest for similar musical adventures-mainly the Free Jazz movement. Joe would hire me to play with him at trust fund concerts, in jazz clubs, seminars and clinics. He even went so far as to recommend me for clinics that he could not do, students that he could not take and colleges that he did not want to teach in. During this time period Joe was having trouble with his second wife. He was drinking very heavily and needed a place to stay. I offered my apartment. We both set up house keeping and talked about every subject under the sun. One night after both of us came home from a gig we decided to experiment with our voices. We both sang a jazz tune with solos one after the other.
During my solo Joe stopped me and said that I was not making the chord changes. I argued the point that it was He that was not up to hearing the correct version of the song. We argued and argued. I told him that he should try my approach before he discards it as being un-musical. He said that he would try it on the next gig. The next night after Joe's gig he told me, "Rich, I tried your suggestion. You mother fucker you, your no student anymore-we're equals".
He was constantly raving about my abilities to everyone else but me. He always kept that a secret. I never knew how he really felt about my playing, compositions, or my self-produced album. It wasn't until he fell ill that I learned that he thought of me like a son. My father died when I was age 8. Now that I look back on it, I thought of Joe as a step-father.
When I first took lessons with Joe I idolized him (I thought of him as a god), I wanted to play exactly like him. As I got older, I no longer wanted to play like him, for it was his exact words, "get your own thing happening, don't worry about criticism, play what you know and by ear and everything will turn out alright." Yes, Joe was ruff with his students. His discipline, direction, and insight into all facets of creative music and music business are legendary. Joe Daley will be remembered as a creative man who never kept anything hidden. He always spoke his mind no matter what. He was not afraid to say he was wrong. Although he never would complement anyone to his face he would lavish praise to no end behind that persons back. I never heard Joe say a bad thing behind anyones back-he would always say it to there face. Joe rarely showed emotion, although he had a lot of it. He was a man who could cry as well as laugh with no fear of who saw it. He was a man who stood tall among musicians. He was well-respected and feared for his ability, loved and hated for his candor, extremely intelligent, witty and fun to be with. I loved him very much. Joe will live in my memory and the memories of all who came into contact with him no matter how brief.
ASSORTED JOE DALEY PERFORMANCES:
TAKEN AT ORPHAN"S 1976
"Bessie's Blues", 11:52Listen
"Chasing The Bird", 13:15Listen
"Night In Tunisia", 17:11Listen
"Lady Bird", 12:06Listen
JOE DALEY QURUM:
"Time In Time Out", 7:40Listen
Joe Daley - Tenor Sax
Rich Corpolongo - Alto Sax,Piccolo
Bobby Lewis - Trumpet
Steve LaSpina - Bass
Dan Martin - Percussion
Joe Daley Introduces The Piece
"Once Beautiful For Alto Sax", 13:26Listen
Joe Daley - Flute
Rich Corpolongo - Alto Sax
Bobby Lewis - Trumpet
Steve LaSpina - Bass
Dan Martin - Percussion