Alan Dawson exercises in a New Orleans context

When I attended Berklee in the late sixties, I studied with Alan Dawson and couldn't endure his drive for perfection. I wanted to move forward in a quest for new concepts, and he wanted to make sure I dotted every “I” and crossed every “t.” Alan had the patience of a saint, while I was a child that couldn't get his pants up quick enough to get started every day.

Our personalities at the time were, in many ways, at polar ends of the spectrum; yet, his demeanor was easy going and he was easy to like. Alan would say, “Here's your assignment I expect you to put a lot of time into the concepts I give you,” which, in his delivery, might include a passive-aggressive tinge. Alan preferred to imply his core message, rather than just say it out loud. At the time I didn't get it: I couldn't wrap my little young-adult head around such nuance.

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