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Willie Akins

[IMAGE: Willie Akins]

Jazz tenor saxophonist and respected music leader

Birth:

Birthplace:

Date of Interview:

Place Interviewed:

Interviewer:

April 10, 1939

Webster Groves, Missouri

September 23, 1998

SIUE

Therese Zoski Dickman

Willie Akins began playing music on a simple recorder-type instrument. Before long he was playing the saxophone. Attracted by the music opportunities

and challenges of New York City, Willie Akins moved to that city in 1957. He was there for eleven years and returned to St. Louis, shortly after his father's death. Since then, Akins has worked to raise the standard of jazz musicianship in St. Louis. He and his Willie Akins Quartet perform regularly at Spruill's nightclub in St. Louis. In 1998 Akins and the quartet released their first music compact disc entitled, "Alima" (Catalyst Productions). Quartet members also featured on the CD are Willem von Hombracht (bass), Montez Coleman (drums), and Simon Rowe (piano).


This is the table of contents for the interview of Willie Akins. It is part of the National Ragtime and Jazz Archive which is located in Lovejoy Library at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

For a complete contents list of all musician interviews for the oral history project, please click on this link: Oral History and Research Materials.

If interested in reviewing these materials from the National Ragtime and Jazz Archive, please contact Therese Dickman, Fine Arts Librarian

Tape # Side

Time

Subject

1 a

1:00

Biographical info, early music teacher

1 a

2:08

Decision to move to New York; influences from New
York: Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Jackie McClean

1 a

2:47

worked with Eddie Randall in St. Louis

1 a

3:15

New York experience, wasn't prepared to play in New
York

1 a

4:23

Jam sessions with local guys and newcomers

1 a

4:42

Needed to meet the demand and stand ground in order
to play

1 a

5:10

Sat back absorbing

1 a

5:30

Kioni Zawatti helped with chord change on the subway

1 a

6:45

Initial meeting with Miles Davis

1 a

8:00

Frequent gigs at Count Basie's on Monday nights

1 a

8:40

Time and length of work in New York vs. in St. Louis

1 a

9:05

Freddie Hubbard at Count Basie's

1 a

10:10

Birdland in 1957, Freddie Hubbard playing trumpet

1 a

11:29

Met Quincy Jones band, Art Blakey and the Jazz
Messengers

1 a

11:41

Ray Draper, tuba player played with Max Roach

1 a

12:25

Howard Johnson, tuba player who played the tuba like a
trumpet

1 a

12:53

Clarity of sound

1 a

13:26

Wayne Shorter in Brooklyn

1 a

13:30

Asked to play "Stablemates" after Wayne Shorter

1 a

14:07

New York as a learning experience

1 a

14:36

Johnny Cols, played trumpet together in Trenton, NJ

1 a

15:09

Needed to slow down his playing

1 a

15:30

Missed gig at Berlin

1 a

16:12

Jam sessions as a test

1 a

16:40

The more he was in New York, the more he learned

1 a

17:05

Yusef Latiff's house for jam sessions

1 a

17:35

Barry Harris, mostly guys from Detroit at Usef Latiff's
house

1 a

18:07

Met tenor player who played on Herbie Hancock's
"Watermelon Man"

1 a

19:11

Barry Harris playing at jam session at Yusef Latiff's
house

1 a

19:49

Being able to see and meet people

1 a

20:15

Roy Haynes called Akins to work with him for a few
weeks

1 a

20:52

Lenny White and Steve Grossman when they were
younger

1 a

21:18

Billie Cobham and George Cables 1 a 21:37 Billie
Cobham on George Cables

1 a

21:57

Learning Experience and advice in New York

1 a

22:50

Came back to St. Louis in 1968

1 a

23:16

Periodically came back to St. Louis while in New York

1 a

23:17

Highly respected once he came back from New York

1 a

24:12

Learned more about the form of music

1 a

25:40

Played same tunes in a different manner

1 a

26:00

Variations in his playing style

1 a

26:20

Barbary Coast for about 2-3yrs

1 a

26:44

Club owner talking to him as the band leader about
variations

1 b

0:06

Club owner, GasLight Square and the Palace, dress
code

1 b

0:59

Johnnie O'Neal at a club

1 b

2:00

Motives of the club owner

1 b

2:36

Akin's forming own group

1 b

3:05

Type of music he wanted to play and what people
wanted to hear

1 b

4:25

People who have been in his group: Rob Block, guitar,
Bernard Hutcherson Jr., drums, Gus Thornton, bass

1 b

5:25

Younger players in the group

1 b

5:40

Self-sufficient, especially in the group

1 b

6:23

Clubs looking for a sound

1 b

6:48

Current Group: Rob Block, William VowHombracht,
Emmanuel Harold

1 b

7:10

Keyon Harold, trumpet player, ages of Emmanuel and
Keyon

1 b

7:37

Akins' CD Cover, Barbary Coast

1 b

8:01

What led to CD, Simon Rowe

1 b

8:33

Akins asked Simon to play a few gigs

1 b

9:00

Spruills - played with Simon and added him to the
group

1 b

10:05

Akins' compositions "Alima" and "Hey Baby" on the
CD

1 b

10:33

CD release party

1 b

11:12

Anticipated rain for release party

1 b

11:35

Storm warnings began

1 b

11:54

Started raining

1 b

12:04

Lights went out at his home

1 b

12:27

Went back to his mother's house

1 b

12:50

Traffic was bad to the release party

1 b

13:05

arrived at release party

1 b

13:15

Full house for the release party at the Sheldon
Memorial Concert Hall

1 b

13:45

Party turned out great

1 b

14:02

CD had been out a year

1 b

14:04

Honored at Jazz Supper Dance held at SIUE

1 b

14:25

Julius Hunter, Reggie Thomas and Rick Haydon also
honored

1 b

14:40

Performed with fellow honorees

1 b

14:55

Also played at the Ritz with Reggie and Rick

1 b

15:04

Scott Alberice original

1 b

15:20

Tommy Kennedy, bass, Ray Kennedy, piano

1 b

15:49

Leaving to do some recording soon

1 b

16:00

Did CD with Jeanne Trevor, "Love You Madly"

1 b

16:15

Lugman Hamza, from Kansas City, recording with
Akins

1 b

17:07

Catalyst Productions and their beginning

1 b

17:55

Wanting to record Akins groups

1 b

18:14

Simon setting up things record

1 b

18:55

Simon urging Akin to record

1 b

19:10

Recorded at J. Oliver Studio, Creve Coeur, MO

1 b

19:40

Variety of songs on the CD

1 b

20:10

What he would want people to remember about him and
his contributions to jazz

1 b

20:50

Awarded by Jazz Crusaders for Jazz Icon in community

1 b

21:30

Music speaks for itself

1 b

21:49

Played music others didn't know and different styles

1 b

22:25

Played different tempos to different songs

1 b

23:05

Need to be able to play different tempos

1 b

23:35

Looking forward to many more years

1 b

23:58

Challenge to keep young guys

1 b

24:15

Keeping a group together is hard

1 b

24:25

BB's Blues and Soups and Spruills is where he plays

1 b

25:04

Wrap up of interview


E-mail comments and inquiries about the National Ragtime and Jazz Archive to Therese Dickman at tdickma@siue.edu or call 618-650-2695.

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