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Professor David Fromkin

He is a professor of International Relations, International Law, and Middle Eastern Politics at Boston University. He's also the author of the best-selling book, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East 1914-1922. The book details how the geography and the politics of the Middle East were shaped by decisions by the Allies during and after World War I.


Other segments from the episode on April 12, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 14, 2003: Interview with David Fromkin; Review of the new reissued CD “Carmell Jones.”


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Inteview: David Fromkin discusses the creation of the modern
Middle East

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Now that the battle for regime change is virtually won in Iraq, the United
States has to create an interim authority in Iraq and help the country design
a new future. It's a good time to look at some of the lessons of the past.
The map of the Middle East as we know it today was drawn up by the Allies
after the First World War following their defeat of the Ottoman Empire, but
the states they created were based more on the needs of the Europeans than on
the affinities and loyalties of the people within the Middle East. The
borders of Iraq were drawn up by the British, who then ruled Iraq under a
mandate from the League of Nations.

My guest, David Fromkin, is the author of the book "A Peace to End All Peace:
The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East."
He's a professor of international relations and Middle Eastern politics at
Boston University.

We're going to hear two interviews with Fromkin. In a few minutes, we'll hear
an interview we just recorded. But first, we're going to listen back to an
excerpt of the interview we recorded in 1991, just a few days before the start
of the first Gulf War. He told me the concept of nationalism was alien to the
Middle East.

(Excerpt from 1991 interview)

Professor DAVID FROMKIN (Boston University; Author): The basis of loyalty in
the Middle East at the time and for centuries before then had principally been
religion, and to the extent that it was not the basis of loyalty was family,
tribe, clan, sect--call it what you will--the locality in which you lived.
Middle Easterners had loyalties that were local, except to the extent that
they had religious loyalties. There were not nations or countries in the
European sense or the American sense of the word, and they hadn't developed a
feel for that at that time.

GROSS: What were the European claims to the Middle East in the teens and the
early 1920s? What gave them the authority to redraw the map?

Prof. FROMKIN: It came about really because they won the war. But I think
you have to go much, much, much further back, hundreds of years back, to when
the Europeans started to explore the globe--Columbus, Vasco da Gama--back to
the era of the explorers. And starting at that time, the Europeans conquered
or settled every part of the rest of the world. And the Middle East was one
of the few areas left, almost the only area left as of, say, 1914 that the
Europeans had not taken in hand, reorganized and made in their own political
image. The Europeans had felt for a long time that some day, they would have
to take the Middle East in hand, that it was not capable of governing itself.
And the moment came when the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish empire that then
ruled the Arab Middle East, recklessly and unnecessarily entered the First
World War on Germany's side. And when they did that and then lost the war,
that meant that Britain and France were in possession of the Middle East and
in a position to determine its future.

GROSS: Would you give us a quick review of which country drew and controlled
which Middle East state?

Prof. FROMKIN: Syria and what is now Lebanon were controlled by France, who
drew their boundaries. And Britain was in occupation of, in control of what
is now Egypt, Israel, West Bank, Jordan and Iraq with protectorships over
Kuwait and the other Gulf sheikdoms.

GROSS: Now how did it end up being Britain and France that took control over
these states?

Prof. FROMKIN: In the First World War, Britain was the Allied power that was
most concerned in the fighting in the Middle East. It was Britain that
defeated the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish empire. And at the end of the war in
1918, there was a million-man British army in occupation of the Middle East,
and it was the only coherent military force in the entire region. That meant
that Britain was in effective control of the entire Middle East.

GROSS: What did the European countries want from the Middle East? Why did
they want the territory?

Prof. FROMKIN: For different reasons. Both Britain and France wanted
control. They were imperialist powers that simply liked controlling a lot of
things. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George felt that Britain ought to
gain territory and control in the Middle East to compensate Britain for all
the losses suffered during the war. Traditionally, Britain had also wanted
control of that area, or at any rate wanted to exclude any enemies from
control of that area, in order to protect Britain's imperial road to India.

The French, who were in the Middle East at the same time, in addition to
feeling a sense of rivalry with England, had strong commercial and even
stronger religious interests in the area as protectors of the Maronite or
essentially Roman Catholic population in the canton of Lebanon. So it was a
great mix of reasons.

Very late in the day, both powers discovered the importance of oil. And it
was suspected that oil existed in the Middle East. They didn't know that it
existed in the great quantity that we now know that it does, but that was yet
one more reason for their being interested in the area.

Finally, in Great Britain, there was a strong sentimental interest based on
studying the Bible when everyone was children, a very strong sentimental
interest in seeing to the fostering of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

GROSS: Now you say that by the time the lines of the map were redrawn and
became official in 1922, Europe no longer believed in them.

Prof. FROMKIN: It was Britain. Britain, that had drawn the most lines, had
been most responsible for the settlement. Britain had been changing during
the war and after the war. One of the most important events that took place
in the first instance had nothing to do with the Middle East. That was the
very great economic collapse, the economic downturn, in Britain after the war,
which made the British voter feel that he didn't have the money or the
resources to embark on foreign and imperial adventures, that the money and
resources were needed at home to build industry and create jobs. And so for
that reason, Britain turned away from the idea of foreign adventures and such.

Moreover, there had been a lot of unrest in the Middle East and a lot of
disorder after the First World War. It was becoming evident that it would
really take a lot of commitment and resources by Britain to maintain a
position there, and the whole thing just started to look much less attractive
than it had before, so that there were many in England, not everybody, but
there were many in England, certainly in the electorate, in the Parliament, in
the press, that turned against the arrangements that Britain had made.

GROSS: Where does the United States fit into the creation of the modern
Middle East?

Prof. FROMKIN: The United States, too, changed its mind. Under President
Woodrow Wilson, who was in office until early 1921, the United States had an
idealistic program of trying to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants of the
Middle East as to what form of government they should have. As far as
rhetoric was concerned, President Wilson was opposed to the extension of
French and British imperialism to the Middle East--America was against
imperialism--but Wilson was not effective in his opposition to Britain's plans
and France's plans.

Once he left office and President Harding took office, America's policy
changed dramatically. We were then interested exclusively in the exploitation
of oil in the Middle East--that was really our only concern--and we felt that
the exploitation of oil would be facilitated by the creation of stable regimes
and, in turn, our idea of a stable regime was the sort of regime that Britain
would establish and administer. So we were all in favor of British rule in
the Middle East at least as much as the British were, maybe even more than the
British were, under President Harding.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: Historian David Fromkin recorded in 1991, just a few days before the
start of the Gulf War. Fromkin is the author of "A Peace to End All Peace:
The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Middle East." We'll
hear a new interview with Fromkin after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're looking at some of the historical lessons in Iraq. My guest is
historian David Fromkin, author of the book "A Peace to End All Peace: The
Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Middle East." The book is
about how the Allies redrew the map of the Middle East after they defeated the
Ottoman Empire in World War I. The British drew the boundaries of Iraq and
then administered the country as a mandate under the League of Nations.

Iraq was a British invention. How were the borders of Iraq created?

Prof. FROMKIN: There were three provinces of the Ottoman Empire that were put
together by the British to form this one country. There were the provinces of
Mosul and of Basra and of Baghdad. They were very different provinces, very
different in their population makeup. But in dealing with them, the British,
for strategic and other reasons, decided to put them together and call them by
some common name as a country, and they decided to call them Iraq.

GROSS: What did Iraq mean?

Prof. FROMKIN: It means deeply rooted, it means deep in the past; an Arabic
word, and that's an appropriate name for Iraq because it's in the territory of
Iraq that civilization first came into being. It's a relic of that long ago.
It's a relic of Sumer, S-U-M-E-R, an ancient civilization, the very first
civilization which rose there in 4000 BC, roughly.

GROSS: So what were some of the different religious tribal and ethnic groups
that were brought together under this new nation of Iraq, groups that never
saw themselves as being affiliated in any way before?

Prof. FROMKIN: Well, in the north, there were the Kurds, a very distinctive
people. In the south, there was a very large element of Shia Muslims,
essentially they were the largest group in Iraq, as I'll now call it. And
then in Baghdad, there were Sunni Muslims of the mainstream of the Muslim
religion. And the three of them were quite different. There were also, again
in the north, Assyrian Christians. And in the city of Baghdad, the
predominant element was the Jewish community.

GROSS: After World War I, when Britain, France and Russia carved up the
Middle East, was it controversial back home, specifically in England? Did the
British voters question the motives of their government? You were saying that
the British represented themselves to the Arab people as being patrons of Arab
independence when, in fact, they really didn't believe in the cause of
independence. So did the voters challenge the government's motives? Did the
voters believe that this was really about the independence of the Arab people?

Prof. FROMKIN: Well, they probably did. But newspaper editorials, if they're
any indication, did indicate that there was a strong belief that there was no
reason for Britain to waste its money trying to foist a regime on Iraq, for
example, that the people of Iraq obviously didn't want because they were in a
state of revolt.

GROSS: So it must have put the British government in a complicated situation,
because the government that created imperialism in the Middle East was voted
out by the time governance there really became an issue and the new government
was voted in by people who were skeptical about this new imperialism.

Prof. FROMKIN: Yes. And yet England did, to some extent, maintain a presence
in the Middle East despite that electoral loss, because Winston Churchill, at
that time minister of colonies and the person in charge of the government's
Middle Eastern policy before the government was defeated--Churchill thought of
an economical way to exert British influence in the Middle East in a way that
would not be a financial drain; and, therefore, the electorate would allow the
government to pursue.

GROSS: And what was it? What was the plan?

Prof. FROMKIN: And it was a combination of using two new weapons--air power
and armored cars--in a desert environment, a very effective, low-cost military
combination for holding down rebellions and such. Moreover, to make British
rule more palatable so that that kind of unrest, you know, would no longer
take place, Churchill effected a political settlement. The newly created
state of Iraq was promised its independence at an early date. An Arab ruler
was brought in, sponsored by the British, palatable enough so that the people
of the country were willing to accept him. And he immediately started
agitating for real independence, and so about 10 years later, Iraq got it. So
the imperialist program that Britain was going to impose was very much watered
down, but as watered down proved to be acceptable.

GROSS: You know, I think most people think of Winston Churchill as having
played, you know, a huge part in World War II, but not in the post-World War I
era. He seems to have been very important in the relationship that England
created with Iraq.

Prof. FROMKIN: He was. And he was very important earlier still, as first
lord of the admiralty. Before the First World War broke out, it was he who
made sure the fleet was ready when war came. He had a very long and very
productive political life.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is historian David Fromkin. He's
the author of the book "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman
Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East," and this book includes a
history of how Iraq was created.

What are some of the things that the Brits didn't understand about Islam when
they took over Iraq?

Prof. FROMKIN: The British government had a handful of people, maybe a bit
more than a handful, who professed to be experts on the Middle East and on
Islam, and these people were not necessarily in agreement with one another.
The author of Britain's Middle Eastern policy to begin with was the minister
of war, Lord Kitchner, Britain's most famous soldier, a man with a great
national following and a man who had spent all of his life, until then, in the
Middle East serving--and in India. So he was this great Eastern old hand.

Now he believed, as most of the British did, and possibly rightly, that in the
world of the Middle East, religion was everything. The big mistake that he
made, and others following him in the British government, was to think that
Islam was a structured religion like, for example, Roman Catholicism. And
their belief was that there was a person who was like the pope, one person in
charge of this organization, such that if Great Britain, for example, or some
other country could make a deal with that man at the top, they could have the
whole organization. So Islam, in that view, was a coherent organization and
you talked to the man at the top, you make your deal with him and you've got

GROSS: And I guess that didn't take into account that there were different
sects within Islam.

Prof. FROMKIN: And that it is not a structured religion in that way at all.

GROSS: Well, there are ayatollahs now who seem to rule.

Prof. FROMKIN: There are ayatollahs who seem to have varying amount of
influence and following, but that's different from having one man...

GROSS: Right.

Prof. FROMKIN: ...who has an organization, and especially a man who can--and
I'm deliberately using a slangy kind of phrase--a man with whom you can make a

GROSS: Right.

Prof. FROMKIN: you can with in old-style America, say, of a century
ago, the way you could make a deal with a political boss.

GROSS: Well, an example you gave in your book of a type of misunderstanding
this led to is that Lord Kitchner's plan called for Ibn Saud, the leader of
the Wahabi sect--and this is the very conservative sect in Saudi Arabia. He
was supposed to recognize the spiritual authority of the Sunni ruler of Mecca.
And these are different schools of Islam. They don't practice the same. I
mean, they have different cultures. Am I...

Prof. FROMKIN: Moreover, the Sunni ruler of Mecca, guardian of the holy
places, was not a religious leader. He was, as guardian of the holy places,
an emir. He was an appointed official, appointed by the Turkish government,
to safeguard those holy places. He was a government functionary. He was not
a holy man, if you will.

GROSS: David Fromkin is the author of "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of
the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East." He's the
professor of international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Boston
University. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: Coming up, Kevin Whitehead reviews the new Mosaic Select mini box
featuring jazz trumpeter Carmell Jones. We're listening to it now.

Also, more on the British presence in Iraq after World War I. We continue our
conversation with historian David Fromkin.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with more of our interview
with historian David Fromkin. He's the author of the book "A Peace to End All
Peace." It's about how the Allies redrew the map of the Middle East after
defeating the Ottoman Empire in World War I. The British drew the boundaries
of Iraq, and then administered the country as a mandate under the League of

The Brits got a mandate from the League of Nations to control or to run Iraq.
What did that mean, to have a mandate from the League of Nations?

Prof. FROMKIN: Yeah. A great change had taken place in the world and in the
public opinion of the various countries on the Allied and enemy side in the
war. Sir Mark Sykes, the British bureaucrat in charge of planning for the
postwar Middle East, was a man who had rather good political antennae. He had
a feeling for things. And there was a change in the world, and he sensed it,
sometime in the year 1917. The United States had entered the war on a program
opposed to imperialism. And in Russia, two revolutions had taken place, and
the Bolsheviks, who had come to power, violently attacked imperialism. So
these new forces were anti-imperialist, and everywhere imperialism, which had
been a respectable, respected political outlook, was on the defensive. People
started to be a bit ashamed of advocating imperialism.

And in that environment, the British, the French and their other Allies had to
rethink the claims they had staked out for themselves in the postwar Middle
East. They had to reconsider how that would go down, even with their own
public opinion. And somebody--I say `somebody' because historians question
which of two or three people thought of it--somebody at the peace conference
thought of the idea of a kind of effective compromise: What if you took these
territories in the Middle East that Britain, France and others intended to
annex--what if you took them and instead of annexing them and just making them
lands you ruled, what if you took them in the form of a trusteeship called a
mandate in which, yes, you would come in, yes, you would govern them, but it
would be in order to prepare them for eventual independence?

That was the mandate system. It was believed in by some and used by others
merely as propaganda. The British, I think, genuinely believed that at some
point they were going to give independence to the areas over which they had
mandates. The French did not. For the French, it was pure and simple
propaganda. The French claimed that Syria and Lebanon, which they took as
their territories, were going to be part of France, and as the French general
in charge said, "now and forever," in quotes.

GROSS: So if Britain planned all along to give independence to Iraq after a
finite amount of time, what was in it for Britain to have Iraq as a League of
Nations mandate, to have it as a protectorate?

Prof. FROMKIN: Well, there were quite a number of reasons. It should be
said, though, at the beginning that the British, at the start of the mandatory
regime, expected to hold Iraq for a very long time, much longer than, in fact,
they held it. So this was going to be something they held for a very long
time. Controlling it meant control of the concessions for oil. That was
going to be very important. Holding it maintained Britain's strategic
position on the road to India.

By holding the mandate, Britain could help to mold the country in its
consciousness and could influence the thinking of young people as they grew up
and were educated in British schools so that in many ways, there were great
advantages to Britain, and including the negative one, that Iraq, during the
years of the British mandate, did not side with any of Britain's enemies in
the world, so there was no threat from Iraq. And there might well have been,
which is something that we know because when the British did, in fact, give up
the mandate in the 1930s, at the end of the 1930s, there was an Iraqi regime
that seemed disposed to make a deal with Britain's enemies: Nazi Germany and
Germany's allies.

GROSS: When did the rebellions against the British mandate begin in Iraq?

Prof. FROMKIN: Hard to pinpoint an exact date, but it was in 1919, 1920.

GROSS: So it's pretty soon...

Prof. FROMKIN: Mostly 1920.

GROSS: ...after Britain took it over.

Prof. FROMKIN: Yes. It took place when Britain demobilized. The basic fact
in the post-World War I Middle East was that when the war ended there was a
million-man British army and occupation of the Middle East and no other rival
organized military force. So anything was Britain's to do. But the British
public wanted the troops brought back home, and despite warnings by Churchill
that's what was done; the army was demobilized. And the uprising in Iraq and
disorders elsewhere in the Middle East took place as soon as there was no
policing force, no military force to prevent it.

And the disorders, unrest, uprising--whatever you want to call it--in Iraq
started amongst the tribesmen, and it started when the British attempted to
impose taxes, and these were people that never paid taxes. And then others
with discontents elsewhere in Iraq rose up, too, because there wasn't anybody
to keep them from doing it.

GROSS: Were the British people surprised at the rebellion against the Brits
in Iraq? Did they think that they were going to be very popular in Iraq
because they were trying to bring them independence?

Prof. FROMKIN: They--I mean, at the very first, yes, they were. At the
first, they were surprised. They didn't know what was happening to them.
They had no idea where the unrest was coming from, and the entire thing seemed
very mysterious. Amongst British officials who were there, it looked very
much as though there were some conspiracy, some underground something or
another, some wicked forces who had somehow combined together to cause this

On the other hand, other British officials who are no longer in office, people
like T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, were highly critical of the British
administration, the people who had taken their place and now were governing
the country, and said in effect, `You should have known. You know, you
British officials on the spot, it's your fault for having tried to rule in the
wrong sort of way.'

GROSS: Iraq was a country that was created by England, and it took the
provinces of Basra, Mosul and Baghdad, put them all together, and in doing
that, put together Kurd, Shiite, Sunnis, Christians, Jews and a combination of
tribes. These were not people who had identified together as members of one
nation before. Do you think the idea of the nation of Iraq took immediately?
How long did it take for the people of that nation to feel like they were part
of a nation called Iraq?

Prof. FROMKIN: We still don't know for sure that they do. So I suppose the
answer to that question is: A long time. It was put to some extent to the
test during the 10-year war between Iran and Iraq some years back when, to the
surprise, of many people Iraq fought as one country. The Shiites of Iraq did
not go over to the side of the Shiites of Iran, and many people were quite
surprised by that. We still don't know how much of a loyalty has developed
since the British put this combination together, but the little evidence that
there is seems to point in the direction of saying that it's working.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is historian David Fromkin. He is
the author of the book "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman
Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East."

Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more.



(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is historian David Fromkin. He's the author of the book "A
Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of
the Modern Middle East." And we're talking about the end of World War I, when
England, France and Russia rewrote the map of the Middle East. And we're
talking specifically about how England basically created the boundaries of the
country now known as Iraq.

I'm going to ask you a big question here: What are some of the greatest
lessons of England's history, England's relationship with Iraq, that you think
we can apply to what the United States is trying to accomplish in Iraq today?

Prof. FROMKIN: The British believed that the handful of experts that they had
in their government on the Middle East were--and these were people of great
experience and knowledge about the Middle East--they believed that they knew a
great deal and were, on the basis of that knowledge, in a position where they
could reshape the Middle East in directions favorable to themselves.

And I think the very first lesson, indeed, is that they did not know as much
as they thought they knew. And for us, the lesson would be one of humility,
that we ought to really question how much we know and we ought to question our
ability to remake other people in our image. We ought to seriously ask
ourselves whether that is a proper endeavor for us to engage in. And that all
goes into one great, you know, sort of sense of caution about whether we
really know what we're doing.

One of the things that we see in the Middle East, but also elsewhere, is that
by and large, people prefer even bad government of their own to good
government by foreigners. And the history of that post-World War I era in the
Middle East does seem to show that the Muslim world does not want to be
governed by non-Muslims.

GROSS: Now the United States says that what it wants is for the people of
Iraq to be independent and to have a democracy, not to be under American rule.
But do you think that the imperialist experience of the post-World War I era
might lead to a certain skepticism among the people of Iraq who know their
history, because the Brits at that time said, `Well, you know, what we want is
your independence. That's what this is about. It's about Arab independence'?

Prof. FROMKIN: Yes. Well, two things. First, yes, there is bound to be a
good deal of skepticism in the Arab-speaking Middle East about our bonafides
and especially about our intention of letting them govern themselves and make
their own decisions. It should also be said that since our government for
some time now has made clear its belief that we are endangered by a certain
section of fundamentalist Islam, if indeed we succeeded in installing
democratic regimes throughout the Middle East, as we claim is our aim--if the
people were given the vote in other words--there is every reason to believe
that we would lose that vote, that the people would vote fundamentalist Muslim
parties into power. So we really have a lot of questioning of ourselves to do
before we instate regimes that, in all likelihood, will turn, in our view,
against us.

GROSS: You know, a lot of experts have suggested that after the end of Saddam
Hussein's regime that Iraq might become more like Lebanon or like the Balkans
after the end of the Soviet Union when there was a lot of civil war and
feuding. In Iraq, you have the Kurds, the Shiites, the Sunnis. Historically,
you know the history of those groups. Do you think that they might be able to
work together under one government, or do you worry that there will be that
kind of almost civil war between those groups?

Prof. FROMKIN: My guess--and it's no more than a guess--is that they will be
able to work together and live in relative peace with one another so long as
every group is given a large measure of autonomy.

GROSS: Meaning?

Prof. FROMKIN: Meaning of self-rule.

GROSS: Do you mean that, like, the Shiites have their own Kurdistan like the
Kurds have in the north of Iraq?

Prof. FROMKIN: Something like that, yeah. The situation with the Kurds the
last few years...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Prof. FROMKIN: ...has I think given cause for hope. It's a sort of
compromise solution between, you know, various other solutions, none of which
would have worked.

GROSS: Are there certain obstacles you think the United States is going to
face in Iraq in trying to establish a democracy there?

Prof. FROMKIN: Yes. The first obstacle is that there are no real traditions
of democracy. There's no real history of it. It isn't congenial to the local
culture, as we would say. So that's a mere problem.

GROSS: What else?

Prof. FROMKIN: Have to be sure that there was a real sense of national unity
because, you know, otherwise the democracy could result in fragmentation.
Democracy is not something that you find very much in the Middle East. It's
possible that it will take hold, but as I say, there's no history of it having
done so.

GROSS: Do you think that's a reason to not try or do...

Prof. FROMKIN: I would seriously consider whether democracy should come
first, or whether it should come later at a later stage. But it's awfully
hard. This business of nation building, of trying to re-create some other
country, is a tricky one. I'm not sure that we're smart enough to be able to
pull it off; great if we can, but I don't know that we can.

GROSS: David Fromkin is the author of "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of
the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East." He's a
professor of international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Boston

I just recorded an interview with Tony Bennett and k.d. lang. They have a
recent album of duets. We'll broadcast that interview sometime soon. In the
meantime, here they are together on their CD, "A Wonderful World."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TONY BENNETT: (Singing) Though you say we're through, I'll always love
you. You know you can depend on me.

Ms. K.D. LANG: (Singing) Though someone you've met has made you forget, you
know you can count on me.

Mr. BENNETT: (Singing) Now I wish you success, loads of happiness. But I
must confess, I must confess I'll be lonely.

Ms. LANG: (Singing) If you need a friend, I'm yours till the end. And you
can depend on me.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, Kevin Whitehead reviews a new mini box set featuring
trumpeter Carmell Jones. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New CD reissue featuring the music of jazz trumpeter
Carmell Jones

Jazz trumpeter Carmell Jones came from Kansas City, Kansas, and is remembered,
when remembered at all, for playing on Horace Silver's 1964 classic "Song For
My Father." A year later, he opted off the scene, taking a job with a German
radio orchestra. After 15 years, he returned to Kansas City where he died in
1996. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Jones never attained `forgotten hero'
status, but a new reissue makes his case.

(Soundbite of music)


Between the time Carmell Jones left Kansas and arrived in New York, he spent
three years in Los Angeles, where he quickly found a place on that city's hard
bop scene. Jones had superior technique and a knack for varied phrasing, and
his sound was just rough enough. He generated more crackling excitement than
most of today's super trumpeters. Jones had good ideas he could articulate;
developing a motif over the course of an improvisation to give it unity. On
Harold Land's blues "Sad March" he keeps reworking a fast repetitive figure,
moving away and coming back.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Carmell Jones, with drummer Leon Pettis and tenor saxophonist
Harold Land, Jones' staunchest ally in LA who had similar drive and
confidence. They made a good fit. Land had also played with trumpet king
Clifford Brown, Carmell Jones' hero. Comparisons with Brown would dog Jones
ever after, although his playing was slightly more Kansas City laid back. But
sometimes he'd invite comparison with Brown.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: This music comes from a three-CD set of LPs Carmell Jones recorded
in LA between 1961 and '63. It's in the new Select series from the Web order
house Mosaic Records. Unlike other Mosaics, these mini boxes will turn up in
stores a year after their release. It includes a couple of sessions where he
fronts larger groups discreetly arranged by band leader Gerald Wilson. Jones
co-led one such album with the even less-remembered Texas trombonist Tricky
Lofton. Like Jones, he'd later work for Ray Charles.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: An unexpected highlight of the Carmell Jones reissue is Harold
Land's forgotten LP "Jazz Impressions of Folk Music." Folk was big in the
'60s, and numerous jazz musicians took a stab at playing Dylan songs, Old
English ballads and other tunes with three easy chords. Land's lively takes
are a model for how to jazz up plain material: Play the melody straight but
swinging, move the chords around a little more--nothing too fancy--and maybe
write some short variations.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Harold Land, "On Top of Old Smokey," 1963.

By the following year, Carmell Jones was in New York recording with Horace
Silver, Booker Ervin and Charles McPherson before moving on to Berlin and
eventually back to Kansas. He made a good comeback album in 1982, but he
never got the attention he deserved. Things went better for Harold Land, who
remained one of LA's premier jazz musicians until he passed away in 2001.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for the Chicago Reader and the Chicago
Sun-Times. He reviewed the new Mosaic Select mini box featuring jazz
trumpeter Carmell Jones.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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