Interview with Steve Wilson (Saxophonist, Composer, Educator)

Steve Wilson, 2010

I first met Steve in Tallahassee, Florida in October 2009 for The Cannonball Adderley Festival. His generosity combined with his sheer talent and rich language on the saxophone easily makes him one of the baddest musicians I have ever met. I was even more humbled when he agreed to meet in his apartment in Summer 2010 for a charming interview. Over berries and water we discussed a number of topics from growing up in the afro-centric 1970’s to his monstrous tour with The Blue Note 7.

AA: You said once that there is a “necessary duality in jazz. It is inclusion music but in order for it to be jazz it needs to address elements such as blues, swing and African elements because that’s what makes it what it is and it’s the spiritual foundation of the music that gives it its roots.” Jazz and poetry also have a duality in that they are both related. When the combination of the two is addressed, is it inherently good for jazz or poetry for or does it propose conflict of interest? To use poetry in one’s music, are you responsible to understanding as much of the poetry’s history as the music? Is the reason why a jazz musician may not gravitate towards poetry a result of the nature of jazz and its tendency to preserve the roots while progress the art of the music so much so that poetry is left in the dust?

SW: Probably yes in terms of a lot of jazz musicians having not done enough research or collaboration with poetry or poets, although there is a rich tradition of the two coming together. It goes back. It’s not something that started in the 50’s with the beatniks. It goes back even further. Even at the very foundation of the music, the blues. Before the blues became a codified form of music, when it was work songs. Right there, we have the genesis of it in terms of telling a story. In terms of where we are now, I know quite a few musicians who are working with spoken word and poetry. But I think it would benefit poets and musicians to look into the foundations of both art forms. They are related and we are talking about the same tradition, for all intents and purposes, in terms of how the art forms formulated in America. It’s a continuation of African art forms, the grillos. Certainly there is a connection there. It would behoove us on both sides to research the foundation and history.

I worked with a few poets intermittently, nothing on a steady basis. I think the first time I ever did something it was over at the Nuyorican when I was working with Leon Parker back in the early/mid 90’s. We were the house band and would play a groove or a tune. It was fun to improvise around their words, or their rhythm or their inflection. It was very hip and it put you in a different musical space. I did a record with Kevin Bruce Harris he had wonderful poet on his record Tracie Morris, I remember she had this tune she did called “Skin”, very hip. I personally would love to do more of that in terms of expanding my musical and expressive and artistic palette. I would love to do more of it. There’s a history of it, I mean talking about Amiri Baraka, whose ex-wife lives at the end of my block. When he talks about the music, he really knows the music and brings all of that history into his words. I think it is incumbent among the musicians and the poets to do that research. Also, there’s Ornette Coleman’s ex-wife Jane Cortez. And someone I loved to listen to growing up, believe it or not she used to be on TV in the early mid-70s, is Nikki Giovanni. There was a show on public television called “Soul” by Ellis Hanzlip who would present poets, writers and musicians. It was during the “afro-centric” era of the 70’s. This was on weekly and we turned it on, and there it was. That’s how I got hip to Nikki Giovnni. She would speak history and experience, as she knew it, and how we knew it. It was present tense and it resonated. There was a certain rhythm and inflection to what she does that is beautiful and musical.

AA: And that’s another thing about poetry is that, the poetry of today is about today. It was written today. You go to the Nuyorican you’re going to hear a poem that was written today. Jazz music could thrive in that setting because it would force musicians to progress at a more intensified rate. I believe that these traditions are important but at the same time it’s important to be exploring new mediums. Both could benefit from the idea of remaining fresh.

SW: That was the fun part about doing the Nuyorican and I credit Leon for getting me to think outside the box because he was an “outside of the box” kind of artist.

AA: How did you approach it?

SW: It was totally spontaneous because even though we were the back-up band. It wasn’t like we were going in their for a performance with a set-list for a given poet. We didn’t know what was going to happen, we didn’t know what they were going to say, it was total improvisation in that we had to vibe on what the poet was talking about. So maybe if the poet introduced the title, would set up the groove, set the mood and just go with the words that he or she was speaking. We were totally on vibe and so you can bring that element into a performance, even if you have stuff that’s worked out and rehearsed. You have to nurture that sense of creativity and spontaneity and bring that element into a performance even when you have stuff that’s worked out and rehearsed. You have to keep that antenna up all the time. To me, in the forefront of the music in such music as Charles Mingus, Roland Kirk, Ellington, the best of jazz has it. Even if you have this refined art form, you still have this element that is raw and that’s totally in the moment and that’s what makes the music what it is, what makes it unique.

AA: Elasticity as well, that’s what also draws me in.

SW: When you talk about Roland Kirk or even Booker Ervin. They have such a speech element in their playing. Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Bird, Lee Morgan…they have this lyrical element in their playing, a storytelling. When I hear Booker Ervin in particular who has the wails and cries in his sound. Billy Harper’s like that too.
AA: When you’re performing with the poets, how often do they leave space? Are they producing a stream of consciousness? I’ve read archives from sessions in the 50’s the poet would be the main actor and the band was just an extra add-on. Do you feel a unity on the Nuyorican stage? Where do you feel like your place is?

SW: It depends on the poet. Some poets would be in the stream of consciousness while others would have a certain rhythm that naturally interacted with the group. Others were accustomed to working with musicians and understood the use of inflection, rhythm and space. From what I remember, it varied; we were mostly a background thing, which was fine. It’s that way a vocalist sometimes. Sometimes they don’t want to interact with the band and other vocalists want the band to contribute. It varies, even some lead instrumentalists. When they get a back-up band they get a back-up band, they want the band to stay in the back. Others want the band to be a part of the main sound.

AA: Do you think that particularly in the New York, the jazz has influenced the poets that are reading? With hip-hop and spoken word, are you also a believer in jazz’s influence on hip-hop?

SW: Totally. Oh yeah. Guru would sample Blue Note and he had some present day jazz musicians he collaborated with like Ron Carter and Kenny Garrett. In New York, this is the place where all that stuff comes together. There are other places where it does, I’m not saying New York is the only place but when you look at the geographical layout of New York, it’s concentrated as opposed to places like LA and Atlanta. Here, it’s a naturally concentrated urban setting so you’re naturally going to get cross-fertilization.

I wanted to mention Weldon Irvine, who died in 2002, and was a real pioneer. He was from my hometown of Hampton, Virginia. He was the composer of “Young, Gifted & Black” which was an African-American anthem in the late 60’s and 70’s and made famous by Nina Simone. Weldon Irvine lived in Queens and he nurtured people like Lenny White, Tom Brown, Bernard Wright, Marcus Miller…all the Jamaican guys. He was amazing in all music, not just jazz. In R&B, gospel, hip-hop and he was one of the first musicians that really embraced the hip-hop scene and began to infuse his music, and compose his music to employ hip-hop artists and musicians I mean one of the first jazz musicians in that scene. He was a real pioneer. I met him when I was in my teens, and he was already in his 40’s at that time. He was talking about that stuff then, this was 1979. He was talking about that stuff then! We’re talking 40 years ago. He was right on the forefront. If you get to speak to guys like Lenny White or Marcus Miller, ask them. When I got to see him later after I moved to New York, he was working on plays, different hip-hop project that would encompass everyone.

There’s a show called World Famous Lessons in Jazz and its produced by a guy name Kevin Anderson. Their whole purpose is to draw together the elements of hip-hop and jazz and they played jazz recordings and hip hope recordings and everything in between. When I first met Kevin about 10 years ago, I heard and saw the stuff he was doing and I told him about Weldon. I think two or three years after Weldon’s passing they did a tribute to him. They had Lenny and Marcus down there all talking about his contributions it was great to make the community aware of him because he was pulling all of these disciplines together, poets, jazz artists, hip-hop artists, R&B.

AA: I wanted to shift to the topic of journalism in jazz. I know that the Jazz Journalists Association nominated you last year for Soprano Saxophonist of the Year. What are the effects of journalism, with its changing tides and the reduction of credibility, on the topic of jazz journalism? Where is the future of jazz journalism as the magazines that shaped the music in the 60’s begin to fall down?

SW: That’s a good question, man and it’s a loaded question and a loaded answer. I’ve got two anecdotes. I got an email from a good friend of mine about two weeks ago who just so happens to be a killin’ alto player. He sent me this email about a journalist employed by Downbeat praising this artist because he was in the critic’s poll. This artist is one of the best alto saxophonists around and has been for a long time. This critic was praising him and writing him up…as a tenor saxophonist and while citing the recording where he is only playing alto and soprano. I thought it could be a “type-o” but then I thought, “No, it can’t be because he is referencing the recording”. I’ve seen this in my own instance when a journalist is giving praise, giving words to the music and I read it and think “is that what I was doing? You know! I didn’t know I was thinking about that”. Another quick anecdote, I heard something on NPR. It was on how we have so many blogs and it seems that anybody can get a blog and now because of this information age and the Internet, it’s a two-sided coin. You can get information and critiques instantaneously and at the same time how much of that is going to be creditable. At the same time, you can get something out there reporting something then someone could post something 5 minutes later completely disproving it. I don’t know, man, it’s really up in the air. I know some good writers and some credible journalists who really know the music and who understand the art. Then there are others who are complete jive.

AA: They won’t be remembered in the scheme of things.

SW: I hope that you’re right. Depending on whom they align themselves with politically they could get the form that someone with much more credibility would deserve. We’ve seen it happen on different levels. It’s up in the air.

AA: Also, is the jazz audience engaged in the “blog” world? There are tons of jazz blogs out there.

SW: I think that it has gradations of involvement. I think people who want to be really into that will, and those who don’t give a damn will take it with a grain of salt. I am flattered to be acknowledged for my work whether it is by a fan, critic, musician, journalist; I am very humbled by it in general. At the same time, a journalists or critics view of what I’m doing or what I’ve done doesn’t define me as an artist. At the end of the day, it’s just one perspective, one opinion. If they agree with what I do, great, if they don’t great.

AA: And at the end of the day, the music stands alone.  It’s not you, or what you’ve done that month or how well it’s done, it’s the music.

SW: Exactly. We’ll see. I think its great to discuss it.

AA: I saw an interview with you and Howard Mandel a discussion on class division in jazz. There are certain jazz musicians who were driven by class struggle and political drive such as Max Roach and Sonny Rollins. There are those doing it now such as Vijay Iyar and Mike Ladd. Do you think that jazz as a tonal and musical language conveys the progression or a social commentary of a society. Do you think using instrumental music only, the music can represent how you felt because you are you and you are today?

SW: I think its naive to think that only the music, instrumentally particularly, can speak to the masses because we know that it doesn’t in terms of a pop-cultural level. We need the spoken word and the vocalist who can articulate it eloquently, not always with a sweetness, sometimes its got to be in your face its got to be blunt. Other times its got to be the way Duke Ellington or Charles Mingus did it. Or the way that Max Roach or Sonny Rollins and the “Freedom Now Suite.” We need all of it. We have gradations of connections with this music in terms of the masses. Some people can really get the music and just need that, and some need to latch onto something else. We don’t all get to this music through the front door. It’s not like the average person will wake up and hear Charlie Parker and go: “oh that’s it, what a revelation!” that doesn’t happen to 99% of people, they find some other connection that gets them into the music then they come deeper. And that happened to me and we need all of it.  It all serves a purpose, it’s all a part of means of expression, it’s all a part of the wonderful kaleidoscope of expression we have within this music. We need all of it.

AA: …to convey the message. There’s a message in this music. That’s what keeps it fresh and allows young listeners to latch onto it. Then again, these are new times we are in and jazz might need to catch up.

SW: It needs to be aware of where we are.

AA: Max and Sonny knew!

SW: We now live in such a P.C culture. Can you imagine a “Freedom Now Suite” being done now? The backlash! If “Freedom Now Suite” was done in present tense, because of the information age, the Internet…even if you go onto any newspaper online and you read the comments. You will see the most vile stuff, it’s so out and you see the level of hate that is really beneath the surface. If you can imagine a “Freedom Now Suite” being done now, when it’s really put out there, you can imagine the backlash. I think we need it now more than ever. We can get too comfortable sometimes. The tendency now is: “I want to say this but I want to be P.C. because I don’t want to ruffle any feather and I want my message to be heard. I want to open up some eyes, I don’t want to close them.”

AA: I want to maximize my audience potential.

SW: Yeah, and its tricky now because everyone is so sensitized to being P.C. It’s a tricky balance. It’s different than it was in the 70’s.

AA: But we have a war going on! It doesn’t make sense.

SW: [laughs] Yeah, right! But we’re also in the midst of a cultural war, well let’s not call it that, lets call it a conflict, a cultural conflict. Without being P.C I would call it a conflict. I call it the “American Idol” syndrome whereas mediocrity is accepted as the standard barer now. In order for one to become famous, either at acting or any of the “pop” arts you need no qualifications now. If you have a notion to sing in your shower, get on American idol.  If you’re a singer or a hip-hop artist, now you’re qualified to be an actor, you don’t have to go to Lee Strasberg or go to acting school. Just sign up! This is where we are now. In effect this has brought the standard down. The evidence in there, look at the actors of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, take James Cagney, who could do it all, man. Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr. and go down the list. They were versatile. They were artists. Now it’s a different standard, has it gotten better, it has not. That’s where we are with that, that’s why I call it the cultural conflict.

AA: I don’t know how we’ll get out because what you’re describing is a slippery slope because of the Internet.

SW: And because the corporations are running everything, they are setting the tone. Unless there’s a real populist movement, which I don’t see happening. Its very slick how they do it. They run American Idol, those commercials that they are running in between, they’re going to be running products that they want the masses to buy so they keep us pacified in a number of different ways, man, and keep us desensitized with such things as the 24-hour news cycle to get us to buy into the emotional hype. At the end of the day, by the time the average person has watched 10-12 hours of television they have been bombarded with stuff and haven’t looked beneath the surface. Plus with the fact that over the last 30 years or so with education with the American education system. We don’t’ know our history. Little by little they’ve taken away a lot of that history and unless an individual goes out and does the research to understand the history they’re not going to have the wherewith all to ask “how did we get here?” all they know is “here”. They don’t ever know to ask, “now, where was there? And how did we get here”. It’s a vacuum.

AA: You are in the network of education and it’s all around you.

SW: It’s something we talk about all the time. I tell students in my master classes, especially the non-music students. I pose the question: “jazz, why should I care?” Which is a fair question to ask. What I get around to is that it’s uniquely American music and when you research this music you will be researching this history of this nation, therefore researching the history of this nation and the history of your ancestors and that this music is made up of many different cultural elements that came together on this soil. If you really want to understand the history of this country and how we go to where we are, where we came from as a nation, go and study the history of jazz because it will take you all the way back.

AA: The saxophone itself, let’s chat about your progression as a player. You’ve performed twice with the Mozart Festival orchestra. That’s a different setting for you and its good to see the versatility of a jazz sax player. I respect that value of your playing so much and was wondering whether you thought that was missing from younger players.

SW: I am still learning classical repertoire. I studied one year of classical saxophone at Virginia Commonwealth University. It was mandatory to do it as an instrumental major, and I didn’t take it as seriously then, though I got a lot out of it on the technical level. It taught me a lot about the instrument, the sound, and the value of tone, intonation, and the right kind of embouchure.  Only in the last 2-3 years, I’ve begun to look at the classical stuff. I am still discovering. It wasn’t until the invitation to the Mozart Festival when they requested that I play a classical piece with the orchestra. I was like “man, I don’t do that, there are plenty of guys that do that great.” So I chose the Villa-Lobos because it spoke to me artistically, musically it spoke to me more than the other traditional classical repertoire and it was closer to the jazz element. Also, because I could play soprano on it, classical alto is really hard, though Branford Marsalis is doing some great stuff on classical alto and there’s this other guy out of D.C, Charlie Young, who is a killin’ jazz player who has been playing some great classical alto. The value is that it really teaches you the instrument and makes you aware of finer points with tone and intonation so when you hear that record with Cannonball Adderley with strings and it’s not cutting edge, some say its corny but his tone! It’s pristine. He refined it even more to fit the setting. I’m really trying to be in this classical context. I can’t do things that won’t fit into that context. When I step out of it and come back to the things that I do in jazz and improvisatory music. It makes me aware now so when I go to play something I may go “oh, I got to watch my intonation”. I actually had my instruments adjusted and I figured out that how I had my horn set up was conducive to the intonation I wanted. When I came back to the jazz idiom now I find that I can play more easily in tune. I have had a pretty good embouchure for the last 20 years but now I realize the little thing like: “I cant have that key too open, so I don’t have to lip down. I remember hearing Wynton say a few years ago, when he was playing the Haydn trumpet Concerto. He said to me, “man it’s just more music.” And that’s what it is to me. If I’m into it, I’m into it. And it has its own discipline that you have to respect but I wont go as far as to say adhere to. I think that once you master the nature and the intent of composer and the nature of the piece and to me it’s just more music. Classical music is more exacting, much more than jazz in terms of execution but that can enhance ones jazz playing. They can compliment each other if we can allow them to; it’s all about attitude. I tell students wind players to take advantage of every situation at school. To sax players I ask them to get your doubling together by studying, get in the clarinet choir or the symphonic wind band, the same thing if you’re studying flute, give yourself a different musical experience on that instrument so that you learn that instrument and learn how to really play it so that when you go to play a Jimmy Hamilton part on some Ellington stuff, you go “oh, OK, BOOM”. Well maybe that’s a stretch because Jimmy Hamilton’s stuff is pretty hard…but that’s the deal. When the flute or clarinet part comes up in big band it’s not a big deal, you’re not scared of it.

AA: Now let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the tour you went on with the Blue Note 7 group. That was a culmination band of incredible musician from separately successful careers. You performed your own arrangements of Blue Note compositions. You arranged “Criss Cross” one of my favorite Monk tunes. What was it like working and touring with that band?

SW: First off, it was one of the best tours that I’ve ever done. Everything from top to bottom, they way the tour was put together, the music, the musicians, the attitudes, collectively and individually attitudes among the best I’ve ever experienced because everyone really gave themselves to the music. It was a very selfless band. It was an all-star band but it really became a band. We actually tried to keep it going past the initial tour but things just didn’t come together logistically and business wise for it to happen. I took away a lot. The level of musicianship was incredible. Every night the band was on and I literally felt like it raised my level every night and that’s the best place to be. When you look around you and every player has something that you can get night after night that boosts you up. That’s the best of all possible worlds, man. I was surrounded by giants! To have that within a collective, that’s a very rare thing. There’s no dead weight. Everybody was really there for the music and each other. We spread the solos around every night; it was a completely democratic situation. Even thought Bill Charlap was more or less the musical director, or as he called himself the “guiding force”, he didn’t like the term MD, he was like the pilot of the ship. Also, rediscovering some of the music we had in the book and then hearing these new arrangements on the music. Within the arrangements, to hear everybody’s personal story and experience, you can hear elements of funk, Latin, R&B, soul, classical, avant-garde, that way you can hear everyone’s collective experience brought to the fold, which gave a new look to the music. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s musical story. I got to know everyone better personally; we already knew each other but to be on the road. Those interpersonal relationships filtered their way into the music because there was a certain trust factor. Even on the nights when things felt a little off, there was never a bad night. Every night was great musically, no matter what. The biggest things and the most important things is that it was reaffirming in that this music has a real place, real fan base and a real core audience. We traveled to places like Norman, Oklahoma, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Claremont Falls, Oregon and other places in the Midwest that were not just major cities. With maybe the exception of two or three concerts if that, every concert was pretty full if not, sold out. The best audiences, I can see as if it were yesterday, were Norman. Oklahoma, Sioux Falls, we played Boulder and it was like a rock concert and they were screaming and I was like WOW. So it was reaffirming man, and then to see integrated faces and meet people from different social economic statuses…this music has a fan base that crosses all that. Fifty cities, by bus across America is unheard of for a jazz-group these days. To see this music has an audience and that people are hungry for it and they wanted and they were there and they appreciated it and vocal about it! For people who say jazz is dead, what relevance does it have? I can tell you that it is there and has real support and there are people out there who are digging it. Is it going to be the million people who watch the American Music Awards on TV? No. But there is a group of people in this country that really identify with this music and they are turning on new people to it, turning on youngsters to it.

AA: That’s beautiful, man.

SW: It is and that was the most important thing that I took from that tour.

AA: It’s humbling to see people out there…

SW: It’s given me a renewed sense of purpose. Not that I ever lost it but to see it face to face, 50 cities across America. We expect that in Europe and Japan but to see in America, now that’s what they want.

AA: When I come to NY sometimes, the clubs sometimes feel a bit dry.

SW: That’s true. As a matter of fact, we ended the Birdland. We had done 50 and we come home to Birdland for 4 nights and the first night, the audience was like [claps hands softly and proper-like] and we were like “Wait a minute! Are we in New York!? We just traveled across the country and people are going nuts and this is supposed to be the hippest audience in the world!” We all got a chance to MC and a couple of times Nick Payton would get on the microphone and would have to ask, “is this New York or what? We just got back from Oklahoma, you’re supposed to bring it better than that!” So sometimes the NY audience shows up because they are tourists who were told to go to this jazz club because its famous or they are jazz nerds who say “now I want to see what time signature they’re going to play in”.  They are thinking this [holds hands close to one another] and not feeling this [gestures towards heart]. It’s kind of funny to go to some of these places man, where people are bringing and then to go to NY and they are like “hmmm”.

AA: You called your recent band, Wilsonian’s Grain, musicians and magicians. I thought that was an excellent was to personify a jazz musician. Both make you think and question what you believe and stretch your curiosity…these aren’t necessarily the average jazz listeners go-to qualities in the music but the avid jazz fan or a person whose into the culture and what’s going on, not necessarily the nerd, might look at the music on stage.

SW: How many times do we say when we go out and hear someone we already love and we know its going to be great, and they play beyond that level and you ask yourself, “how did they do that?  How did they hear that?” Which is what you say when you see a magician, literally. I’m listening to these guys on the bandstand, I’m always listening to these guys and what they do sometimes, I would ask myself “where did they find that?” Because it would be so far from what I would think of and…

AA: That’s them.

SW: That’s them.

AA: I’ll bet there on the bandstand too and be like “man, I need to go home and shed”. I’ll hear something and say “oh”. When I hear you play, it’s inspiring.

SW: Well thanks man, I’m just trying to be plugged into the source all the time.

AA: Orrin too, man, on the performance, he was really on that night.

SW: Orrin has evolved so much. Like most of us, I’ve been watching him and listening to him over the years. He has evolved into something so unique and special. I went to see his engagement at The Jazz Standard. He had Ralph Peterson, Tim Warfeild and Eric Revis. The stuff that Orrin was doing…I just love his music. He’s another one who is real encompassing spoken word and hip-hop. He thinks out of the box all the time, but he can play in the box too and that’s what I love. He’s rooted and is not just stepping out there for the sake of being different. He’s an extension. That’s what I call truly “extending the tradition”. He knows it, it’s a part of him, he’s rooted in it but he also understands a part of the tradition is finding your own voice and finding your own expression and I think that sometimes we get the two mixed up. You know? You can’t find you own voice outside of this music! If you’re going to call yourself a jazz musician, there’s too much history! It’s not a vacuum, you can’t exist in a vacuum with this music. Because 99.99% of the time you’ll find that this new thing that you’ve discovered has already been done in some form, shape or fashion so you might as well go to the source of the information first, then you can decide how you want to employ it and what thread you want to take from it to make your own fabric.

AA: It’s exciting for me to see how jazz will continue to explore hip-hop idioms.

SW: It will be. What’s interesting about it is that jazz is different from classical music in terms of form. Jazz is repetitive, classical composition keeps evolving. Where as in jazz, the composition is mostly within the improvisatory part. Of course, you have great jazz composers who can write extensively and can write extended forms like classical music. Take hip-hop, which compared to jazz, is “loop”. It’ll be interesting to see. The challenge is how can you maintain this “loop” effect, and keep in changing and keep it evolving. I don’t know. Coltrane did it in terms of using vamps. Miles brought in the modal jazz element and that was the start of it. Later on, Pharaoh Sanders and McCoy Tyner, how they would play over vamps and find new sounds over vamps. Now if you use a singular rhythmic loop, how do you keep that going, I’m not saying it can’t be done but I just don’t know. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops because this generation of musicians that’s coming along now are weaned on hip-hop as a primary musical source or other kinds of music because they grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Very few of us started out as jazz babies, at one year old down with Miles. I was exposed to a lot of different things at 3 or 4 years old. I do remember Ahmad Jamal at Pershing was the first recording that I remember latching onto but there was also Motown, gospel, Stevie Wonder, P-Funk, Kool & The Gang, Edgar Winter, fusion and the whole bit. Up until I was 18 or 19, I didn’t really concentrate on jazz until I was 19, when I knew how serious of a study it was. Then I stopped listening to everything else, but to get to the music, I had to really focus. Needless to say there was a lot of listening to do, and a lot of shedding. My musical appetite consisted of everything, and still does. It doesn’t stop. If you’re going to be a practitioner of jazz you have to study the art form, make no mistake about it. It’ll be interesting to see what this generation of musicians will come up with. What parts of the tradition will they take with them, what will they leave behind if any element they leave behind? That’s just the nature of the music. It keeps evolving. Who knows where it’s going to go. I think Monk’s answer when someone asked him where jazz is going to go was “I don’t know, It might be going to hell!” We’ll just have to wait and see.

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