Interview and photo by Steve Korn
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The guitar is and was my redemption.
If I could do it all over again I’d do the exact same thing. The failures and successes, the growth, the playing, the teaching, the relationships, the experiences…we can never see the parallel paths our lives would take and, although I certainly haven’t been everything I’d want to be, I think I’d take the outcome of this path over 95% of all other potential outcomes.
My parents were always supportive and helpful even though a life in music is an unsure thing. Even in their 80’s they still come out to my gigs. My mother was a piano teacher so naturally understood about the music, and my father who didn’t have a lot of music in his background was always unconditionally supportive of me in this. In fact, my father went to Gresham High School with Seattle legend Floyd Standifer. When I first got into jazz he took me to Seattle to meet him. I’ll never forget that afternoon at Floyd’s house. I remember everything he told me.
When I’m playing well it feels better than anything. I believe my most transcendent moments come when I’m playing my best. I liken jazz improvising to deep meditation or prayer where one is in tune with a higher power that is flowing through them.
As I get older I realize that almost everything I’ve said at some point, I’ve contradicted at some other point. This leads me to my “big umbrella” theory of jazz, and music in general. I think there is room for many styles and interpretations of jazz music, all valid, all requiring great skill and effort, all resonating with a different but legitimate audience. Any strong opinion you express, if you don’t allow the possible validity of some other opinion, is probably wrong.
Teaching has been an incredibly surprising joy. I’ve learned and continue to learn so much by teaching, and have developed so many relationships that continue for years and years. I’ve received countless messages from students (or their mothers) over the years, thanking me for whatever it was they took from my teaching. It’s a privilege. I’m blessed because everyone who comes to me for lessons is just there to hear what I have to say, so I try and say things of value.
Economics was important to me to study because I have always believed that people’s realities are formed in many ways by economics. To communicate, you need to understand people, economics helps this understanding, and music is about communication. Also, the only classes I got “C’s” in were music classes.
The future of jazz like economics, is becoming more globally and technologically oriented. New jazz will reflect more non Western influences, and new technologies will be integrated as well. I also think there will always be support for each of the classic jazz styles because like all art, jazz has had moments in time where a majority agree it was clearly at a sort of peak. A moment when it resonated with a large audience, was “cutting edge” yet accessible, and the artists were clearly giants. For example I think people will always enjoy the “Kind of Blue” era, just as people love the Impressionist painters more than anything since, or people still agree on Bach and Beethoven etc. more than Webern or Stockhausen.
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