Photo and interview by Steve Korn

Someone once told me “jazz is just as good as any other kind of music” – John Garvey – violist, member of the Walden String Quartet which premiered and recorded the Eliot Carter string quartets, and leader of the University of Illinois Jazz Band.

When I was 14, I was listening to “Ellington ’55”, the MJQ, Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan and Miles Davis.

The trumpet was the instrument of many of the musicians that first inspired me to play – Louis Armstrong, Bunk Johnson, Bix Biederbeck, Harry James, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and later Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Don Cherry, etc.

The difference between composing and playing
is a matter of speed and sociability.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I feel I am a lucky man.

The recordings that changed my life were both led by Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool and Miles Ahead.

Some of my best ideas come to me through contemplation and improvisation.

My parents were on my side.

Fear is not fun.

As I get older, I’ve realized that there is no point in trying to calculate the effect of your actions on other people whether it is music performance, composition or teaching. All you can do is your best work and let things fall where they may.

I cried when I heard Peggy Lee sing “The Folks On The Hill”

Music has taught me the importance of respect and community.

People ask me “what do I have to do to get an A?”

Music is
beyond gender, race and culture, but is experienced through those filters.

Change is time.

Nothing lasts forever.

When I’m stuck, I do something else and send the problem to the subconscious.

Improvisation is autobiography.

Jim Knapp leads The Jim Knapp Orchestra on the first Monday of the month at the Seattle Drum School. Visit Jim Knapp online at

Leading Questions